9 years after I ran London, my daughter’s boyfriend is this morning lining up on Blackheath getting ready to start. He will be way quicker than I was (he’s just not getting his money’s worth), but apparently was still nervous this morning.
Despite the difference in speed, some advice remains the same – all the usual old chestnuts like “nothing new on race day”, and “the halfway point us at 20 miles”still apply. I thought I’d pass on some of the best advice I was given 9 years ago , by a very experienced runner. He said “ Remember – Easy, Easy, Easy”.
Start off easy. You feel great, you’re excited, you’re anxious to get some miles under your belt. Before you know it you’re on for a 5K PB. Slow down and enjoy the mile you’re on.
Be easy on yourself. If you feel your sock starting to rub, or a leg that feels stiff, stop and sort it out. Your body will thank you in the later miles.
This is easy. You’ve got this. You’ve done the training (that’s the hard bit!), you’ve done the fundraising (even harder!), now you just have to enjoy this last long run.
Helpful or not, I don’t know, but I do know the mantra “easy, easy, easy” has helped me in many a race and long run.
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.
Read on the most excellent blog, Lazy Girl Running, is a tale of a runner who has set himself a series of challenges in order to raise £12,000 for ‘Street Child’, a charity which looks after street kids in kids in Sierra Leone. His blog is Beer Belly Running, and is well worth a read.
The second of his challenges was to be leading the London Marathon at the 400m mark. Bearing in mind that elite athletes like Mo Farah will cover 400 in 71 seconds, and that Beer Belly Running wouldn’t be starting on the front row with the Elites, this was no mean feat!
So much time has passed now (well, nearly 2 weeks, but it feels like a long time!) I’ve shown off my medal to many people, including a child who admired it and said “Did you win??!!”. I’ve been out for a couple of runs this week, nice and slow, but just great to be out on my quiet country lanes again.
After the marathon, it was shocking to learn of the death of a runner just before the end. Really brought it home how fragile life is, and how we must grab every minute we have and make the most of it. Amazingly, over one million pounds has now been raised in her name for The Samaritans. Quite a legacy.
One of the most impressive stats that was published was the following:-
Over final 7 km
I like passing people at the end of a race!
On a more practical note, I want to record my ‘nutrition strategy’ for the day, because it seemed to work, so might come in handy again.
Before I left the hotel at 7.15am, I had porridge, toast and tea for my breakfast. On reaching the start area I had another cup of tea and a flapjack, and then about 45 minutes before the start I had a banana. (I remember eating it, standing in the loo queue for the 3rd time!) I think I took 2 ibuprofen around this time as well. About 30 minutes before the start I ate one of the thick and gloopy PowerBar gels (which taste like Calpol smells, by the way!)
Around mile 6 I started on my ShotBloks, eating one per mile. Lovely little blocks of sugary goodness!
At mile 12 I had a High5 Isogel These are more like a drink than a gel, so much easier to get down. Taste quite naturally fruity rather than the artificial ‘orange squash’ gels they were handing out on the course.
At Mudchute, mile 17 I took a High5 IsoGel with caffeine and took another packet of ShotBloks with me. I ate a few of these from mile 20, but after a couple I couldn’t stomach anything else so didn’t bother.
Mental Note – DO eat something as soon as you can afterwards. I didn’t, and ended up feeling queasy and faint on a Tube and had to sit on the platform for a minute to recover.
There – I think that’s it. Now to plan the next one!
Following on from Part 1, I finally crossed the start line, reached down to start my Garmin watch only to find the wait had been so long it had gone into ‘Powersave’ mode. Much fiddling of buttons later, I got it started. I was surprised to see some people were walking over the start line and not starting running at all. With my rotten training I planned a run-walk strategy that meant I would walk for 2 minutes at every mile marker to save my legs. I’d been worried about walking so early on in the race, but seeing people not even starting to run made me feel better – at least I was going to run *most* of it!
The early miles passed by easily. I tried very hard not to think too often “I’m running the LONDON MARATHON!” because if I did, my eyes would fill with tears and my lip would do that strange wobbly thing that lips do when you’re trying very hard not to cry. Running past a large barracks where an Olympic Test Event was taking place was quite inspiring, as it was a shooting event. Big city + gun shots = run faster!! I had split the race into landmarks to aim for, as thinking about running 26.2 miles in one go was too daunting. Crossing the Meridian at Greenwich was the first of these. I was pleased to see the organisers had marked it with large red pillars with inflatable globes on the top so I couldn’t miss it! The Cutty Sark followed soon after, and this was as fantastic to see and run round as it was seeing on the telly.
