We never know where life is going to take us or what challenges it brings. In January 2010 I was happy, so happy I wanted to stay that way for as long as I could. I realised that if Ali and I wanted a long and healthy life together, we had to change. I was clinically obese, had a bad back and my knees were feeling the strain. I had various health problems and I was ageing faster than my years. I looked ahead to a life I did not want. It was time to change. By the end of the year I had lost 4 stone - 56lbs. My confidence rocketed - I had taken control and it had worked. I was exercising, enjoying buying clothes, speaking up for myself.

I began to believe in myself again, I began to dream. For years I had watched marathons with admiration and a lump in my throat. In April 2013, I ran my first marathon.

This blog is about living life as a slim person, staying slim and fulfilling my dreams. Come and join me, support me, advise me!

Take care, Sue

Friday, 30 March 2012

Barcelona 2012: cheering from the sidelines

Who could ever turn down a weekend with your loved one in one of your favourite cities in the world in perfect spring weather? Not me!  I had some minor reservations about going to Barcelona, but life is short and holidays are precious, so off we went.  Barcelona did not disappoint, how could it?  It is a truly magnificent city and what a setting for a marathon. Wow.

We'd picked a lovely hotel within walking distance of the race start and finish.  The day of what should have been my first marathon, dawned bright and sunny.  We woke to the universal sound of the pre race DJ getting everyone psyched up and ready to trot. I could feel my legs wanting to get out there and warm up too!  But my brain went numb, I suddenly was very indecisive - should I go and watch or just pretend it wasn't happening and get on with the day? Luckily,  Ali took control and we headed off to watch.  I'm, so glad I did.

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The start was magnificent. The totally over the top fountains were on full blast, ticker- tape flew everywhere and the place was thronged. The runners, like always, were every shape and size imaginable and came from all over the world. The start was emotional: everyone full of hope, determination and courage for the miles ahead. Some runners looked strong and sure; others looked like they were seriously going to struggle to manage 5K never mind a marathon. An older woman with a grey pony tail; the nut brown man in what looked suspiciously like speedos, the guy running with the racing buggy. I wanted to shout out that I should be with them, that I was one of them, but I didn't.

For the first time, I saw the end of the start of a marathon. I was amazed how many people came late and had to run to catch up. I'd just assumed that everyone arrived on time and if you got there late, tough! It might have been the clock change that did it - the clocks went forward that morning.  I was also surprised to see quite a few obviously injured runners crossing the start line, obviously in pain before they'd even started their marathon. I don't know if any of the hobblers made it. I hope whatever happened they are okay. I was glad I wasn't running. My leg hurt just walking, my hamstring was stuck in a massive nippy knot and my toe throbbed. Any delusions I had about running were gone and I felt at peace as they headed off.

A moment's reflection as I watched the runners disappear into the city; a curative hug from Ali and then off for breakfast. We took the metro and headed to the beach. It was mobbed with spectators heading to cheer on loved ones at the next stop down the line. I have never seen so much lycra, everyone was a runner that day many bedecked in other marathon T shirts, worn with pride, signalling they were bona fide members of the marathoner club. There were even one or two folk with Barcelona Marathon running numbers on the Metro train.  One guy tucked in the corner was carefully hiding his number under his jacket. Surely no one would nip onto the metro rather than run 26.2 miles?????

The beach area of Barcelona is amazing. It was regenerated for the Olympics and is now a fantastic open gym and activity area. Walkers, strollers, cyclists, roller bladders, runners, joggers, dog walkers, uni cyclers, nordic stick walkers, skateboarders, scooter riders - you name it, folk were out doing it.  All day long a mass of people make their way up and down the flat walkway that goes for miles along the beachfront. On the beach itself children and adults played volley ball and football and ran about. I saw my first (and I hope, my last) naked jogger. (Male if you must know and not in the first flush of his youth - no David Beckham I'm afraid).  It makes you realise that if you give people good healthy spaces they will get out and use them - good weather helps! Mind you, there were an awful lot of folk smoking which is a real downside to going to Spain sadly.

About half way along we saw the runners and the 3.45 pacer in the distance and went to watch. They looked strong and were running well despite a number of heavily lycra-d cyclists and tourists getting in the way. But the police did a great job of keeping things manageable and the locals wove across the road quickly and easily with scarcely a ripple. 

The rest of the day we could see the runners over there somewhere.  The later runners moved me most. The ones that find the marathon challenge really hard, that run for hours and hours, but still they keep going. Not to take away from the fast finishers, but I admire the guts and persistence of people who were still keeping on hours after the leaders were home and dry, that's guts and commitment.

That night we saw marathoners everywhere, many still in their tops and medals. The next morning, they were even more noticeable - loads of fellow breakfast eaters had developed a hobble since the previous morning and the breakfast buffet was annihilated by carb hungry runners.  Everywhere we went we saw Barcelona Marathon tee shirts and medals.

Watching as an injured runner was a bit weird, but I'm glad we did it. It was good to watch a marathon and think one day I'll do this. I'd never watched a marathon in real life since I've started running. The chance to stand back and watch with a rather more informed eye was useful. It's scary, it goes on for a long time, there's lots of people. Yup watching that run brought home to me what a challenge those 26.2 miles are.  The other thing I really appreciated was how much we rely on our loved ones to bear with us and support us. They give up their holidays, stand and watch folk running instead of going to art galleries (I think that counts as a plus myself). They listen to us prattling on about pacers and carb loading and all the rest of it!

So this is the sight I never saw (even if you imagine about 15K runners in front of me!). I have no regrets at watching instead of running and as I said, my leg was badly crocked so I could't have done it anyway. As it turned out, it wasn't my calf, I'd done my back in somehow travelling and had a trapped nerve. The physio sorted me and all is now working again, though a bit sore. Also I'm not sure an overseas marathon is the ideal first marathon for me, though the thought of carb loading and post marathon feasting in a city with such great food is very tempting!  I think it's going to be Edinburgh next year. Maybe. Not decided yet.

I got home to North Berwick with very happy memories of a lovely holiday in a fabulous city; a bit of a tan, a lot of ironing and a new found respect for the challenge of taking on that marathon and those that try.

We were very sad to see that Barcelona was a very different place later on that week, they are a lovely people and were so helpful and friendly. I hope it all gets resolved soon.

Whatever you're up to, have a great time. Even if things don't go quite to plan, they usually work out in the end!

Take care