As I’m lucky enough to be healthy, I wanted to keep up my race commitments this year as much as I could. Mostly because entry fees are steep, & I’ve already lost out on two race entries in the last 12 months due to circumstances beyond my control. So I’ve still been completing races (but not racing) 😀
Edinburgh Marathon doesn’t really count because it was so early in the first trimester, but I am slightly pleased to know that my breathlessness, perceived effort & generally feeling ‘off’ was probably due to making a human from scratch rather than not training well enough. I look forward to telling my offspring that I ran a marathon with them when they were an embryo.
Run The Blades was already entered, & was never going to be a pb effort for the distance even if I was at full fitness: a hilly trail race on a midsummer Friday evening has enough factors making it difficult . Never at my best during evening races, it’s tough underfoot, has a lot of narrow sections and a selection of steep & long hills. I stayed very steady and kept an eye on my heart rate, dropping the speed if it got too high. Which it did, but I am sure a one off is fine. I am sure that hill is more than 30m elevation.
Great North Run was unexpectedly hot & as noted in the debrief, probably a bit too far. Had it not been a race I would have called it a day at 10 miles. The evening & the next day was quite like post-marathon stiffness, which worried me a bit, but with proper rest and stretching, I was back at the gym a few days later.
So far, running’s been consistently ok. Perceived effort is difficult to manage, mostly because working harder for a slower pace is messing with my brain a bit. I thought I would get frustrated with going slower – parkrun is the worst, as all my local ones are 3-4 laps and I am getting overtaken a lot – but it’s for the right reasons. In the couple of weeks when I felt very tired and nauseous, gentle running or training in the gym made me feel better, which was a great help once I’d actually managed to get out the door. Iced water also really helped, as my sense of smell was very heightened & the chemical scent of room temperature tap water was very unappealing.
My last race this year will be the Great Scottish Run 10km, tomorrow. It’s a race I’ve done every year since I started running properly, except 2018 when I failed to start due to not feeling well on race day, and I missed it a lot. Things can change on a weekly basis in terms of how I feel and what I can achieve, but for now it seems like a good way to end the season: seven races, over half of them pregnant. Back in December, when I was planning my marathons & everything else around them, I had no idea it would end up like this. But I’m grateful for every day I feel able to exercise, & much stronger & happier for doing so.
With two marathons out of the way by the first half of 2019, I’d always intended a rest & a change in training after the plan was over and done with. I had no idea what kind of change was coming.
Finishing the Edinburgh Marathon with a glance to the finish line & the beginnings of a smile. Stressing afterwards about my slow time, which I’m now firmly pinning on the new knowledge that I’m nearly six weeks pregnant in this photo. I had absolutely no idea. After a very strange couple of months, it’s quite easy to look back now & think how could I not know.
Well, tiredness, nausea and hunger are also pretty common in marathon training & the days following a race. When my period didn’t show up I thought that was due to stress. I didn’t fancy a glass of wine after finishing Edinburgh but I assumed that was tiredness and sunburn. (The more I write this, the more it seems like classic denial…)
But something clearly wasn’t right. Similarly to Kelly, my heart rate was up for quite a few days after the marathon, which isn’t normal. My resting heart rate is quite low, but was still 10bpm higher than usual over a week later. It’s remained around that ever since. I am more obsessed with my Garmin stats than ever.
My menstrual tracking app sent me a helpful notification to think about maybe doing a pregnancy test. I put it off for a few days until realising I had social events coming up that would involve drinking so it might be better to know beforehand.
I took three tests over two days, & reader, they were all positive within what seemed like seconds. Like any millennial with questions, I immediately began googling & figuring out what the hell had happened & what my options might be. I’ve never been remotely broody or maternal, but since hitting my thirties I had been sliiiiiightly more curious about the potential of children, as well as facing up to the reality of ageing. And always envious of those who seemed so sure of what they wanted, whatever it was.
I’ve discussed these feelings so many times with friends of similar ages and stages who feel exactly the same way – happy as we are, but apprehensive about the future and continually fearful of making the wrong choice. That’s not the same as specifically wanting to have a child, though, which has never appealed strongly.
