Marathon number 3

Did I mention I’d entered another marathon? No? Well I’ll confess I was in denial that I was training for a marathon for quite a few weeks, despite eyeing up the race and discovering several of my running buddies had already entered.

My first marathon in 2012 was run after missing 5 weeks of training due to injury, and after a longest run/walk of just 14 miles. In 2013 I ran my second, after proving to myself I could complete the training. Although I completed this marathon over 40 minutes quicker than my first, I had a couple of ropey moments. Apart from the miraculous toilets and someone playing “Jump Around” when it was all I could manage to continue shuffling, I have always had the feeling that I still haven’t given the marathon distance my best shot. Hearing about a brand new race, very local to me, was too tempting to ignore.

Without an official training plan I started upping my miles, keen to see how I felt before committing myself. It was only when I’d comfortably run 14 miles that I stumped up the cash and entered.

The inaugural Bristol to Bath Marathon is going to be held on 25th October, starting in Bristol (not surprisingly), running around the streets of Bristol for nearly a half marathon before finally heading out to Bath via a couple of horrible hills. I am already planning on walking up both of these inclines (it’s 26.2 miles -who needs hills as well??), and I really must have a recce of them beforehand just so I know what I’m dealing with.

Exciting stuff!

Ask and You Shall Receive

So, the challenge was to write an account of the funniest / most embarrassing / worst race experience I have had, in a competition to win a place on a Write This Run Running Retreat. Since I read about it, I have been considering all the funny, odd and strange things that have happened what I’ve been out running.

I considered the time I was attacked by a psycho pheasant mid-run. I also pondered on the day I was feeling ill, decided to bail out rather than run the 4 miles back home, and caught a taxi back instead. It was a good plan, except I had to listen to the taxi driver regale me with stories such as “You know that chap that invented jogging? He died of a heart attack one day. It’s not good for you!” Then there was the time I saw a runner ahead of me elegantly slip through a stile rather than clamber over it like I usually do. I decided to do the same, except I was less ‘elegant slipping’ and more inelegant slipping head first right onto my face, following by wriggling to extricate myself.

This afternoon I decided, in order to help me decide, that I should go back and read the flippin’ question (just like all the best exam advice). Good job I did, as I noticed this time the story had to be about a race experience. Facepalm! (as my children would say).

I immediately though of something that had happened in this year’s Brighton Marathon. At about mile 15 I had a real wobble. I’d run such a long way, but there was still so far to go. My family hadn’t turned up yet, so I was feeling a little abandoned and really tired. I walked whilst I drank some water, ate some Shotbloks and gave myself a good talking to. After about 5 minutes of feeling sorry for myself I pulled myself together and started running again. As I ran, I wondered idly if I needed to find a toilet, just in case. Each set of portaloos I’d passed since the start of the race had had a queue outside, and I knew from last year how easy it was to lose 15 minutes queuing. I pressed on, but having thought about maybe needing a wee I was now becoming obsessed.

For a couple of months before, I had been reading a series of books on my Kindle about a little old lady who turned out to be a brilliant detective. She realises that being invisible (as old people often are in this society) can be extremely advantageous, and that a grey haired ‘senior’ can get away with asking questions that a would arouse suspicion with a younger person. The lady in question was also a very committed Christian, with a slightly annoying habit of asking God what to do about any tricky situation she found herself in, with words like “Lord, if I should follow this man to see what he’s up to, then help me find a way to get through this barbed wire electrified fence”.

At this point I was hot, tired and unsure if I was desperate or not. I was ready to try anything, and this book popped into my head. Feeling slightly silly, I said “Lord, if I should go to the toilet, show me one with a very small queue”. Blasphemous? Maybe, but I hoped it was more ‘ask and you shall receive’. I looked around, but couldn’t see any portaloos. Slightly disappointed I looked down the road ahead to the corner, and looked, and looked again, and gaped open mouthed.

As the sun was already shining I can’t claim the clouds parted and a shaft of sunlight beamed down like a giant celestial spotlight, but in the film of my life that’s what will happen. Right on the corner was a church. Outside the church was a sign. A sign! A sign saying “Tea and coffee inside. Toilets” At the corner instead of turning left I dashed inside the cool church, panting “toilets?” to the ladies with the tea urn. They pointed the way, and I found myself in a clean toilet, with toilet paper and water to wash my hands. A little flushing oasis in the madness that is a marathon.

