London Marathon 2017

I can’t quite put into words how much running London Marathon meant to me. I’m sure i could gush for page after page but put simply, I fell in love with running in London and more than any other race wanted to run the marathon of my city.

I first entered the ballot in 2010, before I even ran, I did it because a friend was and I got caught up in her enthusiasm. It became a yearly tradition of entering, entirely forgetting about it for six months and then October approaching and wanting to race home to frantically check the post. 7 years and I became familiar with the thud of the rejection magazine.

Then on 26 January 2017 I received a message from Lucy Fitness that changed everything, would I like a place in the London Marathon. Cue squeals of excitement and a lump in my throat. The lovely people at KIND Snacks UK, who were one of the products in the finisher’s good bag wanted to offer us the Golden Ticket, as fate would have it I had eaten a KIND bar for breakfast that morning.

FullSizeRender (41).jpg

With only 12 weeks to go I was a little apprehensive,  given that for Brighton marathon I had trained for 20 weeks but it was an opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up and was determined to make the most of the training time I had.

The journey to the start line was rocky to say the least. A very bad half marathon race experience, the constant feeling I was way behind everyone else in terms of mileage and missed training. I had moments when I considered deferring but I had wanted this for so long, I simply didn’t want to wait another year. I normally get excited before races but never nervous. But from the Monday before I was jittery, had butterflies and lost count of the number of times I broke out in a cold sweat. I couldn’t figure out why, was I concerned that I wasn’t prepared or was it the anticipation of realising one of my biggest running goals.

When a race pack gets delivered its always exciting but going to the Expo was something else. My registration form accidentally got binned, the replacement got left in the office  but the lovely people on the help desk sorted it instantly. Picking up my number on the Friday made it all very real – 58058 – it had a nice ring to it. Lucy and I had a quick browse and got some snaps but unfortunately it was far too hot to stay for any length of time.

FullSizeRender (40).jpg

On the Saturday I was a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding. It was an absolutely stunning day and kept me well and truly distracted from any pre-marathon nerves. Sunday morning I was so nervous I had to force myself to eat my banana topped porridge. Coffee in hand, wrapped up with my throw away jumper, I set out to the start line in Greenwich, which luckily was a straight forward 40 minute journey.

I arrived at 9:15am, jumped in the queue for the toilets, which went surprisingly quick and did some gentle stretching. It was completely cloudy but I still decided to apply some Sun cream to my face, which I was very thankful for later on. I also bumped into a few familiar faces with kept the nerves at bay. Then before I knew I was in my starting pen, counting down to 10am and easing towards the start. It took around 16 minutes me to cross the start line and I was so overwhelmed by it all that I forgot to start my watch for at least a minute.

IMG_2925

My goal, I just wanted to finish, uninjured. Ideally I would have liked to have finished in 5hrs 29 mins. So I set off wearing a 5hr 30 pace band, which equates to a 12:35 minute mile. The first 6/7 miles were relatively uneventful, I found my rhythm and was feeling good at 11:50 pace. I reached the Cutty Sark and the atmosphere was buzzing. This is when it really struck me. I’m running the London Marathon, I’m not sat at home watching or spectating but actually running it myself!

From Mile 7 to 12 my pace starting to slow but I was still running within 12:35 min/mile and more than anything I was enjoying myself. Rounding the corner of Tooley street, I spotted Alex and stopped for a quick hug, to grab some strawberry laces. Having seen me at a similar point in Brighton marathon Alex thought I was looking on good form and waved me off on to one of the points in the course I was most looking forward to, running over Tower Bridge. I was like a Cheshire Cat bounding along loving the cheers from the densely packed spectators on either side.

IMG_3137.JPG

I came off the bridge, rounded the corner and headed towards the half way mark. I was feeling so much better than how I felt by this point in the North London Half or during a long training run. Half way point was marked with live music from coming from a London Pride Bus parked in the centre of the road and at this point I spotted some of my super speedy friends who were already at the Mile 22 mark.

