A Marathon Birthday For Jo
After completing my first marathon in 2005 to celebrate being 40, if someone had told me then that on my 55th birthday I’d be running one out of personal choice, on a route I devised from my home village, I would have thought they were mad writes Jo Earlam.
I realise some people think I’m a bit mad to have gone on to run a further formal 75 marathons or ultra, sometimes doing 26.2 miles just for the fun of it, as I did on Thursday 28th May, the anniversary of the first Women Can Marathon in 2017. It was the beauty of the East Devon countryside that inspired me to come up with the idea for that event and it was the same wonderful scenery that in Coronavirus lockdown drew me to dawdle happily through it on foot, a mixture of running, jogging, walking, with lots of photo and pit stops for food and to chat. Time was not important, but for the record it was eight hours and 20 minutes in total, of which seven hours was moving-ish. As a carer for my husband John, who’s 75 and has dementia, it’s difficult to come up with activities that we can both enjoy as we’d previously have done on my birthday, so having asked carers to cover the middle of the day, I got to do one of things I’ve missed most during the social distancing restrictions, hours of headspace with nothing else to think about but putting one foot in front of the other.
Marathons are more in the mind, than in the legs, and it was this simple mental energy that at mile 16 when I was flagging up a tough hill, I relished, as the most stress I had in that moment was literally taking the next step. It’s so liberating to be able to let all the other worries slip away and focus on the here and now and soon plod by plod, I was past that tough section. The whole day was wonderful, the weather superb, I had the lovely company of fellow Sidmouth Running Club member Jane Hemsworth on the beautiful stretch from Tipton St John, via the river Otter and the South West Coast Path to Sidmouth. Women Can race director Pauline Beare and Peg Wiseman kindly gave back up support on route with drinks and snacks, I had a delicious tuna roll on Sidmouth esplanade, and the four of us enjoyed birthday cake, Prosecco and a lovely socially distanced catch up in the late afternoon sunshine back at Tipton.
I was left with memories of a fabulous birthday, the weirdly satisfying muscle ache that endurance runners will understand, and a final happy postscript – I didn’t realise I’d dropped my bank card on route, a man walking his dog found it the following morning and called to let me know, good to know there are nice people out there, thank you Lester from Harcombe. The best bit though about the day was re-connecting with the feeling that when things got tough, I could keep going and feel good about it.