The Finishing Line

I finished the 5K. I ran for five whole kilometres non-stop.

I’m not a finisher. I don’t do success.

Having been top of my class all my life, getting all A’s in my Junior Cert exams, I became a complete flake when I was 17. The November before my Leaving Cert exams I walked out of school and refused to go back, petrified at the thought of not doing well enough. I didn’t go back to school again. I did do my exams in the end though. And I scraped into Law with 5 points to spare. When my Leaving Cert results came, my mother went to bed and cried. The boy genius had only got 495 out of 600.

I continued being a total flake once studying Law. I pulled out of final year. When repeating the year, I promised myself that I wouldn’t fuck it up this time. But I slept through the year, spending more time than is strictly healthy alone with a whiskey bottle. I slept through my Moot Court exam. I didn’t attend tutorials. I handed essays in two weeks late. I did alright in my exams, enough to pass.

Then I started doing well with teaching. After three years in Poland, I moved to Dublin. This was my Golden Age. I lost five and a half stone. I had such lovely clothes. I pulled boys (not many). But of course it didn’t last. Because I fuck everything up, I slowly put on 8 stone. All those lovely clothes are now in black refuse sacks in my parents’ house. And I don’t need to say what happened to my love life.

I started a Masters around the same time. I got firsts all around me. And then it came time for my thesis. I had a year. Eight days before it was due, I sat down to start writing. My supervisor had left the university and the country, but I didn’t know because I hadn’t been in touch with him for 10 months. I managed to finish my thesis, but lost so much sleep in doing so that I slept through the submission deadline and an entire day’s work. I got my Masters. Just.

Work was good though. I decided to set up a course of my own. In competition with my own school. After having got agreement, my investor/host pulled out. I was left with no job. I didn’t try to renegotiate. I didn’t try coming up with a new proposal. I didn’t try to get another job in Dublin. I threw in the towel and moved back in with my parents.

I did a PhD because it was what was left. And in the first year, I didn’t write a single word.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that I’ve written a weightloss blog for two years and have gained weight.

It didn’t surprise me that I didn’t finish the marathon I stupidly tried to do without training.

I was surprised that I found a boy willing to kiss me, but completely unsurprised when he stopped texting. It’s been ten days now and not a word from him. Of course.

When I started the Couch-to-5K, I presumed I’d fail. It’s what I do.

But today, a week later than originally planned, I ran five whole kilometres. I held my head high. I greeted other runners as I ran. It was hard. It’s long. But I felt good.

You might have run for five kilometres. Imagine doing it with 12 extra stone and no self-belief and you’ll know how I feel.

The last 500 metres were glorious. My playlist selected Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” which I haven’t had the heart to take off my iPhone since Christmas. So sleighbells jingled and jangled as I bounded up the hill by Dartry Dye Works.

I felt glorious. And unbelieving. I’d done this. I’d finished something. Successfully. I had achieved an actual goal. And I’d done it by myself. Me.

I sobbed a little, but was panting too hard to cry properly.

I had gained control over my breathing again when I approached the gates of Trinity Hall. I saw a few familiar faces. And then I realised my flatmates had lined up to cheer me on.

Six nineteen-year-old boys. With a strip of toilet roll for me to run through, like I’d run an actual race. I crossed the finishing line. The boys cheered. They all hugged me.

Not only did I feel successful. I felt more loved than I have done in a very long time.

I went to my room. I did my stretches. And cried. I had a shower. I cried so hard that there was more snot and tears to wash away than sweat.

I’m still in shock. Happy shock.

I did it.

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6 Responses to The Finishing Line

  1. Fiona says:

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I'm hoping this comment will actually make it to the site as I've been trying for ages to comment and keep losing them. I have an idea of how you feel: I started running and was so unbelievably crap at it I never thought I would do it. I was also overweight – 5 stone, not 12.5. But I managed to run, not well and I probably never will run well, but I run. And I lost that weight. And you can too.

  2. Darragh says:

    Whooop whooooooooop!

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