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London Marathon 2014

It’s been a month now since I completed the London Marathon. I’m still digesting, analysing and generally getting to terms with the whole thing.

People keep reminding me that I’ve run a marathon. Which is great, except that technically I ran most of the 26.2miles, but walked several bits towards the end. Not that this bothers me or makes me feel like I didn’t do my best, but it’s an important point and one I am very aware of.

I don’t feel that I’ve completed a marathon. It’s almost like it didn’t happen. I did try how to explain how it went and put into words the noise, crowding, and intensity of the thing in my London Marathon review post. And now, the more I consider it, the more I think that because I didn’t feel part of it at the time (because it was all too big and overwhelming and there was too much sensory input for my boor brain to compute), it makes sense that I don’t feel like I’ve run a marathon. How can I have memories of something I didn’t feel part of at the time?

And another thing has occurred to me – the monotony of the flat, urban course did not help. Running puts a lot of stress and strain on the body – it is repetitive enough as it is – but doing it for 5.5 hours and all on the flat makes it worse still. I think that’s why I walked a lot towards the end – my body just needed to feel a slightly different movement, to allow for a bit of easing off. I probably should have stopped to do some stretches.

What this all adds up to is that my head is still a bit mashed and I have absolutely no emotional connection to that day. I enjoyed it in many parts. But I still recoil in near horror at some bits. In particular – a group of women outside a pub who were encroaching on to the road, Champagne in hand, leaving us weary runners very little room. I could have smacked them, not only for making me feel boxed in, but for having the nerve to stand there with such delectable refreshments that I could not have!

I am now also a bit annoyed at the marathon for stalling my progress – I am definitely getting slower at the moment! On the one hand I don’t mind too much as mass road races where I chase a time are falling out of favour with me anyway, but on the other hand I would like to set at least a couple of PBs this year! But I do have to remember that a month isn’t really a very long time in terms of recovering from a marathon. I still get very tired quite quickly on days after running and I need to work on putting more good things into my body to help it get back on track.

Although I have been continuing my usual road and towpath runs out of necessity, what I really crave is greenery, hills and changing terrain. Which is why recent races like the Hot Cross Run and Bluebell Trail have been so damn brilliant, and why I’m running the Ilkley Trail Race next week.

Marathon distance remains a challenge and a source of huge excitement for me, and for this I am very grateful. I LOVED my long runs in training and am very glad I have already signed up for another marathon. I will be doing Kielder Marathon in October, which is an incredibly scenic, and hilly, route around Kielder Lake in Northumberland. It will be quiet and pretty and so not dull. Training starts next month – the countdown is on and this makes me very happy!

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On Sunday 13th April I (mostly) ran the London Marathon. It was a unique and interesting experience. And I have no intention of ever repeating it.

What follows is a haphazard account of the build-up, the race and my thoughts and feelings.

I travelled to London on the Friday to give myself plenty of time to visit the expo to collect my number that evening, and have a relaxing day on Saturday. The plan worked out marvellously – Rose and I wandered through the expo without incident (and without spending very much – I just stocked up on gels) and I went to the Old Operating Theatre Museum on Saturday, which was marvellous and not too tiring. I volunteered to be the “patient” so the historian could demonstrate an amputation – I told her about the marathon though so she made sure I survived the procedure!

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By Sunday morning I was feeling much calmer about the marathon and had decided that I wouldn’t try to do it in under 4:30. That just seemed silly and there was no need for me to go chasing after a time – it would be much more enjoyable if I just ran for the experience. I am glad I decided on this.

I got to the start area in plenty of time, coffee in hand, and straightaway bumped into my running club friends Emma, Jill and Graham who were helping out on the water stands. This meant we had a convenient meeting point so I also got to chat with Burjor, Jason and Kieran, and I spotted Lucy in the toilet queue.

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The friendly faces, plus the masses of room in the park and the good weather made for a very chilled out 90 minutes before the race. In fact, it was probably the most relaxed I have been before a race! Fantastic!

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In the start pen I bumped into someone I know online so more friendly chats to keep the nerves in check. And soon enough we were off. It took about 14 minutes to get to the start line, and straightaway there was plenty of support from the spectators lining the route. The sun was shining, music was blaring from various houses, and all was good with the world.

