Mara-Done!

Brighton Marathon 2015 MedalAt last! I’ve finally done it. I’ve completed my very first marathon! As predicted, it was long and slow and painful, but I got there… eventually.

The day started well. The sun was shining and there was a cool breeze as I walked to Preston Park for the start of the Brighton Marathon. I could have got the train, but it was only a 30 minute walk from my flat, so I figured the walk would be a good warm up.

The park was already busy when I got there, so I decided to head straight for the porta loos where I met my first 5 minute friend for the day in the queue – he was doing the 10K but had done the marathon a couple of times before and gave me some good advice. After that, there was the warm up, a pep talk from European 10,000 metre champion Jo Pavey, and then another visit to the porta loos before heading to the start pens.

I was in the green pen, which was the last to go off, but I didn’t mind. It was actually quite nice because we got to see the elite runners as they ran past (the first mile is a loop of the park), so we were able to cheer them on too.

Before long though, we were off and, with a high five from Jo Pavey, my Brighton Marathon journey was under way. The start was pretty slow, so I decided not to use my run/walk ratio until after the first mile, and just jog along and enjoy the atmosphere. I wasn’t particularly bothered about the pace, although I kept an eye on my Garmin to check how I was doing.

At around 10K, I spotted a row of porta loos and decided that it would be a good idea to pay them a visit. I wouldn’t normally, but as it was quite warm I had been taking a lot of water and the old bladder was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable. It would mean queueing for a few minutes, but I figured it would be worth it in the end.

I had completed the 10K in around an hour and ten minutes, but this unscheduled stop meant that it took me over 16 minutes to complete the 11th kilometre. Still, it was worth it as I felt much more comfortable as we headed up the hill and then down to the roundabout that leads to Ovingdean.

This was one of my favourite parts of the race as there was a live band at the roundabout to entertain us and the residents of Ovingdean were incredibly generous with their support – lots of high fives from small children gave me a bit of a lift too.

The mostly downhill run back into Brighton was brilliant and, although my pace was starting to drop, I still felt pretty good and was able to stick to my run/walk ratio. I knew I from the way the runners coming the other way had thinned out that I was fairly near the back of the pack, but I was having a great time so it really didn’t matter.

When we got back into Brighton, the crowds were amazing and really kept everyone going, but round about the half way point I realised that my energy was waning. I knew that I couldn’t keep going the way that I was, so I decided to drop my ratio a bit with slightly shorter running sections and longer walk breaks. This kept me going, but it wasn’t easy as my stomach was starting to feel a bit dodgy. I put it down to the Gatorade that I’d picked up at one of the aid stations, so I promptly ditched it in a skip and tried to focus on the ratios.

Once we got on to New Church Road though, I saw a couple of friends from work who had turned out to support. This gave me a massive lift and made me smile and laugh a lot, which carried me through for a bit longer. Around the 27K mark though, I knew that my stomach wasn’t happy. Fortunately, as I was so close to the back of the pack, there weren’t any queues at the next porta loo and I was able to get in and out fairly quickly, only adding a couple of minutes onto my already quite slow split for that kilometre.

As the miles and kilometres plodded by, my stomach started to feel much better, but my legs were getting more and more stiff and heavy with every step, so I decided to drop my ratio even further to one minute running and one minute walking (depending on how I was feeling). There were moments when I was able to push myself a bit further, and there were moments when I just had to stop and stretch, but somehow I made it through the ‘road to hell’ around Shoreham Power Station and onto Hove Promenade (my regular running route) for the final 5K.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was on familiar ground, or that I was so close to the finish, or that there were smiley faces painted on the ground to remind us that there would be TV cameras there, but somehow I was able to find it in myself to start extending my ratios again, just by a little and keep things ticking over for the last few miles.

By the final mile, the crowds were really livening up and I started to enjoy the support once more. My feeble thumbs ups became waves and smiles as I thanked the supporters and ditched my ratio altogether, to run in the final 400 metres, with a massive grin on my face.

