This is the Payback.

Posted on: 26 Sep 2018

It feels too late to blog about my second ultra. It feels too late to blog about the Marika Parkrun. It feels too late for lots of things when life is on full throttle and you are careening towards what's next. But these need a few words so I will honour them before bringing you to my today.

August bank holiday weekend arrived awfully quickly after that Race to those Stones. I had no idea what would happen, but I did know I was running with a friend, it would be further than I'd ever gone, and I'd be wearing that NASS vest for the very first time, representing the change in my life's journey as well as our two most amazing distance athletes Kat and Bolty. The South Coast Challenge 55k would be about enduring the unexpected, embracing those Seven Sisters I know so well and conquering the unknown: that is the mark of the ultra as I have lived it now. That is the mark of this community. That is what I did over the better part of a beautiful Saturday and 35 earthly miles all in one go. It's almost ludicrous that I'm not about to detail every climb, every stop, every snack, every frustration, every soaring success. But I won't because time is fleeting and valuable and to be perfectly honest, I loved every minute and it's so much less a story to tell when you finish uninjured.

As my Pops would say, "now hold it, now."

Uninjured? UNINJURED?! Mad Max? Thirty-fi---un---wha???

That there is the crux. Not. One. Injury. After. Thirty-five. Miles. I'm still in total disbelief about that, but not that alone - also about the four hour deduction from my 50k PB. My original plan for this year's challenges had named three races, and the last would be the second ultra. I had mentally titled this year Veni Vidi Vici (we came, we saw, we conquered). 

Oh I did. I sure did.

I'm in disbelief about the fact that even though I'd been jog/walking for the duration, we'd sustained 16 minute mile pace. For thirty-five miles! I was able to jog through the park and over the finish line after nine and a half hours on my feet, some of it brutal and agonising, most of it the standard serving of relentless forward progress. The volunteers at the finish cheering like we'd just won gold in the Olympics, those at the shuttle bus reservation tent just marvelling at the fact we'd just gone 35 miles under our own power. Oh you ain't alone, sis. No way.

And I felt amazing. And larger than life. I realised not for the first time, but for the best - that to finish a marathon or beyond, to dig that deep when all you want to do is lie down, to feel strong to the bitter end, that there makes you feel like you can do anything.

Now, if you know me well, you know my son Rukai has Down's syndrome. There are many words I could write about it, but I will say for the purpose of this prose that my life has been challenging on the best of days, mostly because I see other mums moving on and here we have our own type of world. Our world is full of people that either tell us our child is broken, or shouldn't exist, or professionals pointing out what we need to do above and beyond even though we are already in some asteroid belt of effort, there is no above, there is no beyond. As a result, as a parent I often feel a failure. This just goes with the territory. I know this is patently untrue, yet still...

But this running. These years. These successes. I see my son push and fall down and rise up and succeed and I'll be damned if I don't follow along in his footsteps. He is my hero, he is why I run, he is why I want to be the best me I can be, and to prove to myself that I can do anything. Because if I can do anything then I am worthy of being his mum. I am actually capable of being his mum. There are no baby steps in his world, I have to deliver epic. 

This is why I run. This is why I've done all this madness this year, and why I've just completed my training for the two most important runs of the year - Chicago and Snowdonia marathons - by completing my first two ultras. I am good enough. I have been broken and bruised and blistered and battered and I have pressed on and finished in agony.

And then, on one remarkable bank holiday weekend in August, I finished STRONG.

I can do anything.


Recovery was recovery. I couldn't tell you much about it as I was busy settling into a new job, which now includes 3 days per week a 25 minute power walk either way into the office (or now the gym) for an extra 8.5 miles a week I wasn't getting before. Feeling strong as we gathered in St Albans a couple weeks ago to remember our beautiful smiling Marika, whose passing I learned of as I was driving home from that epic ultra, emotions teetering from ultimate joy at the biggest victory of my running life and the deepest sorrow to remember the biggest loss to our community as long as I've been a part of it. I was so proud to run that sunny Saturday for Marika, that nonstop 5k, accompanied to the line by a bevvy of Buzzers, counted out, counted in. Despite my slow pace in comparison to the bulk of you lot, it was a truly fantastic run for me, paced to perfection and only difficult when you all made me sprint finish ;-) 

Relentless forward progress.


As I type, we are 11 days shy of my second Chicago Marathon, which, of course, was going to be epic to begin with. I have a song in my head to define my approach whose lyrics are thus:

Don't act like you don't know, know what I came for
Too late to turn back, this is the payback.
You take one, I take one.
You can't hide you can't run.
Too late to turn back, this is the payback. *

Mission to crush it, and achieve that five-thirty-something marathon which has eluded me for two years because I keep blowing up. The training has truly been going well, with two marathons and two ultras under my belt, many mountains, lots of miles, hills, strength training, injury free (that is until I pinged my back opening a window earlier but I'm going to expect physio to sort that out Friday and not panicking just yet). Easy, princess. Easy, tiger. Easy, rainbow. Jus' chilllllllll.

Maranoia? Check.

Right. Moving on. This race was always going to be for my Pops. It's Chicago after all. Then we lost our smiling Marika and as this was next after the SCC, it was without question it's also for Marika. But when our Kat had to pull out of Snowdonia I could not think of anyone I would more want to finish strong for. So Chicago?

I start for Pops. I endure for Marika. I finish for Kat. Give it all for the family.

I drink that beautiful special edition finish line Goose Island 312 for me. There's a place on the tin to write your time. Five. Thirty. Something. I know this pain now. I know how to endure it. I want that thirty-something. I'm having it. My training pace has been well under thirty-something but I know marathons and I know my dumb luck. Dream too big this time and a fall could split me in half. So I will aim for that thirty-something, because some 20 minutes off a marathon PB would be a fine day at the office if you ask me. 

Better still, without getting into too much detail (who, me?!) the person who instilled the 'relentless forward progress' mantra in my noggin - my old friend, former boss, multiple Chicago finisher - will most likely be running with me.

Talk about motivation. He's not part of Realbuzz but man alive he sure is a Buzzer.

So there I will leave you for now. If so inclined, you can track me on the Chicago Marathon app, under Maxine Sinda Napal, bib 63850. I know our Jim will be on marathon three of the ACC that day, likely finished by the time I start. May you finish strong (#notsh*t) and do it smiling. That's an order ;-)

Shoulder to shoulder one and all. 

As for me? Hope I do you all proud. You will know how important this one is.

Go forth and...



* From Fast and Furious 7 soundtrack - Juicy J

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