Today is the day that I must share something with you that pains me more than it should. And yet, I hope that by breathing life back into this memory, I can come to terms with my struggles and my achievements, and finally make peace with the series of events that I am about to lay bare for both you and I.
It was the night before the big day that the daggers in my stomach made their first appearance. Too stubborn to acknowledge these pains, and admit even to myself that I didn’t feel right, I went to sleep just praying that I’d be fine by morning.
At 5am the next day the feeling had only intensified. I felt sick, dizzy, hot; and yet, I still managed to convince myself that this was just nerves. I was about to run a marathon, my second one ever, so butterflies were totally acceptable and normal.
Fuelling up on porridge and chatting with my beloved running family, took my mind off the feeling for the next hour or so. We watched the sun rise and reveal the glowing white snow peaks of the mountains. ‘How can anyone feel anything but fantastic in a place like this?’ This negative thought kept shattering my excitement.
We made our way down to the start line, each and every one of us alive with pride for what we were about to achieve. We were about to take on the race of a lifetime; together. Just us versus the Himalayas. No big deal.
Prayer flags lined the arena, a beautiful reminder of just how much the Impact Marathon team had done for us throughout our stay.
We gathered at the start line and relished in a perfectly out of tune rendition of the British national anthem, followed by the Nepali national anthem. I must say, I almost prefer theirs! Nick gave a motivational speech wishing us the best of luck on our adventure, his smile reassuring me that everything would be fine. And bam! We were off.
The first five kilometres were heaven. The putrid feeling in my stomach had vanished and I soared down the mountain with my dear friends. Along hidden jungle pathways we raced, united as a team by our shared adrenaline. There was something so wonderfully cinematic, rich, and immersive about these winding paths. We all felt like the Hollywood stars of a new Hunger Games film, speeding through the foliage to take on our frenemy.
And then it happened. I started to fall behind, my pace dropping minute by minute, until I suddenly stopped. Stopping during a run is incredibly out of character for me, and I know myself well enough to have realised that something was seriously wrong. My nightmare had come true. The one I’d profusely denied for the past twelve hours.
I must warn you that there is no pretty way to word this. I spent the next ten minutes, squatting in the jungle, probably not quite as hidden from view as I’d have liked, whilst my insides came out. I had a debilitating case of diarrhoea which drained me of physical energy and dignity. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
When the cramps had died down I began to run again. I was desperate to re-join my group, and reclaim my place in the pack of front runners. But there was nobody for what felt like forever.
Until… there in the distance stood my dear friend Josh. Having noticed that I had slipped away from the pack, he’d been stood there waiting for me this whole time. Sacrificing his own race to check up on my wellbeing. He could tell that I was far from okay, but we left this for now, as the unspoken elephant in the jungle. He could see how strongly I wished to deny that I was in trouble.
After this moment, I must admit that the first half of the race was a total blur. Stopping and starting, wincing in agony whilst trying to keep a smile on my face to chat to everyone around me. And every time I lost my pace, Josh would be there at the next corner waiting for me. My knight in shining armour. I willed him to run along many a time, but he simply smiled and shook his head.
It was just after a steep incline which lasted the best part of half an hour, that I finally gave in and admitted to the medics that I was feeling ROUGH. I could see the relief in Josh’s eyes as I finally swallowed my pride and sought out the medical attention I deserved.
Fully drugged up on paracetamol, Imodium, and electrolytes I begun to feel a little more like myself. For a moment, I was able to appreciate my incredible surroundings, the views you’d only ever normally experience through the eyes of David Attenborough, the waterfalls, the jungle, the mountains. Despite everything, I was incredibly lucky to be running this marathon.
Josh ensured that I checked in with the medics at every single water station and towards the end of the race my strength seemed to return. Maybe the medicine was kicking in, or maybe subconsciously I just knew that the harder I pushed myself the faster this torture would be over.
But I got too confident for my own good. Weakened by the sickness, my body was low on fuel, and I had not taken on anywhere near as much food as I normally would have during a run of this intensity. My jelly legs were no match for the mountainous terrain; and in a desperate attempt not to slow Josh down, I felt my ankle snap beneath me as I fell to the ground. Bambi on ice! I knew in that moment that I would be walking the last five km. I had fallen at the final hurdle.
And yet, in true Street Child fashion Josh, and Florian another member of our beloved team, were not going to let that happen. We picked up the pace and jogged the last few km, keeping ourselves entertained by my new lopsided running style. If you can’t laugh in the face of adversity, you’ll cry! When the finish line was in sight we got our Gopro’s at the ready and linked arms. This was a memory to be captured forever.
A huge crowd had gathered awaiting our arrival. They all knew that something must have been wrong, and their worries had turned into an anxious tension, washed away by our imminent arrival after a hellish 6 hours and 52 minutes. We took a bow as we crossed the finish line and soaked in the glory of our achievements. A glory, which at the time, I wholeheartedly believed I simply did not deserve. Fully grown men, reduced to blubbering nervous wrecks, hugged me so tight like my Father would have. An echo of Bart chanting ‘Heroes, heroes, heroes’ punctuated the blur of happiness and hysteria, making sense of the madness. We were the Street Child Heroes of the Nepal Marathon?
The moment was all too intense and the flood gates opened as I burst in to tears.
To this day, I still cannot believe that people as selfless as Josh exist. I still cannot believe that somebody did this for me. Sacrificed their own glory, to look after me, keep me well, and sane, and safe. People as honourable, as loving, and caring, as those who work alongside Street Child are a very rare breed. Very rare indeed, and I hope we never lose touch.
Please forgive me for sharing some rather grim details. I just had to get this off my chest.
Lots of love,
Ps. I’d just like to say how overwhelmingly proud I am of everyone who took on this race! Some making this their first ever!!