‘Ask and you shall receive” indeed! I felt so much better after this, and pressed on to finish in 5:25. Still slow, but a new PB of over 40 minutes for me. Thanks, Big Guy!

Brighton Marathon
At Brighton Marathon

What Next?

Training Completed

Training completed.

My Medal

The race is run (and the medal worn).

What next? Well – listening to my body I’ve decided to have at least a week off from running. It feels very strange not to be running, not to be checking my schedule, not to be dreading my Friday Long Run. On the plus side, this break has coincided with Spring finally appearing, so I knew instantly what I should be doing to still get my fresh air fix.

The allotment
The allotment

The allotment. It has been swathed in black weed suppressing fabric all winter, and now like a teenager, its alarm call is well overdue. Already this week it has had its covering rudely removed, its been partially dug over, had compost added and some potatoes have been planted. Not bad for someone recovering from a marathon!

What else is on the ‘To Do’ list for this week then?  Oh – quite a lot. Apparently I haven’t crossed anything off since January…

Post Marathon Reflections

I’ve had a few days to reflect on my race, and also some time to reflect on the fact that a young man collapsed on the course and later died. I also, very sadly, have been thinking of the people of Boston. Although I’ve felt guilty for enjoying my race, and for thinking about a race report, and even for still being here to run and race again, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we stop running, if we panic, if we stop racing and enjoying our running then we’ve let the evil s*ds who did this win. We owe it to the people of Boston to hold our heads high, and run.

So with that in mind I wrote a very long race report (do I do any other kind?!) and had a good think about Sunday and the race and how it went.

Looking at my Garmin times, I did indeed slow down in the middle section of the course, but apart from mile 2 which I went too fast on mile 26 was 11:37 pace and the very last bit was my fastest at 11:22 I *really* wanted to finish! I’m really pleased with this, because it did feel like I was pushing at the end so I’m glad the numbers show that. My final time was 5:25:41 which was 47 minutes quicker than London last year. Before the race I’d thought about my ‘Gold, Silver and Bronze’ finishes. Bronze was to finish under 6 hours, Silver was to finish under 5:30 and Gold was to finish by 5:15. I’m delighted I achieved my Silver medal.

New PB!New PB!

Something else I noticed was the amazing signs and banners people were holding. Maybe its a Brighton thing, maybe the people of Sussex are particularly entertaining, but I did laugh at some of them:-

“Worse parade ever”

“Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”

“Any fool can run. It takes a special kind of fool to run 26.2”

Hurry Up Runners, my arms are killing me holding this up”

“If you feet hurt its because you’ve kicked so much butt”

I loved the couple of people holding bowls of slices of fresh oranges. So lovely and refreshing, especially after gels!

About mile 20 I was thinking that running a marathon was just too hard, and I couldn’t see how I could ever get any faster because it takes such a lot of energy just to complete the distance. I guess I’m not planning on running another marathon anytime soon. After London, I straightaway knew I needed to try again, to see if I could manage the training; to see just what it felt like to race that far; and to really feel I’d given it my all. I did all of those things this year, and I’m happy with the time I ran.

Other great achievements from the race were – my new shoes felt great all the way through. Despite only running in them for 10.8 miles before the marathon, which I know is a huge no no, they just felt fantastic, comfortable and supportive all the way around. No blisters, no rubbing, no pain! I also managed to avoid any chafing – obviously I got that out of the way in training. Actually, the only lasting pain I have is from the sunburn I caught on my arms. Good job I had applied it to my face or I would have been a total beetroot!

Excuse me a moment, must just go and polish my medal again, and put some aftersun on my poor arms…


Brighton Marathon 2013 Race Report

After a hectic journey on Friday night, we arrived in Arundel ready for the big weekend. Saturday was spent being blown around Brighton to meet up with an old school friend of Mr B&Ts and to have lunch with him and his wife. They showed us the Lanes, but it was too wet and windy for mooching about so they then took us to the Brighton Centre so I could register and collect my number. The Expo was good – lots of lovely bargains – it was a pity I’d promised not to spend any money as I’d already treated myself pre-marathon! Back to Arundel for a really delicious dinner at a great Italian restaurant. I just wished I could have had a lovely glass of wine to go with it! I tried to have an early night, but nerves, excitement, and a full stomach put paid to that!