My family popped up at around eight and a half miles at Surrey Quays. It was great to see them, if only to reassure me that they had all got up (they were all still in bed when I left!). By an amazing co-incidence, about 200 metres before I saw them, I spotted another family from my son’s school whose brother / Uncle was competing in his wheelchair.
Camcorder and Hooter at the ready
Receiving advice from my daughter
Back on the road again
The sun was feeling warm by now, and I was appreciating the water stations every mile. The next ‘landmark’ I was looking forward to was Tower Bridge – a truly iconic London landmark in anyone’s books. This was at 12.5 miles, so not quite half way. Running over it was as fantastic as I thought it would be – this was another moment when I could feel my eyes filling with tears.
Turning onto The Highway was like running into a wall of noise. I could see runners already heading back the other way, towards the finish line. Most looked strong, but some looked like they’d had enough already. I congratulated myself on reaching half way still feeling strong, and pressed on. At this point my shin gave up the grumbling it had been trying for the first six miles or so, as it obviously realised I was ignoring it. My knees had tried alternately feeling sore, but I ignored them as well. I was running this marathon, and nothing was going to stop me!
As I hit mile 14, I tried very hard not to think that this was all new territory, as my longest run in training had only been 14 miles. To take my mind off this unsettling fact, I thought about a colleague on a runner’s forum who had had to withdraw from the marathon in the last few weeks due to family circumstances. A group of us had decided to each run a mile for her, so she would be running a ‘virtual’ marathon with us.I remember feeling relief that this section was much quieter, and also the strange ‘velcro’ sound my shoes made on the road just after a ‘gel’ station. The road was so sticky, my shoes were literally sticking to it!
There was a short underpass here, and as I stopped to walk,a lady walking just in front of me started chatting to me. Wearing a ‘Help the Hospices’ shirt, she told me she’d had awful training as well, interrupted with injury, but like me she was determined to get to the finish, with walking breaks if necessary. She encouraged me, then set off running again. It was such a relief to find someone in exactly the same situation as myself, I felt really heartened.
Mudchute Runner’s World Supporters Point.
My mind was full of mile 17 now, and the famous Runner’s World ‘Mudchute’ cheerpoint. (I was relieved to find that Mudchute was the name of the DLR station, not some awful section of the route!) I saw my family just before Mudchute, then pressed on to find my friend Alice waiting there for me, with my extra supplies of gels and some veggie ‘Percy Pig’ sweets. She gave me a lovely hug (I was pretty sweaty by then, so it was very brave of her!), I remember telling her my hips were killing me, and she sent me on my way. The great bit was I suddenly realised it was now single figures to the finish – just 9 miles to go!
With this happy thought in mind, I suddenly decided I needed the toilet. Whether it was the gels catching up with my digestion,nerves, or just too much water, I knew I’d better stop before things became urgent. Every toilet stop for the last few miles had had enormous queues outside, so I’d not bothered waiting. Suddenly I came across a big line of portaloos with a relatively short queue, so I veered off the course and joined the queue. And waited. And waited. And did some stretches, and popped a couple of ibuprofen, and waited a bit more. We were under the line of the DLR here, where it travels on a large ‘flyover’ above the road. So I listened to the rumble of the trains as they went over, and watched hundreds of runners trot, jog and walk past. Some of the amazing and ridiculous fancy dress costumes I’d passed over the last few miles went past and I was starting to winder about the wisdom of stopping. Ah well – better than having to ‘do a Paula’ I guess! 15 minutes later I made it to the front of the queue and was soon back on the route.
Little did I know that this stop, as well as taking so much time, would be causing consternation and distress as far away as Wiltshire and Cornwall. As well as calculating an accurate time for our marathon, the timing chips on our shoes were being used to record our time every 5 Kms. This was being updated on the website, so that anyone could track your time and see how you were doing. Unbeknownst to me, for some reason my 30K time wasn’t showing on the website (I’m sure I didn’t miss any of the timing mats!), and then of course I was much later than expected to go over the 35K mat because of my long queue. My poor husband, whilst worrying over what had happened to me, was besieged by phone calls from family similarly worried as to what had happened. I’m surprised I didn’t hear the sighs of relief as I ran over the 35K mark!
On to Docklands and Canary Wharf, which were amazing. I’ve never really been around this part of London – I was getting a stiff neck from gazing up at the buildings! I vaguely remember a very noisy bus blasting out music, and also my family popping up several times around this area. All of a sudden the course made a sharp left turn, and we were heading for the finish line. Mile 20 – only 6.2 miles to go. I was thinking “well 6.2 miles is just a 10K race, and I ran 10K for my very first race back in 2009 so I know I can make it from here!”
