It is a journey, a marathon.
No-one really tells you how far.
Nobody really tells you how long its going to take either.
Like all journeys, eventually you reach the end - the finish line.
Or is that the end of it? Does it actually end here, right now, in this gathering of eager beavers itching to cross over THIS line - the one at the start?
You've done 22 marathons now, official ones. This one is kind of like the first; you've taken it seriously; you've given it respect; you've planned, and you've trained, and you've tried to do things right - failing often along the way. Succeeding occasionally too.
It is definitely a journey. It isn't the 26 miles and 385 yards that everybody thinks of it as being.
It's October 26th - and you're thinking about how you were running through woodland filled with bluebells not 5 minutes since, thinking of filming your run commute into work. You ran up a hill on Boxing Day, and really this marathon started there - December 26th - a whole 10 months prior to where we find ourselves now.
No, a marathon is more, it is much, much more.
It is getting up stupidly early on the mornings when you have your boy with you, so that you can be back and showered before he's even thought about getting out of bed.
It is turning out on New Year's Day, and running your first race of the year, around Llyn Lliddaw, whilst the rest of the country nurses the headaches that they didn't need to endure.
It's having a go at running every day in January, and failing at day 23.
It's learning that half each on the Prosecco poured straight into a pint pot doesn't work for GB athletes, so probably won't be all that great for you.
It's realising that 3 miles into work is actually a pretty good distance for a run, and committing to a training plan that is largely built around that.
It's having to adapt the way you do your shopping because you're running to and from work.
It's having to plan where your work clothes need to be, because you're not running with them on.
It's running home on tired legs, day after day after day, because you ran there, were on you're feet all day, and now you're running home, uphill.
It's witnessing the changing of the seasons, and feeling it more keenly than those who don't really play outside.
It's feeling on your skin that this country isn't half as damp and dull and dreary as everybody seems to think it is, and finding out that in month upon month of running, it's pretty rare that you actually get wet.
It's having load after load of washing to do, and struggling to get things dry.
It's knowing that you wanted to spend more time on your bike this year, to try and stay fit but keep the injuries at bay, and finding that there really aren't enough hours in the week to achieve that.
It's enduring endless conversations about running, because when people know only one thing about you, what they know is that you run.
It's spending every single day with some ache or pain somewhere making it hard for you to run, but also knowing that when you stop, well then the hurting really starts.
It's living with the tediousness of logging what you do, checking you don't overdo it, checking that you have done enough.
It's having occasional highlights, or low lights, and expressing your feelings in a blog.
It's joining a few running groups on Facebook and slowly realising that a lot of them are filled up with *****.
It's having Plan A, Plan B, Plan C.... and finding different ways to motivate yourself when the plans you made aren't working out.
It's coming home very often knowing you should be stretching, but being too knackered and too hungry, so pushing that self care to the side.
It's missing out on some things sometimes, because the long runs must be done.
It's constantly being hungry 'cause of the energy you burn.
It's running 12 mile round trips to your lads house when you realise he forgot his keys.
It's battling with guilt on a short journey to town every time you use the car.
It's cycling or walking when you're not running so your legs still do the work.
It's entering an event you always wanted to but never got round to before.
It's peeling off your blood soaked socks and realising you don't even feel it anymore when something is cutting into your toes.
It's seeing possibilities as all your labour and hard work starts to show signs of bearing fruit; a Snowdon Race not too far off what was achieved there once before - before that smashed knee; a Stretton Skyline that was faster than before you smashed your knee.
It's having a 4 mile loop or a 6 mile loop on your doorstep, when what you're really looking for is 5.
It's realising that you're drinking alcohol a little too often and adding a unit checker into your spreadsheet to monitor whether or not booze is a concern.
It's a 20 mile run on a saturday back in May, and a 10 mile fell race the day after.
It's getting yourself through months of gradually increasing mileage, and then right at the last, right in that peak week, where you ran a half marathon after work on a Wedneday night, getting injured, on Friday morning, then watching all your hard work come apart.
