Near the end of the race I am a to­tal ma­niac

At the fin­ish line no one knows it took me an hour longer than I’d fore­cast

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health | Fitness - Daniel Ste­wart

The 2018 Eden Project Marathon playlist: 1. The Cult – She Sells

Sanc­tu­ary 2. Bron­ski Beat – Small­town

Boy 3. Lou Reed – A Per­fect Day

Driv­ing down into the clay pit, wicked weather flexes mon­strous mus­cles. Winds wail, rain spews and still vested jog­gers mill about and chat­ter ex­cit­edly about what is to come. From the dryer, warmer side of the car win­dow, I am struck by hu­man­ity’s mad­ness.

I em­barked upon a chal­lenge: to al­low just three months to train for a three-hour marathon, with Eden as the venue. Even be­fore the an­nouncer men­tions flash floods, a wooden bridge that might be in use and the small moun­tain that must be crested, I know this will re­main as an am­bi­tion.

Then again, Icarus flew too close to the sun, and no one can blame him for that.

Cruis­ing but hold­ing back, grav­ity is on my side on the first down­hill mile. It feels good, awak­en­ing an en­ergy when one feels they can give more but don’t need to.

On to the first clay trail. [Three min­utes, 17sec­onds into track 1] “. . . heyy yeeaahh! heyy yeaaahh . . . ”


Dodg­ing stones, pud­dles, tree roots, I am Daniel Craig in Layer Cake. Cruis­ing, not in a sen­si­ble RS6 but on two feet, up Hel­man Tor. Float­ing from re­al­ity, I look down on my­self, as­cend­ing the Tor. I imag­ine my­self smil­ing. Tum­bling down the other side, I’m on to a na­turethemed mono­rail: un­even marshy green­ery sur­rounds a nar­row boggy trench, filled with weeks of rain­fall.

Con­tin­u­ing to smile, per­spec­tive starts to flicker. A re­al­ist’s sour view starts to leak into di­lated eyes, from a light­en­ing head. No run­ners in front or be­hind, I am alone. Cor­nish coun­try­side’s deathly si­lence be­gins to dis­solve into . . . syn­the­sis­ers? “De-dum, de-dum-dum, de-dum, de-dum-dum . . . ” Seep­ing through sod­den hedges, sung by pass­ing trees. Daniel Craig is dead. He was a hal­lu­ci­na­tion. Is this an imag­in­ing also? “. . . run­away, turn away, run­away, turn away, run­away . . . ” Grasp­ing on to san­ity, I learn the Bron­ski boys sing from a drinks sta­tion juke­box. Slop­ping wa­ter in and around my mouth, I en­ter the twen­ties of my Eden Project Marathon, with mind still in my con­trol. “Just a per­fect day . . .” Mile one tum­bled into two, mak­ing three zoom on to five. But in marathons the odome­ter al­ways sticks. At Eden mile 22 did not come, but 21.1, .15, .2...

De­scend­ing to­wards Eden’s Biomes and fin­ish; crum­bling roads gnaw at shoe soles; drag­ging them closer to the ground, slow­ing down time. “You just keep me hang­ing on, You just keep me hang­ing on...”

I am hum­bled

The end can be smelled but not seen. Now a to­tal ma­niac, my soul sep­a­rates: I wit­ness an empty run­ner fol­low­ing spin­ning paths to the fin­ish, a sight to bring me back to child­hood, fol­low­ing a coin

I ab­sorb the fact that I have just con­quered the feat only my mind was telling me I couldn’t do

down spi­ralled lines into the black hole at the bot­tom of a do­na­tion box. Where did that gen­eros­ity re­ally go to, was it any use?

Pass­ing par­ents and girl­friend me­tres be­fore the fin­ish, just present to see me on this stretch, I am hum­bled. Wel­comed to the fin­ish with a valiant cheer, none of the crowd knows who I am. A hand­ful may have read my diaries, but no one will know this in­ept hooli­gan com­plet­ing the course in four hours six min­utes is the same scoundrel who has spent the past three months writ­ing about how he is to com­plete it in three. They cheer, re­gard­less.

Medalled and moved on, I perch on a grassy verge, alone. Look­ing up at the sky, trans­formed to a per­fect blue from the morn­ing grey, grass tick­les filthy, ex­hausted legs. Os­cil­lat­ing cheers of a phe­nom­e­nal fin­ish-line crowd res­onate around the site.

Clos­ing eyes, I ab­sorb the fact that I have just con­quered the feat only my mind was telling me I couldn’t do. “You’re go­ing to reap just what you sow . . . ”

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