As I headed towards 14 miles my hip flexors started to feel tight which became increasingly painful. A pain that didn’t go away until several days post marathon. Mentally it also hit me that I was about to embark on the hardest part of the course, Canary Wharf. I knew it was coming and I knew I was going to have to dig deep but when at Mile 16 my watch said I had already run an extra 0.52 of a mile and the hip pain was getting worse with every step I had to get really inventive. I had been trying to stick to the blue lines and decided to use them to pull me through this bad patch. Run for the distance between 26 lines then walk for 13. Mile 18 my headphones suddenly died. Mile 19 my watch storage bleeped as full and then died. I was in agony and had nothing to distract me.

 

IMG_3128

But suddenly, with no headphones I started to hear the cheers from the crowd. Total strangers shouting my name, encouraging me along. I hit Mile 20 and kept saying out loud, just keep running, just keep running. Those miles felt long and lonely but this was London Marathon and I had long agreed with myself that my mental strength would pull me through when it really started to hurt.

I hit Mile 21 and Run Dem Crew had put on a fantastic cheer station. I must have looked rather pained because another runner turned to me and said its less than 10km to go, you’ve trained for a marathon you can run 10km.

Mile 21-23 I remember very little other than a little girl with a sign saying Jelly Baby fairy handing me a mini pack of Haribo, a lady I grabbed an orange jelly snack off and the man who thrust a very welcome Percy Pig in my direction. Fuelling strategy had all but gone out the window by this point and it was all about the sweets.

Coming up out of Blackfriars Tunnel and onto Embankment there was a massive lump in my throat, this to me was what London Marathon was about. Running down the middle of the road, spectators roaring, across the River from the London Eye heading towards Big Ben. I plastered a grin on my face and drew on the energy from the crowd. At Mile 25 I spotted Alex and two of my friends. I was somewhat delirious by this point but the fizzy lucozade and another dose of strawberry laces were welcome. All I remember was blurting out “BURGER”. I was really rather hungry but this point. My face says it all when Alex gently responded saying yes as soon as you finish the race, off you go.

IMG_2934

My spirits were lifted and I plodded on towards the Houses of Parliament, were brilliantly placed right underneath Big Ben stood my parents, who had patiently been waiting for several hours. A quick hello and hug and they too told me to get on and finish it. The final mile seemed to stretch on forever and I focused my sights on chasing a bare footed man dressed as the purple triangle Mr Men who had managed to overtake me.

As I rounded that final corner, passed Buckingham Palace, and headed down the flag lined final stretch, I fixed my sights on the finish line I’ve been wanting to cross for so many years.

IMG_3107.JPG

6 hours 18 minutes 55 seconds and proud.

Its a time that most would be devastated with but just consider how much mental strength it takes to keep going for that long particularly without a toilet break.

IMG_3273.JPG

As that medal was put over my neck I could barely whisper thank you, I walked around in a circle disorientated before promptly being over come with emotion and I started sobbing. A lovely volunteer guided me to have a finisher’s photo and I stumbled passed the baggage lorries to meet my family and get my burger.

I was exhausted but it was by the far the best race I’ve ever run and I am so very grateful to Kind Snacks for the opportunity.

I’ll be back one day to do justice with a faster time but for now I am ecstatic to have ticked off the number one race on my bucket list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

London Winter Run

I’ve set myself the goal of regaining my pre-marathon fitness levels. Since April I’ve slowed down and I can’t hack any sort of distance either. 

First up is improving my 10km time. My PB is 53:01 and its always been a goal to run sub 50. My last 10km race took me 01:09:43 – around 16 minutes slower! 

For several years I’ve wanted to run the London Winter Run and this year I grateful to have the opportunity. The run takes place on Sunday 5 February 2017, in just under 4 months. So it gives me plenty of time to get in a few months of training, indulge at Christmas and still have a 5 weeks pre-race to shift the mince pies. 


