Ever since becoming a runner, the London Marathon balloting system has bothered me.
Random selection does not seem fitting for something that requires as much time, patience, pain, fitness and hard work as training for a marathon.
It doesn't seem fair that people who have proven they can train hard for marathons or half marathons get the exact same chance as non-runners when it comes to getting a place in one of the world's best marathons. It's like randomly distributing As in a class when some people haven't put in any of the work and some have done everything they can - it just makes no sense to me.
Which is why, despite telling myself I wasn't going to, I applied for a place for 2017.
As soon as I started seeing my Facebook feed fill up with applications for the London Marathon, with a lot coming from people who didn't seem to run much, if at all, I found myself signing up. I couldn't help it! I was so frustrated! For me, signing up to the London Marathon when you can't even run a 10K is like wanting to skip to the last page of a book when you haven't even started it. Or a more appropriate metaphor, wanting to be at the finish line without the work.
So of course I applied. Despite knowing that this was not the right time for me at all, despite conveniently forgetting the hours and the pain and the exhaustion of training for my last marathon. Despite knowing that we move out of our flat in February and that February and March are probably going to be some of the chaotic months of our lives.
Now as you probably know, uncertainty is one of the biggest triggers for my anxiety, so not being able to make plans that a marathon place could affect started to drive me insane. Could I apply for the new Great Manchester Run half? Or what about the new Birmingham Marathon in October? The not-knowing started to bother me,
And then, last month, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for my Diploma in Professional Marketing, a qualification I've wanted to do for years. I could start at any time, and dithered over whether to wait til we'd moved in March time, or until April "in case I got a London Marathon place", but instead I decided to sign up to start next week (coincidentally, the day after my half marathon).
And then after a 10 mile training run a few weeks ago, I burst into tears.
My diploma is estimated to take 4-10 hours a week, and I suddenly had the horrible realisation that there was no way I could study for it and train for a marathon. I remembered the cancelled plans on Saturday nights, 5am get ups every day, Sunday afternoons where I could barely think straight, and I realised, this wasn't the time to be training for a marathon too.
See, I always want to do everything. If I had the choice I'd work full time, blog every day, learn Spanish, join a second choir, read two books a week, do marketing qualification after marketing qualification and run multiple marathons a year.
And sometimes I forget that I can't actually do that.
So after some kicking and screaming (almost literally), I decided that if I was to get a London Marathon place, I'd defer it for a year. So instead of dreading it, worrying about training and potentially sacrificing my career-boosting qualification, I could enjoy it.
But naturally, I worried about that too.
I worried that secretly hoping I wouldn't get a place would "jinx" it for the future and I'd never get to run the race. I worried about how to defer. I worried about justifying a deferral. And most of all I worried that I knew I would want to do it. I knew I wouldn't be able to say no.
So when I got home last night, and nervously checked the post, I was anxious to find there was nothing. Until I looked above the post boxes and found a red package. Addressed to me.
It was thick and soft. There was some kind of clothing inside.
My heart sank, but simultaneously filled with excitement.
"I think I have news."
I carefully opened the package, ready to be flooded with nervous excitement.
But the magazine said "sorry."
I didn't have a place.
And suddenly I didn't know how to feel.
I was both relieved and crushingly disappointed. This was what I wanted, wasn't it? To have the freedom to run whichever marathon I want, whenever I want? To run a few more halves instead at the start of next year? To be able to complete my course without worrying about training?
But I was still disappointed.
I know it wasn't meant to be. I would have killed myself trying to train for the run while studying, while working full time, while moving out of our flat and buying a house. I know it would have been too much and I would have driven myself into the ground.
But a tiny part of me thought I could do it.
And one day, I will. Today I'm going to sign up for the Great Manchester Run Half, which I've been hoping I'd be able to run, and once we're settled in our house and I'm into a routine with my course, I'll definitely start looking at autumn marathons.
But for now I'm quietly disappointed and partially relieved.
Plus I've got a half marathon on Sunday to worry about first...