Over the finish line

It has taken me much longer to write my concluding post than I had planned, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks riding high on the wave of being an official London Marathon finisher. I have re told the story to countless people, re lived it in my head several times a day and have enjoyed some real down time for the first time in months. It’s official, I now have a social life again and whilst I am enjoying this there is twitch of excitement in looking for my next challenge; I’ve already purchased my first pair of trail running shoes and have a book of routes to start working my way through so I won’t be out for long.

The day itself…

At 8am our taxi arrived to take us as close as possible to the start line and having been up since 5am going over every detail of the day ahead with a text from the race organisers before 6am warning of very hot weather and how to look after yourself in the heat I felt a mixture of huge excitement coupled with a shot of trepidation at what lay ahead. I have never trained in such warm weather so this was a little bit of the unknown for me and on race day obviously this is not ideal however the day was finally here and I wanted to really make the most of the atmosphere.

Only on marathon day could you justifiably walk the streets of London consuming a vat of porridge from a tupperware container! Even just walking the relatively short distance to the race village the heat really hit me and there was no need to be wearing any extra layers to keep my muscles warm pre race. However watching someone be swaddled in a furry wombles costume at 9am helped me to put my own situation into perspective, I’d been having palpitations as I had only trained in three quarter leggings and so didn’t want to try out new shorts on race day.

I had a few photos taken before I went into the village and then waited to have my bag put on a luggage truck and queued for the infamous pre race porta-loos (all the glamour)-the queues being akin to that of the busiest day at a Theme Park for a newly opened roller coaster. This was perhaps a blessing though as I then didn’t have lots of time waiting around on my own, I grabbed a bottle of water and got into my pen and chatting to some other runners. We watched the action unfolding on the big screen, as this year they had a wave start for the different starts. Nothing prepares you for that build of adrenaline, excitement and anxiety as the countdown begins and you wait for the moment you have trained for over the last six months, it’s a really surreal moment.

Our moment came at around 10.15am and very slowly but surely you could see the first few pens starting to move out, this was it. Support from the beginning was huge and the crowds didn’t disappoint, I just had to keep telling myself not to get carried away and to slow down. At this point, I took my headphones out and made the most of the atmosphere generated by the crowds. The first bit now is a bit of a blur and to be honest it’s hard to separate probably the first 10 miles in my memory.  The crowds got bigger and bigger as time passed and lots of people had PA systems set up from their balconies, shouting out support and blaring music from their houses to keep motivation high. Again it can only be acceptable to be slightly inebriated and to be shouting and in some cases screaming at the top of your lungs at passing runners on marathon day (all very friendly and really showcased some authentic London communities in the most eccentric ways).

The heat was really becoming really challenging and I stopped at every water station (mindful not to take on too much water; more runners die from over hydrating than being dehydrated- though it’s really difficult to fight the urge to take a big gulp of water when you’re so hot), shower and fire station – who had kindly set up their engine hoses to douse passing runners. Every drop was pure bliss and gave me that little kick to carry on! So many members of the public had plates of sweets, goodies and treats to hand out and although lots of runners were taken ill on the course due in most part to the heat, they were so well looked after by the public, the amazing St. John’s ambulance and other runners that you really felt part of something very special. When there’s so much talk of division and unrest all over the news it’s so refreshing to see communities come together like this and really buy into supporting people in something so positive.