Nothing like having the choice made for you, then. Once the initial shock had worn off, which took a good few days, I surprised myself when continuing the pregnancy seemed like the right thing to do. The status quo usually appeals to me, although this has the highest of all stakes attached to it.
A few things happened, then: I tentatively went for a 5km run at a very steady pace, & enjoyed it. I stopped drinking coffee & the crushing tiredness set in & I had to go to bed at 9pm most days. ‘Morning sickness’ was more ‘daytime nausea’ & only relieved by constant beige snacks – mostly salt & vinegar peanuts and Babybels – but was luckily quite mild compared to some horror stories I’ve heard.
I read some good books & started drinking small amounts of coffee again. Plenty of other irritating early pregnancy symptoms appeared, but I’ve never done this before & there was always a vague feeling that this was some sort of elaborate joke, or my body playing tricks on me.
Then, there it was.
So, yeah. Truly the next level.
The whole summer so far has seemed like limbo, & punctuated with fleeting thoughts of “I wish I’d known that was the last time I would do x/y/z/whatever”. I’m pleased that 2018 was so good in so many ways. I know it seems a bit fatalistic to assume everything will be less good from now on, but as someone who’s never had any broodiness or soft-focus daydreams of parenthood, it’s difficult to change perspective, & I really like my life the way it is. I’m apprehensively happy about where I’m headed, but there’s no void to fill, no emptiness, no desire for change that women getting older are supposed to have.
Luckily, I do have good role models in real life and online. Those I’ve known for a while but didn’t think their situation and experience would ever be relevant to me; those who I’ve recently discovered following this change in trajectory; those who are in the same boat, or have been, but I didn’t pay attention at the time. Reading and listening is good, especially now life must slow down & I am taking more time to rest & relax rather than prioritising exercise & socialising. I’ll never not be honest about how unexpected and unplanned this has been, because I have no idea how things will progress & how I’ll feel further down the line.
Right now, 4 months in, I feel podgy, bloated and hungry. I can still lie on my back comfortably & it’s only then that I notice a bump. Happily, I can still do my usual training, although running is slower & the weights are lighter. I am being sensible, taking advice from the correct sources, & getting used to rest days & naps in a way that has never appealed before. This time it’s serious, though. We need the energy. It’s not just me any more.
Change can be good. Except the change to decaf coffee. Twenty five weeks to go!
Still described by mainstream publications as the latest fitness trend, #strongwomen are all over gyms everywhere. It’s more and more common for women to focus their training on strength and weightlifting rather than cardio, which is mostly great. When I first started using commercial gyms, 14 or so years ago, the free weights sections were dominated by men & I would not have set foot in there. These days, I’m rarely the only woman in the free weights section & split training is my favourite kind.
I say mostly great. There’s a lot of discussion about how strong not skinny can promote a body shape just as unattainable. A lot of women, especially on Instagram, seem to do a lot of lower body work & there’s still a cultural apprehension around looking too masculine. A PT friend of mine has lots of female clients who are worried about ‘big shoulders’.
Despite the marathons, I am more of a lifter than a runner. I first got into BodyPump around 2006, then kettlebell classes around 2012 and proper functional weightlifting in 2015 or thereabouts. These are my favourite gym sessions. I love being strong, I love how a positive mindset and a roar of triumph can assist to get that extra 5kg on the bar for a new pb.
I love deadlifts because they are the heaviest. I love squats because they have made my legs what they are.
I love bench press because it makes me feel like an absolute bro.
Olympic weightlifting is more challenging – it’s dynamic movements, with lower weights (mostly) & you need a good sense of balance and perfect form, as well as getting used to grips that shred your palms way more than standard power lifts. I’ve been training these lifts for about a year now & my form is improving slowly. Before marathon training kicked in, I was raising some decent weight for a beginner – slightly over half my body weight for clean & jerk, slightly under that for snatch (least favourite…)
Right now, after maintenance training for 4-5 months to fit in with running, I can comfortably (5×5) deadlift my own bodyweight, squat 75 percent of my bodyweight & bench half my bodyweight. Olympic lifts are a bit less because my form needs work after so much time out, but I’m incorporating a few snatch & clean reps into training sessions & it’s improving.
