The Big Half race recap

I signed up for this race around the middle of 2017 and had been looking forward to it for some time. Due to the weather conditions we weren’t actually told it was going ahead until 1:58pm the day before. I really hoped it wasn’t cancelled as I would have still had to do a long run on my own but when I discovered it would involve 2-3 hrs of travelling given engineering works I felt conflicted. Unfortunately, the idea of tearing myself out of bed is I’m sure what lead to a disrupted nights sleep / my concern my alarm wouldn’t go off. 6:45 am on Sunday I was still debating the idea of rolling over and staying all cosy in bed.

Needless to say I ended up dashing round like a mad woman, despite having laid everything out the night before and ran out of time to have breakfast. It wasn’t a good start. I grabbed a Cliff Bar at London Bridge station and shoved it in my face as I made my way to the start line.

Baggage drop went smoothly on the south side of Tower Bridge and I then crossed the bridge and made it to my starting pen, on the north side of the river. I brought a very old jumper to keep me warm at the start which I was very grateful for. For some reason at 8:58 they announced 2 minutes to the gun and told everyone to take their layers off, it was at least another 15 minutes until my wave actually got started, I’ll know for next time to Ignore them until I actually see the start line.

I had said that I was going to use this as a training run, run at my intended marathon pace – 11.24 and practise my fuelling and hydration strategy. I had a plan and I didn’t stick to it.

I got swept up in the excitement of the start and my first mile was 9:47. I saw Mo Farah whizzing past on the other side of the road as he approached the 5 mile mark and got a real buzz. Then we entered what I can only describe as the tunnel of doom. It was dark and stuffy and went on forever. I was sweating and struggling to breathe properly. It wasn’t at all pleasant. I kept reminding myself that it was good mental training for the tunnels on the Paris marathon course…..

Round Canary Wharf, my least favourite part of the London marathon course, but I was just grateful to be out of that tunnel! We then headed back on ourselves along what I can only describe as a hazardous selection of cobbled streets. My feet must have been gripping the bottoms of my trainers for some stability at this point because I came away with a sore inner foot.

It was a relief when the Shard came into sight and crossing Tower Bridge was one of the best bits of the course, unfortunately I couldn’t stop comparing the race to the actual marathon and that rather put a dampener on things. But what did I expect, it was the first time this race had been organised and very little can compare to the buzz of London marathon.

Tower Bridge behind us we heading into Rotherhithe and more cobbled streets…. an unwelcome return. I just kept telling myself, run to Greenwich and you are done. I thought about markers along the way to break it down, knowing where certain people are going to be cheering was a great one, I got a huge boost from two of the best cheerleaders you could want at a race, Laura Murray and the LDN Brunch Club around mile 9 and then Becca about a mile later.

I hit 10 miles and thought it’s just a 5km to go. In truth things were starting to hurt by this point and I felt frustrated that this felt a lot harder than the previous week’s 16 miles. I bumped into the super star Carly who I managed to keep up with for about half a mile. She has two young children and is absolutely smashing her marathon training for Paris. When we first met in 2016 she was chasing down her pre baby fitness and is now smashing her PBs with every race! It was another real boost to run alongside some one very inspirational.

Those three miles seemed to go on forever. I just wanted to be done. I had toyed with the idea of carrying on for another five miles after the finish to make it a 18 mile training run but I just didn’t have it in me. Sometimes a finish line can signal feelings of euphoria and pride. All I thought was, thank f**k that’s over I want to go home. Managed a smile for the post race pic!

I wasn’t pleased about how far it seemed like we had to walk to get our baggage or getting trapped in a one way system that forced you to go into the ‘festival’ in the park before you could exit and go to public transport. It probably wasn’t any worse than usual but I was just grumpy and wanted to back home already. 2hrs on a rail replacement bus was not what I needed. It was greatly appreciated that we were given foils blankets to do the walk in though.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the course, it felt like all the worse bits of London Marathon with a horrid tunnel thrown in. Again this is largely down to the direct comparisons I was drawing. I’ve heard mixed reviews from other runners.