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In the race village before setting off, I managed to plaster on a smile after a few last minute nerves had set in

I had promised myself I would take time to take all the sights in and soak it all in as I’d said this would be something never to be repeated. Other than having no recollection of seeing the Cutty Sark (don’t ask), I really did and even managed a few photos along the way. I remember hitting Canary Wharf and being totally overwhelmed with the noise and the sheer volume of supporters who were lining both sides of the road, bridges over head and every square inch available, it was incredible and I got really choked up at this point. After this point I hit a bit of a bad patch as my lower back totally seized and I couldn’t walk let alone run so there were a fair few miles of running and then stopping to stretch out but in the blistering heat and with an injury anyway I knew if I wanted to finish I had to listen to my body. Every time I stopped, members of the public were asking if I was ok and did I need anything which in itself gave me the strength to get going again. It was a bit monotonous for a while and towards the end I wondered if I had enough in me to keep going. I don’t think I really hit the wall as I’ve heard some people describe but I definitely really struggled in the last three or four miles and I kept trying to smile away the grimace that repeatedly made an appearance all over my face! Honestly the last few miles felt never ending and at times I wondered if I was moving forwards at all and not just up and down but then I saw the houses of parliament and knew as the crowds grew yet again I couldn’t be far off.

I saw the 800m marker and this was by far the hardest section of the race as your so nearly there but it felt a million miles away and every 200m felt like another 20 miles. Coming past Buckingham Palace was magical and I knew my husband was at the finish line somewhere – I so desperately wanted to see a familiar face that I slowed down to see if I could spot him. I looked in the stands both sides of the road and then saw him, screeching his name out repeatedly until he clocked me and with a few waves to the camera used my very last ounce of energy to sprint over the line before bursting into tears at the end; elated, exhausted and absolutely overwhelmed by it all. The culmination of 6 months of training, diet, early mornings, fatigue, injury and excitement all gone in a matter of hours.

Just amazing!

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FINAL COUNTDOWN!!

Wow so I’m now in the final week of my London Marathon journey and with just four days to go both the excitement and the nerves have reached their crescendo (I hope)! At this point it’s impossible to convey the huge mix of emotions surrounding this event and the months of training that have led everyone to their own finale at the London Marathon. Training for London and any marathon involves much more than simply running!

My last run was on Saturday and I did 10 miles, cutting my usual route through two beautiful local parks short and having a valid reason to avoid any further hills, hooray! I did come home sporting quite an impressive blister for some reason though (a total mystery as my footwear is the same) however with the help of some castor oil this seems to be subsiding already.

This week I will do NO RUNNING and only a very short, steady cross training session which feels very strange and almost counter intuitive but I know this is the best preparation possible for my body. It has also made me realise that I hate not exercising and my first night in front of the TV continuing to ice my foot left me slightly twitchy and facing a terrible nights sleep as I just didn’t feel tired. However I’m going to try and embrace it for the rest of the week and will line up some good books and TV to see me through. Also as the weather looks so warm the rest of the week it might even mean I can sit outside in the evenings which is a bit nicer than the thought of being cooped up inside all day. Contrary to the wishes of the rest of the population I’m really hoping the predicted heat wave particularly in London this week takes a downward spiral with some clouds and perhaps even some light drizzle just for Sunday morning!

Tune in and watch the magic unfold from 8.30am on Sunday morning on BBC1. The start times are as follows:

 

  • 08:55 – Elite Wheelchair Races
  • 09:00 – World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup ambulant races
  • 09:15 – The Elite Women’s Race
  • 10:00 – The Elite Men’s Race, British Athletics & England Athletics Marathon Championships and Mass Race

Good luck to all my fellow runners and don’t forget to enjoy the experience, one of my running friends reassured me with the most positive message; ‘you’ve done all the hard work in training just see this as your victory lap.’

If you feel inspired, please take a moment to sponsor me via: https://bit.ly/2CL9SWu

Ploughing ahead

The last few weeks have been up and down but I’ve still managed to train albeit slightly differently to how I imagined, definitely proving that marathon training needs to be approached with some degree of flexibility as, shock horror things don’t always go to plan. There has been a lot of time spent cross training at the gym or on our turbo trainer at home to keep the pressure off my foot whilst keeping my cardio fitness up. One things for certain- I’m definitely getting my money’s worth at the gym, I feel like they might start paying me soon! I also managed to get in a 13 mile run last weekend including some hills, being sensible and stopping at this distance as my foot started to niggle. During this run I also (finally) nailed the art of fueling for the first time ever after listening to members of my running club and my husband. I started to take on food after just 20 minutes of running and then every 20 mins after this for the duration of my run which meant I never had a real crash in energy. I felt much stronger in terms of energy on this run proving the fueling strategy had really worked.