And then it hit me as I crossed the finish line: I just completed a marathon! How cool is that?

My official time was 5:44:50 which is a fair bit slower than I would have liked, but I’m not complaining. I came away from it with a huge sense of achievement, considerable aches and pains, and the knowledge that I did my best on the day and had an amazing time doing it.

The medal is pretty cool too. It features The Peace Statues next to Hove Lawns, which I’ve run past quite a lot in training for this, so that makes it extra special too.

For those of you in the UK, the highlights of the race will be shown on Channel 4 next Sunday; for those of you elsewhere in the world, it is sure to appear on YouTube at some point if you want to check it out.

Finally, thank you to all of you who have encouraged and supported me throughout these last few months with your comments on this blog. Knowing that I’d have to come back and report to you after the race really helped when things got tough. You kept me accountable, and that means a lot.

I’m going to take a week off to recover and reflect now, but I promise to be back soon with a new challenge.

Thanks again and happy running! :-)

The Lap of Honour

After months and months and month of training, the big day is almost here. Tomorrow is the Brighton Marathon or, as I like to think of it, my lap of honour after all that hard work and training.

I’ve been taking it fairly easy this week, trying to eat properly and stay calm. I don’t really feel nervous about it, although calm is probably not the right word either – more like resigned to the fact that I’m going to be doing this. And looking forward to it too, of course!

IMG_2578Today I popped down to the Expo to pick up my race number. It wasn’t too busy when I got there and I paused to listen to one of the speakers giving some pre-race advice, which got me feeling quite excited again. 

It was the usual stuff about not going off too quickly, sticking to your fuelling and hydration plan and remembering to enjoy the day; but there were a couple of things that he said that I will take with me on tomorrow’s 26.2 mile jaunt around Brighton and Hove:

  1. The race doesn’t start until after mile 20
  2. Draw on your best training runs when things get tough
  3. Remember to smile as you cross the finish line

As far as having a race plan goes, I don’t really have one. I put my predicted time down as between five and five and a half hours, which should be just about achievable if I stick to my ratio and keep the pace between 7:00 and 7:30 minutes per kilometre. However, if it takes longer, then that’s ok too.

After all, this is my lap of honour and I intend to enjoy every second of it!

For Bling And A Banana

This time next week I’ll be running in the Brighton Marathon… no, really, I’ll still be running five and a half hours into the race. It’s going to be long and hard and painful, but somehow that doesn’t seem to matter any more.

Even if it takes me six hours, or six and a half, or seven… Ok, so I’ll probably keel over if I’m still going after seven hours, but the point is that the time really doesn’t matter. The important thing is to get out there, complete the distance and have fun!

Until this morning, I’d forgotten about the whole having fun aspect of the marathon. I’d been so worried about missing my final long run, the aches in my legs and not getting enough running in over the last few weeks, that the whole reason that I’m doing this completely slipped my mind.

I’m doing this because I love running and the opportunity to run for five and half hours or more, with thousands of other people, in my own neighbourhood, and with lots of people cheering us on is too good a chance to miss.

Ok, that’s a lie. I just want some bling and a banana.

bananas

So, with all thoughts of time goals pushed firmly to the back of my mind, I set out this morning for a slow 10K along the seafront and around the neighbourhood.

The old legs didn’t feel great and the pain in my left leg was still there, but it didn’t get any worse as I shuffled along making turrets on my running map by cutting back and forward down side streets – a nice way to make a short route a little bit longer.

2015-04-05_Map

In the end, I was having so much fun that I ran 11K instead of 10K, which brings this week’s running total up to a fairly feeble 16K (forgot to blog about Tuesday’s run – sorry!).

It doesn’t seem like much, I know, but as I’m tapering and don’t want to aggravate my leg too much, it will have to do. Perhaps I’ll get a 5K in later in the week. Who knows? But for now, I’m just trying to stay focussed on what it’s all about – bling and bananas!

