I’m never running another marathon…. Oooo Paris you say?!?

 

Ten days after the blister-fest that was my London marathon, I’m still on antibiotics (the exploding one got infected!) and yet I’ve managed to enter my second big city marathon! I’m so easily tempted…. A few of my fellow Hatchies had been discussing the idea of going to Paris for the weekend to support two of our ladies who’d already entered, the next thing I knew I’m online checking the course out, costs, hotel options….WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!? Back away from the Internet, Helen…. That’s what got you in this mess in the first place!!! Look at your big toenail, hanging off with a big gruesome blister under it! Why in gods name would you want to run another bloody marathon?!?!?

So why do I want to do another one?

1. I wasn’t 100% fit at London, my hips were still sore and had been a darn site worse than I’d actually let on to anyone 

2. I know I can run faster (annoyingly I remain the most competitive person I know even if that’s just against myself), it might not be sub 4 hours but it will be bloody close!

3. I know I didn’t do all the prep I planned, more core strength and flexibility will help (don’t be lazy!)

4. I like big shiny medals, this years Paris one is cool!

5. I don’t like missing out… So many of my mates were going (I could watch but I’d get twitchy)

6. Training wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be… I have more train and run ideas I want an excuse to do

7. Paris looks great! The course takes in all the main sights, and cheaper than a bus tour 

8. There will be wine… Or champagne!

9. There will be croissants 

10. If I run abroad does that make me an international athlete? It must…surely?!

So 3 April 2016 we do it all again, minus the pressure of fundraising and the fear of not knowing what a marathon is like. I know I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment but it’s a great excuse for a girlie weekend away, if nothing else, and there’s just a little Sunday run to squeeze in!

4:07:03 of pain, blisters, tears and cheers

A day after the London Marathon and it feels like time to reflect on a massive achievement. I barely slept the night before, with a mix of excitement and trepidation as to what lay ahead.  Breakfast was a struggle, had to force it down me, knowing it was going to fuel me for the day.

We travelled to the start in a group, 4 Hatchies for the Red ‘mass charity’ start, 1 for the Green (good for age, celebrity and smaller start) and 1 blue (club place). It was a pretty slick operation but still took almost an hour for a 20 min journey, followed by a long walk to the start area.  First job, to queue for a loo! Then dropping off our baggage on the truck and time to get in our start pen. 2 of our group were in pen 9 but I was in pen 5 with one other HWR (Craig).  It did seem like a massive difference between the pens, with us being only just behind the iconic Greenwich Park gates! Suddenly it all felt rather real!

  

 

And then, before we knew it, we were underway! I was running the LONDON MARATHON!!!! I planned to try and run around 9 minute miles to halfway and see how I felt.  First few miles were broadly ok, but my hips hurt, legs felt heavy and the crowds were big on the course.  We merged starts at around 3 miles, but somehow we ended up with the 4hour red pace group merging with the 4:45 green… Not a match made in heaven.  It meant the green group (about 1-1.5 mins slower per mile) were making keeping our pace going on the racing line very tricky.  

Reaching Cutty Sark was my first big landmark, just as the course gets really narrow, and the throng of runners slowed.   A traffic jam ensued and I got tripped and caught 3 times in a matter of 200m.  I still can’t work out how I didn’t end up face down on the floor! Shaken and out of my rhythm I was glad to get back on the wider streets of South East London. Not exactly a scenic area, but needs must!

I knew some of my friends were planning on being in the Surrey Quays area which was about 9 miles.  Unfortunately it seemed like half of london thought that was a good idea too! It was absolutely rammed!! Huge crowds on both sides of the street became a blur.  I had no chance of seeing them.  Then suddenly, right next to the 9 mile marker I spotted one of their faces light up when they spotted me and started screaming my name! I flew past them, bolstered by their support, and instantly burst into tears!! I just lost it completely… Sobbing like a baby!!!