The next day was another weekend morning spent sweating away on our turbo trainer at home but at least I could look out onto the garden and not waste time getting to the gym before I could start exercising. I’ve been icing my foot every day and also went into our local running shop to get some more rock tape to keep my foot strapped up for the next few weeks; taping is most definitely an art form and you need approximately three pairs of hands to do this effectively but it definitely improves my confidence to get up and running again.

After a real struggle on a five mile club run last week I did begin to panic slightly (a recurring theme in my training) that such a lack of running may be having an impact on my fitness and my ability to finish the marathon but I was also struck down with a  sickness bug pretty much as soon as I had finished this run so put this down to a blip. I carried on as normal with training after a couple of days rest and reset my focus for the last leg of my training.

Wednesdays are my club run nights and this week I was greeted by a torrential downpour just as I was debating whether I could muster the enthusiasm to head out. I’d seen the routes earlier that day and knew most of the paths in our local nature reserve were currently underwater so had talked myself out of going… that was until there were four minutes left to leave the house and then suddenly the weather turned; the rain stopped and the sun came out so I took this as a sign. Never have I changed and got my kit together so quickly, in the end I was so pleased I made the effort after all as I had my strongest and quickest run in a long time and no real twinges in my foot. Victory! This was exactly what I needed at this point and gave me a real boost. I found myself in the gym the next morning doing some more cross training and will be doing a run home from work later today as well as (fingers crossed) my last longer run over the weekend and then the tapering will really kick in and I will be slowing my down considerably before the marathon.

I’ll be keeping my enthusiasm up by putting together a new playlist over the weekend, it definitely helps running to new music as you find you get lost in following new sounds and lyrics rather than focusing on how much your legs ache or how heavily you’re breathing.  I’ve also ordered some shorts to try out over the next few weeks as I found I was over heating a bit last time even with it being October so worth a trial, lastly I’ll be stocking up on marathon food and reading through my 39 page marathon guide.

Such a cliche but I honestly just can’t believe how quickly the last few weeks have evaporated! The 22nd April feels like it will be upon me in the blink of an eye.

 

 

Injury strikes

After my foot pain of last week was worsening and my anxiety levels were growing I decided the best thing to do was get it checked out by a professional. I headed to a local sports physio who was recommended by someone I run with. The pressure on this outcome of this consultation felt a bit overwhelming as I had done the worst possible thing and googled the symptoms; best case scenario was some over worked muscle, worst case was a stress fracture which would see my marathon dreams over for sure! Emotions were running high and I had a feeling it was damage to my ligaments, which again would not be good news at all especially as I hadn’t completed my longest run yet and in a week or so should actually be tapering.

The physio was great and talked to me about what I thought it could be and what the worst outcome could be. She had a really extensive feel of both feet and my legs after I had found I had some really unpleasant muscle knots in my right calf. I felt I hadn’t drawn a breath in nearly 35 minutes waiting for the verdict. She confirmed my fears that it was likely to be damage to my ligaments around my fifth metatarsal due to a combination of over use and an overly flexible mid foot which with the levels of training I had been doing had caused damage to my outer foot. I was told she didn’t think it was a stress fracture as my pain and responses didn’t correlate with this kind of injury. Despite this I was lacking the sense of relief I’d been hoping for as although it could have been worse it also could have been better and I felt a bit deflated. However we talked through what training I could do and to monitor pain levels, keeping them within a pre-defined score. It did all feel slightly out of control though and I still feel that I’m not out of the woods yet but I’m doing everything possible to give myself the best chance (as I’m typing this I have a large pack of frozen peas on my foot). I have to keep it strapped for the next five weeks, including for the marathon, wear flat, supportive shoes, ice it whenever possible and do lots of cross training to make up for the period of ‘relative rest’ I’m entering into over the next week which feels very alien at this stage. Certainly my aim of getting 22 miles in pre-marathon is no longer possible and I’m feeling anxious at the thought of only being able to get in a maximum of around 18 miles in before I run.