I really enjoyed the first few miles and couldn’t stop grinning. Here I was, my first ever marathon and I was running it in London. What a thing!

I stuck to my fuelling plan and avoided the temptation to drink loads at each water station. I ran just as fast or as slow as I felt like running, happily accepted jelly babes off firemen, high-fived various kids and did my best to soak it all up.

The miles added up and before I knew it I was running over Tower Bridge, which brought the first tears to my eyes. Soon after it was about halfway and I spotted the Kirkstall Harriers support crew on the opposite side of the road so gave them a good wave.

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At this point the route starts to get a bit bendy, and I think this is where I began to lose it a little.

The noise was just phenomenal.

I couldn’t see more than half a metre in any direction except for straight up because of the sheer amount of bodies around me, both runners and spectators.

It was sensory overload. People were clapping, shouting names, whistling and whooping. Various styles of music came and went, from brass bands to Led Zeppelin.

Sweets were being thrust at me from all angles, and everywhere I looked there were crowds of people drinking, waving banners and jumping up and down.

I felt like a molecule of water being carried along with the current. I was simply a small part in a mass race and there wasn’t room, time or mental capacity to run my own race, let alone enjoy it.

I couldn’t hear myself think, and consequently I couldn’t concentrate on my form or even give myself a pep talk. Everything was INPUT INPUT INPUT, with so much going on externally that I couldn’t do anything about what was going on internally. Intense does not even begin to cover it.

I started to slow considerably by about mile 17, and from mile 20 onwards there was a lot of walking. This didn’t bother me in the slightest – I was glad to just be going forward and not fussed about whether it took me another hour or three to get to the finish line. Add in the fact that it got very narrow in places, and that a lot of other people were walking, then jogging a bit, and it made for a very stop-start final third.

I ran the last mile or so, doing my best to ignore the noisy crowds, have a look at the Tower of London, the Eye and Parliament and give Her Majesty a quick wave. I crossed the line in 5:27:29 and was absolutely elated. I shed a few tears as I received my medal and tried to comprehend what I had just done.

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There were many times when I was enjoying myself. And many times where it really hurt. As usual, I put on a good show for the snappers and am smiling and skipping along in most of my official photos. I could grab on to small moments every now and then to relish the experience and realise what I was achieving, but as a whole the race went by in a blur and overall it wasn’t that much fun.

I just wasn’t a part of the London Marathon 2014. I was there in body, but not in mind. It was so lonely. I was simply part of something that was bigger than any of us, and as a result had no real individual identity in it.

It took me until Monday evening to properly look at my stats – I simply wasn’t bothered because I had finished it in one piece, and that was all that mattered. I did it and I am super proud of myself. But I won’t be running London Marathon again.

I loved the distance and I felt that I could have gone on running even longer had I needed to, so I have no worries about doing more marathons and ultra-marathons. But next time I need fewer people and greener surroundings.

Tapering is a process whereby you steadily reduce your mileage over a period of two or three weeks. Generally speaking, you run as often as in your earlier training weeks, but for nowhere near as long. The idea is that your body has chance to adapt and recover and can start the race raring to go. As the lady doing my nails commented this afternoon – it gives your body a chance to catch up – which I think is an excellent way of looking at it.

With just three sleeps to go until I run my first marathon I am well and truly in the grip of maranoia and taper tantrums.

Tapering has taught me many things:

  1. Signing up to a marathon is far too easy.
  2. Afternoon naps should be a legal requirement.
  3. To avoid runger-induced panic attacks the next meal/snack should never be more than an hour away.
  4. Coffee tastes amazing.
  5. Running = flying.
  6. Thinking more than five minutes into the future is impossible.
  7. It is quite acceptable to spend hours doing absolutely nothing.
  8. Hours somehow go by too quickly and too slowly.
  9. There is no such thing as too much Nutella.
  10. Packing is difficult. Really difficult.
  11. Everything hurts and feels great. Yes, at the same time, for no real reason and for about two minutes. Then something else hurts/feels great.
  12. My friends are as patient as the saints.
  13. Marathon training makes me really emotional.
  14. I am awesome.

 

Yes, really. The final week. On Sunday I will be running the London Marathon. Wow.

Tapering has gone to plan. In the past week I’ve run slow, fast, and somewhere in between. I had two runs with friends, which was ace, and have spent a lot of time with my feet up, eating. And making lists.