Post Christmas things can be a little glum but with polar bear hugs, snow blasts and a penguin party this run is set to be a lot of fun. Besides I’m a big fan of these Arctic creatures. I’ll give you an idea, this has been my phone background for the last few years! (Unfortunately I’ve had the image so long I can’t remember the source to credit)


I also happen to have quite a perchance for penguins. This little guy was my absolute favourite when I recently visited London Zoo. I had to be dragged away and consoled that I couldn’t take him home. 

Another major plus for me is the course description “no major hills”. Words to my ears! So I can focus on getting a good time (and the Penguins) without having to put every ounce of my being in getting up a blinking hill! As you can see from the image below the route takes in some of London’s finest sites. 

If you are looking for a race to channel your winter training towards, want to run your first 10km or just fancy dancing with the Penguins, take a peek at the website. To get a few pounds off race entry, to save for a post run hot chocolate you can use the code SIMPELLE3. 

I will be documenting my training on the blog and over on Instagram, let me know if you will be joining me, I love sharing in other runners journey to race day and seeing familiar faces along the course. 

Boudavida Women’s 10km

After deciding not to run Richmond marathon I was really looking forward to taking part in the Boudavida Women’s 10km. I was grateful to have been given a place as part of the ThisGirlCanRun10 team, part of the brilliant, wider, This Girl Can initiative. 

The race took place in Windsor Great Park. I had never been before, but through a great deal of Instagram stalking, I knew I was in for a scenic treat. I most certainly wasn’t disappointed, it’s the most beautiful course I’ve run in the UK to date. 

Race kit was laid out the night before, shorts, tank top and my Hoka One Ones. Watch, headphones and phone were charged. Had a soak in the bath and a foam roller session before an early night.

The alarm was set for 6:15am, which for someone who is not a morning person is painfully early, it also meant that it was distinctly chilly and I decided to ditch the shorts in favour of full length 2xu compression tights. Arriving at 9am the sun was already shining and by the time I was on the start line I was deeply regretting my outfit choice, particularly as it was all black!

We drove to the race and there was amble parking available free of charge. If you were looking to go by public transport, the train station is around a 1.5 mile walk to the start. The race village had the nicest toilets I’ve ever visited at a race, they smelt delightful and there weren’t even any queues! 


Stood on the start line there was lots of chatter, from beating PBs to ladies running their first 10km, I spoke to a group who had all trained together and were about to embark on their first ever race. I felt a buzz of excitement for them, I warned them there was likely to be pain and frustration along the way but that feeling as they crossed the finish line would make it all worth while.

I had no intention on going for a PB, but I hoped to come in a smidge under my last 10km race in July. I set off planning just to run and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The first 1km involved quite a steep hill, but with a fantastic statute looming and the excitement of getting started I was distracted from the incline. 


The entire course was a series of relatively steep hills with short stretches of flat in between. Despite the combination of hills and heat I was determined that I wasn’t going to let myself slow to a walk, because if I allowed it just once it would be a mental battle the rest of the race. So I employed the slow plod, with arms pumping up hill and free falling letting my legs gather some speed on the way back down. 

At 4km on a particularly steep descent, I had a very near miss when my new “extremely high impact” sports bra, which does up at the front decided to unzip; luckily I caught it in the nick of time, but it gives you an idea of just how much speed I was managing to gather down hill. 


The scenery was stunning and definitely somewhere I would recommend making the trip to go for a run / walk. I ran alongside horses and cows, over ponds I wanted to jump in to cool down and past quaint little houses. 


Then just when I didn’t think it could get any better I turned the corner and ran the 1.5km stretch downhill towards Windsor Castle, it was magnificent. 

Crossing the finish line, a smidge under as hoped, I was swiftly given water and a Meridian peanut butter bar and another piece of bling to add to the collection. It was a real bonus to be able to keep walking around afterwards, rather than having to queue. 


The race was brilliantly organised from start to finish and the number of participants allowed for plenty of room on the course and in the race village. If you can stomach the hills I would definitely recommend it for 2017. Next year I’m definitely tempted to do Windsor Half Marathon which takes place the same weekend in the same beautiful setting. 


