Waves of bad patches came along which required a lot of focus and concentration to battle through. At easier points it was nice to focus on the masses of spectators who lined the course and carried us through the run. Exchanging words, shouts or waves of encouragement with other competitors and spectators spurred me on and helped distract from the fact I was running a marathon! The real struggle came in the last 6 miles. By that point you’ve come so far and the end is in sight, but there’s still a huge amount of effort required which by this stage feels exponentially harder. My overwhelming memory of this part of the Ironman where I was closing in on the finish is of feeling no pleasure or delight whatsoever. Unsurprisingly, my enthusiasm for Ironman was not as effervescent as those messages I’d received! Trance like, as I placed one foot in front of the other in a bid to get closer and closer to the finish line, my thoughts went to those many people who had exhibited great adoration for this epic endurance even. I thought of those athletes who had seemingly developed an addiction to Ironman having completed multiple (up to 14 in one case) Ironman’s in their lifetimes. “WHAT is fun about this?” I whimpered to myself. “WHY would anybody want to do this again and again?” I vowed right then and there with increasing intensity as each mile passed by, that I would certainly NEVER be doing another Ironman EVER again. In fact, I vowed I would NEVER ever set any more physical or athletic challenges ever again. I began day dreaming of a normal weekend where I would no longer be forcing myself to go out training, but instead be having a warm and cosy breakfast in bed, reading the papers and operating at a more leisurely pace for a day or two. That thought of the finish line representing my passage from dedicated, goal-driven athlete to ordinary lay-about spurred me on.
I thought the finish would never come, but it did, eventually and it was exhilarating! How I wished I could have experienced a burst of that exhilaration 6 miles previously. Suddenly the pain and the lack of energy dissipated and extreme joy and elation hit me as I rounded the final corner and ran up the finishing carpet high five-ing the crowd. I had done it. I had completed an Ironman. I heard the announcer shout those special words “You are an Ironman” and I raised my arms in celebration as I ran under the finish clock reading 11hrs10mins. What a fantastic end to this challenge which I’d only started seven months previously. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to complete it let alone finish it in a respectable time. Completing it in this way and seeing the hundreds of other competitors achieve their dream too shows the Ironman moto ‘Anything is Possible’ really is true.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt however, is to never say ‘never’. Ironically, after celebrating my great achievement and what I thought was the end of my physically demanding lifestyle, I found out that I’d finished the Ironman 6th overall and 2nd in my age group. This has qualified me in my age group for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in October. But what an opportunity and what an honour to have a participation slot to take part in the biggest and most coveted Ironman event in the world. So my aspiration of lazy, inactive weekends are being put on hold for a while longer as I’m going to be demanding one last final effort from my body to do it all over again!