Marathons are special. They are hard, they challenge you and they make you fall in love with them just that little bit more each time. I remember worrying about running the New York Marathon, just in case I didn’t love it as much as London. I did, maybe even a little bit more. Then I ran the Chicago Marathon and I think I said to my mum, never again! It didn’t take long to remember that I had already signed up for Manchester Marathon 2020.
As marathons were being postponed and cancelled, I resigned myself to not running one in 2020. That was ok, my training had been up and down anyway. Then the London Marathon released that the 40th race would be virtual. How could I miss out on that? Yep, I know; I could have just not signed up! But, a crazy 30 minutes on a car journey to Scotland and I was signed up!
What is crazy, is that marathons are hard when you have trained for 16 weeks, yet I had signed up with just 6 weeks to go! Crazy yes, but I think this just allowed me to take all the pressure off. 6 weeks would not give me the time be able to ‘run’ a marathon and I would be silly to try. The last thing that I wanted was to injure myself.
My friend Sarah also signed up for the marathon (with a little persuation from myslef and her friend Fiona) Well who wouldn’t want to run their first marathon doing just 6 weeks training? Yep, now you know why she is my friend – she is crazy too!
We started the long runs at the weekend after we had signed up and experimented with a run/walk strategy. Luckily, the 4-minute walk, 4-mile run ratio seemed to work for us. We had to keep the running very slow and we upped the mileage week by week. 6 weeks didn’t really let us be too sensible! We started with 13.1 miles and built from there. Midweek I wasn’t doing any session as such, but just trying to log the miles. Not ideal I know, but I was worried that suddenly introducing hills and speed sessions again, would cause niggles.
From 13 miles, we jumped to 16, we had planned 16 for the following week too, but stopped at 14. We managed 20 miles and then it was taper time! All of these distances sound impressive, but they involved a lot of walking and slow running. It was about time on our feet and being as sensible as we could.
So we made it to the start line, we just didn’t expect it to be such a wet and cold one! Sarah came to me and we started at my house. We ran around the streets near home and then headed to the local lakes. We had trained on predominantly flat surfaces, but the streets around where I live are quite undulating. So, we approached it like an ultra. We walked all the hills.
We started at 7 am and I was surprised how dark it still was. The rain was quite heavy, but that was the forecast for the whole day! Within the first 2 miles, I managed to step into a puddle which covered my entire foot! We weaved in and out of the puddles and tried to settle into a comfortable pace. There were a few other runners out, who wished us luck early on. We made predictions on how many other London Marathon runners we would see. I suggested 20, Sarah said 12. We ran for over an hour before we saw our first! Before our first walk break, Sarah managed to misjudge a puddle too, so we were both running with extremely wet feet!
Our first walk break and we were soaked through. My InstaStory were so hard as my phone flipped the camera around on its own and my hands were so cold to use it. It was so wet it was doing what it wanted too! We set off for running block two which was pretty uneventful. By walk break 2, we checked the London Marathon App to find out that Sarah’s app didn’t seem to be showing the same distance as mine. Strange as we were running together.
We scoffed on sweets and chocolate orange buttons and headed off for run section 3. It was a little concerning that I wasn’t feeling a fresh as I would have liked it too for so early on in the run. As we ran through Higham Ferrers a lady put down her shopping bag to clap and cheer us on. It actually made me really emotional. We finally saw our first London Marathon number and exchanged well-wishes with another runner.
As we headed down to the lakes, I noticed that my hands were starting to swell. They were so cold. I was relieved when we needed a toilet stop. I ran my hands under the taps and tried to take my rings off. It was my right hand that was the most uncomfortable. It took me about 5 minutes to get my rings off, but when I attempted to take the rings off my left hand, there was no chance! Even though my left hand was swollen, it didn’t feel sore. So I just left my engagement and wedding ring on.
We had planned to run around the lake at the shopping centre, but the weather was so bad we gave it a miss. It would have been so muddy! Instead, we ran around the shopping car park and got a few more cheers from early shoppers!
As we headed to the next lakes, I needed to take an additional walk break. I felt really guilty as Sarah was running so well, but I just wasn’t feeling as strong as I had on previous runs. We were possibly around mile 15/16, but I still worried that this was early to be finding it tough. I was just so cold and wet.
Running through the lakes, we saw more London Marathon runners. The camaraderie was lovely as we wished each other well. Never have I ran a marathon though, where I have wanted to say to all the runners, “How far?” “What mile are you in?” Now might be a good time to tell you that I don’t actually know who was closest on our guesses, I lost count pretty quickly! We ran down a long straight path, both desperate to see our friend Christine. She was joining us for the last section which was amazing.
When Christine joined us, I relinquished all responsibility of the route onto her and concentrated on running. I had programmed our run-walk strategy into my Garmin, but we had decided after 16 miles we would leave it as open run, so would didn’t feel any unnecessary pressured to run if we didn’t feel up to it. I honestly can’t remember how much run-walking we did in the final stages, I just remember giving up dodging puddles, instead just running straight through them.
Having been lucky enough to run London previously, when it felt tough around mile 21, we talked about how the MND cheer point was coming up. Also, how loud the RUN DEM Crew are. We looked forward to the tunnel that brings you on to the embankment. (we didn’t actually have one on our route). We also lost the plot little with a little singing and dancing!
The support we received at the end from Christine, Mike and my family was amazing. As we approached mile 26, my daughter, niece and nephew all ran to meet us to run a little section with us. I really had to hold back the tears at that point. We actually ended up having to run past our supporters as we were only at 25.8 miles. A little out and back and we were finished.
The biggest hug from my daughter and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I was so relieved that we had finished as at times I really didn’t know if I could. The cold, the wet, my hands swelling, but thanks to my 2 amazing buddies we got it done!
I always thought that maybe I was a bit of a glory grabber, as I only wanted to run the ‘big’ marathons. I wanted the buzz, the crowds, the excitement. But I learnt yesterday, that the sense of achievement comes without all of that. Without the PB’s, the medal, the cheering.
TWENTY-SIX POINT TWO miles is a bloody long way and you can be proud of yourself however fast you went, if you ran it all, walked it all. It challenges you and makes you realise just how strong you really are!
Congratulations to Sarah for completing her first marathon and thank you Christine for getting us through those last miles.
If you would like to see how this run went in video format, check out the highlights on my Instagram stories. Also if you would still like to donate the fundraising page is www.virginmoneygiving.com/rularuns
So, what did I do on Sunday night? Enter next years ballot obviously! Have you? Also, let me know if you ran the Virtual London Marathon too.