I managed to get my emotions under control and focussed on the next key landmark, Tower Bridge.  An iconic section of the marathon, marking almost halfway and the move from South to North of the Thames. Running over Tower Bridge, the crowds, noise and scenery were immense but suprisingly not overwhelming as I had feared.  

The turn away from the bridge joined the dual carriageway where the faster runners were passing on the other side, around 7 miles ahead.  For me it was a great chance to watch the fast male club runners whizz past, then I noticed a rather familiar face in the middle of one group.  Paula Radcliffe!!!! I actually was able to watch her on her last London Marathon, flying past majestically.  What an honour to share the course with such an amazing runner and ambassador for pure running achievement. Such a boost!

At the far end of the dual carriageway were the HWR cheer squad, complete with so many of my loopy gang and Nik on his microphone….I knew I needed a boost, my legs were tiring and I kept an eye out for our flag.  And there they were at 14 miles! Waving and screaming like mad, looking proud and screaming loud! 

Then we headed into the start of the Isle of Dogs/dockland area. This was the section I was dreading. I remembered watching the marathon as a child, year in year out, this was where the crowds died out and the pain began.  Now the crowds seemed to have grown and were encroaching onto the road and it became really claustrophobic. I wasn’t happy. At 15 miles I met Rose, who was running for Diabetes UK too, and I had met at the Meet the experts event in Feb. She was roughly my pace so I knew it was going to help me crack on with the next few miles if I could hang on. We ran together, chatting and giggling for 3 miles. We even managed to get a selfie at 17 miles without dropping pace! But 18 miles was a slight incline up to Canary Wharf which hit me hard.  I lost Rose in the crowd and was alone again. Suddenly my legs were getting heavy and my calfs were starting to cramp.

Every step had become a struggle, it was hurting and the blisters that had started to form on my feet at about 10 miles earlier were irritating me.  Then at 19 miles I saw the 4:00 pacers go past.  I had watched my pace start to drop but I had really hoped to keep them behind me, I had already accepted that sub 4 was probably out of the question, but I was now literally seeing it disappearing into the distance.

I knew I had two more miles before I would see the HWR cheer squad again so it was time to draw in deep, and find those things which were going to get me round.  Obviously the charity fundraising was a major part of it, but actually the little pink ribbon I attached to my race number proved more of a motivator. I was wearing it in honour of my cousin who has been kicking breast cancer.  I knew that despite her brave face that times had been tough for her, but she has been getting on with what she needed to and focussing on the end goal.  The mantras I had in my head needed to come out now, “this girl can!” And “time to shine!”. Repeating over and over, step after step.

From 20.5 miles I was looking at every corner for the HWR flag. I needed my mates more than they realised.  And then I could hear them, see there hopeful faces, beaming at me from the side of the street!  The look of pride on their faces was just what I needed. I was hurting like hell but couldn’t let them see I was weakening. Giggling to myself I was remembering this picture from the Expo on Wednesday 

 

Time to SUCK IT UP PRINCESS!!

Soon I was back past the Tower of London, with the city front of me.  Surely the Embankments wasn’t far. Through the streets, under bridges rammed with spectators cheering, waving and shouting your name. The cramps were worsening in my calfs and now my quads too. Each step was hurting but I was only 5k from home. We entered a tunnel filled with loud music, disco lights and tonnes of runners stopping to stretch away from the gaze of supporters.

Out of the dark tunnel we were suddenly on the embankment, and , as if to bring my head back to reality, I hear a loud pop. Then I could feel a cold wetness spreading between my toes. The blister that had been plaguing me most of the way had burst! I wasn’t sure whether it was fluid or blood soaking my shoe, it just felt awful! I could see the London Eye, though, so I realised I was only a mile or so from my family and friends. Head down, time to just get on with it.

