Two years ago, when I said was going to run 50 marathons by age 50 – then, about one a month for the next three and a half years – the most common reactions were: “You’re insane”, “You’ll never do, it”, or “Ha ha, hilarious!”
Two-thirds of the way through, people are beginning to say: “That’s no problem,” “You’re over the hard bit,” or even “What are you going to do next?”
I’ve run 35 marathons – 15 of them last year – yet still feel no more certain of completing the challenge than when I started. I take each one as it comes and am grateful for the continued health and avoiding injury which has enabled me to keep ticking each event off.
And whilst it’s me pounding out the miles, there’s a very important team member, I’d find it hard to do without. Alongside me, in spirit, for every footstep, is my husband John.
Often he comes with me to a full marathon – sitting out the four or five hours in his car, at a café or bar – puffing on his pipe, whilst doing Sudoku and the crossword, waiting for me to finish, there when I cross the line.
He gets to know each event almost as well as me – listening patiently while I talk him through mile after fascinating mile.
Training occupies quite a lot of my time. Yet he never complains about me heading off to the gym, the running club, or going on some long solo effort alone. If I do a linear route, he’ll willingly drop me off or pick me up.
Piles of sweaty T-shirts, shorts and leggings are often waiting to be washed or hanging over radiators drying out, and muddy trainers lined up in the porch – he never moans about them, nor objects when our holiday choices are dictated by which overseas event I suggest to do.
I hear the warmth and pride in his voice when he tells people how I’m getting on.
His unquestioning, unstinting constant support is invaluable. His quiet acceptance of my madcap schemes – there’ve been several over the years – are what makes me believe they’re possible.
Quite simply I couldn’t do them without him.
So when I think about running 50 marathons, I think of it as, us – Team Earlam – completing the challenge. John’s wellbeing as important to success, as my own.
He’s 70 this year and his health isn’t as good it was. That was brought sharply into focus this weekend, when he was admitted to hospital overnight. Instead of doing a long race, as planned, there was a trip to A&E and an anxious 24 hours.
Hopefully, he’ll soon be properly on the mend. But – what with the hospital stay and this being Valentine’s week – it seemed as good a time as any to pay tribute to the other member of Team Earlam. I may get the medal, but it’s John who deserves the prize.