After reading worrying weather reports all week about how hot and windy it was going to be on Sunday, Sunday morning dawned cold and grey. I felt silly putting suncream on my face, but after getting a sunburnt neck last year put it on anyway ‘just in case’. I’d been awake since 4.30 so was glad to finally get up at 5.50am and try to get dressed without waking the family up (the joys of a Premier Inn family room!). I couldn’t stomach my porridge, got about half the pot down and a cup of tea and gave up trying.

Mr B&T drove me to a tiny train station in the middle of nowhere and left me there with a slightly strange character who was the only other person waiting for the train. I was quite relieved when the train arrived, already nearly full of marathoners and families. I grabbed a seat, managed to eat a piece of flapjack on the 40 minutes journey, and listened to my ipod to try and chill out a bit.

After a quick loo stop at Brighton station I simply followed the crowds as I didn’t really know where the start was. It actually took a while to get there, must have been over a mile away, and I was trying not to walk too fast and to save some energy. Arrived at Preston Park at 8am, with just an hour to the start, and immediately joined the loo queue. 45 minutes later I just had time to strip off my outer layers, drop my bag at the baggage truck and go to my start pen.

Loo Queue
Loo Queue

As ever starting at the back it takes a long while for anything to happen, but after 10 minutes or so we heard clapping and saw the Elites come past us (they had a separate start). They just fly by, its beautiful to watch them run – so smooth! Another 10 minutes or so and we were off too. Walking, finally saw the start, and finally started jogging. Realised at this point that my gel belt was too heavy and loose, and was banging against my back, so as I crossed the start line I was trying to tighten it up. As we made our way around the park I spotted another couple of Runner’s World forumites (love it when people put their forum names on their shirts!) so had a little chat with them and then carried on.

First few miles were busy and crowded, and a little chilly and drizzly. I laughed at one lady peeling off and running into MacDonalds at mile 2 – I was hoping she was going to use the loo and not stop off for a quick burger! Saw runners going the other way on this section, as it was the first of many ‘switchbacks’ that the Brighton route has, in order to make up the miles. I actually find these sections hard as it feels like you’re not getting anywhere, but it helped once I realised I could work out how close we were to the turnaround point by the colours of the runners numbers. Once I was seeing Green (like me) I knew we couldn’t be far.

After 5 miles we were on the sea front and heading out to the East towards Ovingdean. Again there were already runners heading back to the West, 7 miles ahead of me. These were the super speedy runners though, and in a sadistic way it was good to see some of them looking like they were suffering (sorry – but it cheered me up. At least they looked like they were working hard!) This section seems to suddenly leave the city behind and heads up a hill. Actually, it looks like a hill and I remember I’d been assured it was a flat course, but looking at my Garmin its hardly a hill at all. Again I was watching the colours of the numbers of the runners coming back down the hill to gauge how close I was to the turnaround point. As I got closer to the large roundabout which I’d though was it, I saw we were directed off up a road to the left, which was disheartening to say the least.

I finally made it to the turn just after the 9 mile point. All was comfortable still at this point, I’d been sipping water at each water station and I’d had my first get at mile 6. I was keeping my pace at around 12 minute miles but as my Garmin was telling me I was at a mile well before the mile signs it was hard to know just how accurate my pace was. Running back down towards Brighton and the half way mark I was surprised how many people were already walking. Not surprised that they were walking, but that they’d obviously started too far ahead and set off too fast. This wasn’t planned run / walk, this was people looking shattered and broken.

The sun was out by now as we came back into Brighton and the crowds had gathered. I had LOTS of people shouting my name (the letters on my shirt were 4″ tall – the advantages of having a short name!) Maybe I just looked needy and desperate, I don’t know, but it was actually quite overwhelming as I felt I had to wave, or smile, or give a thumbs up to everyone who called my name. It wasn’t just my imagination either, at one point a runner in front of me turned around and said “So many people are calling your name??!!!!!”

