If you want someone to train with, exercising with your other half might not be the best idea.
Exhausted and emotional, I stagger forwards, delighted that after 26 miles of agony the end is in sight. My feet are burning, every limb in my body aches. I just want it to end. All I have to do, is reach the Brandenburg Gate. I fix my eyes on the historical landmark, and keep pumping my arms, hoping that my legs will follow.
Next to me, my partner trots along. ‘Nearly there,’ he says brightly. ‘You can do it.’
Slowly, I turn my head to look at him. After five hours of running, he’s not even broken a sweat. He’s smiling and nodding, being so encouraging. I decide then and there that I hate him. I should not be with this man. The minute I cross the line I’m going to start divorce proceedings.
‘You can do it,’ he says, this time a bit louder. He looks so happy, almost bursting with pride.
‘I know I can!’ I spit the words out, taking his encouragement for condescension. And suddenly, I can’t take it anymore. Before I’ve realised what I’m doing, I’m sprinting down the Unter den Linden, heading for the finish. Without him!
‘Wait for me,’ he calls, but I’m away, running like my life depends on it. I am exhausted to the point of collapse, but I want to finish this race, and I want to cross the line before my husband. Never mind, that he’s stayed with me for the entire race, forget about crossing the line together, holding hands in celebratory style, I am off.
It has been a long day. It started well. We’d reached 15 miles in a good time. He ran silently at my side, but when I started struggling, he started chirping his encouragement, giving his advice. I listened patiently, until he complained that it was hard for him to run at someone else’s pace, to which I uttered a swear word that ended in ‘Off’.
We didn’t speak much after that.
By mile 20, I was really struggling. I was tired, hungry and my lack of fitness was showing. He did his best to spur me on, but I was done for. Briefly, his positivity turned to despair. ‘We’ll be out all day,’ he’d wailed. And then he’d let me take his arm and he dragged me round.
It wasn’t until I spotted a spectator handing out apples and bananas that he spoke again. ‘Don’t have anything you’ve not tried on a run before,’ he’d said.
‘But you shouldn’t eat anything you’ve not tried in training!’
I didn’t want him telling me what to do, so I stuffed in the apples like I’d not eaten for weeks. I’d soon regretted it. He’d stood patiently outside the toilets at the 38km mark while my guts gave way. He hadn’t said, ‘I told you so’, he didn’t need to. His silence said everything.
Now, sprinting towards the finish, he’s on my shoulder, still looking like he’s not even trying. ‘Where’s this energy come from?’ he asks, smiling.
I don’t speak. I can’t speak. I have to muster the strength to get across the line. I do (in front of him), and then we stagger to the pub where we make a pact to never, ever, under any circumstances, race together again.
This was the Berlin Marathon in 2009. We’d been together for three years. It didn’t break us. It probably made us stronger. If you can survive five hours and nineteen minutes of running together, you can survive anything.
Chris went on to run a two-hour 45-minute marathon. I decided that 10km and half marathon races were more my distance. We’ve now been together for 13 years. We never argue, but there is something about running together that brings out the bickering. To this day, although we take part in the same races, we’ve not run another race together. Perhaps that can be the challenge for 2019, but then again, perhaps not.