How’s your training going? How do you keep your race day nerves at bay? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

This post is part of the Virtual Running UK Blog Hop. Click here to join the fun!

Spring Forward

Please tell me I’m not the only one who thought they’d overslept for their early morning long run today… anyone… no… really? (waits as a huge tumble weed blows slowly across the bloggy sphere…) Ok, so It’s just me then.

After bailing out on last weekend’s final long run before the taper, I’d planned to get up extra early this morning for a slightly-shorter-long-but-won’t-quite-kill-me-run instead. So needless to say I was a bit disappointed when I woke up at 8:15 instead of my usual weekend time of something between 6:30 and 7:30.

11054346_10153230396219740_1319207893094433965_n

Still, once I realised that it was really only 7:15 if I ignored the fact that everyone, including the people who control my phone, computer and Garmin, had decided to steal an hour, I started to feel much better. At least it was Sunday, so I could still pretend it was early and, since it was cold wet and drizzly outside, the chances were that not too many people would be venturing out to block and congest the later part of my route.

The plan was to run something between 15 and 21 kilometres. I wanted to make up for missing my last long run but at the same time I didn’t want to leave myself feeling completely exhausted two weeks before race day, so I’d see how it went.

I didn’t really have much of a route planned and decided to start with a couple of laps of Hove Rec to get some shelter from the wind and rain. After the third lap, I realised that the path was going to get a bit busy as more and more kids started arriving for their rugby practice, so I headed back out to the streets again and ran up Shirley Drive as a long way round to Hove Park.

When I reached Hove Park, however, I saw another much larger group of kids running around the paths. It looked like some kind of organised event as they were all wearing yellow tops and, as I turned the corner to the long straight stretch of the path, I realised that there were dozens more of them gathering at the parkrun start line. Junior parkrun perhaps? I wasn’t in the mood to find out, so I cut back out of the path and decided to stick to the roads instead.

Not in much of a mood for people dodging, I decided to explore some of the quieter streets around Poets Corner before heading back down to Portland Road and route that I’d been using for my last few shorter runs.

I decided round about then that I wasn’t going to do the 21K, but that if I ran back along Portland Road and took some detours down the streets that run adjacent to it, I could probably manage about 15K without killing myself. So that’s what I did.

2015-03-29_Route

In the end it was 16K and, despite falling asleep for an hour while watching Netflix this afternoon, I feel pretty good. My legs don’t feel too bad and I wore my ankle support which seems to have helped, but most importantly, I feel more mentally prepared than I did this time last week.

Yes, missing my final long run is a worry; yes, the marathon is going to be hard and it’s going to hurt; but either way I know that I want to do this, so I will.

How’s your training going? Do you have to plan or adapt your routes to avoid congested streets and paths? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Taper Time

Circle HopI’m officially tapering now. Or at least I think that’s what I’m doing.

I was supposed to do a longish run (20K or so) this morning but changed my mind and decided on a 5K instead – I guess I just wasn’t really in the mood for a long one.

Of course, I know that’s not the right attitude. When it comes to the marathon, I’ll have to get out and do it whether I feel like it or not. So, I made a deal with myself (I seem to be doing that a lot lately) and decided to do the longish run tomorrow instead.

Even though it will be less than half the marathon distance, I’m going to treat it as a mock race day by making sure that I eat well and rest properly today. That way, there can be no excuses.

Today’s 5K went ok. I set out nice and early, before 8:00 am, for a short run to Portslade and back again. The weather was cool and drizzly, which was pretty nice to run in, and there wasn’t much traffic to bother me at the road crossings.

Although it was a slow run, it felt more ‘moderate’ than ‘easy’ as I found myself checking my GymBoss more than usual to see how much longer I had to run. That hasn’t happened with a 5K in a long time, but perhaps it was just because I wasn’t really in to it.

Still, it felt good to get the run done and I’m feeling positive about tomorrow’s longish run too. Only two weeks to go! Yikes!