Half way and I was feeling tired. Not sure if it was the lack of sleep over the previous few nights, or not enough breakfast, or the sun (or too much waving!) but despite sticking to my 12 minutes miles (and slower) I couldn’t help but think half marathons seemed a much better idea than a full marathon. I thought my family might have made it out by now, so I was scanning the crowds for them, but there was no sign of them.

By mile 15 I had a huge wobble. I had gone a long way, been out running for 3 hours, but there was still SUCH a long way to go. I’d been disappointed not to see my family, the sun was full out now, and I just felt it was all too much. They were handing out Shot Bloks here, so I grabbed some caffeinated ones and had a little walk as I chewed them. I had to give myself a serious talking to at this point, and then managed to get myself running again. Its hard having a wobble when people are shouting your name every few minutes. I did love the music that a few people were playing along this section (out of windows mainly) – although one song’s invitation to ‘Jump around’ I managed to decline.

Then I decided maybe I needed a loo stop, but of course there were big queues at all the portaloos and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing 15 minutes queuing like I did last year. I asked for Divine help and suggested to the big runner in the sky that if I would be better for a loo stop, could he make a loo without a queue appear, or even a large, secluded bush would do. Within 5 minutes, just as the road turns to loop back again at mile 16 I saw a church with its doors open and a sign saying “Open for Tea and Coffee. Toilets“. A sign!! I ran straight in, gasped ‘toilets!!??’ and was directed to a lovely, clean, real flushing loo, with loo paper and NO QUEUE! I could even wash my hands and wipe my face afterwards. See the power of prayer!!

I felt much better now, and set off feeling ready to push on. Brighton is such a great place – at mile 17 I high-fived the Queen as she sat having a picnic in the road with Prince Philip at her side. (Don’t think I was hallucinating at this point….!)

After mile 18 we were back on the coast, heading out to Shoreham Power Station which marks the West-most part of the course.It was just a case of plodding on at this point, putting one foot in front of the other. It was getting hotter, and there was a bit of a breeze now as well which was cooling but had me worried about finishing into a head wind. Again the returning runners were just on the other side of the road here, and again there were many people walking. Maybe this is why at mile 20 I had another little walk. I didn’t mean to, I just found myself walking. There were no crowds here which actually meant I could focus and pull myself together again. They were handing out more Shot Bloks at mile 21 so I had some more, sucked more water and set off for the final 5 miles. I tried telling myself it was just an hour from there, but that didn’t help so I stuck to thinking which of my runs at home were just 5 miles long.

At 23 miles we were running right along the front, past people outside their beach huts having picnics, around small children on scooters wheeling themselves right into the way of the runners.Still blazing sunshine, but the wind seemed to have dropped so it was warmer but at least it wasn’t hindering me. I was still scanning the crowds for my family, but there was no sign of them, and the crowds were still shouting my name like mad. I passed a block of apartments with a group of people on an upper floor balcony. They were on the other side of a very wide road, and STILL shouted my name out!

At 24 miles I thought “Just 2 to go!!!” but I swear they were the longest 2 miles I’ve ever run. I was so tired, and my right knee had started hurting. I had to stop acknowledging the crowd when they called my name because I simply had to focus on making it to the finish line. At this point I was telling myself I’d never run another marathon, it was just too far and too difficult to train for. Mile 25 – just one more to go – I don’t even think I was thinking anymore at this point, just keeping on going.

On the last mile - still waving
On the last mile – still waving

Past a sign saying ‘800 metres to go’, then 400 metres – but it was still taking far too long to get to the finish. I suddenly heard someone shouting my full name – I’d been blocking out the crowd, but this made me turn around – and it was my family!!!!! I gave them a big smile and a wave, but no way was I going to stop now! Suddenly I could see the finish line up ahead. My knee was hurting but I was nearly there. Then I was over it, I stopped my Garmin and I could feel my throat block with sobs. I held it together whilst I got my medal, my t-shirt, my goody bag, my banana etc, then found I was staggering past a large white tent. I just turned my face to it, turned my back to the world and had a huge bawl. I couldn’t breathe I needed to cry so much. It was just pure relief that it was over, that I’d done my very best, and I’d made it. I genuinely felt at that moment I couldn’t have run any better on the day.

