I’ve taken some new approaches to my marathon training which has meant:
Keeping my (social media) mouth shut and just getting on with it
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!
I know it’s been over a week since it all happened but WOW! What an amazing experience.
I’m very pleased to say that at 9:42am on Sunday the 18th of May 2014 I set off to run my first ever marathon.
4 hours and 53 minutes later I completed it.
I still can’t quite believe that I did it and if it wasn’t for the picture proof, my medal and my very aching legs, I would have bet all my money on the fact that it was all just a crazy dream.
As some of you know, due to my poor knees I couldn’t stick to my original training schedule because my knees just couldn’t cope with the amount of miles that I was having to run. This meant that during the last 4½ weeks before the marathon I was only running about 1-2 times a week for an average of 5 miles per run.
So safe to say I was a bit nervous about running 26.2 miles when I could barely get through 5…
Due to having my final MA deadline 1½ day before the marathon, I was going on about 3 hours of sleep per night the week leading up to the race – not the ideal amount of rest before running such a distance.
As a result, I had other things on my mind than worrying about how I was going to run this damn marathon.
However, I had come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to run it as fast as me and Cata had trained to do it, and I had accepted the fact that it would be an extremely painful affair due to my knee injury.
Come race day I was super excited and very nervous. I was determined to finish the race no matter what, even if it meant I would have to crawl it or complete it in 6 hours.
I knew that I would have to take it relatively easy to postpone my knee pains as much as possible, so I decided to try to enjoy every single second of the race, even the potential bad and painful parts.
We set off as a group but Sam went ahead after we crossed the start line as his pace was much faster than ours. I was hoping I would be able to keep up with Cata for at least half the race but she started speeding up at around 2km and I was too scared to do the same due to my knees, which meant we all ended up running most of the race on our own.
It was a cloudy but warm day, perfect for running but still slightly too warm for me due to my overheating problems.
Cata had planned out a fuelling strategy for the two of us , and I was keen on following it and making sure I drank and ate at every water station in order to avoid hitting the wall and overheating.
At the first station I made the mistake of trying to run and drink at the same time, which resulted in most of the water ending up on my t-shirt instead of my mouth. So in the spirit of just taking it easy and enjoying the race, I made a deal with myself to walk through all upcoming water stations but NOT TO STOP or walk at any other point during the race.
I knew that NBRO had set up a cheering point around 12KM & 37KM into the race, and that our parents stood somewhere in the city close to the start and finish – this really helped breaking up the long and lonesome journey into smaller manageable chunks.
As I made my way through the first loop around Parken, seeing all the little NBRO signs leading up to 12KM gave me goosebumps all over my body and a big lump in my throat.
Running through the NBRO cheering zone put me on a natural high and the hug from Nanna brought tears to my eyes – It also made me super eager to get to 14Km and to hug my mum!
Shortly after seeing my mum and the others parents I started to feel my knees and the sun was slowly but surely starting to overheat me – despite only shining through the clouds.
I kept telling myself that all I needed to do was to make it to the half point. Once there I would I would be able to eat, drink and take some pain-killers.
But the closer to 13.1 miles I got, the warmer I was getting – to the point where I was starting to feel very dizzy and sick to my stomach.
With nobody else by my side to distract me, I looked up to the sky and started talking to my grandfather who passed away last October.
I told him how sad I was about not being able to make it back in time to say goodbye despite my best intentions, how Gatwick will always remind me of that super weird night when he passed away and I was stuck at the airport.
How I did my best with this MA project and that I hoped he was proud of me even though he probably didn’t understand what it was all about. I told him that I knew I had it in me to run this marathon but that I needed his help to get me through this second part of the race.
A few moments after I said that in my head, my shuffle started playing a really good song and it started raining!
I have never enjoyed rain as much as during those 2 miles that brought me to the half point in the race. I took my pain killers at the closest water station and decided to slow down my pace a little to spare my knees.
The following 5-6 miles were probably some the most challenging ones I have ever run in my entire life.
My knees were starting to hurt more and more, I had a very bad stitch on my right side, I was close to tears with every step I took and the rain was turning into some sort of tropical monsoon.
The streets were starting to get empty due to onlookers seeking out drier places and I was starting to doubt myself.
The two things that got me through those miles were focusing intensively on my breathing and thinking about all the amazing people that had inspired me to actually be running 26.2 miles.
I thought about Charlie Dark and how I had turned down running with Run Dem Crew for so many years until it became the one thing that more or less saved me from a miserable life.
I thought about Bangs and how she single handedly helped me turn my life around for the better by helping me believe in myself and love myself for who I am.
I thought about Robin and how she gave up everything to follow her passions and her dreams, and despite life throwing her a massive curve ball, she still managed to get through it and be one of the most bad ass people I know.
I thought about Candice and how she not only has run a marathon and an ultra, but she has also cheated death, had the most adorable little girl, and she still manages to have a rich life, work out, bake cakes and look fucking fierce.
I thought about my mum, how much I love her and how she never gives up without a fight and always gives the best she can in every situation.
I thought about Run Dem Crew and so many inspirational people I have met through running, many who have had it much worse than me and still managed to pull through.