It’s been a really tough week mentally and physically but it’s not over yet and watching sport relief on TV this week puts your own problems well and truly into perspective. I’m determined to be part of the London Marathon 2018 and this has confirmed to me that this will be the end of any desire to do another road marathon ever again.

Things worth doing are never easy!

An icy blip

So after my last post, I have been working hard to keep up my training and trying to focus a little bit more on some strength training to prevent injury. I did a solo run of just over 17 miles the weekend before last which included getting totally and utterly lost (which actually helped keep my interest in the end) but it was satisfying to keep the mileage high. I have to say I have been finding it really hard in the cold weather and lots of early morning weekend starts to keep myself motivated on longer solo runs but I know from experience how important it is to build my distance up steadily without a massive spike in miles. I’ve taken some time to think about small things that will keep me going like updating my music to keep my interest and give my brain something else to focus on rather than zoning out when I hear the same music being piped into my ears. Also thinking about snacks I will enjoy and buying some in to trial on longer runs (the last thing anyone should do is try new fuel on race day, as if it doesn’t suit you, you may face a rather mortifying Paula Radcliffe style Athens 2004 style moment; feel free to google if your curiosity gets the better of you).

I had been building up to my first 20 mile run last Sunday in the form of the Ashby 20 race but unfortunately with the arrival of yet another set of bad weather the race was called off a few days before. I had really mixed feelings about this, obviously I was disappointed not to have the chance to do one final race before the big day; to practice race day prep and learning to deal with nerves, crowds and an entirely new course however after a six day week at work and a bit of a niggle in my foot (not the tin can injured foot), I couldn’t help but feel relieved too as I just didn’t know whether I felt mentally or physically up to it. My concerns were vindicated after a visit to the gym on Sunday in which I barely managed 3 miles of running due to foot twinges, I did make sure I had a good workout though, being sensible and using machines that wouldn’t aggravate the pain but would allow me to keep my heart rate up.

Since then I have been walking, cycling, spinning and doing strength training combined with resting and keeping my foot up as well as my lovely husband providing nightly foot rubs (he’s a keeper)! Hopefully after a few more days I’ll be back to fighting fit and can face the next few weeks with renewed enthusiasm and determination as I know this will be my last road marathon.

 

 

 

 

Hitting pause

Monday of this week could have spelled disaster for me in the most ridiculous of ways. After months of intense training, pressing pause on my social life, changing my diet, being quite possibly the most one dimensional colleague/friend/daughter/sister and wife, I rushed home from a long day at work determined to make a healthy, veggie laden dinner. In my rush to get a list of other chores done during my one night off training I was determined not to waste time and quickly gather all the ingredients together in a rather manic fashion. This saw me smash a whole kilo tub of yoghurt out of the fridge and all over the kitchen floor as well as every conceivable cupboard and surface in sight but stop I did not, I didn’t have time clean the mess up at this point and needed to get dinner started. I carried on gathering the rest of  the ingredients I needed and with one ferocious pull on our pantry cupboard, two tins of canned tomatoes tumbled out from the top shelf gathering speed and hurtling downwards making contact with a hard surface which it turns out was not the floor but my left foot! (Insert choice words here) Obviously it really hurt and bought a tear or two to my eyes but within about thirty seconds and a very real throbbing starting to consume my left foot my attention turned to the thought of potential injury by way of tinned food and whether this could impact on my ability to train!