Then finally, you arrive there, the day before the race, and suddenly you find yourself over-run with anxiety.
Everything is against you; The hip injury isn't properly repaired; The weather forecast looks like a monsoon, but it's Llanberis, the temperature will be closer to that of the Arctic than that of the equatorial Intertropical Convergence Zone. You're nervous about sharing a room with 7 other burping, farting runners, none of which you know. Hell, even your ex-girlfriend is going to be there and you know it isn't going to be easy on either of you.
Anxiety runs to a level where you're even intimidated by the thought of going into a cafe which you love, to meet people that you love. You haven't seen them in ages, too many ages. If only you'd made that journey down to Hawkesbury in June....
The anxiety battle is long, but you get through it in the end.
You don't sleep on Friday night. The burping and the farting wasn't a problem, but a family of hibernating grizzly bears wouldn't snore like one annoying ****** in that room.
He must know he's got a snoring problem. Why the **** don't snoring ******** have the decency to book a private room? Why the **** should it be us who need to pay extra if we want to avoid selfish pricks like that?
In fact, why can't there be a law whereby if some inconsiderate snoring **** keeps everyone else in the room awake all night, while they themselves sleep soundly, they pay the bill for everyone else? That'd make 'em book the private rooms!
You determine that you aren't going to let it beat you. You determine that injury be damned, you're standing on that start line and you're going to have a go.
You don't get the time you hoped for with your friends before the start, but you get a decent cup of tea, and the rain isn't as heavy as they forecast, and you kind of know you'll be alright.
It won't be the marathon you hoped for, the injury put paid to that, but it will be the best one you can run in the circumstances on the day. It's going to be your first run in 22 days. You don't know how far you'll get.
You get jogging along past the banks of Llyn Peris. There's a pink cap just ahead and a familiar flash of vibrant blonde. There she is, your ex-girlfriend. Anxiety returns.
You don't have to worry about catching up to her until the road starts to climb out of Nant Peris, but you do worry, it's going to be awkward for the both of you. Would be so much easier if you could slip by un-noticed on the opposite side of the road.
That's not going to happen. Instead the crowd thins and for a while there's just the 2 of you on that particular patch of road. You manage a conversation. There's a bit of gritted teeth, but it's ok. You make it through.
"Go on Mr Barber" - near the top of Pen-y-Pass you hear that much needed shout of encouragement from your friend Dave who's just behind.
Over the top, you spy the Hawkesbury orange. Your friend Jim, who says he can't run downhill. You can run downhill, but you can't catch Jim.
In the end you catch him on the rough stuff, you're running a fairly well matched pace, but then he starts talking about the rugby, and you keep on floating down the hill.
The little steep bit by the campsite, that catches you every year, you breeze over today, and you float all the way to Beddgelert. You've looked forward to seeing the cheer squad there, but there is no-one to be seen.
Up the hill you're feeling strong, left calf is getting sore, overcompensating for that hip injury on the right, but not enough to stop you, just something to grin and bear.
You grin and bear it all the way to the timing mats at mile 23, and that's enough. The body can take no more. You can't remember if you walked before those mats, or if it was the timing of the landrover coming through there and 4 of you dodging into the ditch, but the running definitely ended there.
The feedstation at the top not only had a really quite attractive queen of hearts serving up cups of tea, but had cake and flapjack and music and a fantastic atmosphere. It was great to just sit in the chair there for a while, eat 3 pieces of delicious fruit cake, and enjoy 2 lovely warm cups of tea, before attempting to get underway again.
The one bit you could run, with your fell running brain, was the bit nobody else could, so you overtook afew as you descended the slippery grass, but as soon as tarmac was beneath your feet, the body said no, and you ended up reversing most of the way down the hill. It was a painful last few strides along that finish straight. Some nice high 5's off the kids lining the sides though.
Unfinished business it remains.
You'll have to try again next year.
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