Dear marathon number. Melbourne Marathon Number 3309. I had high hopes for us. With complete confidence I applied for you as soon as the virtual ticket booth opened. I worked hard. I was running at extremely early times on extremely cold mornings. I had a training plan that I was sticking to. I was exceeding my targets and was on track to give you a wee-bit-of-a-faster-run than what my preceding marathons numbers have experienced.
But things changed. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had to make the call. I had to ask them not to send you. I had to tell them you wouldn’t be needed. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. It broke my heart.
I had hoped that you’d be allocated to deserving runner. A runner ready to take you to that start line, where the oxymoronic mix of nerves and excitement is so thick in the air, it’s like a psychedelic rainbow snaking its way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of runners. Where the music is playing, people are stretching, hugging their loved ones, taking selfies, doing warm up runs; many are on their third trip to the porta-loos.
I wanted you to go to someone who would allow you, number 3309, to soak up the atmosphere that is the Melbourne marathon. A runner that would proudly pin you to his or her most chafe-friendly running top and take you on the 42.2 kilometre journey. Firstly, hopping up and around other runners, comrades, not quite keeping the same step as you; to the point where the cluster starts to stretch out a little and you find your stride. I wanted you to go through the drink stations and hear the unique tinging and tapping of the plastic cups hitting the ground; to the seemingly long and lonely stretches of Beaconsfield and Marine Parade, where the energy and excitement seems to dull, feet seem to be hit the ground a little harder and the faces of other runners show the mind’s wrestle between determination and regret (and in most cases, determination has the upper hand).
I wanted you to see the people lining St Kilda road, the children selflessly handing out lollies to weary competitors rather than scoffing them all themselves, the signs people hold up to push you just a little more, the random people clapping and telling you what a good job you’ve done. On the chest of your runner, curving around past Federation Square, I wanted you to feel the lift, the slight straightening out, as pride and self-belief resurrects: so close now, so close now.
And then, number 3309, the MCG appears and the step of your runner, somehow, just gets a little faster and the noise just gets a little louder. Already-finished competitors are making their way back to their cars, to cafes, to pubs with their in-awe family quizzing them about their accomplishment. Their finishers medal proudly beating against their number as they walk, or hobble, along.
3309, if things had have gone to plan you would have made it into the MCG with me, possibly a little weather beaten, a pin or two missing, creases indicating my fatigued posture. You would have been photographed with me, arms raised as high as I could manage crossing the finishing line. You might have even caught a tear or two, as for whatever reason I cry every single time.
But it didn’t end up like that. For some administrative reason, you weren’t assigned to another eager participant. You ended up in the letterbox of this tired runner who had decided this was not the year to do the Melbourn marathon.
But has it been so bad?
To be continued…