To my body,
On Sunday 3rd October 2021, you did something incredible.
You ran your third marathon in 18 months – your second in six months.
You and I didn’t get a place in the live London Marathon, so we partook in the virtual event instead. The London Marathon is our ultimate dream; something we can do together and eradicate every bad word ever spoken between us. It’s something we can achieve in the face of anorexia, proving its accusations wrong.
The day we cross that finish line together outside of Buckingham Palace will be the day that I know my love for you will be completely fulfilled. It will be the epitome of our journey, our fight.
Our relationship has changed over the past six months. I have nothing but the utmost respect for you. Not a day goes by whereby you don’t leave me speechless with your resilience. You still strive to please and protect me despite all you have been though at the hands of my very own blind negligence.
Watching you blossom as a result of the love I have finally allowed myself to gift you with has been a miraculous state of mind.
I’m no longer afraid of you or the changes that I have fought against for so long. I’ve had to push my extreme anxieties aside to let you gently take my hand and show me the beauty of your natural state. You have kissed my jutting bones with powerful muscle and repaired my translucent skin with a healthy glow.
I hope you're now free from feeling like a slave to the poison that infects my mind in the form of anorexia’s dark supremacy.
We have grasped each other’s fingertips on the darkest days, stranding tall and side-by-side against the force of anorexia.
I still have a long way to go, but I’m trying.
Sunday marked a slight relapse in our unity. I broke the tentative trust that we have fought so hard to rebuild. I’m sorry.
I forcefully prised you out of bed at half past five in the morning; long before the sun had chance to tenderly entice you out of your broken slumber. I kicked you out of the door on minimal fuel and in return I expected you to embellish me with glory.
We’ve done marathons before. A few months ago, we walked 61km in one day. We ran our last marathon in 3 hours and 32 minutes.
The voice of anorexia – goaded as always by my inner addictions to pressure and perfection – wasn’t prepared to settle for anything less than my own warped idea of success. Simply running my third marathon wasn’t enough – I wanted another personal best, and I knew that failing to achieve this target would destroy me.
You fought a courageous battle – you obliterated 34km flat out without stopping or walking once.
And then the wall came and forced you to slow down.
‘Hitting a wall’ is a common phrase in the running world, particularly where marathons are concerned. This was different. This wasn’t a few aches and pains that I could push through with a bit of applied determination. This felt like a complete mental block; a huge red-flag signal from the depths of my core.
If someone had asked me to pinpoint the source of the pain, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them. I felt so disjointed from you and painfully floated through the remaining miles in an unpleasant state comparable to an out-of-body experience.
I believe that was your way of begrudgingly telling me that you would do it – you would complete the marathon – but you weren’t happy about it.
Something wasn’t right. You frantically signalled your warnings – my vision went blurry, I broke out in a cold sweat, and I have never felt so close to fainting.
But you did it.
Somehow you dug deep and found that incredible strength that I admire about you so much and you got me home.
Mentally, I don’t think I was in it for the last 4/5k. I was so hungry and dizzy, I could hardly focus. I relied on you to carry me right up until mile 26, and you did it.
When I put my key in the door 26.2 miles later, I wasn’t engulfed in the addictive sensation of the runner’s high we’ve come to know and love.
“3 hours and 56 minutes,” I snapped at my husband. “24 minutes off my personal best.”
You winced at my words. Chest swirling, lungs burning, hips aching, feet stinging; you hung your head in defeat. You’d given it your all, but it still wasn’t enough.
I didn’t stop to repeat those words back to myself or mull them over: you had just run a full marathon in under four hours. Your every effort is clouded by the hiss of anorexia.
I stamped upstairs and cried, feeling like a total failure.
I didn’t even try to see things from your perspective.
For the past week, you’ve been floored by a bad cold and cough. You still tore through a half marathon at the beginning of the week, despite the pain in your chest. The day before the marathon, you ran 5k in the freezing rain, stopping to crawl through muddy puddles and hoist yourself over climbing walls en-route.
You’re underweight, no thanks to me. I try to fill you with good food, but we don’t eat fish or meat and I know I need to do more work to supplement this staple fuel, especially given how much exercise we do.
I selfishly expected you to whack out a personal best on a hasty, less than substantial breakfast of two measly crumpets while you were burning 1,800 calories in one sitting.
I spent the afternoon tangled in a web of blame, tearing your efforts apart.
The one avenue I failed to explore was the one whereby I took and accepted the blame.
After all, I’m the one who didn’t fuel you properly, I’m the one who didn’t think to take spare food and water to help us through the miles, I’m the one who couldn’t wait another week until my cough had subsided, I’m the one who foolishly charged through the first 34k without pacing myself for the last 8, I’m the one who pushed you through a half marathon just seven days ago, followed by two separate 5ks in the week leading up to the marathon, I’m the one who refused to stop and remove my jacket despite pouring with sweat because I didn’t want to implement my time, even if just by a few seconds.
Today, I didn’t listen to you. Today, I chose to take anorexia’s side.
I ruined our day. Today should have been a day of celebration: whether you’d done it in two hours or ten hours, you still ran a bloody marathon! I should have been parading you around with undiminished pride as we took our final steps towards 26.2 miles.
Yeah, you might have been 24 minutes off your personal best, but you were also 27 minutes faster than your original time, too. And you still RAN a MARATHON!
Thank you for getting me home. Thank you for carrying me for 26.2 miles. Thank you for allowing me to complete my third marathon. Thank you for turning the impossible into the possible. Thank you for never giving up on me, even when I kick against your loyalty.
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Cara Jasmine Bradley ©