I remember discussing running plans with my son once, and he looked at me in disappointed amazement and said “where do you get these crazy ideas?”.
I’ll tell ya, kid. RMA.
I found RMA after I saw a fellow runner in some fabulously patterned tights and an RMA top. I thought RMA might be an activewear brand, so I googled it. What I found was even better. What I found was a squad of amazing women, even more supportive than the highest waisted runfaster tights and even gooderer than even the goodr-est of sunglasses.
For weeks I watched FB post after post from women, mothers, runners just like me. Juggling jobs and motherhood and family and life and running. Running parkrun every week, posting photos from training runs. Great ones, and not so great ones. Bling and the happy proud faces of women and mums just like me and running 10k races. Half marathons. Full marathons. Ultras. And I began to think if they’re just like me, then…maybe me?
Could I run a full marathon? Me? On my almost 40-year-old too-short-too chubby legs and pigeon toed feet?
Fast forward a couple of years, half a dozen or so half-marathons under my belt and an amazing supportive group of RMA mum friends and that niggling idea had really taken root. After watching the full marathon at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 I tied my entrance ticket, a ribbon that read “marathon” to my medal hanger. Every day I got ready to go running I looked at that medal hanger, at all I’d already achieved, and I read that word. Every day. Marathon.
I thought, when I’m 40. Or maybe when the kids are bigger. When I’ve got more spare time to train.
Marathon. Marathon. Marathon.
When you want something, you find a way.
I started doing more strength training. I started running longer runs, more often. I found a training plan. I signed up for a race. The Brisbane Marathon. Local, no travel required. Easy to commit. I told myself I can always drop back to the half later on. I started running further than I had before. It was hard. It hurt. I had to stop and walk a lot, I wondered if I really could do this.
My wonderful tribe of RAV RMA girls encouraged me from where they were, Gold Coast, north Brisbane, Sydney and surrounding other NSW places I don’t know.
And that’s how on the 2ndof June 2019 I found myself meeting Ana and a few other RMA’s at the start line for my first full at the Brisbane Marathon Festival. Ana was surprised “how did I not know you were running your first full today?!” Because I had told no-one. My husband knew, my RAV RMA girls knew, but no-one else. I needed the stakes to be low, because a little voice inside was still asking me if I really could do this. Telling me maybe not. Giving me a safe out, no-one would have to know.
Ana was supposed to be meeting another RMA first-time-marathoner Dusty but we couldn’t find her at the start line. I was so nervous, I was distracted and unhelpful. As we set off we kept our eyes open, sure we’d catch her or she’d catch us.
We were running faster than I thought I could, 6.30 pace, but I was feeling comfortable and excited to finally be there. The day before had been freezing and the weather forecast had been for bucketing rain but the sun was rising to a warm day and bright blue skies.
Somewhere just before the Storey Bridge Dusty caught us. We were going quick but it was so nice to have company. I was enjoying the distraction of chatting. 42 kilometres is a long way. As we looped around Kangaroo Point and back up to cross the Storey Bridge for a second time Dusty and Ana powered up the hill. I couldn’t keep up and dropped back. I crossed the Storey Bridge on my own but spotted the photographers and jumped high – something else I’ve learned from my RMA sisters! I caught Ana and Dusty and kept pace with them as we passed the Kangaroo Point cliffs, but on turning to head back into Southbank I realised I wasn’t going to last at that pace, so I let them pull ahead.
My backbeats were tucked into my spibelt so I pulled them out and let the music keep the beat for me, now that Ana and her maracas were out of ear shot! I felt strong until I hit 20kms. Both calf muscles cramped at once, and my hip flexor began to hurt and affect my stride. I’d managed the first half of my marathon in 2 hours and 27 minutes so had been hopeful at finishing somewhere around the 5-hour mark but I realised that was looking unlikely. With a long way still to go I let myself have a few walk breaks, and watched my pace drop and drop. The aim was just to finish, so I tried not to let it affect my head too much. There were hills. Lots of hills. I walked up them and ran down them and tried not to think about how slowly the kilometres were inching by.
I enjoyed the view of beautiful Brisbane, I chatted to other runners as they caught me and passed me. I was lucky enough to meet the original run director of the Brisbane Marathon and he shared his story with me – almost 30 years of marathon running with his wife (who was way ahead, I might add!) a grown son happily married and producing off-Broadway shows in New York, which means they’ve run the New York marathon (a bucket list race for me) three times! Three! I cheered Ana and Dusty as we passed each other on loops, and another RMA just ahead of me (Evelyn?).
As I approached the Goodwill Bridge, ready to run towards (but not yet over) the finish line I saw Dusty and Ana stopping. In my loop around the Botanic Gardens I was passed by a man apparently running the marathon in reefers. Somewhere around the 28km marker, I saw Ana and Dusty still stopped where I had seen them some time before. With the medics. Dusty had been running so well, and so strong, I was devastated to see that she had been stopped. It wasn’t clear what had happened to Dusty, but it was clear that she was suffering hugely. I don’t want to tell Dusty’s story here, it’s not mine to tell. My heart was broken for her and even though today wasn’t the day she would cross that finish line, having seen her strength and determination I know that one day soon it will be.
Ana and I continued on. There’s a few common themes on any FB thread around marathons. The marathon doesn’t start until after 30kms. Don’t underestimate the marathon. All so true. All is a hazy blur in my memory after this point. I was so grateful to have Ana beside me, chatting to me, distracting, encouraging me, taking photos and keeping time with her maracas. My watch battery died at around 34kms. At one aid station Ana stage-managed the volunteers to give me a guard of honour. We were verbally abused by bike riders who were used to sole occupancy on the riverside path on Sunday mornings. Ana took a call from Nicole, and hearing them talk makes it clear why RMA works so well. So much love between them, and so much love from them for all of us. Honestly.
There were so many hills. The last 7kms was the longest 7kms of my life. With 5kms to go (a parkrun! Just a parkrun to go!) I was wishing I had it in me to just run it home. I wanted so much to be over that finish line. But my legs were made of concrete encased in lead and the footpath was made or sticky honey. It was a slow slow slog. I could see the Goodwill Bridge. The golden bridge that would lead to the finish line. I could see it for almost the whole of the last 5kms and I promise you it was moving further and further away. Just as we got to the incline to get on that $%@#ing bridge one of the gorgeous motivators screamed at us “you have 13 minutes to get over that bridge! Go!!!”. I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was probably less than a kilometre at that point and I didn’t know if I could do it in 13 minutes!
But do it I did. As we got closer to the finish line I warned Ana I would cry. She told me she always cries. When the finish line was in sight Ana took my hand and we ran across that line. I was only in front of 16 other people. I finished 20 minutes before the final finisher. I was well and truly a back of the packer that day but I felt like a winner. I didn’t celebrate much; I drank the warm coke my husband had waiting for me at the finish line. I managed a few pieces of watermelon. There were a few exhausted tears but mostly I was just in shock. I think I still am. It took me 5 hours and 51 minutes. It was brutally hard. So much harder than I expected. It was physically hard and emotionally hard and mentally hard. But I did it. I bloody well did it.
I am a marathoner.