My marathon experience: Part 3
Annoyingly I got an eye infection and a cold in the week leading up to the race. It's like my body knew something big was coming and decided to throw a spanner in the works! Thankfully I got rid of the infection in time but the cold was still in full force so lots of tissues were stuffed into my running belt and I was blowing my nose for the whole 26.2 miles.
I was up at 6.30am in time to eat a big bowl of porridge and get ready before setting off at 7.30am. I thought I'd end up waiting around, but by the time I got to the event village, dropped off my bag and went to the loo (LOTS of waiting for that) it was time to warm up in the start zones (race started at 9.30am).
I wasn't too nervous on the day which I was surprised about. In the days leading up to it - 100%, but on the actual morning it was like I just became focused on what I had to do, so worrying would have been pointless.
The first 20 miles were all good. I kept my pace and felt fine. Those last six miles were tough though. My body kept going and I never 'hit the wall' which is something everyone talks about, but my body was definitely aching by then. There was a hill right at the end too which took a real push,
but the feeling of crossing that finish line was amazing. I think what really helped me never hit the wall was because of the physical things like training and race fuel. Mentally though, I thought of the marathon as two 10-milers and a 10k rather than 26.2 miles. That way it was three managable chunks of runnings instead, so when I got to that hard part at the end I was telling myself 'it's just a 10k' and then eventually 'it's just a 5k - that's a parkrun'.
The crowds were brilliant the whole way around and really helped. There were only three official spectator points along the way (mile 2, 14, and 17) so I thought it was going to be quiet in between these spots, but people were stood outside their houses which meant that you wouldn't go more than a couple of miles without people cheering you on and offering Jelly Babies.
Two of my friends were at the spectator points, and then my parents were there at the end which really got me. I got so overwhelmed and cried over the finish line (I completed it in 5hrs 5 mins). Everyone was so supportive and having my name on my vest meant people would shout for me which really gave me a boost. The whole day was so wholesome in terms of how everyone was supporting each other, I loved it.
Although everyone told me I'd get hooked and want to do more, my knees cannot do more marathons so this will definitely be my one and only - I want to be able to walk when I'm 60. When I got home that night I had a warm bath, iced my knees, and then didn't leave the sofa. I was aching everywhere but my knees were in a lot of pain. The following day I went and got a sports massage which was SO PAINFUL but really helped. By Wednesday I was pretty much back to normal and returned to the gym on Thursday.
As I'm writing this it's nearly a week later and the post-race blues are real. I'm back at work, I still have a cold, and the weather is a bit rubbish. All that means I'm feeling a bit like I do after Christmas at the moment. It will pass, but now I just need to focus on something else to stop myself feeling at a loose end.
What to bring was a big part of feeling ready, so I had everything packed and lined up the night before so the morning of the race was straightward and stress-free.
Here's what I took:
2x lucuxade sport (one bottle in my running belt, one carried - when the carried one was gone I then picked up water along the way)
3x packs of Clif Bloks (cut open the packets before running, because trying to open them with sweaty hands isn't easy)
Belvita breakfast biscuits (I ate them on the way there after a bowl of porridge)
Bin bag (I wore this up until I started running to stay dry)
Warm clothes for after (trackies and a hoodie)
Clean socks (for after)
Sliders (for after, your feet swell up a lot so you'll want to take your trainers off)
Wired headphones (my airpods run out of charge after four hours)
Coke (for after, I needed the sugar but it took a while before I wanted to eat anything)
I also had my whole outfit ready to go, with my race number already pinned on my bib and the bag tag attached. Do everything you can the day before so that race day is as calm as possible!
I have loved this process. I started training back in Janaury because of lockdown and have kept it up since then. I never dreaded going on a run so that wasn't the tricky part of training. It was physcially fitting in the runs when everything got back to normal that was hard. It was covid that meant I chose this year to do it. If things were all shut, it meant there wasn't much to do so training was my distraction. Once life returned to normal in the summer and runs got longer, fitting training in was a challenge so that's something I'd stress to someone wanting to do it.
I honestly believe anyone can do a marathon if you put the work in. You'd be surprised how quick you're body adapts to the distance but you have to but that training in because just as quick are you build up the distance, a few weeks and it can all be gone.
Be organised and strict with training, look into running fuels once you get up to 13 miles so you have time to try out different things, and focus on yourself rather than others. There's always going to be faster people, so set an aim for yourself and focus on that.
I won't give up running, but my knees mean I'll only ever go up to 10k now. I'm a bucket list person and now this is done so I can tick it off and move on. I'm heading back to team sport now - netball. I've got a couple of weeks before I head to Scotland for a week's holiday, and then once I'm back I'll be heading to training and getting into the league. I haven't played since school and sixth form, but I'm buzzing to get back into it.
I'm also going to return to dance in a couple of weeks when the new terms starts which will be lovely. On top of that I'll still be going to the gym and swimming again, so I definitely won't be bored!
Future fitness bucket list aims are Tough Mudder and a triathlon, but you need money for a triathlon for all the equipment that goes with it so that won't be for a few years.
For now though, I'm looking forward to having a bit more flexibility with my time, and not having to be up a 5.30am at the weekend for a long run!
I'll be keeping my fundraising page open for a few more days so any final donations would be really appreciated: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/india-wentworth1
Thanks for reading my marathon experience!