This is it. The whole point of this blog was to narrate my attempt at training to run a marathon in order to raise money for Crohns and Colitis UK.
Did I manage it? (Spoiler alert: I did).
So if that’s all you wanted to know, you can be on your way now. But if you want all the gory detail, then read on….
Tapering is a funny old thing. For anyone who doesn’t know or care about running lingo, this is the 2-3 weeks after your longest run, before the actual event. Your mileage reduces over the period, allowing the muscles to repair and levels of science thingamyjigs like enzymes to sort themselves out. Whatever that means.
The highlight for me was all the potatoes. I don’t really eat potatoes very much in normal life, probably an old diet habit I suppose. But I found eating potatoes, particularly in the last week, a really good way of upping my carbs. Another way was eating lots of magnum ice creams, but I’m not sure this is what the professionals do.
Anyway I ran less, I ate the same. The marathon ticked ever closer. Marathon training is such a massive undertaking. I’ve not spent as much time preparing for any one day other than my wedding and two pregnancies and by the end, I just wanted to get it over and done with. I had one last sports massage on the Thursday where my left calf was pummeled one last time and some very fetching blue tape was glued on. My very last run was a two mile jog to stretch my legs, the day before the marathon.
And that was it. All the training done. All I could do was dump children and dog at my parents and eat my body weight in pasta.
The weather forecast promised an overcast 14 degrees, excellent running weather which I was very happy about. Sadly for me, and happily for normal people, it was rather more sunny than predicted. Guy and I set off for Stratford on Avon at 7am on Sunday morning, the sun looking annoyingly perky and bright in the sky.
The race was due to start at 9am so we parked nice and early before everyone else turned up, and went to get a drink and for me to start my pre-run nervous wee routine. I’ve never quite managed to get the balance right, the need to hydrate before a run with the shagged bladder that was used as a trampoline by two boy babies. Just imagine if I had given birth the proper way and lost my pelvic floor – it’s possible I would leave a wet trail like a leaking water bottle behind me when I ran. But fortunately for all, I’m not that bad.
We met up with my parents and the boys so that they could watch the start, and then I went off to line up with the other runners – this was the first time that I have ever started a race on my own rather than with a friend, and actually it was ok – not everyone runs with a friend at these things! Plus runner types are always very friendly – they’re always happy to tell you all about how many marathons they’re signed up for this year if you really want to make small talk. Which I didn’t.
The Shakespeare Marathon is a very small event compared to the well known marathons that you hear about on the news. It is a Rotary club event, and it is very well advertised that they spend as little on the event as possible in order to support the local charities. They also don’t have different starting times for the full and half marathon races – everyone starts together at 9am and then the half peels off just before the 12 mile mark. I was very aware that nearly every bib I could see was a half bib – obviously not too many people use this as a full marathon route.
The route is an incredibly pretty one, through Stratford high street, over the Avon and out into the countryside, past about a hundred houses that you would happily live in if you had a spare couple of million, down the Greenway (a cycle path) back towards Stratford before going back out and round again for those stupid enough to want to do it twice all in the name of running a marathon.
My aim throughout this has always been to try to run a sub 4:30 marathon. My training times all suggested that I could do it. I started off well, knowing that there were no pacers, paid close attention to my splits from the off to make sure that I didn’t charge off too quickly, especially with the vast majority of runners only doing the half.
For the first 8 miles or so, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had my music (bone conductor headphones were permitted), the rich people stood outside their houses clapping us and handing out orange segments, I was running with people but didn’t feel crowded, the water stations had sponges as well, the portaloos were plentiful…….why haven’t I done this before now, I wondered to myself?
At about mile 10, I needed to go to the toilet. Actually I needed it before then, but I didn’t want to queue, so waited until I only had to wait for one person to ‘go’. That put me off my stride a little but still all fine. (Yes I paused my Garmin, despite what Guy says about it cheating to not account for every minute, running, peeing or otherwise.)
My target time was looking fine. Everything was grand.
Just before mile 12, the half runners peeled off the Greenway and the rest of us ran back around the top of the high street and back out for another loop.
Once we had set back off out of Stratford again, a number of things occurred to me:
- Suddenly it was very lonely without all the half runners
- The fact that I hadn’t been able to do a proper satisfying poo first thing was becoming a bit problematic.
- I was getting a little bit bored.
- All of the rich people had given away all their fruit to the free loading half runners and buggered off, so whilst I didn’t want an orange segment back then, I was craving one now and there wasn’t one sniff of an orange or watermelon anywhere.
- 14 degrees my arse
- Rotary marshals aren’t quite as young and enthusiastic as the marshals at the MK half. I didn’t iron on my name just for people to not bother calling it out and cheering me on. All I got were geriatric marshals sitting in deckchairs drinking flasks of tea. FFS.
