It was all very well being gung ho and buoyed up by completing the 10km run at Beachy Head last year while the ‘big boys’ did the Marathon. So caught up was I in the atmosphere I could not wait for my partner, Chau, to get back from completing the gruelling 26 miler to tell him I wanted to do it next year.
As per my usual behaviour I made the instant decision that my first Marathon – ever - would be Beachy Head 2016. In my mind running 6 miles of it seemed to have qualified me to think I could tackle an extra 20 miles of trails, cliff and weather. Not to worry- I had ages to go before I needed to think about training so off we went to celebrate Chau’s great run with some Eastbourne fish and chips.
Maybe I should have digested the following words on the marathon description a bit more thoroughly before parting with my entry fee – gruelling – infamous starting hill, long hard slog, 300 steps, running all of the Seven Sisters. Apparently though its scenic and you get flapjacks on the way so maybe that will equalise the pain...
Fast forward a few months that included running club cross country league, Wokingham Half, knee injury, 2 months of being horrible as not being able to run and miraculous recovery.
Basic fitness in place and its was time to focus on training for this marathon I so gaily signed up for. I had a few half marathons under my belt which was a good and a bad thing as I knew I could fairly easily run 13 miles but mentally I could not see how I could possibly run double that distance.
Chau – patient partner and long suffering coach put a plan in place that should get the mileage on my legs without me bending his ear too much.
2 runs of about 6 miles during the week plus one British Military Fitness session and then a long run every weekend that increases in mileage week by week. Sorted. Just needed to do put it into practice now.
First challenge was to get over the feeling that at mile 13 it was time to stop as for me that was the pinnacle of my running so anything over that distance seemed impossible. It was a massive achievement for me to run 14.2 miles, break that barrier and not expecting to be handed a medal, a banana at miles 13 and go retire to the sofa.
Chau planned lovely routes in Busy Park, Richmond Park and it was good not to know where I was going and variety helped me go the distance – well most of the time.
It was becoming routine to forego the end of week glass of wine or two and rise very early on Saturdays mornings to get there by 8am as each run we were adding on a mile or two and the time it took to run was significantly increasing.
It still filled me with trepidation as each run was taking me to a new distance and it a weekly 'out of the comfort zone' experience. The first time I got to 20 miles I thought both knees would give way, I suppose my legs had never experienced that continual pounding for so long.
22 miles was my longest run and it was a 3 plus hours of emotion to very low to total running high. We set off fine, carbed up and ready. By mile one (yes mile one) I started to get niggly and a bit teenage stroppy – ‘don’t run so close to me’ I say to Chau, ‘don’t run behind me either’ poor man could do nothing right.
My mind was playing tricks and all I could think was I can’t do it, how can I possibly run another 21 miles and why on earth did I think I could run a marathon? I am useless and should not call myself a runner. Then I had a Mini Meltdown Moment in a tunnel and all was literally black. I stopped running and cried – Oh what a great start! A couple of minute motivational and get back to reality talk from Chau, a quick loo stop in a bush and I pulled myself together, deep breath and put the Mind Gremlin back in its box and away we went. again.
Looks at bit dark over there’ I said as I observed the black sky. 5 mins later we were squelching down the road and my mascara stinging my eyes (why don’t I learn not to be so vain) It was incessant and was not going to stop. I spotted the Kingston Bridge which would have be a perfect place to turn back to the car. I gave some very strong hints to Chau about maybe it would be best to cut it short. Despite my repeated comments about home and dry and coffee he appeared to have gone deaf. Although I did notice the raised hand which now I realised meant – don’t even think about stopping. We ploughed on.
Thank you Chau for being selectively deaf as I achieved something I did not know I could ever do and ran 22 miles in a pace of 9mins 36 sec per mile. I had to plug myself into my IPod at mile 18 and turbo boosted myself with Sia and Titanium who I played on repeat for 4 miles which were quicker than my first 4 miles. That four miles was the best ever – in the ‘zone’ and invincible. In that moment running was the best thing EVER!
I have learnt a lot from my long running sessions, mostly that the mind is a very powerful tool and these hours of running have helped me use it in a positive way (apart from the odd meltdown!) and realise I am much stronger that I thought. Its helped me in day to day life to feel confident and more worthwhile as well. I do suffer from anxiety and lack of confidence and when I have a wobbler I can look back and think the of the strength I found when everything hurt but I carried on and can draw motivation from it.
I did think that having 3 ½ hours or so of running may mean I had time to think of the deeper and meaningful things in life, be mindful and all of that good stuff – Alas that did not happen and generally I thought of food. Running past cafes, look at menus did not help and I always set myself up with a donkey and carrot scenario of what I was going to have when at the end of the run – I am ruled by my stomach!
So there we go – Two weeks to go and I am distance trained and hill trained and as ready as I will ever be. I just need to keep my mind on track and pray for decent weather and the finish line looks achievable. I have already planned my post-race meal – Fish and Chips!
To inspire myself even more I am running to raise money for an amazing young man I know in Zambia. Please click on this link for more information – every penny donated will make a significant difference to the young generation in Mfuwe – a rural community that really needs support. Thank you!