The most ridiculous public thing I’ve ever done (My story for the Good Life Project podcast)

A few years ago, a conference I was going to asked us to pitch an “inspiring story.” I thought, ​What the heck have I ever done that’s inspiring…???​

​But then I thought, Oh, I guess there is that one thing, that I barely talk about because whatever, but I ​suppose​ someone ​might​ think of that as “inspiring”…

So I pitched it, then I told a one minute version of it on stage to 3,000 people, then it became a story I periodically tell onstage in Toronto…

— and now, I’m telling the story on one of my FAVOURITE podcasts: Good Life Project  

(a podcast that reportedly gets over a MILLION DOWNLOADS A MONTH NBD NBD NBD)

You can listen to it here:

Or if you’re more of a reader, here’s the (tidied up a little) transcription:


It’s five to nine on a Sunday morning and I am standing outside the gates of Greenwich Park in southeast London trying my hardest to look both sporty, and like I really have my life together.

I had spent five sweaty months training to run the New York City Marathon very, very slowly. And 36 hours before the race, it got canceled because of Hurricane Sandy — which was absolutely the right thing for them to do. But now, I was stuck, because I had spent five months training. I wasn’t going to not run a marathon.

So I decided that I would run the London Marathon instead. Except it wasn’t happening for another four months, so I just thought I’d run it anyway, on my own.

Over in one corner by the gates are my family: my mum, my Uncle Andrew, and my best friend from school, Sophie. And they’re here because, when you run a solo marathon, there are certain things that you don’t get:

One of the things is a medal. I was the kid at school that got picked last for every team, so three years before, when I run the New York Marathon, getting the medal was amazing. It’s this big, chunky thing — I’ve got it here, I’m just gonna tap against the table [THUNK THUNK THUNK]. So I knew I wasn’t gonna get one of those. But I made my peace with that.

Another thing is crowds of people cheering you on. But I had sent an email out to everybody that I knew in London, saying, Here’s the link to sponsor me, and if you can come out, that would be amazing.

The third thing is refreshment stations. In a normal marathon, every mile they have water and Gatorade because it’s quite hard to carry that stuff around for 26.2 miles. So instead, my family said that they would drive up every four miles with some water. And also Kleenex, because it turns out, when I run, so does my nose.

 

So they’re in one corner and close to them is this guy, Jim Patterson, who 24 hours before I had never even heard of, but somebody put me in touch with him because he’d run a solo marathon. And as we were chatting on the phone, he said, “Do you have anyone to run the first few miles with you?”
I said, “I don’t.”
And he went, “Oh, I’ll come along with you.”

So he’s there. And then directly in front of me, is a photographer from the local paper. Because of Facebook, I happen to know that a lot of those kids that didn’t pick me for the team still live in our local area.

So that is why I’m trying my hardest to look both sporty, and like I really have my life together.

It finally gets to five seconds to nine. Everybody counts me down

FIVE!
FOUR!
THREE!
TWO!
ONE!

And Jim and I set off — very, very slowly.

We’re jogging along and we’re chatting. And suddenly, I hear this di-doo di-doo! So I reach into my bra.

Because, when you do distance running, it’s quite hard to carry stuff with you. So everything goes in my bra, I’ve got my running gels, which are those little things that you use as food when you’re running a marathon; I have my iPod because I figured it a lot of it would just be me by myself, but be kind of boring, and I have a map, because — WEIRDLY — they didn’t close down all of the streets and put up signs just for me. So my map is lots of bits of
paper stuck together that I’ve tried to kind of laminate with scotch tape. So that’s folded up in there.

And I also have my phone, and I pull it out. It’s a text from someone wishing me well. So I write back, “thank you” and I put it back in. Then we get to Mile One and I pull out my phone again — because the people who are coming to cheer me on, I don’t really have a sense of how fast I’m going to— I mean slow. I know how slow I usually run. But I don’t know if there’s going to be roadblocks or if it’s going to be hard to get through. So I said to everybody who said they’d come and cheer me on and “keep an eye on Twitter and I’ll tweet once a mile to say how far I’ve got.”

So I pull out my phone out and write “Mile One — Done!”

And we keep running and chatting, then we get to mile two. And I think “my Twitter feed is gonna look super boring if it’s just like “Mile One!” “Mile Two!” So I write “Mile Two! People are giving us some strange looks!”

