• Being Home

    I’ve been home from Edinburgh for a month now. It’s a cliché, but in some ways it seems as if the marathons were just a dream (did I really do that?), memories pop up, sometimes sparkling, sometimes fuzzy, or at other times there is just a lingering sense of effort, gritted teeth, pounding feet and community. Sometimes I close my eyes and I’m back in Edinburgh, back in that strange bubble, back in that moment.

    Coming home on the train was the most surreal journey I’ve taken. The previous time I had been on the train I had the whole task ahead of me. This time, I had it behind me. I’d done it. I felt disconnected, mind and body in their own separate worlds that didn’t quite connect with the ‘real’ world in which I was supposedly operating. My legs twitched for the entire journey, unable to understand why they weren’t moving.

    Back home, it took me a long time to be able to sleep properly, I’d often lay awake for hours and then wake up again at 4am. My body felt as if it had a huge amount of energy that just wasn’t being used. I twitched and jerked and felt restless. I wasn’t allowed to run, I wasn’t back at work.

    After I had been home a week I went to see my physio, Alasdair Jones, in Colchester. Physically things hadn’t quite settled down. My hamstring was still playing up, I had a lump on my shin and my foot was still a bit tender. Alasdair asked me to go for an x-ray on my foot as he said there was either a lot of gunk in the tendon or I might have a stress fracture. This surprised me, as although my foot was tender I was able to walk without limping. So I went and had the x-ray and sure enough I had a seemingly traumatic break to the 2nd metatarsal. It was a displaced fracture and had been broken for some time. Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. They gave me a moon boot to stabilise my foot and an appointment to return in a couple of weeks. In the meantime I had some more physio. Although I wasn’t allowed to run I really wanted to exercise so I went swimming (taking my moon boot off), used a turbo bike every day (with my moon boot on) and I also did some boxing (although I had to sit on a bench to hit the punch bag to keep the weight off my foot). At my follow up appointment the doctor said the bone had healed, I could wean myself off the moon boot (I never wore it again) and once I could walk I could start to run. Alasdair also gave me the all clear to run again when I saw him a few days later and he’s prescribed a plan to enable me to run (jog) for 10 minutes after a two week build up. The first day I was allowed to jog for 1 minute. I was surprisingly nervous about it. I had really missed running, but I wasn’t sure if this was because I wasn’t allowed to run or if it was because I actually missed it. I wondered if it would hurt, or if I would be fit enough to run for a minute. I started with a 9-minute walk and then I jogged. And I loved it! I didn’t feel any pain, I didn’t get out of breath and a huge sense of elation washed over me as I settled into the rhythm of the jog. And then my minute was up. I had another 9 minute walk to go before I could jog for another minute and I waited with impatience for the time to pass. Just like in the marathons, I only felt pain whilst I was walking (and it was minimal); the jogging was pain free. In total I jogged for 3 minutes that day; if I had to score my emotions, it would have been a +5 (very good) and a 6 (intense feeling).

    In hindsight, I probably broke my foot towards the end of the eighth marathon. My foot suddenly started to hurt and by the time I got to the physio that day my foot had swollen up. In the morning I found it really difficult to put any weight on my foot to walk and wondered how I would run. I did run, but very slowly and very painfully. I’m so pleased I didn’t know it was broken. I think it would have hurt a lot more if I had known and there would have been some very difficult decisions to make over whether or not I would/could carry on. I always said it was more comfortable to run on my foot than it was to walk on it; the physio I had every day definitely helped, as my foot was being treated and strapped. At one point it even felt as if my foot was getting better. I’m amazed at the way the body can cope with and adapt to injury (especially when the head doesn’t realise what’s going on).

    Since being home, my lowest point emotionally was the evening I knew my foot was broken.

    I’ve found it hard to balance talking about the performance and not showing off. I tend not to talk about it until someone asks me a question, but then I find it difficult to stop talking about it! Part of that is a need to talk about it, a need to process what happened and accept the journey. I’m struggling to make sense of it all, to figure out what it all means; I’m trying to understand the changes in my body and in my perceived view of the world and of myself.

    I have a lot of people to thank for their help with this performance: Edd Hobbs, my producer; Dave, Chris, Murray, Kimberley and Kelly from the Human Performance Unit; Anthony Roberts and the Escalator East to Edinburgh team; The Arts Council; Andy from Runner’s World in Colchester; Christy from Jageto Embroidery; Gary from Scape Student Living; Rob and The Queen’s Head in Nassington; Simon from Interior Motive; Jez Allen; Braintree Rugby Club; Halstead Boxing Club; everyone in Edinburgh who supported, encouraged and ran with me; friends and family from home (and abroad!) and of course my wonderful boys! This wasn’t a solo performance, it was a collaboration: it belongs to the community that ensured its success and I am truly grateful to everyone who joined in.

    At this stage, I’m thinking about developing a performance inspired by the marathons. There will be a place within that for all the science stuff, the people that I met, the fudge I ate and my experiences along the way. But it will be also be a performance in and of itself (just as the marathons were); I’ll still be questioning, exploring and wondering about repetition, fear, participation, endurance, effort and achievement, but I’ll also be thinking about transformation and self-imposed limits.

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