Running my first marathon taught me a valuable lesson: nothing is as bad as it seems
It wasn’t my idea. In November 2021, my wife Laura suggested that I run the Paris Marathon. You see, I wanted to lose weight but lacked focus. She knew I needed a target, a purpose behind my training. And this ticked a lot of boxes: a proper challenge that I could work towards, getting myself fitter, helping with mental wellbeing, and fundraising. In this case, for Abby’s Heroes, a Southampton-based charity that supports children, teenagers, young adults and their families following a cancer diagnosis. Why Paris? My friend works there and he’d done a few marathons. And anyway: it’s Paris.
My training was basically running three times a week, probably less than many people expect. I never made it to five times a week. But I did build-up my distance over time, in the last few weeks doing 12, 14 and 18-mile runs. I saved the biggie, 26 miles, until the day itself.
A short trip on Eurostar and on a cold morning in early April I found myself at the start. There was quite a lot of waiting around and I just wanted it to begin. To be honest, I was a little anxious because this was new territory for me. I was literally running into the unknown. I didn’t know how I was going to feel. I knew I didn’t want to walk if I could help it. Could I keep going for 26 miles? Would I vomit? What would happen when I hit ‘the wall’? And most of all: how would I feel at the point the person in the novelty rhino costume easily ran past me?
Too late, we’re off. They say the entire world runs in Paris, with more than 55,000 runners from more than 140 nationalities. It was certainly busy that day.
The course starts on the Champs-Élysées, runs southeast to the Bois de Vincennes, and heads back through the city along the River Seine before finishing on Avenue Foch. I didn’t really see much of the Parisian sights, to be honest. I had my head down and focused on the road ahead. As for personal milestones, I wanted to do 12 miles in first two hours, which I did. I told myself that if I can just do another four or five miles at the same pace then I could break five hours overall, even if I did have to walk for some of that.
At the 18 mile point I felt strangely okay. I kept waiting to hit the wall but never did. Mile 21-22 was all uphill and that was tough – miserable – but I kept going. I knew now that I wasn’t going to walk, despite the unhelpful voice in my head telling me otherwise. I told that voice to shut up, until it did.
24-year old Ethiopian runner Deso Gelmisa won the 2022 Paris marathon with a time of 2:05:07, closely followed by 48-year-old British runner Rob Price with a fantastic time of 4:38:47. Double the age, double the time. I think that’s a fair result?
As I passed the line, I felt elated and emotional. Not tearful. Just emotional about a job well done, and the relief of having done it. Mild shock that I got round the course intact and as quickly as I did, and surprise at the unexpected discovery that I wasn’t about to collapse in a heap.
Part of that elation was thanks to the many wonderful people who sponsored me. Once ARM matches the donations, we’ll have raised just over £3,000 for Abby’s Heroes.
You can help me raise even more, if you haven’t done so already. If you’d like to throw a few quid into the pot, you can donate at my JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/robert-price24
My weight when I started training was 16 stone 5 pounds (104kg). It’s now 14st 8lb (92.5kg) and I’m a lot fitter. Would I do it all again? Yes. In fact, I’m planning to run a marathon this October and my target is to get my time closer to four hours.
My biggest takeaway from the whole experience is that nothing is as bad as it seems. Whatever the challenge, give it a try, break things down into digestible chunks, and you’ll be surprised at what’s achievable. However you go about it, you shouldn’t fear the unknown. The future is an undiscovered country, and your next personal and professional challenge may be just around the corner. Au revoir!