In terms of hydration and fuelling however I think I came pretty close to spot on. The hydration vest, which I was going to include a review of in this post, was so great it deserves a post of its own, which I will do early next week. For fuel I used Berry flavoured Shot Bloks, I had my first at Mile 3, then took one every two miles until Mile 10, when I started shovelling and nearly choking on Haribo Tangytastics!

Am I ready to run a marathon in four weeks (and then again in six?) I’m not too sure. Will I finish both Paris and London regardless, and do my best to enjoy them, absolutely.

Up next Surrey Half marathon on Sunday 11 March. Hoping to knock eight minutes off my time from this race and finish in under 2hrs 30.

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Paris Marathon Training – Weeks 3 & 4

Major life changes have been happening in the last seven days! We bought and moved into our first home, so I’m now a home owner (it was a life goal before turning thirty) and I moved jobs. Both of which I’m very excited about and are progressing my life in the right direction, but are equally exhausting to do at the same time.

So Week 4 of marathon training can best be described as, not a sausage. Other than the packing, lifting, more lifting and unpacking of lots of boxes and furniture, I didn’t run or go to the gym the entire week. Honestly, I didn’t even have the headspace to panic about this, what with everything else I had to co-ordinate and think about. I had planned to get a run in over the weekend but I also managed to roll my ankle on the stairs on Thursday evening so was nursing a minor sprain with some almighty bruising and I was just plain tired.

Week 3 had however been a relatively strong week. Three runs, a gym session and a snow walk in the bag!

On Monday and Wednesday I had two very different run commutes. One was extremely strong, with an average pace of 9:42 pace over 3.23 miles. I felt ridiculously good on the run and it was like a culmination of all the training since October. The second was distinctly average at best, my legs felt like lead and my watch died. It felt a lot slower. Saturday’s long run was 7 miles which took me 1hr 20 mins at 11:26 average pace. Distinctly slower. So it took me 11 minutes to run 0.6 miles further than the week before. Luckily with all the packing I had to do it didn’t give me time to dwell too much. If anything Week 3 reinforced for me that not every run or week in marathon training are you going to see improvement. It’s about being able to process that and not mentally let it hold you back moving into the following week. So Week 5 is underway. One run down. First week in a new job, I’m likely to be tired and need to prioritise rest to be able to take on all new information. Equally I haven’t currently rearranged my gym membership to a branch closer to the new flat and so the gym sessions are mostly likely to be postponed this week. Very glad I decided to opt for a twenty week training plan to allow for weeks where it’s not possible to stick to the plan! I am also really excited for everyone doing 18/16 week programmes to start their marathon training, I love the community spirit and marathon hype!

Paris Marathon training – Week 2

‘Baby it’s cold outside’ – wow the temperatures have really dropped over the past week making for three very chilly runs. On Saturday’s long run I finally nailed the layering combo, for now at least, until it decides to get even colder!

My short runs this week involved two partial run commutes, I forgot how hellish it can be to battle the crowds of central London. I was forced off the pavement at one point when a group of people decided it was acceptable to walk four abreast towards me on a pavement. Don’t even get me started on people walking eye down glued to their phones. Other people will look at you from a distance and it’s like a game of chicken as to who is going to dodge. I fully accept I’m the one going above walking speed and will weave in and out as much as necessary but come on, could we just co-exist nicely, festive goodwill and all…. share the damn pavement!

So Monday the calves were cripplingly tight. For all the stretching etc I was rather frustrated. On Wednesdays run, for the first mile I was trying to pin point when the tightness had started. Had a bit of a light bulb moment, it was when I started wearing my extra firm compression socks to run in, they did wonders for my shins. Stopped the watch, sat at a bus stop with some bemused onlookers, whilst I yanked my socks down from under my running tights, with some difficulty! For the next two and a half miles my legs felt glorious. Problem sorted. Except then my shins weren’t as happy….. are compression gaiters are thing?

