Monday, 7 April 2014

I DID IT: I am a marathoner

In November last year I ran a 10k in 1 hour 9 minutes and decided to sign up for the Manchester, UK marathon.

Yesterday (6th April) I ran the last 10k of the marathon in 1 hour 7 minutes. In five months, I managed to not only knock minutes off my 10k, but I managed to knock minutes off it after running 20 miles.

Look they gave me a medal and everything.
I always approached the marathon with a sense of caution, I didn’t want to aim for an amazing time and be disappointed when I crossed the line. So it was with great surprise when I found myself sprinting over the finish as the clock read 4 hours 45 minutes.

I would have laughed at you, if you had told me that would be my first marathon time.

And in a way it seemed part happy accident, part stubbornness and partly admitting to myself that maybe I was much fitter than I let on.

I had originally planned to run a 5 hour marathon, by joining a 5 hour pace group. Pace groups for the initiated are basically runners with big flags on their back; who keep you at a steady pace to you finish at the right time.
Before the race: I don't normally look like this at 6:30am.

They are good, because they force you to keep steady and keep you going when it gets rough.

I spent the first few miles running with the 5 hour pace group, made up of jolly Manchester guys who played 80s songs from a speaker on their iPod and kept waving at all the elite runners going past. It was a nice way to start.

However, I decided to speed ahead to find a port-a-loo and catch them up later. This is how I accidentally found myself in the 4:45 pace group, and caught up with my running partner.

I found the pace to be pretty good, and managed to catch them up easily after finding a free toilet. We pounded through Altrincham, one of the more picturesque bits of the route. (Better than the bit at mile 23, when all you could see was fields and a sign directing us to the Sewage works - grim.)

We hit the half, and I felt fine. In fact, I felt good! Who have I become?!

I’m not sure at what point it was that I let myself believe I would make it under 5 hours, maybe around 16 miles when I ran past my parents and still felt strong. Or at mile 23 when my pacer told me next time I could do a 4:30 marathon (next goal!)

Finally at mile 24, I hit the wall, my legs hurt and my energy ebbed away. This was the first time I walked in the whole thing. I still cannot get my head around this, I ran consistently for 24 miles (that’s over 4 hours!)

I lost the group at mile 24, and let myself walk a little. Finally, I got to the point where I could see Old Trafford and began plodding down the road. As we turned the corner and I saw the finish, I did something I never thought possible – I sprinted. My pacer was on the line and shouted me in. It was glorious.

And here’s the strangest thing, it was great fun. I genuinely enjoyed it. All the crowds cheering on the sides, and shouting my name! Chatting with random runners along the road.

Feeling strong up until around 20 miles, and only letting it hit me at 23 miles. Seeing my friends standing with a banner, at a point when I was nearing the “god what the hell am I doing” stage. Though all I managed to say to them was: "I am about to fucking die" as I went past.

In five months, I went from running a 10k for the first time, to completing a half marathon to finishing my first full marathon in 4:39:53 (I didn’t go over the start for 5 minutes).

But wait, how the hell did I get there?

In all honesty, I have no idea. And I have a sneaky suspicion if I can do it, anyone can.

Here is a collection of injuries I collected over the course of my training (some not even running related):

  • Spin splints
  • Weird hip pain (I think its basically sore IT band)
  • Ripped the skin of both knees when falling over while running
  • Fell out of a loft onto my elbow
  • Fell over on some ice bruising my knees at NYE
  • Random ankle pain
  • Some lovely chaffing in my armpits during the marathon

Mmmmm chaffing. 
I missed some long runs, neglected my strength training and did lots of unhealthy things to my body. So yeah, no one is more surprised than me at that time!

But the main thing is – would I do it again?

I’m already trying to organise one for 2015.

Berlin marathon anyone?

(And yes my legs hurt today).

Apparently I picked up a men's t-shirt, I don't really care. 


EVERYONE who sponsored us! You’re all legends. We’ve made £1,202 so far.

My Brussels (and Maastricht) buddies for pretending to be interested in me talking about this, and letting me make terrible training decisions without too much judgement (another beer anyone?)

My Manchester friends for coming out on race day (with a Bruce Springsteen related sign!), and bringing me food while I lay mildly comatose afterwards.

My dad for passing on the wisdom of a former runner.

AND FINALLY the most important two people:

My mum, for being awesome during a pretty rubbish time. For listening to me doubt myself constantly and for being there on the day to shout support.

Gerrie Evans, my running buddy and constant support throughout this whole ordeal/journey.

For any running people (non runners might get bored now):

I drank water at every stop, and carried it with me until the next one – swapping it at each one. It worked well.

I had three energy gels with me, and ate all the ones along the track (six Clif bar shot gels). First one mile 6, mile 12, and then anytime I could my body dropping after that. I think this helped me stay running for such a long time. No stomach problems at all!

Breakfast: Toast, peanut butter and jam. Banana and some beetroot juice. 500ml of water with Nuun hydration mixed in.

Pace: 10:45.


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