I was beginning to panic but recognised this feeling from my marathon training last time- its often referred to as total and utter pre race hypochondria. I am told though this is quite common and I can see why! Nothing else I have done has ever consumed my life quite like training for a marathon and to think that something out of your control such as illness (which was a factor last time around) or injury could throw this into jeopardy is quite frankly vomit inducing. I thought I’d see how it felt overnight as I recognised the probability that I was being a bit of a drama queen but each time I rolled over onto it during the night the pain woke me up and by the next morning it had also swollen up- hmmm! At this point I knew I had to get it checked out as I was due to head out and do some sprint training that evening and I couldn’t risk further damage if really had been unlucky enough to do any real damage already.  Luckily I work really close by to my local A&E department so popped over after work to go and see what they thought. Feeling a bit of a fraud I took a sit in the emergency department, preparing myself for a mammoth wait, the triage nurse saw me within about 15 minutes and after a good feel of my foot sent me to x-ray. Again the wait here was minimal and I was back with the nurse after about another 20 minutes.  My name was bellowed out across the waiting area and after taking a deep breath I headed in thinking this could be the end of my London Marathon dream. “So this is your X-ray, we’ve had a good look and it seems…(long, dramatic pause as I recall it) there is no fracture on the bruised part or at the base of your toe so it’s just a soft tissue injury and some bad bruising.” The poor guy had barely taken a breath before I added, “I’m training for a marathon, can I still train as normal? Will I need to rest it or can I head straight out?” Luckily I was assured that it would be fine to train on and just to keep it elevated when I could. I felt I’d dodged a bullet though so went home and indulged in a TV and footstool evening.

The physical toll on your body is something you have to expect when marathon training but the emotional roller coaster, especially the anxiety is something no-one can really prepare you for.

Back on track and heading towards my next race on Sunday 18th to get 20 miles under my belt which feels quite scary in itself but will be really good preparation at this point.

 

Ice, ice baby

This week’s training has required a bit of creativity and compromise thanks to the much anticipated arrival of the ‘Beast from the East’ storm. Our part of the UK was held to ransom from Wednesday onwards and by Thursday conditions were treacherous (by running standards at least). Wednesday saw the first blip to my training schedule in that my Athletics club cancelled their weekly mid week run (though I was in total agreement) I felt a bit all at sea so headed to the gym instead and got busy with some dreaded interval training and a little bit of strength work. Thursday’s weather was worse and by this point I couldn’t walk safely on the pavements let alone think about running anywhere, outside at least. My plan for the weekend was to get my biggest distance yet under my belt and aim for around 17 miles so over the next few days I found myself looking at every weather report and app I could lay my hands on – it wasn’t looking pretty!

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So just a little bit of ice on the canal then!

By Friday and after two disrupted days at work I found myself back in the gym AGAIN and feeling a bit deflated. Thankfully I had a day at the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham to look forward to which re ignited my enthusiasm to keep going. Ironically watching other people do sport was exactly what I needed to break up the monotony of a weeks training pretty much confined to the indoors.

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Sunday morning arrived and I knew I was not feeling confident to chance a go at running outside so instead I headed back to the gym and bagged myself a treadmill. I had to speak to the gym staff to explain why I would be hogging one of their most popular machines for the morning. I did evoke some puzzled looks from other people in the gym after setting up camp on the treadmill with multiple bottles of water, a tennis ball for some post run hip rolling and food! I settled in to watch almost an entire episode of Sunday Brunch undisturbed by my husband’s lack of enthusiasm for this weekend TV indulgence- bliss! Or so I thought but after about 35 minutes I was starting to get a bit twitchy from boredom, I wasn’t used to running for so long without the scenery changing and it was really hard work. I kept going and found I took on more food than I perhaps needed out of sheer boredom. Over two hours later I was done and bored out of my mind but it was done and I was so pleased I had been able to get some bigger miles in.

Indoor run
Torturous describes my love of watching cooking programmes on treadmill runs!

This week has started with a thaw in the snowy, icy weather of last week so I’m hoping to be back out pounding the pavements from tomorrow