When we reached the Highway, I remembered running on the opposite side of the road at the half way point much earlier. I could see the sweeper trucks in action, with men power-washing the blue line from the road and sweeping up thousands of water bottles. The gel packets were still stuck to the road though! I was amazed to see one lady walking, still in the race, but with the trucks right behind her. I do wonder if she finished the race – I do hope so. It must take a lot of strength of character to keep on going, knowing everything’s being packed away just behind you.
Keep on Running (or should that be swimming??)
The sun had long gone away at this point, and I could feel spots of rain starting to come down. The sky was getting blacker and blacker and I wondered if I could possibly make it back before the inevitable rain came down. It felt like most people were walking from this point on, and I did discover that the crowd will shout your name out if you are one of the few people still running. Also if you wave to a live band performing, they will shout out your name over their microphones. Also, you really know you are in London, when people shout, “GO ON, GAL!”
The route went though a tunnel – it was really dark, and I found the only portaloos on the course without a queue. I’m not surprised – they must have been pitch black inside! Coming out of the tunnel the rain had really started, along with a head wind which was not only cold, but was blowing bits from the trees right into my eyes. Squinting and splashing, I carried on. Suddenly in front of me, I saw the lady with the ‘Help the Hospices’ vest who had chatted to me earlier. She was walking, so I said hello, and tried to give her some encouragement, as she’d given me a boost earlier.
London Eye in the background. See how fast my feet must be moving!
Three miles to go, and onto the Embankment. Decided that I didn’t need to walk any more, so just ran from here on in. Most of the people around me were walking by now, and I admit it did feel good to pass so many people. Past a large billboard which said something like “Only 2.5 miles and you become part of history!” Amazingly my family popped up yet again here. I hadn’t been expecting to see them before the finish, but there they were – all getting wet, but still shouting and ‘hooting’ for me. When I’d seen them earlier, I’d stopped and had a little chat with them, however nothing was going to stop me now. I waved, and carried on.
Seeing Big Ben appearing in front of us was very exciting, as this was the part of the course I’d walked on the day before. I knew that although the finish was close, it wasn’t just around the corner so I shouldn’t start my sprint finish just yet (hem hem!). Along Birdcage Walk, turn right, suddenly Buckingham Palace was on the left. I saw a red haired man at this point, and did wonder if it was Prince Harry. Under the spectators footbridge with ‘Only 385 yards to go’ on it, and then we were in the Mall. I could see the Finish line!
Again I could feel tears welling up, but bit my lip. If I started crying now, I don’t think I’d have been able to stop. Finish line approaching, chose a ‘gantry’ to run under, cross the timing mats. Done. However, my body was still on automatic pilot to ‘keep on running’ and I actually carried on to the the next gantry before it dawned on me that I could stop running now! Staggered up a small ramp so people could snip the timing tag from my shoe, then down the other side to have a medal – THE medal put around my neck. Do you know, just typing this is making me feel emotional again! It felt very heavy, and wonderful as it bumped on my chest as I walked to have my official Finishers photo taken. I could feel the rain dripping off my nose as I posed, medal held high, but I didn’t care. Then I was given a goody bag, and a very kind St John’s Ambulance lady asked me if I wanted her to get my foil blanket for me. “Yes please!” She found it in the bag, helped me open and unfold it, and wrapped it around me. I’d always though people looked a bit silly wrapped in these blankets at the end of races, but I really appreciated how warm it felt.
I was really feeling the need to have a blub at this point – out of relief, out of amazement, just out of pure emotion. Unfortunately, the finish area is so highly organised (as it has to be) that there was nowhere private to just have a moment. I could feel my face screwing up and tears starting, but a marshal jollied me along saying “Its all right love, you’ve finished now!”, so I pulled myself together and found my baggage truck.
After getting my fleece on to warm me up, I made my way to the ‘Meet and Greet’ area where I’d arranged to meet my family. They weren’t there – which felt awful and lonely. Turns out they’d gone to try and find me, and we must have passed in the crowds. We finally met up, we took some photos, and set off to get back to the hotel. All I could think of now was the shower that was waiting for me! When I finally got into the shower I can’t describe how good it felt. I could have stayed in there for a long time!!
Worth every step
I honestly enjoyed every minute of the marathon. I do want to do another one, to see what I can do with all the necessary training this time! Probably not London again though – I think that may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and hopefully one I’ll remember for a very long time.
A much shorter Part 3 follows – just a few thoughts afterwards, and some things for me to remember if I do another marathon!
