Marathons vs birth: a (slightly) scientific discussion

“She’s run a couple of marathons, I think”

Even with a gas & air pipe clamped between my teeth, I was able to correct my birth partner’s inaccurate knowledge of my running achievements & earned some further approving noises from the midwife in between the general encouragement. I also told her the story of how I found out and how I had kept fit & active during pregnancy. She & the other midwives were impressed, & assured me that I would be absolutely fine to do this if I was a marathon finisher. I was less convinced.

The last calm moment

There’s a lot been written comparing pregnancy, birth and exercise, from the funny listicles to the fairly well-executed science analysing the effect on the body. Basically, marathons and childbirth are both difficult, painful, physically and mentally taxing, and require a decent period of recovery afterwards. This blog analyses it all quite well from a runner’s perspective, & gives a good comparison between tapering/late pregancy and the second wind at mile 25/second stage labour. Getting your breathing under control is key for both activities; struggling with this has let me down both in running and in labour. But visualisation and mantras have helped me for both too.

On balance – based on acute pain experienced & the ability to pack the whole thing in if required – I would much rather run a marathon than give birth. There were plenty of similarities:

  • Copious amounts of Lucozade consumed (& then Lucozade-induced nausea)
  • Sore muscles everywhere the day afterwards
  • A fair amount of self-doubt, although marathon doubt is quite introspective, and like many labouring women I was quite vocal about wanting to give up IMMEDIATELY and go home
  • Jelly babies & fruit pastilles that seem appetising beforehand but are THE ABSOLUTE FUCKING WORST when trying to chew and swallow them during the event
  • Lots of affirmations & positivity from spectators who aren’t the ones putting the effort in
  • Needing to pee but not wanting to take the time to do so
  • When it’s finished, there is such relief you no longer have to keep going

On the other hand, there’s no medal at the end of birth (I did get some balloons), no post-event pub visit (there is tea), and it took a bit longer to recover from. I’ve heard of people being unable to walk properly for several days following a marathon but I’ve always been OK, with just minor to moderate DOMS. Five days after the birth, I walked a slow mile and had to rest afterwards. I’d been used to that gradual slowdown in late pregnancy but it still gave me the fear that I would never, ever recover properly from this.

Happily, each day got easier and despite the awful Glasgow weather, I have walked as much as possible. I now feel close to normal and am looking forward to starting a full postnatal exercise plan very soon.

walking is awesome

However, the obvious difference between childbirth and marathons is that in spite of encouragement and mental strength, if you want to stop running a marathon half way through because it’s too difficult or painful, then you absolutely can.

I had a normal, uncomplicated delivery. This is what medical professionals keep calling it; I am fine with uncomplicated but it was not normal for me. It was scary and painful and at many points I did not feel at all in control of what was happening, despite all of the positive birth books and yoga breathing & other stuff I had done or read in the weeks leading up to it. I was praised for not showing up at the hospital until things were well under way, and that I must have a strong pain threshold. As I’ve been lucky enough to never have had a serious injury or illness, I have no idea what my pain threshold is. For now, it’s birth. I am no longer scared of anything, after the final few minutes of childbirth.

Honestly the best thing about this is how I had neatly placed my trainers in the corner of the room several hours earlier

Despite the pain and fear, I am pleased that everything went OK and that all the science and data about good physical fitness leading to a quick and easy birth was the case for me. Active labour lasted about 6 hours, and the second stage was extremely short and took the midwives by surprise, who were both still getting their gloves on when the baby appeared. I had been determined to keep active and upright for as long as I could, which turned out well as when I did have to lie down for an examination, the overwhelming tiredness kicked in from being awake all night and I would have definitely stayed on the bed if no one had encouraged me to get up again. I didn’t react well to the encouragement but that’s quite normal, apparently, and things progressed very quickly from that point onward.

