I was conscious of the exceptional quiet of the early morn. It was segmented between between the Saturday night revellers making their way home and the birds beginning their morning song. It was still dark. Or at least dark enough not to reveal any light at the side of the curtains.
I was more aware of the quiet. It was preferable to the out of tune voices getting more and more exuberant in the impromptu karaoke session earlier that evening. At least then, the promise of sleep was still held. Now, hopes had all but slipped me by.
The alarm was set for 5.15am you see. A early start to allow for breakfast and tea. And more importantly, the toilet visit and maybe if time allowed, a shower.
In the meantime I tried to guess what time it was before giving in and checking on the phone lying next to the bed.
It was no surprise to read 4.46am in the glow of the back light. I was aware I had been awake most of the night. My eye sockets ached with tiredness and a slight nausea had settled in the pit of the stomach. Trying to wave it off as pre-race nerves was only semi-working.
It took an age to gather things together enough to make our way down to breakfast. And when I got there, the smell of the food (the hotel had pulled out all the stops to ensure a full fried breakfast was available) and excited chatter of the other runners just made me feel more nauseous. I tried to eat but after one or two bites gave up.
The ache in my stomach had now grown into a lead weight. It seemed to be leaching the energy out of my body. So much so, I could hardly hold my head up. Not brilliant when you’re supposed to be running 26 miles.
We headed out of the stuffy hotel into the fresh highland morning. It was still dark out which surprised me. Other runners were walking quietly, into the gloom almost like ghostly apparitions. Everyone was heading in the same direction, as if drawn by an invisible thread.
The closer we got to Bught Park, the more people joined us. Less ghostly and more sheep like as we followed those ahead of us. The feeling in my legs and stomach got worse. And was then joined by a pitching of the ground in front of me. It was like trying to walk in a straight line on a boat caught in a storm in the high seas.
The closer we got to the coaches tasked with bus-ing runners out to the start, the more apparent it became that I wouldn’t be getting on them. But they were in sight before I was brave enough to make the decision that I knew would break my heart. I sat on a wall as tears ran. I felt so rotten that all I desperately wanted to do was get back into bed. I regretted that I had walked so far before making the dreaded decision. I now had a mile to walk back before I could throw down my clothes and clamber back into the comfort and warmth I had left behind.
I hung onto Alan and wished him luck, and then pushed him forward into the throng before I could change my mind. (He had a good run, you can read about it here.)
It’s not the first time I’ve DNS’d a marathon but this one hurt just as much as the others. It wasn’t the easiest decision but certainly the correct one. I’ve now entered for next year to banish those demons and look forward to Beachy Head (one of my all time favourites) in the next couple of weeks.