Looking back at my training diary from the last few months of 2018, I was training well & consistently & lifting quite a bit heavier than this. I can get that back one day, & I can’t wait.
Lifting goals can stay in place for a long time, more so than running goals. Incremental gains are good, & the most important thing for me is the enjoyment – I always feel amazing after training. It’s a full body workout & even if I don’t get the full 5/8/10 reps, a 10 second pause is usually enough to get there. Running’s not the same. Marathon training was great, & I have learned so much about my strength & stamina, but now I’m fully back on board with a strength-focused training programme & it’s fantastic.
Well, I’m not too sure. All of 2019 (& the end of 2018, really) has been consumed by running.
After a full week of rest, I headed out in the rain for a recovery run this morning. Just 5km, just round the block like a usual short training run.
Despite getting a bit agitated during the week of rest, it was a good idea to fully recover & not try & run a couple of days after a marathon with stiff muscles & worrying about my heart rate. Getting back to the gym is nice too. My eating has been relatively healthy & I am enjoying all the spare time I seem to have.
I have a 10km & a half marathon over the next few months, and a couple of shorter races that I am tempted by, but I will be taking bit of a break from running. There are too many other awesome things to do, & not just exercise related. I have friends in other parts of the country that I need to visit. I have items I really need to finish knitting, books to read, sleep to catch up on. The marathon is the easy part in a very long, high volume training programme that has been amazing for my discipline & propelled me well towards my 1000km/year, a milestone I usually reach in the last third of the year.
To hit this in May is incredible, but it’s time for a change. Working on my upper body strength, & particularly my back, will be happening. I was making good progress last year until I stopped lifting as much.
This rest has been the longest break I have taken in 2019, & it already feels weird. I haven’t even hit 10,000 steps a day this week. But it has probably been good for me in the long run.
Home race! Sleeping in my own bed! Club mates to run with!
Still not my race, though.
Everything felt fine. A bit chilly & rainy at the start, but I wore a disposable long sleeve top for the warm up miles (not really disposable but I only decided to put it on last minute & didn’t want to carry it for the rest of the race), bursts of sunshine, some strong coastal breezes, as to be expected for a race that travels along the North Sea coast. No aches & pains beyond general fatigue, the wind was a bit strong sometimes but I didn’t feel too slowed down by it, nutrition went well & I had a really good last mile & a fast finish. Clearly can’t judge my own pace, though, as I came in a few minutes slower than London. 4:20:55 on Strava for the actual 42.195 distance, 4:22:44 on chip (with a distance of 42.7km)
So… following a 5-runs-a-week intermediate training plan has made me get steadily worse & I am a bit gutted. I’ve worked so hard & I really thought I could at least pb, even if a sub-4 wasn’t possible. To not manage either, & to finish the UK’s fastest, flattest marathon slower than London, is rubbish.
Positives, of a sort:
I’ve run over 1000km in 2019 so far, & will aim for 1000 miles by the end of the year.
I finished really strong, & aside from a few aches & pains I felt mostly OK on Sunday evening. My body can clearly cope well with marathons as long as they’re slow.
It’s a good medal
I had less mental anguish during this race, probably linked to not feeling physically ruined at any point. Miles 17-19 were still a bit dark but this time it was easier to count down from the half way.
I have stayed injury-free – a few niggles here & there, but nothing that can’t be fixed with more & better stretching & less running
I must visit North Berwick more often, the east coast is really pretty.
Now it’s time for weightlifting again
I’m taking a week off to rest, & then changing my training to all strength, all the time. I want my definition back, & I do not want to run as much as I have been.
Other positives, as ever, were the marvellous team & their continuing dedication. Fun when I’ve been able to train with them, & there were some fantastic first-time marathon finishers in this gang. Hugs & chat from folk who know why I’m so gutted is also useful post-race.