I’m wearing what I was going to wear for the race, which is my race number and then a T shirt that says my name in big letters at the front. Because when you run the New York City Marathon, the crowds say your name:

“GO MARSHA!”
“NEW YORK CITY IS PA-ROUD OF YOU, MARSHA!”

And I figured I’ll just have my name for this anyway.

We keep running, get to mile three and I Tweet out, “Mile Three, Jim’s just telling me about the marathons he’s run”

We’re heading up towards mile four. And my phone starts going di-doo di-doo! di-doo di-doo! DI-DOO DI-DOO!

And so many messages are coming in!

 

We finally get to Mile Four, my family there I stretch and get some water. And I say to Sophie, “I’m getting so many tweets!”.

And she says “Yep, bit of news…. People have been passing around Twitter that Marsha is live tweeting her solo marathon. They’re calling it the Marshathon. Darling, you’ve gone viral.”

And I laugh and say, “Okay, that’s amazing!”

And Jim and I set off again.

We’re running and then I see somebody up ahead. I know who this is because they’ve sent me a message: it’s a friend that I haven’t seen since we went to Summer camp, 20 years earlier, but she’s come out, and that’s lovely.

I stop. Because, if you’re running usual marathon, then you can just see your friend and, like, high five them then keep going. But for this, there’s no one else for them to look at. So it seems a bit rude not to hang out for a minute.

I do some stretches, and we chat. And then I say goodbye. And we set off.

And— I am having an absolute BLAST. The first maratho

n I ran, I spent pretty much all of it just crying, swearing to myself, I would never do this again. I remember getting to the halfway point. And all these big signs are like
HALFWAY! YOU MADE IT!

and I just remember thinking, OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE TO DO ALL OF THAT AGAINNNNNNN!!

But this is not the same at all.

So we keep going. We see my family again, we move on. And then we’re in this place called Rotherhithe in South-East London. It’s like a bit of an industrial wasteland, and there is nothing around us. But we see this guy standing up ahead. Nobody’s told me they’re coming out to meet us. But as we get closer, it’s very clear that he’s staring straight at us.

We get to him and he says, “Are you Marsha?”

And I say, “Yeah…” —and he hands me a bottle of Gatorade.

I say, “Oh! Thanks… how did you end up here?”
And he says, “I just read about it on Twitter, figured I’d come and say hello.”

So we say, “Thank you!” and keep moving.

We get to mile 12. This is when my friend Ceri shows up. I used 

to be a radio DJ and Ceri and his partner Becca and their amazing kid Angharad used to listen to me all the time, I used to do shoutouts for them. So they’ve all three come but Ceri is going to run with me, and for a while Becca and Angharad are pretending to run.

Then we say bye to them and keep going and get to Tower Bridge —  which, if you don’t know London, that’s the sexy white and blue one that’s in all the movies.

And in the distance, I can see somebody holding a big piece of card up. As I get closer, I see that the card says,

 

GO MARSHA GO

 

Standing next to it is my friend Scott, who lives in Edinburgh, which is eight hours drive away — I know for North Americans that’s like a skip and a hop, but for me that’s the entire length of the UK, pretty much.

I give him a hug and say, “I didn’t know you were gonna be here!”

And he goes, “Oh, wasn’t. Just came down for this. I’ve got to go home in a few hours.”

 

I send him off with my mum and my Uncle and Sophie. Then we see another lady looking at us. She says, “Oh, are you the runny marathon people?”

I say, “Yeah, did you hear about us on Twitter?”

And she says, “No, BBC.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
She says, “Yeah, your photo is the biggest picture, on the biggest story, on the front page of the website for the WHOLE OF THE BBC.”

So I say, “Okay, come and run!”

She runs with us for a bit. And at this point, Jim realizes that, without having really meant to, he’s accidentally run an entire half marathon. —  so he goes home.

At which point, Ceri says, “You know, that was halfway?”
And I’m like, “Wait, WHIT?”

Because I feel like I could do that 10 more times!

 

We keep running, then we’re joined by this other lady Amelia, who’s training to run the real London Marathon, and a friend of mine, Richard, who’s this, like, 6’2″ criminal psychologist, and another friend Tom, who ran the New York Marathon with me last time.