I thought about all my own struggles and how I, for so many years, put myself down by thinking I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough or fit enough.
Yet here I was, running a marathon, 1½ day after finishing my Masters degree, with the love of my life, and my best friend who I own a flat with in London.
Somewhere along those 5-6 miles the air cooled down drastically and the rain stopped – only to start pouring down again as soon as I hit the 20 mile mark. I took some more pain-killers and hoped my knees would stay with me for the last bit of the race.
I kept reminding myself that with every step I took from there onwards, was the furthest I had run in my life. So despite the pain I should try to feel happy and proud of myself.
All I could think about was getting to the NBRO cheering station at mile 23 – and as the rain was pouring down and my legs were starting to ache more and more, I decided to thank every single body part for getting me through this extremely difficult challenge.
I also apologised for all the shit I have put my body through the last 27 years – the crap diets, lack of exercise for so many years, the excessive drinking, the hardcore smoking, the unhealthy body images and all the self hate and self loathing.
Once I got past mile 23 I kept telling myself that the rest was just the home stretch. Only 1 mile left until I saw my own cheering crew, then 2 miles to the finish.
Sadly my mum and the other parents had moved from their first spot, and not seeing them put a small dent in my confidence, but I was hoping that I would catch my mum at some point before the finish.
I will never forget spotting my mum, Dave and Andreas 1 mile from the finish line. They were all soaked to the bone and my mum ran out on the road to check that I was ok. I told her to trust me and headed as fast as my legs could carry me towards the finish.
Once I got to around 25.8 miles I started to run much faster, literally pushing every physical and mental boundary I had, sprinting the last 0.2 miles and finishing with my arms and head held up to the sky.
Seconds after crossing the finish line I fell to the ground, looking up to the sky, crying and laughing deliriously by the fact that I had just completed my first ever marathon.
I have never felt anything like that feeling in my life and it is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Many thanks to all of you who supported me on this journey!
Cata for being the best training partner, Sam for being the most loving and understanding man Ive been with, my mum and all the parents for coming out to support us, Dave and Andreas for being amazing friends, and all the rest of you who helped me complete this race – you were all there in spirit and I wouldn’t have made it without your inspiration, encouragement and support.
THIS TIME NEXT WEEK I WILL (HOPEFULLY) BE A MARATHON RUNNER!
And this GIF above where our endorphins are running high after the We Own The Night race this past weekend is a very accurate example of how I feel about the fact of being done with marathon training AND my Masters Degree next Monday! (also, Peggy’s look at me & Cata is pretty damn priceless! HAHAHA!)
ANYWAY! Week 17 of training was not very exciting due to my Runner’s Knee injury plus being crazy busy with my MA project. The week slightly overlapped with the previous training week due to the bank holiday, so I did the 7 miles (instead of 12) on the Monday, then decided to run my 5 miler on Wednesday to give my knees some time to rest before the 10K race on Saturday night.
I hated every single step of those 5 miles on the treadmill and I didnt feel like it was helping my knees in any way whatsoever apart from forcing me to keep a steady pace. Felt pretty bummed out after the session and went home to RICE my knees, which made them look far worse than they felt I promise.
I got a nice little pre-race treat from Vita Coco to help me keep hydrated for the We Own The Night race – THANK SO MUCH! Wasn’t a big fan of all of them, and I still need to try the coffee and mocha flavours, but I would definitely invest in getting the peach&mango one as a post-exercise drink if my little wallet could afford it.
Then Saturday came and we ventured out in the crazy weather to run We Own The Night in Victoria Park alongside 10’000 other women. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the race this year as last year it was a bit of a let down.
The events leading up to the race were promising and even though I wasn’t invited to all of them, they gave me a good feeling about the race overall.
And WOW! THEY DID OT DISAPPOINT THIS YEAR! I almost feel like I should dedicate a whole post to this race, mainly because I feel like it was such a phenomenal improvement on last year and I felt genuinely happy that they had taken so much feedback on board and really tried to make it better this year.
WELL DONE NIKE and the team who organised it this year. You really pulled it off!
I ran the race with my friend Peggy the whole way through and I loved every second of it.
The pre & post area of the race was great and felt like a mini festival, the race itself was dope and I loved how they played with lights and sounds, Cheer Dem Crew at the 4th & 8th KM was EPIC and made me so happy and overall I really feel like this ended up being one of my most enjoyable races of all time!
Plus Peggy got a PB and Cata got a PB and I think it just helped putting us on a positive note a week before our big day.
And if that wasn’t enough, the exact distance I ran the race in also helped me reach 1000 miles ON THE DOT 7 days before the marathon. What a milestone! (That is around 1610KM for those of you who don’t do miles…!!) Who would have thought I would achieve this in 2 years – Im still gob smacked about it!
So, with race day in T-6 days, this is what I am hoping my week will look like:
MARATHON TRAINING WEEK 18
MON: REST TUE: 3 miles WED: 4 miles THU: 2 miles FRI: REST SAT: REST SUN:MARATHON DAY – 26.2 MILES!!!