Since uni days I had considered myself to be a sort-of runner, off and on. Usually more off than on. I would train for a race, do passably ok at it, and then reward myself by not running anymore for a while. I would subsequently lose all my fitness and have to start again from scratch for the next race. I would manage 5ks at just over half an hour, 10k’s at just a bit more over an hour, and half marathons in around two and a half hours. Not bad – I usually considered myself amongst the fastest of the slower runners at whatever event I was taking part in.
This had been going on for years. But in 2015 something was different. I had grand running plans in 2015.
I had started running again in May, back from a nasty bout of runner’s knee I had brought on myself in September of the previous year. I was booked to run the annual Newham 10k (the one which finishes in the Olympic Stadium) and a couple of work based 5k events in the build up to the Ealing Half Marathon in September. Having a penchant for California in the fall, Mr Duff and I had managed to miss our local half in previous years. However, this year we were signed up to run, and I was really looking forward to it because this year the Ealing Half was the starting point of my wider plan to turn myself into a Proper Runner and complete my first marathon…in Rome.
Why Rome? Why not play it safe with a fast UK course like Manchester? Well, I had been to Rome as part of a three-week study tour for my degree more years ago that I would care to remember out loud. I loved it, and had wanted to go back ever since. But for some reason every time there was a long weekend or a week away to plan, Rome was suggested and then got bumped for somewhere else. It was always the same, and it was getting ridiculous. So I came up with my cunning plan. One thing that usually guarantees we go to a place is if Mr Duff wants to run a marathon there. I knew Rome had a marathon because over my years as a more-off-than-on runner I had occasionally toyed with the idea of running it, pretty much on the basis that if I was ever going to put myself through the full 26.2, I might as well do it somewhere pretty where the scenery would take my mind off the pain.
Admittedly, finding a really masochistic excuse for a weekend away wasn’t the only reason I had for considering running Rome. Mr Duff was always a much more serious runner than me. Already a Proper Runner, he had done five marathons already and would be running London in 2016. I’d witnessed a few rounds of his marathon training by this point, and it’s a fact that the process isn’t always easy when you’re the one watching from the sidelines. They’re out for three or four hours doing long runs at the weekend and you’re left at home, either feeling incredibly lazy or just hanging about waiting for them to get back. You can’t fully understand what they’re putting themselves through, or why they’re so tired, or why you have to have brown rice for dinner AGAIN. And on the day, whilst you’re incredibly proud of them, you’re also hugely jealous of what they have achieved and the look of sheer elation on their face.
So I casually looked up some training plans. I had already run six half marathons, so I knew I could run for 13.1 miles. Most of the training plans I looked at only had a handful of training runs above 13 miles. That seemed ok. I wasn’t looking for a sub 4 time or anything crazy like that. Just to get round respectably and not show myself up. How hard could it be?
So that was it. For absolutely no sensible reason at all, I had talked myself into entering the 2016 Maratona di Roma.
I’d bloody done it now.