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.