It took a while to meet up with my family, and then of course I cried again.


Done! Final chip time was 5 hours 25 minutes and 41 seconds, and I’m extremely pleased with that.


3 Days to Go – Trains without Toilets

3 days and counting. Butterflies are really getting going in my stomach now, and the ‘To Do / Pack / Don’t Forget’ list is reaching War and Peace proportions. I thought I had my travel to the marathon start all sorted out, and only the lack of a mention of a buffet on the train made me start investigating. My plan had been to have a last cup of tea to wash down my flapjack on the 40 minute journey in to Brighton on the train.

Google made me worry by taking me to a site which was bemoaning the fact trains on the Portsmouth to Brighton line would no longer have toilets on them. Never mind worrying about the lack of a buffet – NO TOILET???!!

Without wishing to be too graphic about it, toilets on Race mornings are very important to me and my digestive system. Very urgent, in a nervous stomach kind-of-a-way. I managed to contact Southern Rail on Twitter to ask them if there really wouldn’t be a toilet on the train.


So its confirmed – no toilets on the train, and I should just go before I get on basically. Gulp. Maybe I’d better investigate the Tena Lady aisle in the supermarket before Sunday.

Anyone else had to cope with something like this? Can anyone offer me any advice (except maybe skip the cup of tea on the train, and keep my legs crossed!)

Taper Madness 2013

4 days to go! Taper madness kicking in with a frenzy. As fast as I tick things off my ‘must do before Brighton’ checklist, something else joins the bottom of the list.

I said TAPER not Tapir!

My iron-on letters for my shirt arrived today (tick). Now I’ve decided to iron them onto a separate piece of fabric which I’ll then tack onto my favourite running t-shirt so that I don’t have to run round Wiltshire all summer with my name emblazoned across my chest (adds to list).

I remembered to ask the neighbours about feeding the cats (my Black & Tabby that are my namesakes) this weekend (tick). Now I need to find someone else to feed them as my neighbours can’t do it (adds to list).

As well as ever increasing lists, tiny problems (mere snags really) become huge threats to my marathon success. Walking around the house bare footed the other day I managed to trip over something and grazed my toe. A very slight injury which I only really noticed several hours later when I saw blood on my toe. I’ve only taken some skin off the top, that’s all, but that was enough for me to feel it on my run yesterday and worry about it. That worry was enough to persuade me not to run today, so it could have time to heal properly. Heal properly for heavens sake – I’m not going to include a photograph of said toe because it will look truly pathetic. Still, better safe than sorry – I might really appreciate not having a sore toe on Sunday.

5 sleeps to go (or is it 5 sleepless nights?)

Test Driving my Race Day Gear

Having run all of my marathon training in long tights through the long cold winter, typically race day is currently forecast to be somewhat warmer. So the tights will have to go – but to be replaced by what? I have my lovely (albeit somewhat embarrassing) knee high socks to consider. This morning, having finally shaken off the cold that’s been stopping me from breathing for the last few days, I got ready for my first run in 5 days. Over my trusty compression socks I pulled on my lightweight capri length trousers. Oh dear – even my husband, who is used to my strange running outfits, sniggered at the sight. Think knickerbockers with tights underneath and you’ll get the picture.

There was nothing for it, it would have to be the shorts.
I also bravely wore my race day t-shirt but I also popped my faithful jacket over the top. After 5 slow, easy, glorious miles my legs were attractively pink but not too cold, and my top half was actually feeling too warm. All looking good for Sunday!

Marathon Training Starts!

In true Black and Tabby style, I started my training this morning for the 2013 Brighton Marathon by jumping in at week 2 of a training plan.After this year’s 16 week plan, I thought an 18 week plan was the best way to build the miles up more slowly than last time. Then I realised it was exactly 18 weeks until the race. Seeing as I hope we’ll manage a week’s holiday at Easter time,  this meant I was a week short and had to lose a week somewhere from the schedule. I decided it was better to lose it from the start of the schedule than the end, hence the diving in at Week 2.

Actually, I think I’d quite like to lose week 15, were the 4 runs are 5 miles, 10, 5 and 20. EEK!

This morning was just 3 miles. It was a very cold and frosty morning, but the sunrise was spectacular.