My last blog post – MARATHON DONE!

I feel a little guilty by how happy I am to say this is my last blog post on my marathon training. But, I started blogging to document my experience in training for a marathon, and that marathon is now complete.

In Edinburgh on Sunday 26th May, I happily completed my first and most likely only marathon, in 4 hours 10 minutes, 3554th position! I’ll confess to you that I did not enter it with full confidence that I could finish it. Over the last 4 weeks of my training, I’ve had a variety of niggles, inflamed tendons, pains in hips / knees / calves – you name it. And I missed a couple of major runs as a result (including my “longest” run – though I did make it to 19 miles in training). 

From the get-go yesterday in Edinburgh, as the race started at 09.50 in warm sunshine, I ran a slow, tentative pace, in the hope that any tendon or muscle that was waiting to tear would just hold out until the end. A little overly-fearful and paranoid you might say, and in retrospect, maybe – I was secretly aiming to run the marathon in sub-4 hours, and I knew from 3 hours on that I wasn’t going to make that. 

But – my training paid off, and my slightly obsessive thoughts on pacing in recent weeks mostly worked. I ran a fairly consistent pace of 9.15 a mile until mile 18-ish, which was also the point on the Edinburgh marathon course when the route doubles back, and you know you’re in the final stretch. To my surprise, I actually did have something left in the tank by this stretch, and quickened up my pace a little. It was all getting a little hairy at that point – it started to feel that every half mile or so I would pass someone at the side surrounded by first aiders. In the last 4 miles, a lot of people (who looked much fitter than me!) were slowing to a halt and going off the course.

By mile 20, I felt the end was really in sight. By mile 22, I couldn’t step up my pace any more as my legs were starting to feel pain everywhere. By mile 24, I’d started mentally coaching myself to keep going – only 2 miles to go, visualising the distance that 2 miles covered in my local runs at home (i.e. not far). But truthfully, it was the longest last 2.2 miles of my life – even the last 0.2 miles past the 26 mile marker felt like an eternity.

On a much more cheerful note, the crowds on the course were immense. Handing out sweeties and water, kiddies giving high-fives to the runners, spraying runners with hose pipes, and everyone shouting encouragement throughout. I almost gave into the emotion of it all in the last 4 miles – the crowds were thickening at that point, and cheering every single runner who went past, spotting runners who were flagging and encouraging them to keep going, they were almost there.

Truly, I saw some of the best of humanity during the marathon. The crowds really had nothing material to gain from showing their support, they just did it because they wanted to. And the runners themselves, pushing past pain in those last miles, focusing on friends and family at the finish line – amazing. One guy who had paused at the side at around 17 miles with a first aider was eager to call out to a passing runner friend “Don’t tell my mum – I’m just feeling a little dizzy”. I don’t think anyone attempts a marathon just for themselves – it’s an achievement shared with people you love.

So, will I ever attempt a marathon again? Not likely. As soon as I crossed the finish line in Musselburgh, I stopped running and my body stiffened instantly. One day after, I’m still feeling pretty broken physically (I still can’t walk up the stairs, no kidding!). Mentally and emotionally though, I’m elated.

Do I have any regrets? Not a single one. My daughter ran one of the junior races in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival this weekend, and I can hear the pride in my kids’ voices when they tell friends that their Mum ran a marathon. For me, it’s a little legacy for my kids – hopefully inspiring them and convincing them they can do anything with a bit of determination and hard work. And life is all about keeping moving – not sitting back, but reaching higher and learning from the journey, the good and the bad.

Happy running!

 

 

 

 

Feeling like a rescue donkey, and my current goal of reaching the marathon starting line.

Week 13 of my 16 week marathon training programme comes to a close with a bit of a poor-effort 11 mile run today. Since running 19 miles a couple of weeks ago, my body has been telling me I’m really a bit too old to be doing this kind of thing. Building pain in my left knee for a week after (which I’ve never had any niggles in before) resulted in a limping Saturday run, no “longest” run on the Sunday, and a nervous trip to the physio on Monday. A tight and inflamed quadriceps tendon pulling on my knee cap apparently, but manageable with a few days rest, lots of stretching and ice packs. 

Built up this week to a 2 hour run today – and by the 10 mile mark, I really did feel like a rescue donkey that’s worked all its life carrying boulders. Being kicked, and forced to walk up hills. My legs are just plain worn out.

Hence, my current goal is to simply reach the Edinburgh marathon starting line on 26th May in one piece. But…..my taper has started. The final approach to the marathon in 3 weeks time sees a gradual reduction in training, and no more massive runs. THANK GOD. Don’t get me wrong – I love running, but even I’m starting to get a little “over” the whole marathon thing – I just want to do it and get it over with now. 

Happily, I’ve now reached my 80% point with my UNICEF fundraising, which I’m delighted with – and thank all my friends and family for making that happen!

Onwards, and hopefully on a very flat Edinburgh marathon course, downwards…….

 

Pick n’ mix marathon training and midget gems

Just completed week 11 of my 16 wk marathon training programme. I’m fascinated by the strategy and the detail I see developing in my training schedule (I’m a nerd, always have been and kinda proud of it). My longest run to date today of 19.1 miles showed me how it is all coming together.