Saturday I had 6 miles on the plan. I planned and out and back route from home, but by the time I ran 0.2 miles in the wrong direction, I decided to see where I was in terms of a 10k time and went for 6.4 miles. My last time for a 10k, that I remember, was 1 hour 14 minutes. So I was pretty happy Saturday’s run was done in 1:09:14 and I wasn’t going at maximum effort for the entire run. This run left me feeling really strong and positive.

With 9 weeks until the London Winter Run 10km on 4 February, I’m aiming to shave ten minutes off and come in just under an hour. If you fancy joining me for a sub 60 minute attempt please let me know. This is definitely the sort of race best shared with others. You might want to think about signing up by 6th December as afterwards the entry fee increases. Little disclaimer, I’ve kindly been given a free bib for the race, in exchange for spreading the love, but I enjoyed it so much last year I would totally have paid the entry fee.

Other than my three runs, I got my two rest days, spent packing up our flat for moving next week and one out of two cross training sessions done. Tuesday evening 8:30pm I found my train coming from central London, terminating at my train station and 16 minutes until the next train to get to the gym…. I’d been up since 6:45am and wanted to be home and having eaten dinner before 10:30pm. Sometimes these things happen. I’m working on not feeling overly guilty if I miss one session.

Heading into Week 3 excited to work on the progress I’ve seen over the last few weeks.

Paris Marathon training – Week 1

Hello or more appropriately Bonjour! It’s been a while but with training for marathon number three under way it felt like the right time to reignite the blog.

Back in 2015/16 training for Brighton marathon my goal was to simply finish. My training was very much the hit and miss of someone who had only recently started running and was totally clueless. My goal was to simply finish.

Fast forward to London marathon in 2017, I only found out I had a place with 12 weeks to go and my training was an utter shambles, I just wasn’t in the right head space. I relied solely on the fact that I was bloody minded and had done the distance once, I could do it again. I hauled myself round that course and vowed I would never put myself through running a marathon again without properly training.

So this is it. Paris 2018. My first international marathon, in one of my all time favourite cities. Time to see what happens if I commit, like really really commit and push myself further than I’ve been willing to before. A special thank you has to go to ASICS for the bib (*spot in the race) and the kit you will see me wearing through my training.

I decided to do two weeks of pre-marathon training to get my head and legs in the game, followed by a twenty week training programme. I found a number of training plans online and after painstaking analysis of them put together my own, drawing the bests bits from different sources and fitting it round my schedule.

Two weeks of pre- marathon training went without a hitch, minus one missed 40min run. It was a bit of a shock to the system but it helped me to focus and confirm that I really wanted to do this. I found this fire starting to burn in me that screamed, the timing is right let’s do this. I haven’t felt with running for a very long time.

Week 1 of official training saw a great deal of tight calves and perseverance but I got the job done. I received lots of helpful tips on how to remedy this and sports massage recommendations. So it’s morning and evening stretching sessions and I’m going to get myself booked in before this becomes more of an issue.

Monday – Wednesday went smoothly. On Thursday there was a cross training session on the plan but having been unable to sleep for several nights and having seen 4:20am that day I was exhausted and decided to take it as an additional rest day, which was far more valuable to my body than 40 mins on a bike or rowing machine.

I need my sleep, I don’t function well without it which doesn’t go well because come 2-3am I’m a world class worse-case-scenario analyst. Last week my anxiety levels were off the charts, with exchanging contracts on our first flat, potentially loosing the new flat, potentially not having anywhere to live as we have to move out of current flat. Of course none of this ended up happening.

Despite the worrying, I have noticed a significant improvement in my general mental outlook and wellbeing, consistently exercising over the last three weeks. I’m also starting to feel physically fitter after such a short time, so I’m excited to see what can happen in the months to come.

Heading into Week 2 ready and raring to go. Let me know if you are planning to run a spring 2018 marathon, sharing the highs and lows of marathon training with the running community I find really gets you through those tough weeks.

Disclaimer: I am very grateful that ASICS have given me a place to run Paris Marathon and will be providing me with running kit to see me through my training. This is not a paid collaboration.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.