“If you could describe yourself with one personality trait what would it be?”
That’s the question I got asked in an interview 3 years ago for a role as a Lecturer and to this day I will never forget it.
At the end of the interview I asked what word they were ideally looking for and she replied.
She wasn’t wrong. The 9 months I spent in academia were some of the most character forming and challenging I’ve ever had.
Many years later as I glance at my phone and the app “map my run” to see the distance 36KM, I was taken back to that interview and I started to draw from every drop of resilience I had left.
I’d always loved the idea of running a marathon. The sheer perseverance and determination it took was something I couldn’t help but respect. I’ve only been a spectator at one and that was London 2017.
It was such an electric atmosphere. Tangible even and I have never experienced anything like it. The emotion from the crowd and the support I witnessed left me sat on the train home from St Pancras further confirming my suspicions that one day I’d run one.
I’ve met many a marathon runner who tell me every time I see them how amazing and incredible running is. Something inside me just didn’t quite get it. I did a half marathon in 2018 and ended it thinking ok I see why people love it but it still left me feeling I hadn’t quite gotten the bug.
Resilience comes from adversity and it’s safe to say my life, like many, hasn’t been short of it.
2 weeks before Lockdown I joined a 5k club which Charlie ran for our gym. I genuinely hadn’t run since the half marathon and was quite nervous if I’d even be able to do that.
After a few runs the world said No to outdoor exercise and social distancing put an end to the Run Club.
I struggled initially like many to find my routine with exercise and training but what I did do was just start showing up. Most days I would walk to the start of our 5k route and do it.
I'm fairly well acquainted with how to build habits and for some reason I took to it. It meant more to me than physical exercise. My day was structured around it. At the time we were only allowed an hours activity and it was one of the only times I left my flat.
So that's what I did. For the whole of lockdown I just started showing up and doing my 5k. It got easier. I started to try going a little further and before I knew it the distance was clocking up.
I was starting to see people on social media do some incredible things in Lockdown and I was inspired. I wanted to run a marathon this year and after not getting a place in London and COVID it now seemed like that wasn’t going to happen.
The thing about me is if I have an idea or something in my head. It's already done. There’s no going back or compromise. I knew I didn’t need a scheduled event to do this and time goes with or without you so what was I waiting for?
I did feel it appropriate to build up to a half marathon 2 weeks before the full. That’s the most I’d ever run before the 17th May 2020.
There were pros and cons to my COVID marathon.
1.No expectations and no pressure. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it. Therefore If something went wrong or I didn’t finish it then it didn’t matter. There was no fear of disappointing anyone.
2. As I looked at my phone at 36KM and was mentally and physically exhausted I could see why crowds are essential (not a revelation but I understood fully how much it helps).
Every time I faced a challenge e.g my air pods dying at 3hr 36 min and the handful of stitches I had. Every time the thought crept into my head of “Didi you can't do this, you should stop” I remembered the adversity I’d overcome in my life.
I remembered that interviewer looking me in the eyes.
And I remember the word she said I needed to succeed.