Post race snap with Sasha and Claire 

This was the first race I ran in my Hoka One One Clifton 3s, by coincidence they also happened to be an official sponsor. I loved them in training for their lightweight, bouncy but yet supportive feel and they performed just as well on race day! Not a blister, hot spot or foot pain in sight. Don’t be put off by how big they look, they are in no way heavy or clumpy. 


Post race I was excited to visit the Boudavida stand, a new activewear collection that has only just launched. I had seen the pieces online but was keen to have a feel of the materials in real life. In post race euphoria it’s probably best they were only exhibiting rather than selling because I would have bought it all! I definitely have my eye on several of their tops and a beautifully crafted running jacket. 

The rest of the day we combined with pottering around the sites of Windsor, eating lunch by the river and being astounded by the sheer number of swans. All in all a fantastic way to spend a Saturday. We won’t talk about me getting ridiculously sun burnt running for just an hour in late September….. 

The countdown is on!

A calendar month today I will have completed my second marathon (18 September). I haven’t done an update on how my training is going after my 100 mile run commute challenge and I thought it was about time.

So currently I have mixed feelings. One day I’m ready and raring to see how much I can smash my current marathon time by and proudly place another shiny bit of bling on the dresser. The next I’m in despair that I’m going to be putting my body through another 26.2 miles. This generally reflects the days I run well and those where my legs refuse to co-operate. 
Here’s my super concentrated/I’m really scared face from the Track Mafia X Nike Run Club event, which I pull every time someone asks how the training is going: 

I’ve had several very successful 4-8 mile runs but my most recent attempt at running 10 miles left me a little crushed. I hate giving up but it was a Friday night and I really wasn’t enjoying it, the shins hurt and so I stopped at 6 miles. 

Really I ought to be up to 14-16 miles at this stage in my training and I’m panicking slightly as a result. Consequently I think I’m putting even more pressure on the runs to be “successful” and inevitably mentally struggling even more when they aren’t. 

Basically I need to chill out. 

This is me finishing strong, the speed lap I was so terrified about messing up for my team and in front of lots of people. Moral, I need to doubt myself less:  

Thank you to the lovely Georgia and Laura for the all important snaps.

Part of me takes comfort in the fact that I’ve done it before so I can do it again. But then I am perfectly aware that you need to respect the distance. I’m concerned the former is making me a little lackadaisical and I’m a little annoyed at myself for not taking training as seriously as I intended. Life just got in the way. 

So the plan for the next four weeks is to get in a 13, 15, 18 and 20 miler. Not necessarily in that order. Time to download some new podcasts. I’d be grateful for any recommendations to see me through. 

Marathon training update

Where has the last three weeks gone?!? Running a marathon in just 11 weeks seems a little daughting, I thought thinking in terms of days might help but equally 77 days doesn’t seem that far away. But I’ve done it before and I know that if I remain injury free I can do it again; just this time I have a time goal – not yet set this but in general terms, FASTER. 

The pesky shin splints are back, particularly following speed treadmill sessions so I’m trying out some Enertor insoles which are said to reduce shock on impact by 44%. Given that the impact on your knees/ankles is 5 times your body weight I’m hoping this might help. I don’t even want to do the calculations on the load I’m putting on poor joints. 

 

I have also invested in a new pair of my beloved Ultra Boosts but opted for the stability version. They certainly seem to be helping and I love the design! They are actually men’s but you couldn’t tell. I’ll report back on both after further use.

So what have I been up to? 

A number of treadmill speed sessions – when I say speed, they are what I consider to be fast. I normally do 3-5miles varying between 10.5-13 mph speed with recovery for 30 seconds at a time at 9-9.5 mph. I managed to stay at 13mph for 42 seconds the other day and was immensely happy with this progress, before I promptly felt horrendously sick and light headed and it took me a good hour to recover. Maybe I need to try this at the beginning/middle of the session rather than it being my final push. 
Road running – I’ve pottered, I’ve taken on hills and generally stretched the legs, enjoying the lighter evenings, on the days it doesn’t torrentially rain! 