I’m pretty much ready for it. I know my schedule from when I get my hair and nails done on Thursday morning right through to train timetable to get to the start line on Sunday morning.

I now have to do three more runs and then I can crack on.

You can look back at my London Marathon 2014 journey, and on Sunday be sure to go to www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com where you can track me and any other runners you know. I am #8213.

Total: 22.1 miles

(all distances in miles)

Week 16

Monday: 3

Tuesday: cross train

Wednesday: 4

Thursday: 2

Friday: rest

Saturday: rest

Sunday: LONDON MARATHON

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A most excellent friend sent me this:

This time next week…

You would have done the following:

1. Completed your first (and prob not last) marathon.

2. Sworn more times in 4/5 hours than ever in your life.

3. Cried (good tears) every time someone said well done or hugged you.

4. Felt emotion that you have never felt before.

5. Drank gin (maybe a bottle).

6. Ate cake.

7. Swore again.

8. Eyed up at least one pretty runner.

9. Walked as if you have had ‘a good night’.

10. Showed anyone who ever doubted or upset you in the past that you are awesome!

 

I couldn’t have said it any better myself! Marathon training sure has been a fantastic journey. I so want to fast-forward to next Sunday morning, but I don’t want it to have to be over this time in seven days!

Fortunately, I have already signed up to another marathon … (yes, really – I’m doing Kielder Marathon on October 5th if anyone cares to join me!)

ARGGGHHHHHH!!! There’s going to be a lot of that in the next two weeks. Yep, just two weeks until I run my first marathon. And right on cue I am starting to experience taper madness, also known as maranoia. As well as worrying that I’m doing marathon training wrong, I’m also eating everything in sight, reverting to my lazy ways and generally being a weirdo.

The past week has been nice and steady. By which I mean I haven’t done much.

I managed to get out with the Kirkstall Harriers in what felt like the first time in ages, and ran two other days without worrying too much about where I was going or how fast.

I’ve had more rest days than usual with life getting in the way. On Tuesday I recorded my first radio show for South Leeds Community Radio – check out my running on air page for details. And with our county WI annual meeting on Saturday and Sunday spent watching Formula 1 I had the weekend off from running.

So it’s been a big drop in mileage very quickly, and more taper madness to look forward to! I have felt bad for missing two runs, but on the other hand it won’t do me any harm as such. The only risk now is bursting out of my running kit after eating too much!

Total: 19 miles

(all distances in miles)

Week 15

Monday: 4 (easy + strides)

Tuesday: cross train

Wednesday: 5 (race pace)

Thursday: v short intervals

Friday: rest

Saturday: 3

Sunday: 8

 

 

I’m starting to think I’ve been missing something out of my training, or that I’ve been running everything too slowly. Or just doing it wrong somehow.

Having completed all my long runs now, the most recent being 21 miles on Sunday 23rd (preceded by 3 miles on the Saturday and followed by 5 miles on the Monday), I’m in the process of tapering. Over the next few weeks I will be running just as often, but the notable difference is that the long runs are practically non-existent compared to recent weeks, dropping to 12 miles this weekend, then 8 miles next weekend. The weekend after is London Marathon, in case you can’t guess!

So, 13 weeks into training, and I have run just under 337 miles.

I’m not knackered. I’m not even that tired. Nothing hurts or feels like it’s going to drop off. I still have 10 toenails, and they are all a normal colour. My head is not mushy and I’m not gorging on all the carbs in sight.

All I want to do is run. And run. And then run some more.

By now I was expecting to be fed up of running, to hate the thought of doing any more miles, and to be too tired to do anything except moan about not being able to touch my toes or stand up straight. I thought I would be broken; crying out for a rest and bursting out of my clothes.

In actual fact I feel amazingly strong and ready for it. Famous last words? Quite possibly. But I’m very happy that I feel so great.

There are still three weeks to go, so plenty of time for things to go wrong. And although the distance doesn’t scare me I’m not sure how I’m supposed to magically run it so much quicker than I have been doing in training. I’m told that adrenaline, crowds and a bit of sheer willpower and determination will make it happen.

And in the end I suppose the thing to remember is that April 13th is the easiest and most straightforward bit – all I have to do then is run and enjoy it!