Despite the weather forecast of heavy rain (plenty of it) many of us are sunburned. I genuinely do not remember it being sunny for more than a few stretches of 2 minutes. I know you can burn through cloud but it was forecast for continuous cloud & rain. I am coated in aftersun lotion.
Recovery will be plenty of walking & eating properly, & some long-term Netflix commitments to follow up. Knitting, reading, & indoor hobbies in general. Looking forward to indoor workouts too, when I get back to it. New goals will be set when I figure out how to deal with failing.
… is the one coming up tomorrow. Now we’re talking. Spot the jump from maintenance cardio to the heavy miles at the start of the year. The last five months have been intense. Edinburgh Marathon is nearly here & then I am having a rest & a break from running & selfies.
So – here we go for another 30 mile week. Except 26.2 of them are all at once.
Monday: rest day, & working in London. This mostly involves trains, catching trains for very short distances & worrying about the timetable change, so it was physically restful but mentally a bit fraught.
Tuesday: more London. I’d asked the wisdom of Instagram whether I should run or not when I was away – results were mixed
but I had a busy day & plenty of walking to do, so that was enough. Glorious weather too, so walking was better than running.
Wednesday: home time: three miles easy & a strength session, keeping the weights low.
Thursday: another rest. Stretchy stretch time (& voting)
Friday: the intention was two miles steady along the river, keeping it the same as I did in London. However, the day before a long weekend plus the political excitement had the odds thoroughly stacked against taking a lunch hour, so I waited until the evening for this & then chilled in the garden afterwards.
Saturday: volunteering at parkrun, which is always very inspiring & good fun, & then brunch.
The rest of the day’s been quite lazy, & the alarm call tomorrow is early. It will go how it goes. I wish I was looking forward to it more.
The weather forecast is problematic:
but I am prepped for an afternoon of celebration & an evening of watching the European election results on the sofa.
The best part of tomorrow will be the company. Although I am so grateful for support from anyone – I confessed to this marathon at work yesterday during ‘plans for the weekend?’ chat after a meeting, & the reactions reminded me that most people don’t spend their time doing this & it’s actually quite a big deal – but running pals are nice to have. London was awesome but lonely in parts, & with a huge club turnout for the official GFR spring marathon, I hope that those of us who are pushing for a similar time can keep each other going, as we’ve done in the past.
& it’s amazing how much better I feel mentally. Physically, I am needing a bit of a rest or a change, & I can’t wait until it’s all over…
Monday: rest day. Not difficult in the lovely sunshine. Did some yoga stretches in the garden, listening to the relaxing sounds of my cat’s enraged howling that another cat had dared to come within 5 metres of the house.
Tuesday: still sunny, but headed to the air-conditioned gym for a speed session. Kept the speed a bit more tempo-style & managed 12 reps of 250m, with 60 seconds recovery time & a short warmup and cooldown of about 1km each. Finished off with a bit of strength training, mostly back and arms to give the legs a break.
Wednesday: skipped the easy run again & went for a sports massage, which was niiiiiiice & found all the knots in my right calf that have been slowly improving since London. My calves have usually been fairly reliable so soreness & stiffness mid-race was unusual.
Thursday: 4 miles of speed work, outside when it got a bit cooler. The plan was to run at lunchtime but I was too hungry to only have a light lunch & running by the river can be tough when it’s hot.
It went well, with defined fast & slow kms.
Friday: strength session in the form of pole. Managed to get upside down for a bit, & more gracefully than last time I practiced, but my grip & core strength has deteriorated a bit & shoulder mounts just feel like pain. I’ll get there.
Saturday: was planning Drumchapel parkrun, but with the weather being a bit damp & drizzly, a flatter option seemed better to save my hamstrings. Good solid time on a moderate effort, & a nice steady run there & back covered almost 8 miles.
Sunday: A steady couple of miles with Cyclebox, later in the day than my usual Sunday run. Topped up the miles with another 3 miles on the treadmill, a good tempo pace all the way.
