04:11:39 A nurse’s diary of the Paris marathon

04:11:39: I have learned, is enough time to morph into a different person.

04:11:39… 4 hours 11 minutes and 39 seconds, that was the amount of time I spent running a marathon in the most beautiful city in the world and if my calculations are right, that’s also  roughly the amount of time I have spent asleep  under general anaesthesia for a surgery a week after.I emerged as  a different person after both of them and I have never felt so alone or so brave, ever.

530 AM  09 April 2017,RUE ROQUEPINE, MIROMESNIL PARIS, I woke up to a wall with  a gallery of photos from the Cannes film festival,in a hotel room. I had butterflies, I got up and did some yoga, well, 4 poses. I showered and put on some make up(but really make up to do a marathon ?but also this is Paris…Paris.I reminded myself).

700 am I was dressed in a sleeveless blue running top, compression  bottoms that reached down to the knee and my number, secured on my chest. Before I left London, I decided that I will wear my old running shoes that I’ve ran a couple of half marathons in, my new one’s that I’ve ran my 20 milers  were painful and I wanted to avoid injuries.I put on a very old black jumper over my top,I left that jumper at Champs-Elysees that morning along with all the doubts I ever had about myself while I have trained for this.

730 I got to Avenue Champs-Elysees, it seems like there was a festival,loud music, people cheering and runners in colourful gear stretching in every corner possible.I walked around and enjoyed the sight. After all, Ive never seen so many European men urinating on street corners in my life before.It was a good and scary day and I was more  or less alone there,  thousands of miles away from home with more or less no one waiting at the finish. Ive never felt so  lost and yet so happy,I did my stretches.

approx. 0832 I felt like I was being washed down towards a water gate, people around me began running, so I put my music on and as I ran past the start line, a roar of cheers greeted us and I had began to feel excited, I panicked and prayed and didn’t even realised I was already  running.

I embraced the cheer, I didn’t understand what the people were shouting.Were they screaming in french? Who cares?it kept me going.

0845, I heard someone scream my name less than 5 km into the race, It was my colleague, who was in Paris too that weekend.I looked back, Liz!! I screamed waving frantically, everything was easier after that, before I knew it, 10 km have gone behind me.

0930 water,sips of water, after every 5 km, no drinking too much, I worry about needing the loo.

I began my mental exercises as Rage Against the Machine blasted into my ears from my ear phones.I told myself I was assisting a surgery, say a nephrectomy or a femoral popliteal bypass.All  I had to do was forget myself for 4 hours or so,something I’ve done so many times before.

As I do in every long surgery I ever assisted as a scrub nurse, I turn into a machine.No, I didn’t have a stomach, no, I didn’t have a bladder, yes, my legs were mechanical.

Water, all I need is water and maybe the  blocks of chewy  caffeine and sugar gummies I stuffed in my hip belt, true enough, by mile 15 I’m halfway through the pack, and nearly choking on the couple of dates I brought with me.Water, They were sprinkling the runners with water,that would be refreshing I thought, until I realised.. “Shit!no! Make up!! No!” I screamed.The other runners behind me must’ve thought I was crazy.

Mile 18— The Eiffel Tower. I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen it in my life as Paris was my constant escape, but I’ve never seen it as beautiful as this.On a clear sunny day in April , while I battled with the thirst and the heat.It was like an apparition, I took a photo.

The tunnel.. blogs have warned me about this, a stretch of a dark tunnel that any claustrophobic person would ever collapse in.I had to embrace it, I turned my music louder as Sia began belching out the words to Titanium, and soon enough, I was transported to a dark club in Shoreditch. I’m glad it was dark in there and people were screaming because I must’ve looked  high with my arms up in the air,feeling the beat like it was Saturday evening in London and I had far too much to drink.

Bois du Boulogne–it was the final test and oh boy it was, my thoughts began to haunt me, I had to keep going.Focus.I told myself .The blonde guy running in front  of me had the nicest thighs.Another blonde guy  partially hits me with his arm and patted me on the back while saying something in French, I assume it means see you at the finish? or get out of the way?Focus bitch, I told myself.

