now advertising sarah maclean half marathon

The Journey to a Half Marathon, and Beyond

By Sarah Maclean, Account Manager at Now.

In January, I did what was in hindsight a pretty reckless thing, for me. I signed up for a half marathon.

I’ve never been ‘confident’ with sport. It goes back to the ‘chubby kid at school’ days, too shy to do it for fear of embarrassment. It had been affirmed back then that sport was not for me. I had never had to tell myself ‘I can’ with regards to sport. I couldn’t, and that was that.

This isn’t a ‘Couch-to-22.5K’ story, though. I had been comfortable running 5Ks for about 3 years but had never thought to push myself to achieve more. There was a certain fear in what lay beyond this finite distance. At what point would I start wanting to stop? Would I be strong enough, physically, mentally, to push through?

Although it’s cheesy, I must admit that as a tactic to push myself past the 5K ring-fence I had created for myself, I listened to empowering, motivating music – think Drake’s recent ‘Nice For What’ – the kind that makes you feel you’re in a film or a music video, pounding the streets with determination and sass.

Whatever I did. It worked. I went to 7K, to 8K, and then to 9K.

I achieved my first 10K on a Friday evening after work, while others were possibly having a much more socially acceptable start to the weekend with alcoholic beverages. I felt invincible. I thought ‘I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING CAN’, for the first time. The adrenaline was divine.

Fast forward a few more slightly panicked months, where I achieved up to 18K before the race, and it was suddenly a scorching hot Sunday 20th May.

People tell you about the atmosphere on the day of a half marathon. They tell you that the atmosphere will get you through, and although you hope, you never quite believe them. But the sight of people who had left their homes that day to stand on the side of the road and cheer complete strangers, to give out sweets and water, to give you a simple ‘hi-five’ – it was honestly all the motivation needed.

Which is why for the first 16.5k, I felt wonderful. But as the route passed through the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a vast, open expanse of nothingness, there were no people lining the roads, and we were met instead with inclines, bridges, and little shade.

Pushing through this part of the route was possibly the moment I realised that second only to getting a Cambridge degree, this was the hardest challenge I had ever set myself. I thought of the finish, not too far away, and thought of how I could #humblebrag about the fact I hadn’t had to stop, once. About the fact that I hadn’t even wanted to stop, until that final few kilometres. And I kept going.

When I finished, I mostly felt drained, and tired. It’s actually taken me a whole week and a holiday in Italy to start feeling proud of myself.

In January, I had unwittingly signed up to the half marathon without realising what a feat it would be. But now, in May, I can say that although the act of signing up was so out of character, so ‘un-Sarah’, something has happened to me in the past 5 months. I’ve been forced to begin to believe in myself. To believe in the capabilities of my body, to be specific.

Which is why this probably won’t be the only half marathon I run, and why it definitely won’t be the last time I sign myself up to something scary or new.