A marathon task

So, quick synopsis since the last blog:

Bacchus half: most fun race ever! we did the half marathon in just over 4 and a half hours and I had a total ball. Might have been slightly a lot tipsy by the end but it was all in a good cause. My proudest moment was unveiling the contents of my bra at the end – I had pocketed no fewer than 11 gels, 2 bags of crips, a cake bar, an apple and half a banana down there during the course of the race. Class.

Haltwhistle half: lovely scenery, slight incline for the first half but downhill all the way home. I struggled in the latter stages and also got freaked out by people hanging off my shoulder, so it wasn’t much fun and I was a good few minutes over target. Def good PB potential in the future and much much more scenic than Redcar though.

Wooler Wheel: DNS.  Just too knackered to bike in what would have been a 5am departure from home. Good decision in the end since I slept most of that weekend and the weather was pants.

Hellhole: Also DNS. My foot had started becoming very sore and about 10 days before the marathon I had developed a massive lump on my instep which hurt to touch and gave me stabbing pain when it was raised. Ice and ibuprofen didn’t touch it so I went to see our friendly neighbourhood physio. He was a bit baffled to begin with, but after a good prodding diagnosed a torn tendon. This unfortunately required quite a bit of deep prodding massage but after peeling me off the ceiling he gave me some stretches and said I would be fine. The next morning the swelling had reduced by about 70% and since then it’s been very little trouble at all. Physio’s are just the best things ever, thanks Neil!


So, it is fair to say I was underprepared. After my abortive 16 mile attempt that was 15 miles I had done one 20 mile run (with friends, which was so so much better) but that was it and my foot had really scuppered any other thoughts I had about late rallies. I saw the physio again on the Saturday morning for more toe curling prodding, he also decided to give my calfs a bit of a pummelling but I had been sensible and signed up to scan at parkrun so was taking it easy afterwards, just as well as it bloody hurt! After parkrun myself and J headed off to York and did a bit of shopping before meeting friends for a drink, carb loading at Zizzi’s, the purchasing of owl pyjamas and then heading back to the hotel for an early night.

We had been warned about the fog and foggy it was, after a breakfast of fruit and fibre cereal (no shreddies, turned out to be an error not to bring any) and a cup of tea we headed off to the station to catch the shuttle bus. I have to say that it was so well organised, we rocked up and got straight on a bus which spat us out at the University where the start was. It was freezing and it wasn’t clear whether there was any inside space so we shivered outside the baggage drop for a while along with multiple toilet visits before heading to the start. When I first signed up for the marathon I had intended to try and go sub 4hrs so had been allocated a place in zone 2 – almost nosebleed worthy compared to my usual starting position! I had met up with some club friends who were further back so we decided to compromise and sneak into zone 3 instead, so I did an excellent distraction job on the marshals and everyone crept in behind me, job done.

I was somewhat devoid of a race plan really, I knew I didn’t want to go out too hard as I would suffer later and so I was planning to run with some friends, Kerry – who wanted to get in somewhere around 5 hours and Kate who had been my original 4 hour buddy until she broke her ribs in a freak luggage accident in June. Kate had kindly offered to run with us and we decided to just see how we went.

The start at York is downhill (but that just means the finish is uphill) and everyone was quite excited so I was a bit nervous to look down and see 9 minute miles but we soon settled down into a more reasonable 10:30 ish pace. The first couple of miles take you back into York centre and past the minster so there was plenty to see and the crowds were already out in force. The fog was a bit bizarre to run in, I could only see about 20 metres in front so you just can’t tell if there is a hill coming, or a long straight road, it was most odd. We were all quite chipper though and the miles ticked away quite nicely as we passed through the villages and countryside.

I was keeping an eye on our timings compared to my pacetat  and was a mixture of pleased and a bit scared that we were going so well, at 9 miles we were about 8 mins under pace and I still felt ok and I started to feel that I might actually manage it. We lost Kerry at about 10 miles, but kept her in sight on the first switchback and it was nice to be able to wave. It was about the first switchback (14 miles or so) that I started to feel a bit wobbly. A chap running directly behind me shouted “COME ON” really really loudly and scared the crap out of me, plus it was a bit downhill and I was going a bit too fast for my comfort zone. I was also feeling the need for fuel but was struggling to get stuff out of my backpack – I did extract a pouch of apple purée which I tried to eat but it just made me feel a bit sick so I stored it back in my bra for easier access later.

