Updated: Mar 28
The day of dread comes around very fast, especially when one’s training plan has slacked off considerably…aka ‘conserving energy’ which is what is suggested one does in the weeks prior to the big ‘event’, which is usually a marathon but for me is a mere traipse around the Cotswolds border for 50 kilometres or 31 or so miles.
The problem with ‘conserving energy’ is that I am still shovelling in the calories as if I am walking a gazillion miles a week. ‘Bet you’re super fit’ state friends who live distantly. Oddly this is never remarked by peeps who meet me in the flesh.
The joy of middle-agedness I am learning is that it is like revisiting my teenage years: there’s the random ragey-ness from misfiring hormones making life even more grossly unfair than it has ever been. Doors can be slammed dammit! Then there’s the migraines that had plagued me in early teens, back to squiff my vision. There’s also the emergence of random strands body hair which has no aesthetic nor practical use. Every time I think I’m moving from perimenopause to full menopause, an event symbolised by not bleeding for an entire year, I am as startled by the sudden arrival of a ‘monthly’ as I was the first time it ever happened.
Of course, I am once again growing curves, only now I’m growing curves on curves. My upper abdomen is slowly becoming apple-shaped to complement my peared posterior. Cleavage - something I yearned for in my twenties, causing me to cripple my boobage in Wonderbras, is now of the ample variety. I don’t so much need a bra to push the two sides together as a buttress to keep them apart.
And now with a reduced training commitment, I noticed I’m outgrowing all my clothes at a rapid rate. My height, however, remains unchanged. What I despair of most is my feet:
I’ve gone from a dainty sized 5.5 to a 7. I can now buy men’s shoes. Why I’d like to do this I have no idea, but then I did so love my Doc Martins in yonderyear - wore them with everything, even my little black dresses. Bros be damned!
And so with my clod-hopping feet, my middle-aged spread and my unreliable uterus, I resentfully hauled myself out of bed at 4.30am in order to trek 50km, with the aim of doing it in less than twelve hours. I’d have four attempts to do this, but never in my life have I wanted to get it down at the first attempt more. Like all teens, I’d intended to start on time, but ran ten minutes late as I slammed the front door moodily to head out into the big bad world.
I trekked with my head torch pressed into my skull, keeping my hands free to use the poles I have got used to clacking around me. Ordinarily, I avoid tarmacked roads sacrificing speed to spare the relentless hard pounding on one’s knees and hips, but today speed was the only thing that mattered. Getting 50km done in time was always going to be a push for me. I don’t have the longest stride, especially now with my burgeoning thighs.
The first two hours in the pitch-black went surprisingly well except I have a new object of hate: drivers who refuse to dip their headlights for pedestrians, one leaving me dazed and dazzled so badly I didn’t see a pothole and twisted my left ankle. I hobbled for a while hoping to walk it out.
By the time of day-break I was glad to not have to shield my eyes every time I car passed, only to have the sudden onset of a migraine. With at least another two hours until I could get home, I figured I might as well throw in some Sumatriptan, and get on with it. Thankfully that medicine is a vast improvement on what used to be on offer: Migraleve. It did exactly what it said on the tin - it left the migraine alone. And so I kept on trudging.
With the Sumatriptan in my system, I wasn’t sure whether or not I could take any additional painkiller, and so by the time I hit ‘the wall’, which for long-distance walking, is always just after the three-hour mark, I just had to plod through it. At the five hour mark I chucked down some Nurofen and on I crunched. At the sixth hour, I stopped for lunch, howling when I dragged myself up vertical again. I was delighted at the seven-hour mark to have beaten my previous record: 32 kilometres in my fastest ever time. That’s when I realised it’s all the same hamburger: the pain doesn’t get any worse no matter how far or how long one goes. Uneven ground like grass verges were horrific, tarmac not so bad after all. And so I just walked and walked and walked. By the time I got back to my house, I had 36kms done and so I simply stomped up and down my lane, first 6kms, then 4kms, then a series of 1km because I dared not do a single metre extra. I must have been delirious for the last 1km, because I walked 1.5kilometres. I didn’t care: I had done it: 11 hours, 25 minutes.
And then promptly forgot to screenshoot it - so here's the one I didn't need to screenshot!
Later that night, as I was saying goodbye to a friend I’d met for coffee, I gingerly minced my way back to my car, my feet still burning and a large blood blister nestling against my shoes. I didn’t so much as ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ as ‘Waddle like an octogenarian’.
“It looks like your arse cheeks are chewing a toffee,” my friend yelled at me from across the car park. Teenage me would have died of mortification. Middle-aged me hasn’t stopped laughing since. And yes, did I sleep well that night - hot flashes couldn’t raise me for once.