Obviously I kept my Garmin on throughout in order to record some good data. This is my 24 hour heart rate on the day:

It doesn’t look like I thought it would. The first 10 hours of this (including the lack of movement where the software thinks I was asleep) is labour, clearly showing my heart rate dropping and stabilising when I stopped wandering around the ward and got into the birthing pool (5:30am) and then a slight peak at 9am when the baby was born. The red peaks are caused by having a shower and walking to get dinner, which were the activities that increased my heart rate most as my physical fitness is now ruined.

This, for contrast, is the London Marathon 2019:

Aside from how I am too old to have a peak heart rate of 185, the physical effort looks greater and more consistent for a marathon, and I’d still rather run one.

Garmin data was backed up by the many vital signs checks that we both received over the next 24 hours. After a night in hospital, we were able to come home and a new normal is under construction. At this stage I can just about see how hobbies and interests can be pursued again at some point, and running seems easier than the gym at the moment so I’ll definitely start with that. My small collection of kettlebells and weights that are stashed in a corner of the baby’s room will also be put to use. At the moment, I have to eat and sleep when the baby sleeps, but fingers crossed that a few more weeks gives me the time and space to come back properly. I’m sticking to walks and healthy eating for now, but I have some summer race entries that will need a training plan…

What now?

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.

1km was New Year’s Day, of course

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.

“Two marathons in a month?”

Yes. London was a bit of an anomaly in the plan.

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.

more like East Lothian marathon really but

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…

Weekly round-up:

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.

Showcasing some of the ££££ I spent at the expo

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.

Debrief

Well.

Finished it! I am a London Marathoner.

& 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.

Getting the Palace behind you is always good though

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.

unflattering

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.

Honestly, it was wonderful, I just look like a confused child

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.

oh my god you guys

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.

Next is Edinburgh, in 25 days…

One more sleep

& it had better be a good sleep.

Saturday has been good. Saw my family. Lots of food & coffee & a nice meandering walk to stretch my legs. Pasta for lunch & dinner, same as dinner last night. I am full of the carbs.

I am a bit nervous, yes. But also very hyped by the amount of good vibes & the possibilities that tomorrow holds. I hope it goes well.

Weather’s still looking perfect. Family & friends & acquaintances are scattered around the course. It’ll be grand. I trust my training & I trust me.

Race week

Marvellous. I am fairly well rested & spent most of Easter enjoying the sunshine, doing loads of laundry, gardening & spending time with family and friends.

Drinking tea & writing up training notes

However, with mere hours to go before the race, there is a lot going on in my head

  • very little patience for anyone coughing or sneezing near me
  • Minimum 4 cups of tea a day for hydration purposes
  • Walking up and down stairs very carefully
  • Going to bed at 10pm (waking at 5am as a result; *slow clap*)
  • What if I forget how to physically move my legs
  • Why did I think this is a good idea in the first place

Also lots of ridiculous non-questions, like can I run this far/can I run at all/am I too old/I also enjoy knitting & reading as hobbies, why not stick to that instead…

The fam group chat is way more excited than I am at this point and I had to mute it until a couple of days ago. Several questions about why does Mo Farah wear compression sleeves and do I need some (Because he likes them, and no…) Luckily I’ve had a busy week at work to keep me occupied.

I imagine, like a lot of other nervous runners, I am checking the long range weather multiple times a day & being cheerful or nervous depending on what it says. Currently it looks pretty good.

This week’s training:

Monday: rest. Easy to do in that lovely sunshine.

Tuesday: 2.5 miles as part of coaching a GFR session: most of it was steady but there were some bursts of speed. I also spent too long messing around on the canalside monkey bars & made my arms sore.

vibe

Wednesday: plan said 4 miles, but I wasn’t feeling too well & managed slightly under half a mile before packing it in. Not ideal, but running with a sore stomach will never really go well & I should have known better than to even try. That’s maranoia for you.

Thursday: got up early to fit in the 4 miles that should have been yesterday’s, & did enjoy it. I love running before work & will try for more of that this summer.

I haven’t done proper fasted cardio for a while, & the nervous energy meant I was faster than an easy run should be, but it was a nice confidence boost.

Friday: travelled to London, & managed a couple of easy shakeout miles along the river in the early evening.

CARBS

& now, it’s chill time.