The crowds on the embankment were massive. Numerous charities had the cheer crews lining the road, and the noise was immense. I had to try hard to stay focussed on getting to Westminster and Big Ben to see my kids! I suddenly seemed to have a second wind (although the stats seem to dissagree). I was running strongly with the miles finally coming to an end. Just before the the turn at Westminster Bridge I spotted Iwan Thomas…. Passed him (smug face at overtaking an Olympian!) and then they were there! My family, my best mates and a gang of friends from work! This was the moment I had been dreaming of and was expecting to be in floods of tears. The time on Big Ben  was even the same as in my dream –  2:10pm. But I wasn’t crying I was grinning from ear to ear. I was in the last mile of the London Marathon!!!

Birdcage Walk was brilliant, the crowds blurred, and I was focussed on the end goal.  This was for Megan, for all Type 1 kids, for Sharon and the ladies she has shared her journey with, and for me. Proving I could run this far. I could overcome the rough patches, and I could accept that plan B time when sub-4 was gone.  I was elevated as we took the final corner onto The Mall.  I remembered what the Finish Line director had said at the Meet the Experts event back in February… I looked around me, who did I want to avoid sharing a finish line photo with? Where was the space to have a clear run in? Breathe it all in… This was the end of almost 400 miles of running.

I expected tears, they haven’t come. I expected a tinge of disappointment that missed 4 hours, it didn’t happen. I thought my foot was a mess of blisters… Sadly it IS revolting!! Today we have spent recovering and celebrating.  Without the blisters I would have run a gentle run tonight. Instead I popped out to see the group and give my thanks to the cheer squad who did us proud. For now it’s time to rest.

  

Race day!!

So after 6  months it’s time, not slept much, but feel rested. A bit emotional but ready. Forcing breakfast down because in just over 3 hours I’ll be at Greenwich Park and starting the London Marathon!!! Oh my goodness!!!!

 

Bring on London, I’m ready for you

Just 2 more sleeps to the big day, and I’m feeling almost ready.  After 6 months of training and fundraising, it’s time to put it all to use on one of the biggest stages in the running world, the London Marathon!

I went to the expo on Wednesday with my HWR buddies to collect my race number, timing chip and half a tonne of random running leaflets and flyers!  We were like a bunch of school kids on a day trip.  Think we may have annoyed a few fellow train passengers with our overexcited chatter all the way from Basingstoke to the eXcel centre in Docklands.

  

So numbers collected and stowed away safely for the big day we took an amble round the show, didn’t need any new kit but a rather snazzy pair of patterned Skins drew me in – such a sucker!! Was great to see all the other runners and a few famous faces too.  Missed Paula Radcliffe opening the event unfortunately but did spot Graeme Bell (the skier) Hugh Jones (London Marathon winner in the 80s and course measurer) and Martin Yelling, marathon coach and presenter of Marathon Talk.  I expected it to make me very emotional but actually I felt incredibly calm afterwards.  

  

It now feels like a good time to reflect on our shared marathon journey.  I’m genuinely suprised that all our team will be able to line up on Sunday morning.  The risk of injury and illness is massive when you are putting your body through the training, but although not entirely niggle free (and a few have a bit more than niggles) we will be there. There have been tears and tantrums along the way, but more than that we have had a massive amount of laughs. I would have had no hope of lining up in Greenwich Park without my training group, and no hope of raising almost £5,500 for Diabetes UK without Hatch Warren Runners.  On Sunday, however, it’s just a battle between me and the road, my legs and my heart, my fear and my competitive streak.  I hope that the heart and competitive streak win out, and when I have difficult patches I can draw on the crowds to get me round.

Tomorrow we travel to London, dinner with a few Hatchies, then time to rest.  I’ve got a rather big day on Sunday, and a couple of special kids to show just what their mum can do.

 

Bring on London…. I’m ready 

It’s the final countdown… 6 days to go

  

Well after almost 6 months of preparation, training and fundraising the London Marathon is almost here.  I can’t quite believe I’m actually doing it… Despite all those miles it seems quite unreal at the moment. 

