Lining up on the start line of your first marathon is a strange experience.
You feel oddly out of place among the massive crowd of people, cramped together between the safety barriers. There’s the veteran runners, the two women next to you casually chatting about the all times they’ve run before, the guy in a Batman suit limbering up behind you.
Everyone seems to know what they’re doing, but you. Then the call to start is announced for everyone to begin the marathon. At first the sheer number of people means that you can do nothing but walk.
I think to myself, ‘how hard can all this marathon lark be?’. But as I edge closer to the line, the running starts and everyone jostles for a clear path. That’s when I realise that I’m in this for the long slog.
The first few miles pass in a blur. Fuelled by adrenaline and excitement, you start to feel more confident with every person you manage to overtake. As the miles tick by and you settle into a rhythm, you seem to relax and start to notice your surroundings. Having gone through the town and passed by the Minster, I left York and headed into the countryside. I saw more of Yorkshire in one afternoon than I had in the whole of first year.
Every village you run through you see people smiling, children giving out tubs of jelly babies, pensioners with orange slices, and even a high fiving vicar. The mileage starts to build, but with each person that shouts your name you get a little extra boost.
Then it starts getting tougher. Mile 18 hurts. Mile 19 is agony. Mile 20 onwards is nothing but pure suffering. Each step becomes harder and you start to wonder how you’re still going, but you power through.
After all, why turn back now? I passed more and more walkers, people wobbling from side to side, that one guy bent over at the side of the road who has clearly pushed himself way too far.
The route took me back into York and I began to wind once more into civilisation. The crowds began to grow again, and I started to realise that I was getting close; I might be able to actually pull this off. Then it hits you.
Cramp in the legs as you go into the final uphill stretch. I was approaching the wall. There was no pulling out now. I spotted my friends in the crowd roaring me on. I pushed through it, keeping one eye on the clock as I approached the line, hoping to beat my target.
Time seemed to be passing by slower and slower, but sure enough, I finally reached the finish.
Crossing the line is nothing but pure elation; the feeling of euphoria is the only thing that keeps you from toppling over while you collect your medal.
As I received congratulations from my loyal supporters, the realisation of what I had achieved started to set in. I hobbled around wrapped in that weird tin foil blanket they give you, and I felt like a proper athlete.
The next day, I was in agony. Rolling from one side of my bed to the other feels like more of a struggle than the actual running. But it’s worth it. All the money you’ve raised, all the training you did, you’ve actually managed to do it. I vow to never run anywhere again.
Zac ran the Yorkshire Marathon in a time of 3 hours, 53 minutes and 49 seconds. He raised over £400 for the Alzheimer’s Society.