I joined Nike run club for their Home Run on tour to the new Hackney store, the other day and it was fab to run with a group of such upbeat friendly people. The pacers are also fantastic. I was really struggling at one point, those pesky shin splits and the pacer I was with was super motivating, encouraging and kept me pushing when my legs started screaming. I will definitely be joining them more regularly. Plus I really want a NRC Runner t-shirt! If you fancy giving it a go you can sign up in their website.
  
 Snap from @nikelondon – Where’s Wally? *Fleur. Try and spot me!

We also got to try the newly released Lunarepic Flynit trainers. They are based on the concept of having no waste materials and have the most fantastic bouncy sensation in the middle of your foot which I’ve never experienced before. 
 
  Snap by pacer Maggie – @magsmay_d

Trail running – I definitely under estimated what the difference in terrain can do to your speed but it’s good to mix things up and the beautiful scenery is the ultimate reward. I’ve discovered some lovely pockets of woods locally, trails down in Surrey and more recently whilst away for a friend’s wedding in Devon. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Hope Cove it is stunning; scenic running heaven. Take me back! 
  

Strength training – I haven’t quite stuck to this and need to give myself a talking to; I know it’s important, I’d just always rather run. I did attend the London leg of Kayla’s Sweat Tour and boy was it hard. I’d rather take on a half marathon any day! I was sore for days and days. Broken record but I definitely need to bully myself to do body weight HIIT more often. I did look into signing up to her BBG programme but it really wouldn’t allow me to get all my running in. Maybe I’ll have a re-think post marathon in September when I can fully commit.

  
 I have some fun events/races/a fitness trip planned so July is looking very exciting and I’m aiming to be able to hold out on 13mph for a full minute by the end of July. 

What has every one got planned for this month? What are you training for? Let me know so I can follow your adventures. 

Marathon Number Two

IMG_1839

*Image from www.richmondrunningfestival.com

Crossing the finish line of Brighton Marathon  there was no doubt I’d be doing another; the thrill of that last mile alone was contagious.

Brighton, as my first, was simply about seeing if I could hack it. The training through the cold winter months, the physical and mental drain and then the 26.2 miles itself. Being my first I just wanted to finish in one piece.

Having survived, without so much as a blister I knew that I could have pushed myself to go faster; which is exactly what I intend to do during Marathon Number two.

IMG_1360 (1).JPG

I decided that I couldn’t wait an entire year until Spring marathon season and so I started researching Autumn marathons. We are hoping to go away on a two week holiday in early October so I decided I would opt for something localish, to avoid hotel/travel expenses associated with races. I had heard of Richmond Running Festival before and read good things about the organisation and atmosphere of the half marathon. Then I discovered that for the first time this year, a full marathon was being added to the festival; coupled with the fact that the course is pancake flat and I love Richmond, it ticked all the boxes.

FullSizeRender (37)

I learnt a lot from training for my first marathon, what works, what doesn’t and what I need to improve on. Last time I undertook a cautious twenty week program and it simply too long. Twenty weeks is an awfully long time to keep focused and quite simply I became frustrated and bored. This time around, given that my fitness levels remained in tact post Brighton, I am opting for fourteen weeks; commencing today and concluded on the big day 18 September 2016.

I have also drawn myself up a more strict training program, based on Hal Higdon’s ‘The Novice 1 plan’. It essentially reflects the plan but with some of the days swapped around, particularly to account for certain events such as my friend’s wedding and Alex’s birthday; I doubt he’d be too impressed me abandoning him for a 16 mile run. However, I am determined to more strictly follow a plan so that I resist the urge to make it up on a weekly basis. If an event or class comes up, then I will still make time for it but  just make sure I get my run done in the morning before work instead. Conveniently my new office is located exactly ten miles from home.

