It’s the day before the Bristol to Bath marathon. I’m trying to rest as much as possible (hello sofa!), whilst carb loading (hello flapjacks) and hydrating (hello little girls’ room). I know what I need to take tomorrow, I have a lift to Bristol arranged, I have my refuelling plans made and I have my race day outfit sorted. So why don’t I feel ready for the race tomorrow?
This isn’t my first marathon – it’s my third. Has the novelty worn off? No – I still get ridiculously nervous before any race, no amount of familiarity seems to change that. My taper was less of a gentle reduction in mileage and more of an abrupt brake to zero, but I’m not too worried about that either: I’m rested and injury free.
My previous marathons have been away from home, involving a hotel stay, a restaurant pre race meal and complicated family arrangements. Tomorrow I will have slept in my own bed. I will have eaten a home cooked meal. I will have had my usual porridge and favourite cup of tea. It feels more like preparation for a final long run than a race. I have realised though, that that’s okay. My long runs have all gone well in training – no pressure, no hassle, just a long way to run. I suspect the hard middle miles of tomorrow won’t have roads lined with applauding spectators so like my training runs I can just concentrate on running rather than high 5-ing or waving. I’m even considering taking my ipod for some podcasts. Too relaxed an attitude? I’ll find out tomorrow.
After my massive 22 mile run on Wednesday, I was slightly nervous about how my legs would feel standing or sitting all day at work. (This was a day’s work being an “Extra” – hardly hard work, but it does involve sitting or standing around for many hours, just waiting for someone to tell you to go somewhere). There were no period costumes involved, so thankfully so fear of another corset or wig, but even so I chose my comfiest ‘smart’ shoes to take and hoped they would be acceptable.
It was an early start, but luckily only 3 minutes drive to set. I felt very guilty later on when people were saying “No, I didn’t come far, only about an hour and a half’s drive. How long did it take you to get here?” Amazingly, my legs felt fine. After sitting for a couple of hours I did creak just a little when I got up, but honestly nothing like I thought I would be. I could feel my piriformis muscles needed stretching, but go and google what those exercises look like and then appreciate how, dressed as a “posh business woman” I couldn’t really do them in public.
On the next day, Friday, it seemed like a good idea to go and find a big hill to run up whilst my legs were tired. (It’s not as mad as it sounds – the marathon course has two big hills, one at 14 miles and one at 20, so this is exactly what I need to be doing). One hilly 7 mile run later my legs were still feeling pretty good (but yes, tired) and I was feeling quite smug.
I was ready for a nice restful weekend starting with a lie in on Saturday morning, but my legs had other ideas and had me wide awake with twitching legs. “Oh all right” I told my legs “we’ll just have an easy trot round parkrun, to stretch you out”. * There was obviously a breakdown in communication, because I actually ran my 3rd ever fastest time at Chippenham parkrun.
This week saw the last long run on my homemade training schedule. I ran 21 miles last week, so thought I’d better run at least this far this week. I also wanted to run a new route, just to give myself a change. After much plotting on an online route mapping website, I stitched together a route of 21 miles that included many bits I’ve run before and a few new streets. I even printed myself off a map and a basic list of directions in case I forgot where I was going.
It was a good route. I ran on little country lanes and along main roads, by the side of the canal and up a by-way, past a filming location for the next day* and one that was already set up** as I trotted through.
It was hard, it took me a long time, but it was surprisingly okay. The sun came out, so it was warmer than last week but I had plenty of water and fuel with me. Actually I did wonder if I should have had more fuel, as I only ate two gels and half a sandwich thin over these 22 miles. One to ponder. I was very pleased that I managed to create this amazing route which didn’t overlap itself at all, until I got home and realised I was just 0.4 miles off a massive 22 miles so (of course) I had to run up the lane and back down just to round it up. What do you think of that, Spice Girls – “When (twenty) one becomes twenty (two)” is much better than your version.
An upsetting recurring theme to this run was dead animals. I seemed to regularly pass corpses – squirrels, a rat, a pancake-flat hedgehog and worst and smelliest of all a deer. I was nearly at the bottom of the last hill back home, on a remote footpath, when I realised I could see something on the path ahead. As I got closer I realised it was a deer – and it was alive! I started walking and fumbling to get my phone out to try and take a picture, and as I tried to focus my bleary eyes I realised there were actually 3 deer. Of course as I got closer they ran off, but I managed to see them again in a neighbouring field.
I always say if you see a deer it makes it a special day – so to see three, on the day I ran 22 miles … wow!
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.
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. 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…
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.
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…
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!
Here it is at last – my last week of ‘proper’ marathon training. In other words, my last week of increasing mileage before the taper, when I gradually cut it down to give my legs a rest before the big day.
After last week’s lack of long run, I had good intentions for this final week. Unfortunately the boiler had other ideas, and my diary was already full of British Gas engineer’s appointments, and men coming to quote for a new boiler (sssh – don’t tell the old boiler. Its only just hanging on to life by its toenails and the news its going to be replaced might just push it over the edge).
