Want to hear about my first marathon? Way back in 2001, or was it 2002? I seriously can’t remember. It doesn’t matter. It was in Rotterdam. Me and mate, Dodsy, went over to do this race. It was April and it was roasting. The same day as London Marathon if I recall correctly.
We chose Rotterdam as a) it was flat, b) my pal Caroline lived in Amsterdam and would put us up and c) well it was a chance to visit Amsterdam.
The training beforehand was abject, but like most young guys in our mid-20s, we thought we could just rock up with our gym gutties, terry towelling socks from the Barras and just bust out a sub-4 hour marathon easy peasy. I mean, how hard could it be? Guys in their forties could do it and they were old, right?
Aye, well then…
My memories of the trip are hazy. But the first mistake we made was deciding to have a beer, and some wine, and the likes, with our dinner the night before. Then sleeping on a floor, cosily tucked in between the couch and the wall, with Dodsy didn’t lend itself to a great kip.
Dodsy is a great guy, one of the funniest and most sardonic bastards you could ever hope to meet. He’s also a hairy bear with the kind of feet that look like they have been through a cheese-grater after dying. I might also be the only person who farts more than him. In short, not a great bed-fellow.
With a hangover and on little sleep, we head on down to Rotterdam. The train is efficient and comfortable. At the start we locate a balloon on a 4 hour pacer. Caroline is going to kick about the city while we run. No mobiles, we will just meet somewhere after race.
It takes about 15 minutes for us to cross the line after the race starts. The balloon guy is dead ahead but is obviously running too fast as it is a struggle to keep up. Turns out Dodsy picked the 3:45 guy for a laugh. It was hilarious. That was sarcasm.
I am in pain, after 6 miles, and then he starts pointing out people peeing in the bushes, men and women. I had never seen anything so uncouth. My oh my! These Europeans really were different from us!
We eventually went through 13.1 miles in a little under 2 hours. I was spent and baking hot. We split up. And then the long slog started. By 18 miles Dodsy is a couple of miles ahead, walking as if he has a stone in his shoe. I can see him ‘cos it is a switchback type section. He shouts ‘I’m fucked…’
I reply, ‘Tell me about it’, and I probably added ‘bawbag’ under my breath. But, as I said, hazy memory and all that.
Blisters, sunburn, snotters, dehydration, sore legs, sore belly, needing a jobby, being overtaken by octogenarians. Those are my memories of the last 6 miles. I hated it. I was more miserable than Neil from the Young Ones. But at least I had a right to be.
Dodsy finished ahead of me. Remarkably the clock said 4:30:00 when I finished, to the second. I have a picture up the loft of it. Official time was whatever it was, it wasn’t chip timed and I don’t care. I was burst. I hated Dodsy at this point as this dobber of a trip was his idea. Dick.
My relief was palpable. Then, I saw Dodsy, he was white as a ghost (that made me feel better) and stuffing oranges in his mouth. Now, because this is in Holland, I have to explain he was eating oranges, not, well, you know…
Anyway, I sidle up to him, slowly. Limping as I ungracefully walked the 50 yards to him. He can’t see me, even though I am standing in front of him. He can hear. He’s taking a turn! He’s showing signs of panicking too. What should I do?
Well, I do what any good friend would and I slapped him as hard as could on the face. Twice.
Projectile vomit followed. All over a passing car’s windscreen. It was pretty much orange juice (with bits). He immediately came to.
‘Pint’ he says. ‘Aye.’
We meet Caroline as if by magic. I am sure I phone home from a phonebox and I phone Louise. Beers on the train and back to Caroline’s for a shower.
She suggests we go to the red light district. And that leads on to a different set of experiences involving 35 guilders for a live sex show (at her insistence); raw meat; watery beer and being chased by a street gang for peeing in the canals. That’s for a blog on a very different type of site.
That’s it. If you take anything from this post then the first big race you do isn’t necessarily going to set the scene for future races. Unless you want it to.