Total miles: 19.5. I hadn’t appreciated how much mileage the easy runs added. Skipping the midweek 6-8 milers, mostly due to time pressures, really brings the total distance down. I’ve replaced with strength sessions, sports massages or general rest, so that’s OK – I see the benefit of miles in the bank during the bulk of the training, but right now is about preventing fatigue.
Nutrition: interesting this week. I’ve been mostly vegetarian (mostly = not checking labels strictly, but all meals have been meat free). No particular reason, but I feel good for it anyway. Had a couple of alcoholic drinks midweek too, something I have been avoiding for the vast majority of the plan except that time at the end of March.
Feeling: good. A bit of pain in the right hip, not sure if it’s linked to running as I first started feeling it when sleeping on my right side, but now it aches after running too. Stretching sort of helps but it’s in the soft tissue around the hip bone, not the hip flexor itself, so it does feel a bit weird. Sore to the touch.
Friday’s pole session is still being felt all over my shoulders & triceps, but there’s less core stiffness than last week, so I must be re-learning how to use my core properly rather than relying on momentum & luck.
I’m working away for the first half of next week, so rather than trying to squeeze exercise sessions in, I will concentrate on good nutrition & sleep. It’s a shame because I am working in one of my favourite parts of London that has some awesome running routes, but I can’t fit in everything. The kit will come with me, of course, but if it doesn’t happen then I won’t stress.
Seriously, I don’t know where I am right now. Two weeks post marathon & two weeks pre marathon. Tired, mostly. This week started off meh & ended much better – the nice weather has had an awesome effect on my mood, for sure. I almost forgot about the double marathon thing.
Monday: ‘rest day’, if rest is a 12 hour work day. Bank holidays are great unless you work for an essential service, retail, or in comms for critical infrastructure.
Realised I missed going to pole, so went for a lesson to make sure I could reliably hang upside down without failure. It turns out I have retained a bit of strength, but have lost some skill. Will keep practising.
Tuesday: back on the speed work. After running on an achy Achilles’ tendon, I realised I am not particularly capable of knowing my limits. This session felt difficult, & I kept thinking I was incapable before realising that I was only a few days post marathon. The intention was 3 fast km sandwiched between a warm up and cool down at a slower pace – by the end of the second fast km I was unhappy, so kept the rest of it steady. Had a good stretch & a good dinner though.
Wednesday: the plan was an easy six miles. As is usual for working-at-Parliament days, though, I didn’t have time for lunch & ended up going home straight from Edinburgh and having an early dinner. I’d read this great post from Jordan earlier in the day & having had similar feelings during my own speed work the evening before (as well as a similar, if much slower, London Marathon experience) I decided to give running a miss. It was miserable weather & I had stuff to bring home from work, so it all worked out well really.
Thursday: gym time tonight: it’s still super busy at peak times but it was good to just lift & not think about running. 3 miles was on the training plan, but cleans, deadlifts, split squats & planks substituted.
Friday: didn’t fancy resting, so Cyclebox it was. 45 minutes of hardcore spinning, working my legs without too much impact. Still incredibly tough though – early class means no breakfast, & it’s difficult to last the distance on the sprints. Need more coffee next time, or the 0930 rather than the 0730.
Saturday: went for a faster parkrun, & happy to see gains on this distance; 26:06 felt quite relaxed. 7 miles in total.
Sunday: a longer but steadier run around Glasgow: 5 miles on my own with podcasts, 6 miles with Frontrunners, and a final couple of miles with the Cyclebox inaugural run club.
Cyclebox’s promise of “just a bit of HIIT” turned out to be repeats of the Kelvingrove steps & some Monument Hill sprints. I will not do this at the end of a long run ever again, but I have ideas for my Tuesday coaching sessions.
Total miles: 25. Lowest weekly mileage for some time, but I think the rest & change did me good. Serious shoulder & back DOMS from cleans & deadlifts means it’s been too long away from that sort of workout.
Nutrition: good, apart from a couple of busy days. Plenty of protein, good lunches, less coffee, frequently vegetarian. I am trying to eat less meat & dairy & it’s a challenge.