The key elements of my marathon training programme so far:

 – Hill training to improve strength – no longer a big part of my official schedule but some of my early training runs included a weekly hills session (find a hill, run up it for 5min plus, run back down in a nicely controlled way, jog for a bit, then do it all again a few times for up to an hour or so). My normal running routes always include hills anyhow, so there’s no getting away from them where I live.

Threshold training to improve pace – a consistent element of my training which is still ongoing, focused on improving pace and speed. Warm up with an easy run for 10 mins or so, then run at threshold pace (speak at three word sentences if, god forbid, you have to actually communicate during a run) for intervals of 5 – 12 minutes with recovery jogs in between. For anything up to 75 minutes. My preferred threshold runs are progression ones – nice and simple, run a third at a slow pace, next third steady, then final third at threshold pace (up to an hour).

 – Distance runs to build endurance – the runs that I used to think were all a long distance runner had to do, long distance weekly runs to build up your endurance. Normally Sundays, these runs have gotten longer over my programme until I reach the peak of around 3 hours next Sunday. 

Core strength and muscle building exercises – again something I totally underestimated the benefits of, regular exercises to build up your core muscles, your glutes etc, which I’ve also been combining with extra stretches recommended by a physio to overcome some hip and calf niggles. Ideally, every day though I probably only do these up to days a week.

– and of course, rest days to give your body time to recover and strengthen from your efforts; recovery runs in between to keep your legs active; and a decent diet (the latter is probably my biggest weakness currently – the title of this post is a bit of a hint….)

My long run today of 19 miles, and my next couple of long runs, are definitely bringing it all together. Today, I aimed to run the first couple of hours at an easy / steady average pace of just over 9 minutes a mile. During the last 50 minutes or so (on a pre-planned flat bit of my route) I increased my pace by a minute or so a mile. Before hand, I really didn’t think I would have strength left in my legs to quicken up after 2 hours of running.

But you know what? I did – and I really believe all my different forms of training have helped with that. My body (and just as important, my mind!) remembers what to do from threshold pace runs, and my legs are strong from hills and endurance training. 

Add to that a pocketful of midget gems and a sports drink which helped me today, and I am hopeful I can find the pace, strength and sheer will for that final 7 miles on marathon day. 

 

 

” ‘Look,’ he tr…

” ‘Look,’ he tried, ‘put two men in a rail car, one a soldier, the other a farmer. One talks war, the other wheat; and bore each other to sleep. But let one spell long-distance running, and if the other once ran the mile, why, those men will run all night, like boys, sparking a friendship up from memory’ ”

Something wicked this way comes, Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s definition of love – common cause, shared experience.

The loneliness of the long distance runner….

Almost at the end of week 9 in my marathon training schedule for the Edinburgh Marathon in May. The past couple of weeks have seen my first truly long-distance runs. The first time I reached a personal milestone for longest distance ever was exhilarating – the second time felt more functional than emotional. I’m up to just over 16 miles now, over 2 and a half hours. A little disappointingly, my next couple of weeks of training are focused more on pace and less on distance. So, I have to wait a little for my next long runs, the longest in my entire training session. I anticipate reaching around 20 or so miles before I start to taper in the last couple of weeks before the marathon.

Having never exceeded 13 miles before (half marathon distance), these longer runs are a new world to me. And they do indeed feel like a world unto themselves – they loom on my horizon all week long like a mountain, something a little epic in scale. Sounds grandiose I know, but I’m finding it more and more challenging to mentally prepare myself for these runs. There is something a bit daunting about setting out to run for well over 2 hours. Knowing you will be on the move, stressing your body, covering miles across countryside, villages, towns, all that time to think and still keep your focus – until you arrive home again.

Physically though, I’m feeling fairly good on these runs – my right leg has been a little stiff and I’ve finally gotten around to seeing a physio about that. Seems as if two pregnancies have rearranged my hips (!), so massage, stretching and strengthening will hopefully sort it all out. No biggies though – I’m still on track to attempting my biggest physical (and increasingly, mental) challenge yet.  

 

Breaking the two-hour milestone

End of week 6 of my marathon training schedule – and I’ve finally broken the 2 hour run mark. A big milestone for my current training programme, and one I’ve been looking forward to for a few weeks!

After a 50 minute hill training session yesterday, my legs felt a little wooden today, so my pace was slow. But, I don’t want to do anything heroic at this stage – avoid injury, build up strength and endurance, and hopefully my pace will improve as I go along.

The first hour was the toughest today, and I started taking on an energy gel just after the halfway mark. This is the first time I’ve used these – despite spilling a load of it in an over-exuberant squeeze when I opened it, I sipped it for the remainder of my run (and hoped no dogs were keen on the sweet-smelling pouch as I ran past them). I think it helped – I didn’t get the slightly wobbly and drained feeling I can get over long runs.

Week 7 training on the way – another big week. I confess I’m currently having a rest day on Mondays as well as Fridays – my schedule advocates 6 days of training (2 with cross-training instead of runs if you prefer). But, I reckon my legs need a rest on Mondays (I had an injury not that long ago), though I’ll continue to do strengthening exercises and stretching as normal. What are schedules for if not to be re-interpreted, just a little 😉