So no running on Monday.
On Tuesday I was delighted when my final ‘man’ left at 12.15 and I thought “I can run!!”, but then realised I hadn’t eaten since 7.30am, and I needed to go to Sainsburys as well. So quick lunch, speedy trip to the supermarket and still fitted in a quick-ish 5.5 miles. managed to arrive back just before the school bus arrived in the village so my children were excused the embarrassment of a bus full of their peers seeing their Mum in running gear.
On Wednesday an engineer was due to arrive between 12 and 2 to fit the part that would fix the boiler (hooray!!), although I had begged him to be as late as possible. I stuffed porridge into my face at 7.30am, got the children out of the door for their bus, rollered my calf muscles, sprayed Deep Heat liberally (sorry cats!), grabbed water and gels and made it out the door by 8.25am.
Around 16 miles later I was heading back into the village and it was just before 12.00. I really wanted to run further, but I really REALLY didn’t want this engineering saviour to get to the house before I did, and then go away again. So I did what any sensible, desperate-for-heat-and-hot-water marathoner-in-training runner would do, I ran into the house (in my very muddy trainers – oops) to see if he’d rung yet and left a message. He hadn’t, so I took the chance to run another mile and check back again.
Still no sign of him, so I ran up and down the lane by the house so I could see if his British Gas van came up the lane. By 19.1 miles it was twenty five past twelve and I chickened out and decided not to push my luck any further, so I called it a day. I shot inside and had the quickest shower ever as I was convinced that as soon as I stepped into the hot water the doorbell would go.
Typically, he finally rang me at quarter to two and said he’d be delayed as he had to go and help a colleague. Pffst! So I could have finished my first ever (training) twenty mile run, however I am still glad I made it to 19 miles, as I know I could have staggered on for another mile.
So that’s the last long run done. I’m very glad that’s it, as I am very tired and my legs have been twinging and moaning. I have discovered I can hear their complaining less if I stuff them into my compression socks, although its hard work getting them on and off again! I just hope I’ve done enough this time. A friend did point out I’ve managed much more training than last year, however last year’s target was just to make it to the finish line. This year I have a time to beat!
On a run through our local Stately home grounds, the path goes over a little old stone sided bridge. As you get closer to this bridge, you can see lots of carved names, and initials in the stone.
“Pah!” You might say, “what are people like? Almost as bad as the litter in the lanes I’ve seen this morning.”
Before you get too huffy (and before you start me off about fast food littering – that’s a whole post in itself!), let me tell you the story behind the carvings.
During the First World War, Corsham Town Hall was used as a hospital for soldiers. As part of their recuperation they were encouraged to walk in the grounds of Corsham Court. Apparently, if they were well enough to reach the little bridge (about a mile away) then they were well enough to be shipped back out to the front line. The carved names and initials were made by these young men.
After running over the bridge and looking at the carvings (as I do every time I run this way) within 2 miles I ran past the town’s War Memorial. The thought that stuck in my mind was wondering how many of the names from the bridge ended up on the memorial?
What a waste. Let’s make sure we live our lives fully as a mark of respect.
So week 11 – the first of the scary weeks of my marathon schedule. The 4 miles with my outrider was fun. The 8 miler was done wearing my compression socks whilst the children (allegedly) did their homework. It went well, my shins felt fine (hooray!) and some homework was even done (not by me).
Plans for the 18 miles had to be more complicated, as the children hadn’t been given that much homework to keep them out of mischief for the amount of time it would take me to run 18 miles. Final scheme involved the children going to be spoilt at their grandparents whilst I ran from their house.
This was a fine plan, except I hadn’t considered how this would confuse my subconscious. My longer runs have often gone out towards where my parents live as the half way point, and then turned back. So as I set out on my long run my subconscious was telling me I must be at least half way through, whilst my brain and Garmin were telling me I still had quite some way to go. The run was therefore hard right from the start. Reaching mile 6, which should now feel like a short run, and having to reassure myself that I’d made it through a third of my distance (woo!) was sobering.
To cut a long run (and story) short, I eventually made it back to my parents’ house, after 18.7 miles and over 3 and a half hours. My shoes and legs were filthy again (surprise surprise, the river bank was still extremely muddy) but my shins were no more sore than any other party of my body. A couple of photos I took as an excuse to stop and have a little breather.
At the end of the canal. An ‘Arfur Boat’ safely in a ‘dry’ lock. My kids would have loved this a few years ago!
Scary bridge over the River Avon
Cycle Trail signpost. ‘Only’ 5 miles back to Calne from here. Sigh.
After such an exhausting run, I decided to swap the last 4 mile ‘easy’ run for a lovely bike ride, in the Forest of Dean, with my gorgeous family. A good change, good to spend some time as a family doing ‘stuff’, and we still got muddy. Roll on week 12 – an easier week!