There's a small boy on the right hand side of the road. He is holding out his hand for the high fives. High fives for him, low fives for us. He can't be more than six. The woman in front of me veers to contribute. I veer with her. She wears a black baseball hat, black shorts and a bright pink singlet. She runs easily and with purpose. I would wager my last gel on her being American. But then we're all American now, with our can do attitudes and our marathon running and our high fiving. As her outstretched hand impacts the kid's his face lights up like a stricken tower. I get a similar reaction. I feel like Stewart Lee must have felt when I bought a book I already owned so that he could sign it. I hope this child stays here all day. The American lady powers on and I let her go. We will meet again, I feel.
Other less youthful spectators offer food. Jelly Babies mostly. I can't, don't, won't eat Jelly Babies. I have my reasons. They are twofold. The first reason makes a modicum of sense. Don't do anything you haven't practiced in training. No new shoes, no new clothes, no new sweets from random strangers. I have not practiced with Jelly Babies, so no Jelly Babies. The second reason is not so sensical. Jelly Babies contain gelatin. I do not eat gelatin because I am a vegan. I am vegan? I do not know. It does not matter. I am a vegan vegan. Gelatin is made from hooves. Animal hooves. I do not eat animal products. I don't really know why. This is not true. I don't eat animals products because I read about an ultra runner who was vegan so I decided I'd do that. I'm always doing shit like that. I am extremely suggestible. I ran barefoot for months after I read "Born to Run". But while barefoot running was nice, it was also deeply impractical and not entirely safe. So I stopped doing that. But this vegan gig, it makes me feel good. I have more energy, less guilt. I can eat mountains and mountains of food without putting on weight. If I'm honest, this is the main, if not quite only, reason. Because I am both greedy and narcissistic. Real vegans, if they could see my heart, would despise me. But then real vegans are mostly militant nut jobs who believe that children who like a hot dog and a milkshake in Eddie Rocket's after a second rate animation in Cineworld are filthy murderers brainwashed by the system into a terrible unthinking life of slave mastery and butchery. They're right too, but I like to focus on my low body fat percentage. It's less stressful.
Ten miles. I do not know this part of town. I am in that place where I am just running. It is a good place. It cannot last.
An Irish woman passes me. I know she is Irish because though she does not wear the colour, she is pink. And ginger. But so very pink. And she's moving. Effortfully. I guess my pace at about 7'25, hers is somewhat quicker. But she does not run. She lurches. She is lurching along at a pace that I am not sure I can hold. Her form reminds me of a conversation I had with Tommy seven days ago. Tommy works where I work and can give a mean deep tissue. Very, very mean. When he had finished fucking me up, Tommy spoke of an old man who had overtaken him in the final miles of his first marathon. There on the gym floor, he demonstrated the veteran's gait, a Quasimodo like hop. People stared. I laughed. Mile eleven and it's happening to me. Everything in this race is happening too early. I slowly accelerate to match this woman's pace. For the next mile I will be try to live within her beautifully pink, loping lurch.
Mile eleven marker. I am bored, I realise. Non-runners always say that, don't they? "I could never run! I don't know how you do it! It's so boring!" I am never bored when I am running. But I am bored now. Bored of the pain in my left leg, bored of concentrating on not letting it slow me down, bored of wondering if I'm going to make it. Not far to half way. That'll be something. Probably a thing with running and no Jelly Babies. But something.
On we lurch.