Ironing the letters onto my club vest was more stressful and tiring than running. After unearthing the iron from the back of a cupboard, the receipt tucked in the box confirmed that I bought it in 2012, meaning it’s been through two house moves & I’ve still never used it. After a few minutes of failure, I realised the iron a) had different settings, and b) was on the lowest setting. That is why the first H is all messed up. Once the iron was firing at full power, progress was made.

Saturday will be rest day before heading to meet my family, go for a pasta dinner, & try for a good night’s sleep. Wish me luck!

Week sixteen

I have miscounted the weeks, clearly. Or the next 7 days does not count as training but just involves gentle jogging, anxiety & pasta. MAYBE IT’S BOTH.

 

I knew that travelling during the taper would mess up my plans a bit, but honestly I thought I would cope better. I used to be good at jetlag but this time it’s been really bad – I was more or less ready for bed by 9pm for the first few days in the US, & then it was time to come back & sleeping on the plane never happens & I was awake from Tuesday morning until Wednesday night. But as a result I’ve had the most & best sleep for months, too. I hope this continues.

Even better, it is so true what they say about rest. I have been beating myself up for a week about enjoying myself too much whilst travelling and not sticking to the plan, but when I have trained, it’s always been amazing. I have felt light, springy & energetic on each run, so clearly the rest & sleep has been good for me and it’s fine.

Monday: stretching, & 30,000 steps in the Chicago sunshine.

love at first sight

Tuesday: 5 miles on the lakefront – started easy but parts of it got a bit faster when I was feeling like stretching it out, which was usually whenever I was out of the serious headwind. It felt nicely challenging.

Wednesday: Jetlag & no sleep = rest day. Fine by me.

Red eye breakfast of champs

Thursday: First full day back at work + jetlag = a steady six miles in the evening. It had cooled down a bit by the time I ran, which was nice.

Friday: Cyclebox. Harsh, especially sprints, and there were some mild arm muscle DOMS the following day. My left shoulder is still a bit painful so when I get back into stuff that’s not running, I am going to have to figure out exactly what’s wrong as it affects my punching as well as lifting. I can run, though, so worth ignoring for now*

*bad advice, terrible

Saturday: a steady 8 (ish) miles, getting used to being on my feet again after a week or so of shorter faster runs.

Sunday: 4 miles & a strength workout, then Easter with my family. I love Easter.

It’s very hot

4 miles was made up of a warm-up run to the gym and 5x400m sprints.

Total miles: 23, which seems super low nowadays. Trust the taper…

Feeling: a bit nervous, now. Trying not to be too stressed about not following the training plan for a week, messing up my good regular pattern of rest days & exercise. I’ve just about clawed it back now, and the walking I did in Chicago kept the leg muscles ticking over, with plenty of stretching whenever I could manage. I didn’t foam roll whilst I was away but have been on it twice a day since getting back.

Nutrition: better, after taking advantage of Chicago’s amazing cuisine & the USA’s cheap 500g bags of peanut butter M+Ms. Since getting back I have been packing in the nutrients like crazy, but I do miss these pancakes.

Meals weren’t always excessive, but US portions are often a bit much. A superfood salad I ordered one evening was delicious – avocado, quinoa, radishes, celery & loads of other crunchy stuff, but it came in a serving bowl and was the size I’d make if I was hosting a small dinner party.

This salmon with pak choi and hazelnut pesto from The Kitchen was amazing, though.

This was equally amazing, but as expected from somewhere I found out about on Instagram, it was more of a photo opportunity than a food item. $8 of sugar, and happily I didn’t even come close to finishing it.

Since I’ve been back it’s all about good protein, green veg & caffeine. Fairly standard for my normal routine, but Chicago was carb-heavy & a few days of that made me feel heavy, bloated & ridiculous. There has been a brief break for Easter egg, but that’s allowed, I think. Happy Easter!

