Last weekend we set out to run our first race since the Paris Marathon in April in Richmond Park. I had high hopes when I initially signed us up to this half marathon, envisioning a late spring/summer filled with nice evening runs that would get lighter and lighter. But then summer struck London early and with it came a lot of health issues that I wasn’t expecting – mainly severe hay fever and weird colds that came as a result of it.

I’m not going to lie, before experiencing it myself, I thought hay fever was a myth. But after having suffered from it badly this summer, I apologise for my previous stupidity! It’s been incredibly tough to simply LIVE with bad hay fever, let alone train for a race that in essence requires you to be outside a lot (yes yes – I know there are indoor treadmills but I fucking HATE them! – so no, they are not and never will be an option for me.)

So simply put, I didn’t train for this race and having been ill the week prior to race day, I was genuinely worried that I wouldn’t make it past the 5K mark. Any normal person would have skipped running the race, but I had convinced a work colleague to run it as well, and me being me, I was way too proud to let him run the race without me.

If I’ve learnt anything these past years from running, it really is that consistency is key and that you have to listen to your body. I obviously had consistently avoided running/training for this race which isn’t to be advised (!), but equally, I listened to my body when it was telling me that it couldn’t cope with any outdoor activities. So my only game plan was to find a consistent pace that I felt that I could keep throughout the ups and downs of the race course (there’s a lot of hills in South London!) and not worry so much about time, just focus on finishing. And it worked!

We did 4 laps around an area of Richmond Park in total. I could easily have stopped after 3 laps since the 4th one was incredibly difficult, but I soldiered on hoping for the best. As you can see on the pic, my “gun time” was 2:15:57 and my real time was about a 50 seconds faster. Not bad by any means and I’m still in awe of what my body and my mind could accomplish despite the lack of proper preparation.

I’ll try to avoid another situation like this in the future where I’m so unprepared, but for now, I’m just grateful to have come this far in my fitness journey that I can bash out a 2:15 half marathon relatively pain free & smiling.

I’ve taken some new approaches to my marathon training which has meant:

  1. Keeping my (social media) mouth shut and just getting on with it
  2. Only saying something when I have something useful to say

And this is one of those instances…

It’s safe to say that my training hasn’t gone to plan whatsoever. I was keen on getting another PB in Paris so I figured I’d ease myself back into training last autumn, but I just couldn’t find my running mojo.

Once I reluctantly got back into the swing of things, I almost got hit by a car, which left me with an injured ankle and out of action for 6 weeks.

My perfectly planned 6 month training plan was reduced to a pathetic 12 week emergency schedule and with Paris Marathon now being less than 5 weeks away, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learnt the past months:

Change the things you can and don’t worry about the rest

Not being able to walk properly for almost a month forced me refocus my efforts back in December. Instead of panicking about about my ankle situation, I decided to change the things I could have an impact on, like:

  • Getting enough (quality) sleep
  • Hydrating as much as possible
  • Focusing on eating better
  • Cutting down on alcohol and other habits that left me feeling fatigued

I didn’t see or feel any changes straight away, but I kept at it in hopes that it would help and having done my best to improve these areas of my life in the last 3 months, I can honestly say that it has made a huge impact!

Learning the difference between “enough” and “lazy”

One thing that I’ve been really bad at in the past has been to stop when my body tells me its had enough. I would push through the pain, over do it when I should be resting and generally just doing anything in my power to stick to my training plan.

This time around I’ve made a conscious effort to try to listen to my body, to be flexible with my training and stop when I feel pain. I admit that I still struggle with this because sometimes I feel like I’m just being lazy. I’ve been feeling guilty about the fact that I started out doing 4 runs a week, that then went down to 3 and that now stand at around 2 a week. However, I have come to accept that the reason for this is not laziness, it’s because my body just isn’t recovering fast enough for me to be able to do more than those runs at the moment and that just has to be ok.

Be thankful for what your body can achieve

In the last four months I’ve gone from completing reluctant runs, to not being able to walk at all, to running 17 miles without any issues. I’m definitely not as fast as I used to be, my condition isn’t as good as it was when I did London marathon and I find it very difficult to stay motivated at times when I feel like I’m not making progress. But whenever I feel down about my current achievements I try to remember what an incredible thing it is to be able to lace up and run, whether that’s for 1, 3, 13 or 26 miles. I should be proud of how quickly I’ve bounced back from my injury instead of torturing myself for all the things I’m not able to do.

There’s no denying that this marathon training has been a real struggle for me, but I overall I’ve learnt some valuable lessons and I can only hope that once race day comes, I will be able to celebrate the journey that lead me to the finish line – even if it looks like it’s going to be a slow and painful one!

Training for this marathon and then running it was a totally different experience from my first attempt in Copenhagen.

Back in 2014 it was me and Cata tackling this huge challenge together, whilst this time around I was all on my own, both in training and on race day.

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Not gonna lie, the end of 2015 was a bit of a low point in my life… But I somehow got through it and one of the things that helped was running.

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The nerves were on top the night before the race. It looked like the weather would be constantly changing and my biggest worry was overheating, which would result in disaster.

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It ended up being a sunny day but with some clouds and wet patches (thank god!). I was a big mix of emotions before the race (just look at my anxious smile haha) but I was determined to soak up the moment and enjoy it as much as possible.

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Here I am on Tower Bridge , just before the half way point, beaming like a ray of sunshine. I spotted my friends way before they spotted me and I couldn’t help but to burst out in laughter seeing their surprised faces when they finally clocked me standing in front of them (yes my friends are the best!).

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After seeing them on the bridge I only had one goal in mind and that was to make it to mile 21. The thought of seeing RDC and running through that (now) iconic Cheer Dem Crew spot was the only thing that kept me going for the next 8 miles. And WOW what a feeling, one of those moments I’ll treasure for the rest of my life!

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The rest of the race was HARD. I was getting more and more tired in my legs, the sun was burning my face, but I knew that I couldn’t give up so I kept on smiling and I kept on running.

Even though my toilet break had lead me to believe that my sub 4:30h dream was over, once I realised I might still have a chance I gave it everything I had left!

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And it worked!!! Despite the toilet break, quite a few hug-a-friend stops, a few I’ve-had-enough stops, and a slightly slower 3 final miles, I completed the London Marathon in 4 hours and 27 minutes!

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Definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it felt amazing and even more so seeing so many of my friends and SO MANY STRANGERS being out there cheering me and thousands of others on. Definitely one of the best days of my life!

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Massive thanks to all of you who helped me along the way in training and on the day – you rock my world and I’m so incredibly lucky to have you <3