Mile 25–the number danced in my head, my thoughts were racing, 25–the number of miles I have run so far, 25–the age I left home, hoping I’d marry the guy I was in love with for almost a decade. I don’t remember him, he married someone else.It doesn’t matter. I’m in Paris,in the middle of a goddam marathon, 1 more mile and I’m already twice the man he is,or probably have more balls than some men I know.I don’t  need to marry him or anyone.I found out I  could  truly love myself at 25,I should’ve.25 its an odd number.

Mile 26– I felt the crowds cheer crept up to my sweat-drench skin as I make the curve that revealed the finish line a few meters away.The cobble stones began to hurt my feet.And there it was, the last few meters into the finish.

My left leg began to cramp but I smiled and continued running, I felt a bolt of lighting hit my left hip as the crowd roared.I slowed down, hopped in place,Ill stretch my leg I thought, its a bad cramp..or maybe not.My body told me its over, but  my head said :I’ll never forgive you, ever, as long as you live if you don’t get to the motherfucking finish line.Crawl if you must,no is not the answer. I heard the crowd call out my name,reading it from my bib number on my chest.Suddenly, I’m five years old again and with a bruised knee, and I could hear my father’s voice saying the only phrase of comfort I’ve ever heard him say every time I fall while  growing up,”Get back up”, he would say. Just like in those heroic sports movies, I smiled and nodded to the crowd on my right. On the count of three, with every ounce of courage and strength I had left.One hand on hip,I half ran,half limped into the finish line.

I will always have that magnificent vision in my head of the Arc de triomphe as I cross the finish line.There it was ready to embrace a champion and I saw myself running right into that embrace as a big ball of thirst, exhaustion and excruciating pain.It was  just like an encounter with an ex lover,it was the best and worst feeling of  relief and extreme pain all at once.

I finished the Paris marathon. I probably have a bad cramp or I dislocated my  left hip, or broke something but I finished it. I finished it.It’s done.I hugged myself in my head.

The runner inside me said I should walk the cramp off  but the nurse inside me.. with all her years of experience,said I should find an english speaking orthopaedic trauma surgeon, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to believe her that day, because the runner inside me kind of wanted some champagne.

“One more day in Paris then? the french medic with the handsome face asked me.

“The sun is out in Paris..What are you doing tomorrow?”(is he hitting on me? )

I laughed “I don’t know…I don’t even know if I can walk tomorrow.” I wanted to die twice as I listened to myself.

The  few hours of  the evening of that day was spent in a French hospital alone interpreting  medical terms into English.Now I know what it probably feels like to be a confused patient.I’ll never see them the same way again.

The following morning, I sat at the cafe of the hotel and saw the headlines in the papers “42,440 Vainquers”,I opened it and my name  was there on the list.I don’t know how long until I could ever run a marathon again or if  Il’l ever do, but my name was there. Forever.

My closest friends and everyone who has supported me through out all this, deserved to see me finish, and endured while injured I did because of them.

“You finished the marathon with this?” the pelvic trauma surgeon in London was looking at me and my x-ray and back again with a puzzled expression on his face.

I giggled, ” there’s  a video of  me crossing the finish line.Maybe it was the adrenaline.”

He shook his head.

“People don’t just break hips while running  and they  certainly don’t just finish marathons with a broken portion of their pelvis.”

09 35 am Paddington, London, A week  and two days  after—I stared at the clock as the consultant anaesthetist announced he was administering the Profopol. I breathed in  the medical gas and then complete blackness followed.

13 46 pm”Congratulations on finishing the marathon! commendable. Wow.” I woke up, very confused, in a recovery room after the operation,staring  at  a  male nurse  who was smiling at me, while taking out my oxygen mask.My first thought was I was still in Paris and about to receive my medal.I realised where I was.

“Thank you” I smiled,”It’s unforgettable”.

I pulled up my  hospital gown to look at the incision site freshly sewn, smirking at me like a proud bastard.

Nice medal, I thought to myself.

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