There’s a first time for everything…

Lots of info out there about how the London Marathon differs from other marathons, other majors & other cities. I do take most of this stuff with a pinch of salt – it’s still 26.2 & it’s still down to me to run the thing – but now that I have my race number & starting location, it’s time to think about logistics & top tips for this amazing experience. Trains & accommodation are booked, my bag will be packed once I’ve sorted out stuff from my USA trip last week, and finding somewhere for dinner the night before without walking & wandering the city too extensively will have to be planned in.

Logistics aside, there are some tried and tested Marathon tips that I’ll be following.

I am a slow starter, & it’s always served me well over longer race distances. For a marathon, the first 6 miles just needs to get done in under an hour & I slowly sip Lucozade throughout. I can’t remember who advised me to do this but it works for me, and it is advice I now pass on. This photo taken at 10km into Manchester 2018 sums it up – a group of us from GFR had been having a nice chat for the first few miles & once they were done (“only 20 miles to go!”) that’s when it begins proper.

Not the best of race photos, but there we are. Clutching the precious Lucozade, & doing what I think is licking my lips, but who knows. Race photos are invariably terrible & not worth the money!

Beyond the slow start – which is advised for London anyway, because it’s so crowded – the following tips seem to be standard:

Absorb the Tower Bridge moment: I will hopefully do this. I like this iconic bridge & running across it as part of the London Marathon will be great.

Familiarise yourself with the route: I know London quite well, but will work on this. I have been caught out before, running in places I know well but without considering the specific route. Hills can be surprising, especially when you’re fatigued.

Figure out where your supporters will be: usually I’m quite good at this, with a small amount of forward planning. Frontrunners tend to have a big flag so they are easy to spot, & I have former colleagues from charities I’ve worked for who have promised they will cheer me even if I’m not raising money for them, so I’ll be looking out for their flags too. Spotting my family supporters might be trickier, although I do usually manage.

Run the course: this seems fairly obvious, but as someone who runs a bang-on average marathon time & is aiming for a slight sub-4, I anticipate that it’s going to be quite crowded at all points. Slowing down due to congestion will be fine & picking up the pace will be doable at other parts of the course, without getting too stressed about it.

The other thing to do is savour the moment, of course. I am looking forward to this very much. If you have any first time London tips, please let me know!

Photo: Runner’s World

Week 15

Not long now!

Taper has involved more rest than I expected, after travelling, the midwest’s VERY VARIABLE WEATHER & a weird ankle niggle took more time to get over than I expected. But all training I’ve managed this week has had a purpose & been very well focused.

Monday: Morning Cyclebox. Can you do an hour of spin & HIIT less than 24 hours after knocking out 20 miles?

of course

Seems like it. Struggled a bit on some of the longer sprints but the climbs were fine. I had to down a double espresso 20 minutes before the class started but it worked well enough.

Tuesday: No time for running but I read lots of books, chilled out & drank lots of water as well as the complimentary wine.

Trainers in the hand luggage, obvs. I did actually consider going for a little shakeout run in the evening after I’d got a bit of a second wind, but the tiredness & jet lag hit me like a tidal wave about an hour later, so probably for the best that I was crashed out asleep by 8:30pm. I did see a lot of runners whilst I was wandering around, though.

Wednesday: took some time to explore this city o’skyscrapers & deep dish, with over 30,000 steps walked. No running, though. Still tired after a 5am start to the day (jetlag blows) & it was absolutely freezing with occasional hailstorms, so I ended up having another rest.

It is VERY COLD

Thursday: With the best of intentions, I did not manage to get out for a run today either. I am sleeping so much & eating at the wrong times, & walking around the city a lot has given me a bit of foot/ankle/calf pain that doesn’t feel great to run on. Also the first item on the local news was about someone being attacked in the park I was planning on running through, so that wasn’t the best.

Friday: finally felt up to running, & got my lazy self up for 3 miles on the dreadmill. After a few days of rest it was fast & enjoyable. Sunday to Friday has been the longest break I’ve had from running since December, & it felt very strange & I did get a bit anxious for a while, in between the sleeping.

Saturday: 5 miles: met up with Chicago Frontrunners for their Saturday morning session in beautiful warm weather. Nice & speedy, but the conversation kept me distracted & I barely noticed the good pace.