The next few miles were difficult. We were on a main road in the middle of nowhere and it felt like a big incline. I was feeling quite sick by that point and contemplated throwing up in the hedge but there were too many people around so I just tried to ignore it. At the next water station I got out my nakd bar and tried to eat that but it was so claggy I took one bite and then chucked the rest away. The second out and back starts at about 16 miles and is a 2 mile out and back. It was a bit demoralising seeing people at the 20 mile mark and knowing we had 4 miles before we were there. Kate was doing her very best to chivvy me along and that and the cheers from some friends at about mile 17 definitely helped, as did the toilet stop at 18 miles (I had been needing a wee for a few miles and my kidneys hurt!) but by the end of the out and back section I knew I was in trouble.

We hit 20 miles about 10 minutes inside 5 hour pace but that is really where it all started to unravel. I tried getting more fuel in me in the shape of a mango and passionfruit pouch but that tasted grim and the malt loaf had the same claggy problem as the nakd bar. There were so many people on the course offering jelly babies and the like that perhaps I should have stuck to them but they always seem to give me a stitch and I came to the grim realisation that I just had nothing left – a bowl of cereal, a pouch of baby food and two bites of claggy stuff just wasn’t enough fuel and I hit what I imagine must be the wall. Kate, bless her, was trying to get me to keep moving but I was as short on patience as I was on energy and I suggested (probably not very politely!) that it might be best if she just cracked on without me. It was a sensible suggestion in the end, I kept running as far as mile 22 but by then the burning in my quads and hips was just too great and that was pretty much the end of anything other than walking and watching the 5 hour mark slip slowly away.

I have to say that apart from being in a world of pain I was still enjoying it and knew that I could walk the remaining 4 miles and whatever happened I would still end up with a marathon PB, so I cracked out my power tunes playlist, smiled at the crowd and kept putting one foot in front of the other. The same friends I’d seen on the out and back had found themselves a spectating point at around mile 23 so I hugged them and cheered at only a parkrun to go. Some of them were on bikes and caught me up and cycled with me for a bit which was lovely, especially as they were able to update me with J’s progress (he finished in an amazing 3:24 in his first marathon) before they headed off to find him and wait for me at the finish.

I was definitely low on fuel as I felt like I was going to fall asleep at points and also started getting really weepy, my power tunes playlist was more like a sob fest (what on earth possessed me to put mine and J’s wedding song on it?!) and I was struggling to hold back the tears for most of the last two miles, especially as I got closer and closer to the finish. I just kept thinking “I am running a marathon, and I am going to actually finish it” and that made me rather emotional. After the final hill I was able to use the little energy remaining to jog the final downhill, there were still crowds at the finish and the announcer nearly made me lose it entirely by saying to the crowd that the people finishing now were the ones who had struggled the most and that they needed extra applause – sob! Over the finish line and through the very long funnel, collect t-shirt and bag and then I spotted Kate who had very kindly waited for about half an hour for me to cross the line, she got the brunt of my sobbing (and apologies since I was feeling very bad about shouting at her!) but I pulled it together and we went off to find J.

My final time was just over 5:11 – not the 5 hours I was looking for but oh so close and considering the build-up (bad foot and all) and my severe self-induced lack of training I am not disappointed, and in fact am so proud of my achievement, 2 years ago I was nearly 20 stone and very very unfit, and now I had just finished a marathon – I honestly would never have thought I could do that. I haven’t dared look at the splits as I think that might start to depress me, but I got within about 4 miles of making it to sub-5, so there will be no complaining here. Next time (and there will be a next time, in fact I’ve already signed up for Manchester in April!) I will train better and fuel better and I think I will smash it.

Nearly a week later the effects are still lingering, the DOMS in my quads for the first few days afterwards were absolutely horrendous, but that has subsided and apart from still wanting to eat the world, I feel ok. This weekend I’ll head out to parkrun and I think I might try a 10 miler or so on Sunday to maintain momentum, but J is away and I have the house to myself so I can’t promise that I won’t just sit in my owl PJs and watch Masterchef Australia, but that is ok. I am a marathon runner you know.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s