My last long run was far from what we have got used to calling long! Just a gentle run round the Cliddesden 6 mile route which we haven’t been on this year.  Sunday was a beautiful, if chilly, morning.  After last weekends events it was lovely to have a big group back for the last one.  The Cliddesden 6 is a hilly little blighter, taking in 2 of the classic inclines from the Basingstoke Half marathon, Tree Tunnel Hill and the Big Dipper.  It’s a route I used to hate with a passion but after doing it numerous times in the build up to the Basingstoke Half last year I’ve grown to love it.  I was slightly worried that my hips would suffer as they’ve been painful on uphill sections but after a sports massage in the week and a new taping idea it seemed ok.  It was the first run I have managed for a few weeks which was totally pain free.  

So it seems like things are finally starting to line up ready for 26 April.  The nerves are starting to kick in and I’m losing a bit of sleep and am totally paranoid I’m going to catch a cold or trip and hurt myself!  Logic and common sense have gone out of the window but now it’s time to plan, pack and get organised. My packing list is longer than when I go on a fortnights holiday, but I’ll be prepared for every eventuality from boiling hot to snow!

And the final piece of the jigsaw is the fundraising, which is now over £5,000! I’m absolutely astounded by the amount I have been able to raise with the ongoing support of my lovely running buddies.  Just hope I do them proud on Sunday.  Next job is picking up my number and race chip on Wednesday.

  

2 weeks, 1 objective…. I must not cry all the way!

 

As if the motivation of achievement of completing the marathon wasn’t enough, the medal at the end and the sense of pride in the amount I have raised… I’ve bought myself a little post run treat…. Run Bling make personalised runners jewellery and I have been looking at their stuff for a while as a bit of a gift to me.  The owner is also running the London marathon and is a very inspiring lady, going through more than most of us ever will yet still running  a marathon.  I hope a little of her spirit will rub off on me in two weeks time, when it starts to hurt, when my spirit is struggling, I will know there are others running who have more reasons to stop but won’t. Megan has asked to wear it while I run and give it to me when we meet at the end, I hope she isn’t thinking “if mum doesn’t get round I can have it!”

Today’s run was much quieter with lots of my group running various events including the Bournemouth Bay Half marathon and the Brighton Marathon.  Today was our Tunworth Ten, it’s another lovely country route with a few cheeky hills to keep it interesting.  Plan was averaging 9:45 min miles…. But I’m a terrible one for keeping it under control in training and the first 6 miles were under 9 mins!!! Oops!!! Time to reel it in a bit and be sensible… My hips are still not 100% after a bit of resting in the week and hills can aggravate them. The last 3 miles were a steady up hill so the pace eased and we finished in an average 9:27. 

A post run foam rollering session and a bath in Epsom Salts mean my legs feel generally ok.  There’s still some soreness in my hips but not as bad as I had thought it might be.  It’s now only two weeks to go, the fundraising looks on track to hit £5,000 (incl gift aid), and although not 100% yet I’m hoping the niggles will ease as the miles continue to reduce.  With friends running the Brighton Marathon today it’s started to feel very real.  I tracked them on the app, and watched it with excitement and trepidation as they passed each milestone.  I know next time, they’ll be doing that for me!  Time to suck it up, focus on recovery, and focus on getting to the Mall!

#extramile #team WINNER!!!! 

Woohoo!!! A nice boost to my fundraising today thanks to a tweet I sent after I ran the Fleet Half marathon tagging Virgin Money’s  #extramile timeline…. My team, Hatch Warren Runners and in particular the fantastic Sunday Loopers group, have been there every step of my journey to London and I would not have considered running it without them.  They have been there from the day Megan was diagnosed, through the horrible early days and been able to celebrate every little victory along the way.  They are one of the biggest reasons I will line up on Greenwich Park with the other 36000 runners, why I believe it is possible to run 26.2 miles, why I’ve had some of the biggest giggles along the way.  Every step of my training I’ve had one or more of them right by my side, I owe them more than they will ever really know.

https://twitter.com/virginmoney/status/585459586200641537

So bring it in London, with this lot behind me, I can do ANYTHING!!!