Something didn’t feel quite right. In fact, something felt downright wrong.
The sickening saliva started to moist the inside of my mouth – the type that usually precedes a full on projectile puke.
I slowly eased to the side of the road and, as soon as I found a patch of bush, the vomiting began. For someone who has done so only a handful of times in his whole life and can stomach rough seas while game-fishing, this was something else. It felt as if my entire maze of intestines was on the verge of surging up my throat and erupting out of my mouth.
And it wouldn’t stop! Every time I thought it was over, the projectile would come back.
So there I was, at the 32km mark of a marathon, engaged instead in a violent spew-a-thon. The worst thing was, the more I heaved out, the worse I felt.
After a couple of minutes (although it felt more like a couple of hours), there was literally nothing left in the tank to spew out, and one can only do so much dry-retching. So I did what every crazy runner would do in that situation – I resumed running.
Almost instantaneously, however, the cramps attacked my legs , so much so that I did something that I have never, EVER, done in a race.
I broke down, surrendered my weapons and walked out on the show!
That was on Sunday, September the 22nd, 2013 – a day that will remain with me for a very long time. A day that I failed to close the deal while running in a race. A day that running showed me in no uncertain terms who the boss is, and gave me a bitch-slap for having the temerity to forget it.
In the traumatic post-race analysis, it didn’t take me long to pinpoint the reasons for the embarrassing failure. They were all simple amateur mistakes which may be excused for a beginner but unforgivable for someone who was attempting his third marathon.
To begin with, I breached the first commandment in any runner’s bible:
Thou shall not do anything on race day that thou have not done before.
In an effort to prevent cramping at the latter stages of the marathon, I consumed Gatorade at every drink station – something that I have never tried before and will certainly never again in the future. I felt fine enough at the beginning and the electrolyte may well even had a placebo effect, judging by the reckless pace I was running (more on that fuck-up later). However, my body thought otherwise from around the 20km mark, with the smell of Gatorade rising up internally and beginning to make me feel nauseous. Of course, I don’t need to regurgitate how that all ended at the 32 km mark.
Secondly, my last marathon time was 3 hours and 49 minutes. For this event, I was aiming for 3 hours and 40 minutes. However, my race pace at the 10km mark? On track to finish in 3 hours and 5 minutes! At the 20km mark? Still on pace to clock 3 hours and 9 minutes! Clearly, the second commandment in the runner’s bible went right out of my mind:
Thou shall always pace yourself sensibly in a marathon. Under no circumstances shall thou try to be a hero and attempt to ‘bank’ some time early.
I have read the tortoise and the hare story to my sons many times, but it is obvious that I was the only one not paying attention to the moral of the fable.
However, the biggest mistake I committed was this. It was the silly desire to prove a point. To prove that, although I have just turned 40, I can still outrun my former younger self. That I am still young enough to, not just beat, but smash my Personal Best achieved in my 30s.
In attempting to do so, I unfortunately brushed aside the two best things about being in my 40s: wisdom and experience. Indeed, I think I inherently knew all the mistakes as I was making them during the marathon. But instead of adjusting, I decided to be a brain dead reckless fool.
I will come back from this.
And, as I embark on this journey of redemption, I will remember not to ever ignore the final commandment in the runner’s (or any) bible:
Thou shall act your fucking age and be at peace with it.
Keep on pounding.