Bear with me, I need to write this report as much for myself as for anyone else. It was such a marvellous, crazy, hot, rainy, noisy, busy day, it all seems a bit of a blur now!
Okay. We reached London on Saturday lunchtime, grabbed some sandwiches and found the hotel. They let us check into the room early which was great, and my son was delighted with the view from the window.
Husband, daughter and son decided they were going to head to the Science Museum for the afternoon, whilst I set off to have a walk, stretch my legs and have a ‘recce’ of the finish area. So many inspirational books have advised seeing the finish line beforehand so you can really see yourself in your mind’s eye crossing it. I was a little worried I’d walked for too long, but was great to see the last part of the route, past Big Ben, along Birdcage walk, past Buckingham palace and into the Mall. They were still assembling the finish area but I saw enough to give me little butterflies in my stomach.
We met back at the hotel, and headed off for some dinner at a nearby restaurant I’d booked. Guess what – it was an Italian restaurant so I could have pasta! I abstemiously ignored my husband’s lovely looking cold Italian beer and gorgeous smelling glass of Montepulciano (although I couldn’t resist a little taste!) then back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Ha ha to that – slept very badly because I woke every couple of hours to check I’d set the alarm on my iPod. Was actually relieved when it was time to get up and just get started. Tiptoed out so as not to wake the others, had a disappointing hotel breakfast so tiptoed back upstairs to make a pot of instant porridge and eat a banana. Got myself all ready, double and triple checked that I had everything, kissed everyone goodbye and slunk out to catch the coach at 7.15am.
The coach journey was fine, although seeing the coach driver studying a large map as we boarded the coach was a worry, as was the U-turn he had to make as he’d missed the turning. Fortunately we arrived in plenty of time and I bounded off the coach, following the crowds towards the ‘blimps’ showing where the start areas were. Blue start seemed fairly empty and quite peaceful in the sunshine. Found a spot to sit in the sun on my bin bag, sipping a cup of tea and eating a flapjack and listening to the music they were playing (London Calling by The Clash – very appropriate!)
Its oh so quiet, ssh shh!
Managed to queue 3 times for the loo, with the queues getting longer each time. Saw the start of the Women’s Elite race on the big screens, then we were being told to put out kit bags onto the baggage trucks and make our way to the start ‘pens’. I was in pen 9, so right at the back. We all huddled together with some nervous chatter going on, I texted my husband to let him know we were nearly ready, to which he replied they’d just had a delicious, and enormous breakfast and were getting ready to head out for their long day. We never heard the starting ‘horn’, but slowly started shuffling forward towards the Start line. I’d been warned it can take 30 – 40 minutes to cross the line so wasn’t getting too excited yet. I managed to remove my fleece jumper and toss it to the side without hitting anyone this time. We shuffled and shuffled, and around 20 minutes later the Start line was in sight.
So I did it! I survived! 26.2 Miles – done! I have done the London Marathon, I have the medal and am (still) wearing the T-shirt. Truth be told, I only took my medal off because I realised I’d got sunburn on the back of my neck and the ribbon was rubbing it.
It took me 6:07, I took my little walk breaks every mile as planned, and I ran the last couple of miles, passing so many walkers. My husband and kids managed to dash around London and see me SIX TIMES! (I think they deserved a medal as well.) The noise and support from the crowds was great, although at times I did find it a little over whelming. Well, I run on my own, usually on little country lanes with just a few cars, tractors and the wildlife to keep me company.
I need to write a proper race report, if only to get it all straight in my head. I also have various pictures my husband took along the way.
My last short run today. Felt strange – and very short!
Getting very organised now. I have bought my official ‘manky fleece’. This is to be worn before the start, so that I can keep warm right up until kick off. (What do you mean, marathons don’t have a kick off?) Then it is cast aside with everyone else’s ‘manky fleeces’, bin bags, old gloves etc. These are collected up and recycled, so its not just throwing them away. Unfortunately, I’m quite fond of the one I found in the PDSA shop today – might be a wrench to leave it behind.
Second organised thing done today – ironed my name onto my Dorothy House charity vest. Didn’t burn or melt it (phew!) and its looking very smart. It has my real name, and “B&T” (for those that know me by that name).
Off to London tomorrow, to the ‘Expo’. I have to go and collect my running number in person, so a mad dash up & back between school drop off and home comings has been organised. I’m hoping to meet some of the people I’ve been sharing this madness with online, but its such a huge place, with so many people going to be there, I know we’ll be lucky if we do manage to meet up. But hey – you never know!