My next addition is the inclusion of speed work. I am not a fast runner, I enjoy plodding and even as far back as the days at school, I could just about drum up some enthusiasm for 800m but the 100m filled me with dread. Following Brighton I haven’t had much desire to go on any long runs, you could say that I had my fill after running for 6 hours straight (minus the portaloo stops). Instead I have been sticking to 5 milers and 3-5 mile treadmill speed work; I know it’s not quite the same but I find it a lot easier to maintain my speed for longer on a treadmill. In just 6 weeks I’ve knocked minutes off my previous 3 and 5 mile times and running on the road I have also noticed that my natural pace is a little faster than pre-marathon. So I’m hoping that in 14 weeks time with a focused speed session once a week, it will help me to chip away at my current marathon time.

FullSizeRender (39).jpg

To keep my mind on track, I am also undertaking an online ‘Behaviour Change’ Course with Future Fit Training to help me understand behaviours and how they can be changed. I am guilty of several persistent bad ‘habits’ and whilst I constantly endeavour to quash them once and for all, add lack of sleep, stress or sometimes just some bad weather into the mix and my efforts dissipate. I’m hoping this course will help me understand my own behaviour better and enable me to share this knowledge with you.

So here’s to the next 14 weeks and marathon number two; I hear there are still places, if any one fancies joining me!

 

 

Brighton Marathon

It’s taken me 5 weeks to bring myself to write this post. It’s been absurd at times, but it boils down to the fact that I felt like once I wrote the post, it really was all over and after 20 weeks of training and everything that goes with running your first marathon I just wasn’t ready to let go.

Let’s get the obvious questions out of the way.

Time : 6:04:42 chip / 5:24:17 watch time

I was never going for ‘a time’ so I’m not disappointing in this. I’m just astonished I managed to run for this many hours. There were a few stops to be explained below which accounts for the chip/watch time differences.

Am I doing another?

Absolutely.

Now I’m going to start from the beginning.

IMG_1227.JPG

We headed down to Brighton on the Saturday morning and stayed at the Hilton Hotel, a last minute upgrade from the Travel Lodge after our experience before the Bath Half . After visiting the expo and chatting with some fellow runners we had a lovely day shopping, eating, wandering along the beach and in the hotel spa. I was definitely excited but felt rather relaxed, I think because I wasn’t aiming for a specific finish time I was a lot calmer and didn’t suffer from any nerves.

IMG_1302.JPG

After a good nights sleep we ambled along to the start line. I spent 40 minutes queuing for the toilet and was still in line when the race started, so I missed a little of the count down hype, which wasn’t ideal but meant I remained very calm.

IMG_2475.JPG

I set off at a very easy pace, reminding myself I had 26 miles ahead of me. Mile 1-2 I felt good. It was definitely sunnier and hotter than the weather had predicted and being prone to sunstroke I was being hyper vigilant with taking on fluids. I saw Alex at Mile 2, a quick high five and I continued weaving through the streets of Central Brighton. The course in the early stages looped round on itself so I also managed to see Alex at Mile 3 and 5. I was definitely ready for some of my strawberry laces by then.

One of my favourite moments was around Mile 5.5, we had just conquered the only real hill and after descent we turned a corner and the sea was in front of us glimmering in the sun. It was beautiful. I absolutely love running by the water and this definitely pulled me through during some tougher moments.

FullSizeRender (35).jpg

*Photocredit @cisforcharlotte – I was so happy to find this photo post race.

Mile 6 saw the difficulties start. I had taken on more water than I would have liked because of the heat and needed the toilet. There was a slightly cruel flaw in the course around Mile 7/8 because you saw runners coming back on the other side of the road having turned around at what looked like a round a bout. In fact you veered off to the left of the round about and headed out and back for a further mile. The only thing stopping this from being wholey disheartening was the beautiful scenery and an 85 year old man I met who was on his 81st marathon.