This post is part of the Virtual Running UK Blog Hop. Click here to sign up and join the fun!

Bouncing Back

I know I should be tapering for the Marathon now, but after having to wimp out of my final pre-marathon long run at the weekend, I decided to make my midweek runs a bit longer than usual to compensate.

Normally, I just do a couple of 5K (or thereabouts) sessions during the week to keep things ticking over. I like these runs because I know that I can make them as easy or as challenging as I like, and they don’t take up too much of my evening. I can get out, get it done and be home in time to have some dinner, write up my blog post and still have time to chill out for an hour or before bedtime.

This evening though, I figured it would be worth taking an extra half hour of running to get myself back on track – if not physically, then at least mentally. My leg is feeling a lot better now and, while I can still feel a bit of discomfort in the hamstring and calf, it’s nothing compared to what it was. So, I figured it would be safe enough to head for the seafront for a nice easy 10K.

It has been a while since I’ve run 10K, so I wasn’t sure about pacing. In the end though, I just decided to go by feel, taking it nice and slowly to make sure I didn’t aggravate anything in my leg. I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t tire myself out too much as I’m aiming to do another 10K on Thursday and a longish run on Saturday – probably something around 15-20K, but we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, the run was fine. I started early so that I’d have to slow down to cross the main roads and navigate the poorly lit uneven pavements. And it was slow. Very slow. But it did the trick. I completed the 10K route in just over 1 hour and 10 minutes and felt pretty good at the end of it. Ok, so the old leg was a bit tight again, but nothing that a bit of stretching couldn’t sort out.

More importantly though, I’m starting to feel more positive about the marathon again. After the weekend’s set-back and with less than three weeks to go until race day, I really needed a confidence boost and this evening’s run certainly gave me that!

How’s your training going? What do you do to help yourself bounce back from a disappointing run? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Taking No Chances

Yesterday was supposed to be my final long run before starting my taper for the Brighton Marathon. However, ever since my 36K run two weeks ago, my left leg has been giving me a bit of grief.

I don’t think it’s anything too serious, but there’s a dull ache that goes from the top of the leg all the way down to the ankle achilles. It’s probably just a case of having to stretch out the muscles as my calves are really tight.

In fact, the left one is so tight that when I felt a spasm last week and rolled up my trousers to have a look, I could actually see a long indentation along the calf where the muscle was tightening. It would have been pretty cool had it not been so painful. But it only lasted a few seconds. So, like I said, I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.

Not wanting to take any chances with another long run yesterday though, I decided to spend the day doing some stretching to see if it would be any better this morning. If it was, I’d get the run in; if not, I’d just do a shorter one instead.

As it turned out, my leg still didn’t feel great so I opted for an easy 5K to Portslade and back again. I’ve been using this route as part of my longer runs and quite like it. Although it does involve crossing a few roads, the roads are pretty quiet in the morning and it makes a nice change from the seafront. It also means I don’t have to walk as far before I start running!

In terms of missing out on the long run, I am a bit worried if I’m honest about it. Even though I’ve run more than the recommended 20 miles in recent weeks, there will be a five week gap between my last long run and the marathon, which is too long for a taper; and if I do the long run next weekend, then there won’t be enough time to taper and recover before the big day.

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do, but I’m thinking that I might run 13.1 miles / 21.1 km next weekend as a compromise, and try to get a couple of 10K runs in midweek if I can get my leg to behave itself. But we’ll see what happens.

Either way, I know that I will complete the marathon even if it is slower than I would like – after all, I did manage to do a 100K last year on much less training! Ok, so I walked most of that, but still, when the chips are down you just have to get on with it, right?

How’s your training going? How do you deal with niggles and injuries when you’re getting close to race day? Do you stick to the training plan or take a compromise? Please share your thoughts, tips and ideas in the comments.

This post is part of the Virtual Running UK Blog Hop. Click here to find out more and join the fun!

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