Feeling: OK. Mood up & down, and despite lots of good sessions I have fallen out of love with running. Work has been very busy & I get stuck in a cycle of getting stressed about being too busy, then annoyed when the run does not go well or eating nonsense. Usually managed to keep off that, & the week ended much more positively than it began. The nice weather definitely helped.
I am not really feeling positive about Edinburgh though, & I cannot be bothered at all with the Great North Run which suddenly seems a lot closer. The dawning realisation, not helped by blog post archives, that I have spent all of 2019 either running, thinking about running, or doing laundry loads made up of sweaty gym clothes, is not good. I am bad at responding to texts & emails. I have forgotten to send birthday cards or even birthday messages & I spent a good chunk of a nice holiday thinking about running, or how I wasn’t running enough or eating too much. I am in a fairly good place, & it’s been a good exercise in discipline & dedication, but marathon training is tough on life. I miss my other hobbies, & sleeping.
But with only two weeks to go, I might as well run the thing. I hope the excitement returns soon. Speedwork will need to be up to standard next week; hopefully I am fully recovered now & can get the most out of the next few sessions.
Headed out this morning for my first ‘proper’ run since London, easing back into a training plan that had me taking a couple of rest days & a couple of recovery runs before hitting the proper miles again. Now LDN’s done & dusted, it’s all about EMF.
Edinburgh is one of the nearest marathons to me, and despite it being a bit of a boring route and a bit late in the year for a spring marathon, it has a good medal, a good atmosphere & I can sleep in my own bed the night before, which is always a joy. I’ve done the half marathon twice, spectated & supported on a few more, & always had a decent race.
I noticed a few dual or triple marathoners last year on Instagram using the Hal Higdon maintenance plan, as well as getting good feedback from club mates who use these plans. This is why I went for a Higdon plan in the first place, starting from the point of view of more than one marathon and working backwards. There are a range of plans available; four weeks between seems a long time, especially after seeing folk on Instagram running Manchester & Paris/Brighton, or one of these and then London too, but it is not overly regimented & advises intermediate & advanced runners to keep the speedwork up but pay attention to how they feel.
Four weeks between has the speed work kept up twice a week, plus a couple of easy longer distances to remind your body of the long run feels. Set off this morning with the plan to do 10 miles minimum, & 12 if it felt OK.
Ended up as 15.5 because I joined the GFR group catching the train to Balloch, & that’s how long it takes to get back to my house from there. Not ideal as recovery, but the pace was very steady & I was fully prepared to stop earlier if I felt it was needed. The rest of the team are legends & did the full 23 miles back to the city.
It was nice to run the Balloch to Clydebank half marathon route in slightly better weather than last time, & running with company is nice. It struck me that during London I didn’t speak to anyone after the starting pen until the final corner, unlike any other marathon where I have always had company. It maybe had an effect I didn’t realise at the time.
Currently feeling pretty good, but slightly sore after today’s miles. Same quad ache that I had following the marathon, and calf pain has moved into the Achilles’ tendon on one side which is actually quite painful to walk on too, so I will be cautious. This is quite a lot to put my body through & still stay injury-free. Nutrition and sleep remain as important as getting the miles in – & it’s not ideal, as work has been chaotic & I have been skipping lunch, eating doughnuts & staying up too late since London. Getting back on track with a long Sunday run has helped me focus, although I’m typing this with a glass of wine in hand…
Monday: rest, except for a brief saunter to Tower Bridge for a post-marathon medal photo & a slow walk to my London workplace which has SO MANY STAIRS I never noticed this before today. 4 hours on the train home was better than I thought it would be for soreness.
Tuesday: more rest. Some foam rolling, which was sore. A very slow jog as part of coaching GFR, which didn’t feel good at all: probably less than 500m covered in an hour long session but it was always very slow. Legs were achy.
Wednesday: a steady 3 miles before dinner. It felt a bit weird – breathing hard but my heart rate stayed low & Garmin called it ‘unproductive’. Slightly tender calves & quads were not great but this was loosened by running in a way that stretching hadn’t helped with, so that was a nice bonus.
