So that’s it then! Five months of training, dragging myself out for long slogs in all weather, amazing myself at being able to achieve distances I never thought possible, all culminating in a huge carnival of noise, sweat and pain! It’s taken me a couple of days to think about what I wanted to say about the experience and, now that the dust has settled a bit, and I’ve gained some perspective, I can say that I genuinely enjoyed quite a lot of it. I also hated a fair bit of it, but on reflection I think the positives outweigh the negatives by some way.
It certainly didn’t go quite to plan though.
I loved the atmosphere of the start. Everyone was excited and nervous and friendly and chatty – you’d hardly know what we were all about to put ourselves through! It was the 35th anniversary of the London Marathon this year and they were going big on the theme of ‘hand-in-hand’, to commemorate the joint finish of Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen back in 1981. The big screen replayed that moment quite a few times, plus of course Paula’s amazing finish from 2003. I have to admit to shedding a few tears while watching those scenes – I knew I would, but I bet I wasn’t the only one. The only regret I have about that bit was not bringing a bin bag or something to sit down on – it was too wet to just sit on the grass and two hours was a long time to stand around on feet that were going to be doing a lot of work. Oh well, live and learn.
I was pretty much at the back of the pack when I set off. I didn’t actually cross the start line until 10:38, so the elite men were already closing in on the Cutty Sark before I’d hit start on my watch. For some reason all my running apps decided to fail on me, so good old reliable Garmin it had to be – although this means I don’t have a pretty map of my route. Oh well, you know what it looks like.
The second hitch in the plan was thanks to a nervous bladder. I was really careful not to drink too much in the hour before the race, but my bladder decided that Sunday was the day to be uber sensitive and by mile 8 I knew I had to stop or it would just get too uncomfortable. It was an unexpected disappointment as this had never been an issue on any of my long training runs. And it added well over 10 minutes to my time, thanks to the queue.
Apart from the annoying toilet stop I loved the first half of the race. I was surprised to find running through the streets of Charlton and Woolwich was a joy (for some reason I was expecting this bit to be quiet and a little dull) and I loved waving to all the residents, with their speakers in their windows and BBQs in their gardens. My friends and family were all waiting for me at around mile 12 and I was so excited to see them that I nearly crashed into another runner while I was waving at them. Oops. I did almost exactly the same thing just a little way down the road when I passed my first charity cheer squad on Tower Bridge. Oops again. Apparently waving and running is not a thing I can do.
The third hitch was all my own doing really. I was so frustrated at having lost time at the toilet stop that I tried to make up time, which meant that by mile 15 I really started to suffer. I basically hated pretty much the whole of the Isle of Dogs bit. It was painful and hard going and I knew I still had a long way to go, which made it worse. How I managed to look so cheerful for another charity cheer squad at Mudchute is beyond me, but somehow I did!
My mood lifted considerably once I passed the Tower of London and I knew I was on the home straight. I started to enjoy it again and got a major boost when I saw my family again on the Embankment, just past mile 23. The final miles were still painful, but I knew at that stage that I was going to finish and it was all going to be OK!
As I turned into The Mall I could hear the announcer encouraging us to finish hand-in-hand with another runner to mark the 35th anniversary. Someone running next to me asked “shall we?” and we ran the last 385 yards holding hands, crossing the line together. I think you can tell from this photo just how happy I was to finish…
So that was that. My first – and possibly my last – marathon is done. I finished in 5 hours and 10 minutes (damn that loo stop!) and it was an experience like no other. Was it worth it? On Sunday night I told my husband that it definitely wasn’t. Now that the pain has subsided and the pride has grown, I can say it definitely was. I’m a fickle thing. Not sure I’ll ever do another one, but you know, never say never…
It’s weird this tapering lark. Feels very counter intuitive, but I must admit that I’m not feeling all grumpy cat about it quite yet, even though I understand that this is apparently a thing. It was quite nice setting out for a 12 mile run on Saturday morning and feeling that this wasn’t so long, though it’s a strange old world when you think that 12 miles is not really a long run…
All good with the training, nothing much to report. The law of sod being what it is, I managed to run during the only bit of bad weather London saw this weekend and so got a proper drenching in the 12 mile run. It made the last few miles less than pleasant, but at least it meant that the Thames Path was just for us loony runners that morning.
I realised that I haven’t updated you all on my fundraising for the Evelina for a while, but I’m happy to say that this has been going well too, which is brilliant – and also a massive relief, I must admit. The pressure of raising such a huge amount is almost as daunting as the weeks of training, but I’m nearly at my target so I think I can finally relax and start looking forward to the race!
I think that’s all for this week. I’m tapering my blog posts too 🙂
The big week in The Plan. A total of 40 miles, with a long run of 20 miles. Peak week.
As is now almost predictable, the shorter runs did not go quite to plan. The Plan called for two five mile runs and one 10 miles during the week, but that cold that surfaced last weekend developed into a bit of a nasty cough, so I had a few days of enforced rest until it eased off. Thankfully the long weekend meant that there was a bit of wriggle room with some extra days off work, so I decided to shift my long run from the usual Saturday to Sunday and do two 10 mile runs during the week – one extending my usual run-commute route on Thursday and one local loop on Friday.
The run into work was OK, but a bit of a slog by the end. Perhaps I was still feeling sluggish from the cold, perhaps it was just a slow morning. Who knows. I also decided to stop a little earlier than planned as my route took me past the fire on Kingsway (which knocked out pretty much every building in the Covent Garden area except the one in which I work, pah) and it was still really smokey and unpleasant. So my run was 9.7 miles rather than 10, but I figured that was close enough.
What a difference a day makes though, as my 10 mile run on Friday morning was a treat. I felt strong and comfortable for the whole hilly route and recorded my fastest time for this distance, so that was very pleasing indeed. The way I felt after this run really helped to boost my confidence about the impending BIG ONE. I haven’t particularly enjoyed the training runs themselves, but what I have enjoyed has been experiencing what my body (and mind) is capable of achieving. Distances that were once scary, or even impossible, now feel comfortable and enjoyable.
Well, some of them!
So, on to the 20 miles. I took the same route as I’ve done for the last couple of long runs, so it was down the hill to Greenwich, then along Woolwich Road to the Thames Barrier, where there is a lovely little park area which was blooming with primroses. Gorgeous!
Then onto the Thames Path and back west towards central London. For the first time in a few weeks the weather was nice and quiet and I really enjoyed the first 14 or so miles. After then things started to go a little awry. The weird mix of boredom and fatigue started to set in, plus I noticed that my Nike+ app was going a bit wonky. It was also stupid busy with tourists which meant there was a lot of weaving and shuffling and breaking of stride. At mile 17 I was feeling quite disheartened. I knew I had probably run further than the app was telling me and although I still had plenty of strength left to finish, I just didn’t really want to.
So I stopped. Just for a minute or two. I stopped, leant up against a wall and gave myself a good talking to. That did the job. With the promise of just another 30 or so minutes of running left, I turned around and headed back towards London Bridge.
20 miles – my longest ever run – job done. I finished in just under 3hrs 45 mins, so my hope of a sub-5hr marathon is alive and kicking. I’m delighted that I did it. I’m almost certain that I actually ran a little bit further than my app says (there is a weird missing chunk in between miles 13 and 14), but I don’t care how long it was really, I’m just glad that I did it and that I felt OK for most of it.
Good then, so it’s all downhill from now on. Bring on the taper! Bring on the marathon! Grrr!