It takes half a million steps to train for a marathon. Around 500 miles, more or less.
And if I haven’t managed quite that distance this time, in those 18 weeks, it’s because for quite a few of those, I didn’t know that I was training for a marathon. Even now, I’m not certain that I was.
It was a slow and injury-bound winter which forced me to jump on my bike last Spring. Hills, more hills and harder hills fell behind my forks in place of long runs beneath my feet. Frustrating in a way, and yet somehow refreshing, too.
I finally bought the new pair of stability shoes I needed back in April. They made no difference, not then. Each new run was a risk for my hip and my confidence. So I kept on cycling, each and every Sunday.
7-7 had gone by, with London a newly-bombed and Olympic city, before the hot July morning which saw me carve my first 12 miler out of Chalk Downland and sandstone ridges. And it was already late July when I splashed through 17 on the coolest, wettest evening of the season. The most blissful, perfect run, but I paid the price with sore legs for a week beyond.
Three times in all I slogged my twenties through warm late Summer. The first and last of those went fine – just as well, since I’d crawled the last six home once in between. You just never know how those runs will go.
For two weeks I plied the Atlantic coast of Spain, soft sand and dunes beneath my feet. Greeted August’s new football season by meeting Real Madrid’s footballers at Jerez airport on the journey home. September came and went, bringing softer days, swifter feet, and a second pair of those hip-healing shoes.
Perhaps I’d dreamed of Cardiff, of finishing a marathon in the same Millennium Stadium where West Ham triumphed back in May, but that weekend was always taken up with other things. And it would have been a raceless autumn if rural Oxfordshire hadn’t beckoned to me, just in time.
It’s been a different journey, this time. More tracks, more hills. Fewer miles, less stress, less certainty. Uncertain of where, or even if, I’d run.
But here I am, on the road to Abingdon. Half a million steps behind, and just that single lonely stairway ahead of me, once again. My summer’s lease is all but run.
And yet, it’s now – it’s only now – that it can all begin.
115. A postcard from Greenwich Park
95. Going underground – the 7/7 attacks on London
98. Off the shoulder of Orion – Costa de la Luz
96. Jude Law and the Dirty Deed
97. Only scars carved into stone – a summer 20 miles
94. London Olympics 2012
49. Ready to run