We’re all running along and we go mile 14, 15, 16, 17. And we get to my 18. And suddenly — I trip.

I try standing up and walking again, I’m alright, so I start running again —and I fall over again, I’m in absolute agony.

I sit down on the side of the road. I realize, I just can’t run. And I don’t know what to do.

So I get on Twitter to tell everyone — because I know there’s people further along who are waiting for me. I say, “My knee’s gone, I don’t really know what I’m going to do.”

I get a message from a friend who’s a few miles down the road. She says, “I’m really sorry, Marsha. We’ve been waiting in the cold for an hour, and we have to go home.”

I think, I’ve let them down.

I look up at these people who are running with me and most of them are training for their own marathons and now they’re not gonna be able to run. And I think, I’ve let them down.

And then I start getting messages on Twitter from people saying, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve been enjoying following along, but I think I’m gonna have to go to work” —and I think, Now I’ve let TWITTER down!

Just then I get a text from a friend of mine. All it says is:

OH MY GOSH, MARSHA, YOU’RE WINNING.

And I think,

I’M THE ONLY ONE RUNNING THIS RACE! I AM WINNING!!!!

 

So I stand up. And I stick out one elbow. Then I stick out the other. And I channel my inner, Floridian, neon-clad senior citizen… and I begin to SPEED WALK.

I’m walk speed walking along, and the other four are just jogging around me — because it’s kind of embarrassing — And we keep going.

So I’m speed walking — mile 20, mile 21, mile 22. At one point, I realise that everyone I’m running with is either super-tall or really ripped. And Ceri just leans down, points at all of us and goes,”It’s a bit of a ‘Madonna jogging in Central Park’ vibe, isn’t it?” (like they’re my minders!)

We keep going. Mile 24. Mile 25. And at mile 25, it’s already dark. And, on a whim, I start to run — and I can do it!

So we all pick up the pace. We’re running, there’s the five of us and we’re running towards St. James’s Park and, without saying a word — without even really knowing I’m doing it — I started to sing.

Da-der da-da-da da-da-der da-da-der
Da-der da-da-da da-da-der da-da-der

And — again without saying a word — the four of them join in

Der-da-da-der da-da der-der

We’re all singing the Rocky Theme Tune!

DA-DER DER!!!
DA-DER DER!!!!

And we’re running towards Buckingham Palace!

DA-DER DER!!!

We run around the corner!

DA-DER DER!!!

We’re almost at the finish line!

Da-da der, der der-der!

We get there! My whole family is standing there! Ceri’s whole family is standing there!

Da-der-der da-der der-der!

They have a red ribbon they’re holding across the finish line, and I run through and break the ribbon! And they throw confetti at me!

And I’M FINISHED!!!!


I sit down by the side of the road. Sophie comes up to me and says, “I’ve looked at the totals on the fundraising.” Before I announced I was doing the Marshathon I had raised $3,000 for the favourite charity of the author Lisa Lynch.

Sophie says, “You’ve now got over six thousand dollars.”

—And then both of us look up, because Angharad, Ceri’s kid, is standing, holding something.

She says, “I made this for you.”

She hands it to me, and it’s a medal made of plastic.
She’s written the letter M over and over again for “Marshathon.”
And in the middle is a gold number “1.”

Because I WON THE MARSHATHON!

 

Thanks so much for reading. A reminder that, if you want to hear me reading this story, you can, on the Good Life Project podcast episode called “the Hug Part 2” — I’m on first.

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS if you want even tips and advice on how to tell compelling stories, plus stories and secrets I won’t put on the internet AND my free guide for the magic bullet for how to tell any story powerfully, come over and join the Yes Yes Family by popping your details in below:

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2 Comments

  • Hazel Dahl Behrens

    Reply Reply November 21, 2020

    If you, dear reader, chose not to listen to save time, you missed out. Marsha tells this story with delight.
    “And she says ‘Yep, bit of news….Darling, you’ve gone viral,'” comes off flat in the text. However, in audio that paragraph is told with friendship love plus the touch of accent that makes it golden. Reading the song near the finish is nothing to listening to Marsha tell how her small group built the Rocky theme music to a crescendo as she broke through the tape to win her own Marshathon.
    I do admit coming here to see the pictures was worth the visit. You rock, Marsha.

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