Oct 15th, 2021, 12:53 AM

When Your Body Goes Numb

By Isabella Sibble
Photo Credit: Marathon Photos Live
26 Reflections on Running a Marathon

For the past 5 months, I have had to decline nearly every social invite, wake up before sunrise in the dog days of summer, and plan my entire day around training runs. And before you start to think that I am complaining, let me remind you that this was entirely my choice, and I would not change a thing. On October 3rd, the culmination of those challenging weeks arrived, and I ran my first marathon in Inverness, Scotland. Here is what I have learned in the process:

1. Do not sign up for a marathon. Ok, maybe that is a little harsh, but seriously, this stuff is gross. 5 minutes after finishing the race two of my toenails fell off and I watched three people throw up. It is a brutal thing to do to your body, and unless you have had training on how to care for your body, train well, and recover effectively, it is not worth it.

2. Do not trust elevation maps. I picked this course because it had one big hill at mile 20, and I told myself I could walk it. Well, I was wrong. The course was rolling hills the entire way, totaling at over 1000ft of elevation…moral of the story: don’t hedge your bets on infographics.

3. Trust yourself more than those around you. Everyone is so eager to start the race hard and fast, and it is so tempting to go along with everybody, especially when it feels like otherwise you will get left behind, but you know yourself and your plans better than anyone else and staying true to what feels right always pays off in the end.

4. …But don’t be afraid to reach out. When you need it, there are people there. For me, when the big hill at mile 20 did come, the stranger next to me kept saying encouraging phrases like “let’s do this” or “I’m not leaving you on this hill alone,” which gave me something––someone to fight for.

5. “Thank you” is a mutually beneficial statement.

6. Having Advil handy is always a good idea. I think this one is self-explanatory.

7. Never overdress. Let me paint a grim picture: the morning of race day it was about 0º Celsius with whipping highland winds and diagonal sheets of rain. Under my baggy sweatpants and cozy fleece, my body shook in the tight shorts and thin running shirt I had decided to race in. While waiting around for the start, I went back and forth about whether I should change into my spare pair of leggings and thicker wool top. I decided against it simply because I could not fathom the idea of undressing in such cold weather, but my stubbornness was helpful. When I threw off my cozy layers as the race begun, I was too excited to think about the temperature, and the day only got warmer.

8. Having people cheer you on makes a huge difference.

9. If you are not nervous for something ‘big,’ ‘new,’ or ‘scary,’ you have no reason to be. As a former competitive runner, I kept expecting to be hit with the nauseating wave of nerves that I’d felt before every cross-country race, but it never came. I was relaxed (excited even) in the final weeks of training, I slept well the night before, and I woke up excited. I was going to do this, and nothing in my mind or body suggested otherwise.

10. To quote one of my favorite celebrities, “expectations are just premeditated resentments” – Katya Zamilodchikova

11. It’s ok to take a time out

12. Smiling through it is a scientifically proven method

13. Experiences can be extremely challenging and incredibly joyful at the same time

14. Scotland looks exactly like Vermont…just saying.

15. The Loch Ness Monster is real

16. It would be really convenient to have a penis. Ok, this may sound odd, but all I am saying is that those in possession of this anatomical addition had the convenient option of taking a quick pee break at any point during the race.

17. A good playlist makes everything better… until your headphones die at mile 20. But seriously, I want to personally thank Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Madonna, Greta Van Fleet, and a entire subcategory of one-hit-wonders from the past 50 years. Then you get so desperate at mile 23 and start playing mildly vulgar hits from the 80s out loud and just let it be.

18. It’s only as miserable as you make it

19. Miles 16-21 hurt like a b*tch

20. Scottish people are so hard to understand

21. Signs from the universe might just be real. Hold on a second, just hear me out. Remember that bitter cold and rainy start of the race, well 5 minutes before we started, the rain let up, and an enormous, vibrant Rainbow took over the sky above. I can’t be positive that it wasn’t the cool air, but I did get chills when that happened. If magical weather events are not enough to convince you, here’s the second sign. Let me remind you that I ran this marathon in the middle of northern Scotland. Ok, so right around mile 20, when I was still in the thick of the really hard part, I ran through a group of spectators, and one of them had a Red Sox hat on. Now, this may seem random, but I am a die-hard Bostonian and while Yankees gear has become a European fashion statement, I have never seen someone wearing Red Sox gear in Paris, never mind Lochardil (aka Bumfuck), Scotland. I probably scared the crap out of the kind stranger when I screamed “GO RED SOX” at him over and over, but just seeing a reminder of home flooded my body with enough serotonin to keep me going.

22. Peanut butter is magical. No further comment.

23. It’s just as easy to give up. This is shockingly true. At any point in my training, on the day of the race, or even during the race, I could have simply stopped. No one would have judged me, no one would have known, and it was entirely within my control.

24. Whoever invented cobblestones was evil.

25. When your body goes numb, look around you; it’s a beautiful world. Take in the eerie feeling of passing through a place you will never see again.

26. You’ve always got a little more to give