Thursday: in the midst of a very busy work day, I managed a 4 mile jaunt up and down the Clyde, at a much improved recovery speed.
Friday: rest day. Went to see Avengers: Endgame, finally. Cried a bit.
Saturday: an easy 5 miles was the plan. Pace was all over the place, my Achilles hurt during & my hip hurt once I stopped. Recovery is weird.
Sunday: 15.5 miles down the River Leven & Forth and Clyde Canal. Point to point is fun for motivation, although on balance I prefer running out & then heading back with a coffee (unless it’s rainy). The chatty group on the train got quieter & quieter as we sped away from Glasgow towards Loch Lomond, realising just how far it is. But weather conditions were perfect & everyone did well.
Total miles: 27.7. Good, with so many rest days. No lifting or cross-training at all.
Nutrition: a few days off track this week. Wasn’t overly hungry on Monday morning, so just snacked all day & then got a takeaway when I arrived home. Didn’t get to the supermarket properly until Wednesday, so this week has been a bit off course & there have been too many poor choices. Back on it by Saturday with roast veg pasta.
Feeling: fine enough. Not too sore on Monday/Tuesday & kept stretching & walking as much as I could. Running fine by Thursday, mildly achy after the long run. Baths & stretching & kino tape required to keep me together.
My left foot is a bit damaged looking. Toenails are useful, I think – the toes without them are struggling. Otherwise all is good.
Higher mileage & higher intensity next week: hopefully I am properly recovered.
& what a medal it is. Chunky, gold-coloured & a good shape. It’s still in my handbag and might stay there for a while in case it comes up in conversation.
Disappointingly, despite the wonderful experience, fantastic support from the crowd & all my training, I didn’t catch the time I wanted and was quite a way off. It was going well but I set off too fast. I am disappointed, but there will be other marathons. Or perhaps I will stop running them.
What everyone said about the crowds was true, & whilst a quieter route would have saved me a few seconds of not kicking people in the ankle/being kicked in the ankle/tripping over people, running with so many others was amazing. The sound of the crowd at iconic parts of the route was so loud it was overwhelming. That definitely carried the last few miles when I was mostly miserable. I have never been so pleased to see the crappy Tesco Express next to Westminster, although I would have never guessed it is a mile from there to the top of the Mall. Distances become so flexible in your mind, a mile can fly by in a daydream and a few hundred metres can seem very far indeed.
So, mile by mile (almost):
Slept fairly well the night before, after re-reading the relevant chapter of Running Like A Girl. I first read this book before I had ever considered the distance & it is still just as useful. Breakfast was a slightly rubbish porridge pot, but went downstairs for a decent hotel coffee & found the hotel was providing bananas, porridge & water too. I still hate bananas but it’s a nice thought.
My cousin had booked us into a hotel near Tower Bridge to facilitate her own easy spectating, so I jumped on the tube to Charing Cross then a train to Blackheath. TfL is amazingly well organised for events like this & it was all absolutely seamless & cheerful.
Starting pens are always stressful. Held on to my kit bag for as long as I could & made sure I had all my gels and snacks. A few last minute additions to the playlist also happened at this point, & I also made some pals
Kat had never run a marathon before, but has run every London parkrun (which is now basically just a waiting game until another one starts up) and has embroidered the name of each one on her running vest. Rosie is a Six Star Finisher and has completed the Great Wall Of China Marathon. (She’s also Rosie Millard, & I didn’t realise this until the next day…) Half an hour of chat with these lovely women in the toilet queue was great for calming nerves & we stuck together until the starting pens separated us. However, we’ve all swapped details & have been checking in with each other for the last few days.
It wasn’t as chaotic as I thought it would be in the start pens, but it was cold & that made the waiting around seem longer. Kept my fleece on as long as I could before chucking it in the donation bin. The actual start & first few miles were a little underwhelming, like many races. The fun began when the starts all merged & it became busy. There is no room to move & get a clear path through. This is where I ended up going too fast, despite the crowds. Eventually I started to recognise the streets, the Cutty Sark loomed up ahead & the noise of the crowd was phenomenal.