- breathing was becoming problematic
- my nose was like Niagara Falls again.
- People who jeff a marathon (run and walk) really need to move to one side before they stop to walk otherwise they just become annoying bellends.
All very valid issues at that time.
Yes it turns out that I do suffer from hay fever, quite badly, when running for miles with fields of rape on either side. The smell was so pungent that it made me feel really poorly. My nose just wouldn’t stop leaking and my eyes were streaming. I had taken some precautionary Piriton (other hay fever remedy brands are available, but they probably don’t come in liquid form that tastes quite so delicious) before leaving the house but by 11am it had worn off. This, coupled with the big hill up towards Welford on Avon again, resulted in me having to walk a few times.
The smell of the rape fields made my stomach gurgle away and I thought that a portaloo stop would be a wise move. But my sphincter obviously decided that sitting in a plastic box with people standing outside and running past was not the time to relax and let go, so after a minute I decided that I couldn’t sit there indefinitely, and that it was best to carry on again.
Miles 13 to 20 were a pretty grim time. I realised pretty early into this second half that with the way I was feeling, I was never going to be able to keep up my pace to get a sub 4:30. I decided that I was ok with that, I didn’t care anymore about the time, I just wanted to finish. There were no spectators for most of this section, they had all gone home, probably to have BBQs in the sun and get pissed, which is what normal people do on a nice day. The runners were few and far between, and it really showed me just what a mental battle long distance running is. That ‘wall’ they talk about is a real thing, I just didn’t realise that for me, it was nearly as long as the Great Wall of China.
Despite carrying my own water, I started taking water from the stations (which were brilliant by the way, always stocked and the sponge stations were even better!) so that I could have a few gulps of cold water before pouring the rest over my head and down my back to keep cool. There was no shade and no breeze and the temperature was into the low twenties (not as hot as London and MK, I know, but warm enough!). I walked when I needed to so that I could blow my nose, and ran as much as I could.
It was around mile 20 when we went onto the Greenway for the second time and away from all the rape fields that I started to feel a bit more human but it was really warm at this point and my tired legs were not willing to speed up to claw anytime back. I started to dream about what drink I wanted when I finished, and a mile or so were spent debating an ice cold orange juice over an ice cold coke, over a McDonalds strawberry milkshake.
I decided that I wanted all three.
I also decided that running 26.2 miles was a very unnecessary use of my time, and that I was very jealous of the people who had turned up, run a half, eaten all my orange segments and were probably already drinking cold things in their gardens.
I also decided that wearing my charity vest over a T shirt because it was going to be overcast was a Very Bad Idea Indeed.
I got very sad over the thought that this was possibly the last run I would do in my trainers, and how far they had got me since I bought them back in October. Plus as they were discontinued, I would have to start the process of finding a new pair of trainers all over again, which made me very sad too.
I also decided that I was bloody sick of crossing over the Avon, and it was ironic that the first time we went over it, I was taken aback at how beautiful it was, but now I would be happy if I never saw that poxy river again.
For the last time I crossed over that river.
For the last time we turned off the Greenway (which I am absolutely convinced is just a slight uphill incline all the way from Long Marston into Stratford).
I ran past about 20 different marshals all saying ‘not far to go now’ and wanted to punch every single one of them in the face.
And finally, FINALLY. I made it into the park and saw the finish line.
26.2 miles is really far.
And that was it. I had done it. The chip time was 4:48 but obviously that includes two portaloo breaks. Nowhere near my goal time but I didn’t care. I still don’t.
So there you go. That was my marathon. All you folks who do this time and time again, and those who choose to go even further, I have nothing but respect for you. I have found the last four months brilliant and exhausting but I can’t say that I’m keen to do it again anytime soon.
I won’t miss the wake ups before 5am to get a dog walk and run in before I start work. I won’t miss having to arrange my weekend plans around training. I won’t miss the post long run feeling of crappiness (and crapping) for about an hour before my body sorted itself out. I won’t miss not being able to poo until Tuesday because I took two Imodium early on Saturday morning before a long run. Having said that though, I don’t think I could have done anything better to give me a brief inside into what it is like to suffer from Crohns. That stabbing pain, the urgency, the bolting to a toilet and feeling nauseous. It isn’t much fun.
So no more marathons for the time being for me, thanks.
Thank you to all of you who have sponsored me along the way on this “journey”. Guy and I are thrilled at how much we -well, I. Let’s be honest, I’ve done the bulk of the work here -have raised. If you wanted to see proof that I would actually run it before you sponsored me (fair play if so, you want to get your money’s worth) then the link is below. I have actually put the full link this time so as to avoid any confusion as I don’t think that WordPress highlights a word that has a hyperlink behind it in a different colour. So it is below:
And yes, I did get a McDonalds milkshake later on that day. A large one. And it was the best thing I have ever drunk that is not an alcoholic beverage.