Beck Eleven: My Marathon Hell

Beck Eleven during the Buller Gorge marathon.
Beck Eleven during the Buller Gorge marathon.

If a picture paints a thousand words then I shouldn't have to write anything to accompany this photograph. Let the expression on my face and the language of my body say it all.

Last weekend I ran 10km in a relay of the Buller Gorge marathon on the West Coast. "Run" is probably the wrong verb.

In my defence, I have done a handful of 10km runs over the past few years. The first one took an hour and 18 minutes but, with training and practice, I'd managed to shave almost 15 minutes off that time. More dedicated or natural runners see 10km as relatively short but I was always immensely proud. As far as I was concerned, 10km was my own personal marathon.

However, about six months ago I pretty much sat down and didn't get up. One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Couch potato, car potato, sleep potato, more.

I was depressed and even though I knew part of the road to recovery was, in fact, getting on the road, I could not find the motivation. Not even in pill form. I was always going to start training on a date as mythical as Brigadoon - tomorrow.

In the lead-up to last weekend, my longest walk was the length of Westfield Mall to find a new pair of running shoes.

I was unprepared, physically and mentally but I did have a spray tan.

The relay uses four people, each running 10.5km to make up the 42km of a marathon. There were two stronger runners in our team, one medium runner with a bronchial problem and me.

Runners are usually a supportive bunch. I've had plenty of enjoyable times during organised events when people passing by would offer a few words of encouragement but one of the better runners on our team, who was running the final leg, seemed to be suffering 'roid rage. She said we should just "imagine her angry voice" as that might provide the extra motivational boost.

As the kilometres rolled by and the blisters started filling with plasma, the angry voice was my own.

I imagined I was in a forest, running to alert authorities about a terrible accident. It didn't work. At about 4km, in the heat and on a gentle incline, I gave up running and broke into a walk. I say "broke into" because the pace was just as fast as my near-shuffle of a run.

I'd done everything wrong. I hadn't trained, my socks weren't thick enough and I hadn't drunk enough water that morning. I was beyond shame and started picking up drink bottles from the side of the road to either drain their mysterious contents or tip them over myself. At least I had the spray tan and had developed a second skin after slathering my entire body with anti-chafing cream.

Around the halfway point, one of my team members, Lizzie, ran back to find me. Despite the fact she'd already run her leg, I begged her to take over.

"Come on, please," I said. "No- one will know. We're both wearing the same race number. Please!"

She just told me to keep on going, she might come back. I never saw her again until the changeover line.

I thought about crying. I thought about flagging down a passing car and faking a twisted ankle. I tried existentialism. I told myself that one day none of this would matter and I would soon be dead.

Just before I went into the light, I heard the girls cheering. I ran a few steps, walked a few steps and tapped the hand of Angry Voice. Then I said two words that rhymed with "clucking bell" and sat down.

If you look closely at the photo, it is difficult to believe endorphins are actually a thing but I was pretty happy by the afternoon. It may have been the wine.

Anyway, I sat in the courtyard of the Westport Motels. Soon peels and squawks of laughter came from one of our units.

My dear frenemy, Hayley, had been snapping photos as I neared the finish line. She'd just discovered this little gem and zoomed in on the glorious anguish.

I nearly died twice last weekend. Once from the run and then again from seeing this photo.

My saving grace, I think, is that you cannot look at this photo and say I'm not giving it my all. Every last ounce of my all is right there on my face and in my limp arm.

The Press