Buoyed by this crowd noise & knowing my family were at Tower Bridge, the next few miles were fine. Managed to spot my family which was fantastic. Tower Bridge itself was wonderful to run over.
Heading towards Canary Wharf, I started to feel really tired. Looked at my watch and it wasn’t time for another gel, but I snaffled a couple of jelly babies and kept going. It was really quite difficult from mile 16 or so. Legs felt heavy, & the point where you’ve only got 10 miles to go is… not a cheering prospect. 10 miles is far. I gritted my teeth and sulked, knowing I would see people further along the route & determined to be going well when I saw them.
Canary Wharf messes up your GPS because of the height of the buildings. I’d heard about this but glancing at my watch & seeing it clocking 10 minute kilometres messed with my head. I knew I had slowed down a bit, but couldn’t gauge how much & this made me really miserable. The crowd support picked up again along the North Colonnade & it was way too loud for my mood. I ended up right in the middle of the road with a lot of space around me & paused my music as I couldn’t hear it. I did hear someone shouting my name with more enthusiasm than kind strangers, & looked up to see my cousin & her dad cheering & clapping. Definitely what I needed at this point, & easing into a slight downhill section here was also nice to get a bit of a speed pickup. Everything was hurting now, though.
I hung on for a few miles more, seeing my old Carers Trust colleagues who cheered me as loudly as their charity runners. The Run Dem Crew cheering section came up soon after & they are LOUD and amazing. I also spotted London Frontrunners & a couple of Glasgow Frontrunners, which was a nice boost but I was trying too hard to speed up & not look shit in front of club mates.
Coming back towards the Tower was a nice feeling, but after catching the tube from Tower Hill to Charing Cross earlier that morning, I knew that running that route would feel quite a bit longer so just got my head down. I don’t remember much about miles 21-24 except feeling sore & unhappy & worrying that I might have to stop and walk.
Three things happened in quick succession. I saw a Frontrunner pal cheering me on which was amazing; I saw New Scotland Yard & knew we were about to turn into Parliament Square, & despite the best efforts of the amazing marshals & first aiders to create a screen, I saw someone lying on the ground being defibrillated. At that point, nothing mattered more than getting to the finish line & seeing my family. I couldn’t stop thinking about the man on the ground for most of Birdcage Walk. There haven’t been any reports of deaths, unlike previous years, but the stark reality of the situation is still quite harsh. I very much hope that he is OK.
Right turn onto the Mall. Buckingham Palace to my left. Someone on my line of sight stopped to walk; I tapped them on the shoulder & said nah, not now. Run this now. I saw them vomiting at the finish line so I do feel a little guilty but always, always run the finish. More people screaming. My dad & cousin, somehow at the front of the crowd & smiling. & then the big red finish. It became easier to lift my feet & then walking was OK because you’re over the timing mats & it’s done.
Medal round my neck. Walking slowly & stiffly to the baggage lorries & being unable to recall my number or read it properly upside down, or speak in full sentences. Did I mention the marshals are wonderful & endlessly patient with the thousands of sweaty idiots stumbling around?
More slow walking towards the reunion area, more shouting ‘can you see a blue flag? I am under the BLUE FLAG’ into my phone. But suddenly everyone was hugging me and I had some water & put my hoodie on & then we went to a pub on Whitehall that was full of runners spilling out onto the street & it was lovely.
& it came in at 4:16:34. Basically the same as last year in Manchester, give or take some seconds. I am a bit gutted, & the post marathon blues are strong today as it’s no longer painful to walk down flights of stairs & people have stopped asking me how it went. I was rather well on track for a sub-4 until the final third of the race, so I am assuming I went off too fast & peaked too early.
So it’s over; it’ll never be undone. It was amazing, & it was really quite difficult. I haven’t entered the 2020 ballot but I think I might have unfinished business with this race. We’ll see.