I managed to hold on for a few miles without attending to my bladder but by Mile 10 I had to stop, having located a portaloo I then also had to queue, I forgot to stop my watch on my first stop but there were at least four people in front of me so I estimated I was there at least five minutes queuing alone. Once I got into the portaloo a whole other issue reared its head. Diarrhea. Ive gone through my pre-race routine and thought about what could have caused this a hundred times.  I can only put it down to having broken the number one cardinal rule. Never ever ever do anything new on race day and that includes trying different flavoured gels, even if they are of the same brand you have had before.Exiting the portaloo I apologised to the person next in the queue and shuffled off. The time stood in the queue and then in the portaloo had not done my legs any favours. They suddenly felt very heavy and I had at least 16 miles to go.

Mile 11 was a glorious downhill stretch which saw the legs ease up a little and Mile 12 saw us head back onto the main stretch of Brighton Sea Front. I hit the half way point and the crowds were roaring. I felt very tired considering I was only at the half way point. There was no doubt in my mind that mentally I had the strength to finish but I was worried about the state of my body physically at this stage. I knew I was going to see Alex again at the half way point and  my family were planning to arrive around the time I made it to half way. The halfway point with “The Panda made me do it” crossing was absolutely rammed with spectators and it was extremely noisy with every one cheering, despite this miraculously I managed to pick out my sister frantically waving and shouting my name from across the other side of the course stood along side my parents. Seeing them really brought home just how crazy me attempting to run a marathon seemed. They knew me and they knew I had never been a runner or expressed any interested in running ever and yet here I was running a marathon and they were there to support me on this crazy endeavor and that fueled me on.

IMG_1422.JPG

The runners on the other side of the road were already coming thick and fast at the 26 Mile point. Half of me felt a little despondent that I still had so far to go but equally I saw people with severely pained expressions and I vividly remember a man keeling over and vomiting before medics rushed to his assistance. I vowed that I would plod on and finish in one piece regardless of the time it took. I was expecting to see Alex soon after I had spotted my family but as I stumbled on I couldn’t spot him. At that point it really hit me, all that I had read in fellow marathon runner’s blog posts about seeing friends and family along the course. I was really was so disappointed, it had been a hard 8 miles since I last saw him and I felt a little crushed. I trundled on, trying to bounce of the energy from the crowd, failing slightly and mainly looking at my feet, but then I happened to glance up and there he was strawberry laces in hand having done the sensible thing and moved slightly on from the dense crowds. I stopped for at least a minute, maybe two, not caring about my time it was a precious few moments that spurred me on for the miles to come.

I was still on a high chomping on my strawberry laces when unexpectedly I saw a sign I recognised – “This is a lot of work for a free banana” held by the lovely Sasha who ran to give me a massive hug; about to run her first marathon herself in a week’s time she fully understood the enormity of the day. And so I happily plodded on through Miles 14 and 15.

IMG_2473.PNG

*Photocredit @sasharuns

Mile 16 we turned away from the sea front and headed into residential streets. The residents were having street parties and seemed to be making an occasion of the marathon but the traffic of runners was thinning and I felt distinctly lonely. I spotted Clare on the other side of the course about 2 miles ahead of me and this provided me with a temporary surge of encouragement but I was also experiencing increasing stomach pains and a sense of urgency to locate a portaloo. Mile 16 as a very very very long mile. I felt horrid. I was in pain, my body felt like a lump of concrete and was desperate to avoid a ‘Paula’ situation. I employed a run/walk strategy with random lamposts, traffic lights, trees and pretty much any object I could identify what was now a rather blurred perspective.

There was a portaloo at 17.5 and never have I been so pleased to see one. I don’t know exactly how long I spent inside, but it felt like a very long time. Looking back on my running watch data Mile 17 took 27 minutes. I’m certain that the majority of this was spent in the portaloo. As I sat there in the horrid sweaty box, only ever made bearable if you’ve had a decent amount to drink at a festival, I was questioning my life choices. Why was I doing this, what was I trying to prove, to myself, to any one else, why did I not just stop rather than put my self through nine more miles of discomfort. One thing that came to mind was that I haddn’t come this far, through the wind and rain of winter training, the long runs,  hauling my family to Brighton and 17 miles, to quit at this stage. This really was the lowest point of the race.