I was worried about missing the meeting point, but no

Sunday: no more blue skies in Chicago, but a snowstorm. Not that cold but slushy underfoot, so not ideal for running & far too windy. Another day of resting, reading & stretching, but I started with some HIIT & weights.

Total miles: 8! Not quite what I wanted, but enough speedwork to keep my hand in and miles in the bank. The sleeping & resting has more than likely been better for me than running, or at least as good.

Nutrition: average/excessive. Travelling can be a bit of a nightmare for good nutrition but I tried hard.

Are you even flying if you don’t get an airport Wetherspoons

It’s a bit early for carb loading, sadly, as USA style breakfast food is my forever love. But I’m seriously considering the Chicago Marathon just so I get to legitimately fuel this way.

Feeling: good, surprisingly. After meticulous planning at the start of the year, I got a bit nervous about this break because of the potential to mess up the routine, & because work has been very busy. But this trip was booked & planned before either the marathons or the no-longer-new job were a reality, & I do need this break. I have been sleeping so much, & really needed the opportunity to get out of my usual routine & away from reality for a while. Chicago is amazing & I will be coming back here for sure.

Fitting running into a disrupted routine isn’t always easy & couldn’t be done the way I wanted due to tiredness & lack of opportunity, but it’s OK. Reading, sleeping & having fun is good too.

Books & travel is all I need

Onto the second taper week, with hopefully a bit more running…

Feeding

Now that I’m in Chicago & eating too much enjoying the local cuisine, I’ve been thinking about my marathon training diet. Mostly because I’m panicking about my food intake over the last few days – there has been too much snacking due to travelling & being out and about exploring. I like cooking & making my own food most of the time, & whilst I’m not complaining about dining out several times a day in one of the best foodie cities in the world, I look forward to getting back on track when I return.

In normal non-travelling times, I am relatively healthy, but slightly overweight. My fitness Instagram focused on food quite a lot at first, & surprisingly I have only had a small amount of judgement about what I eat. Still a bit surprised that someone would slide into my DMs to criticise the food I’m posting, but whatever. The internet is bonkers most of the time.

Anyway, it generally looks like this:

  • Weekday breakfast is usually scrambled eggs, or overnight oats made with Fage 5% yoghurt & frozen fruit. Weekend breakfast when I’m running is porridge, sometimes with peanut butter, or toast/bagel with jam or hazelnut spread.
  • If I’m not running, it’s likely to be eggs again. Poached or scrambled or omelette. I love them all ways. Usually with some combination of cherry tomatoes, onions, peppers, spinach & cheese in the omelettes. Poached eggs are special & need sourdough bread & serious amounts of chilli salt.
  • Lunch can vary – but if I’m well prepped during the week, it’s either rice, pasta or cous cous with broccoli, kale, random other veg, and some sort of protein: usually cheese or chicken. I mostly work in the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh, so there is endless choice if I need to buy something in, but for money-saving & macro-tracking reasons I prefer to bring my own lunch. If short of time & money I am quite likely to buy a packet of flatbreads & a pot of hummus – not ideal, but hits the spot.

  • Dinner can be more variable & the evenings are also when I am prone to boredom snacking. I do try to limit carbs in the evening, adding plenty of veg instead, but sometimes a bowl of pasta is required. If I’m running a longer distance the following day, it’s usually pasta or rice that I go for, with chicken.
  • Supplements get discussed quite a lot. I am back on the vitamins for this training cycle, & I do use protein powder occasionally (usually mixing with oats or yoghurt) but that’s all.

    Fuelling on the runs has usually been with SiS gels (grapefruit flavour is the best), jelly babies, and Lucozade Sport. This has been a staple of my long runs for a few years now & it quite possibly has more of a placebo effect than a sugar fix, but the taste reminds me of running now. It’s so interesting how different runners have their own favourites & plans for fuelling – I’ve learned based on what works for me but I will always listen to suggestions from others.

    Heading out for another ridiculous USA breakfast right now: pancakes, probably. I’m running today, so it’s fine…