I stepped out of the portaloo with a sense of relieve. Apologies for how graphic this may sound, but there was nothing left inside me that could threaten to make a violent exit. I knew that the residential part of the course would be coming to an end soon and my family were waiting a Mile 18, as was the return to the sea front. I stopped for a minute or so to talk with them, shared my woes of the portaloo incident and was grateful for a lucazade hit. From that point I knew I had 8 miles until I saw them again by which time it would be all over. Never ever underestimate the boost of seeing your personal cheer squad, all the energy drinks and gels in the world can’t compare to that feeling when you are struggling on marathon day.

IMG_1438

Miles 18-20 I plodded and plodded and mainly stared at my feet but importantly I didn’t hit the wall. I was super slow. We are talking a pace of 15 min miles and it felt like I was making slow progress. I approached the start a two mile stretch out and back to an industrial estate. This is where every one warned things would get horrid, really horrid but given what I had felt at Miles 16/17 I was feeling pretty positive. I spotted Clare again who gave me a knowing look and I recall shouting out how much I *bleeping* hated this but once again a familiar face spurred me on. It was a slight uphill trundle and if I had power walked I would have probably ended up going a little faster but I managed a slow forward motion.

Having gone round the hairpin and legitimately the least scenic part of a race course ever I had the sea to my right and knew that once I completed this part of the return I was on the home stretch. Approaching Mile 24 I saw a lady handing out jelly babies and it was set in my head that popping a few would see me on the final stretch. Then to my horror a man in front of me reached out to grab one, only to knock the whole tub out of the lady’s hand onto the floor. I was devastated and my face must have shown it because the lady quickly whipped out a new bag and handed me the whole packet. Not going to lie I totally would have scooped several off the floor at this stage.

IMG_1450.JPG

Armed with my bag of jelly babies I powered on shoveling them into my mouth at an alarming rate. I spotted a fellow runner who looked like he needed a good old jelly baby and promptly passed the baton. Passing several rows of beach huts the spectators were more frequent and I was showered with words of encouragement. Mile 25 approached and I knew that I could make it to the finish without needing another drink. Time to ditch the bottle. All of a sudden I became irrationally attached to my lucazade stained sticky bottle. It had been with me from the start and I didn’t want us to part ways in the final stretch. But then again did I want this bottle in pictures as I crossed the finish line. Mile 25 of a marathon and these were the thoughts occupying my brain.

IMG_1436

I chucked the bottle and in doing so I let go of the notion I was to remain sensible about this race, to go at an easy pace, to remain hydrated and fuelled and I went for it. Really really went for it. I ran my fastest mile of the whole marathon and it felt glorious. The crowds were thick and people were roaring in support. I was soaking up all the energy and for the first time all day my heart was pounding, I was breathless and I felt like I was flying. It was the best mile of my life.

IMG_1433

 

Eventually I saw that finish line and I gave it everything I had left, those last few seconds when you realise you are about to become a marathoner are magical. I crossed the finish line and was in utter shock. Unexpectantly,  I didn’t cry as I’ve heard so many do and thought I would, I was just astounded, I had just run a marathon. Me, a marathoner!

IMG_1421.JPG

I was utterly amazed. I didn’t care it had taken me over 6 hours, I was a marathoner and as I bowed my head to have that precious medal placed around my neck, I choked up saying thank you to the volunteer. I few hot tears sprang from my eyes but honestly I was too de-hydrated to cry properly. I stumbled forward, having my official finishers’ photograph taken, and  eventually came out onto the beach, where I was met by Alex, a mini bottle of bubbles in hand.  I’m not sure this post really does the day justice, I could go on and on it detail about the day because I really did experience every single possible emotional. It is a day that will go down in my life history of big achievements and perhaps why I have been so reluctant to let go.

IMG_1361.JPG