A bit of a life catchup

Obviously, it’s been too long since I last wrote so here’s a bit of a rambling post to try and fill in a tiny piece of the gap that’s missing between May and right now,- the end of August.

Life is busy!  Oh, so busy.  I used to think that juggling work, freelance work, a baby, looking after the house and traveling back to Norfolk numerous times each week to help care for a sick Mum was tough, but that was nothing compared to juggling it all with a toddler.  Toddlers are a whole other ball game!

Oscar and I in the car

Oscar is shaping up to be a lovely, thoughtful, funny, cheeky, incredibly smart and lovable character, but to be the parent I want to be and to help mould him into the type of person I would like my child to become can be very draining at times!  I have made a fantastic group of Mum friends who parent in a very similar fashion to the way Dan and I are raising Oscar.  He also still attends nursery one day a week during term time, and so has a lot of social opportunities throughout the week, but on days we don’t meet with friends and he doesn’t attend nursery he still requires me to be a major part of his activities from 7am until bedtime at 7pm.  I don’t want to sit writing blog posts, or on my phone replying to messages or making work calls when I’m with Oscar and so the bulk of my paid work gets completed either super early in the morning or after the point when he goes to bed (by which point I’m knackered and it takes forever to complete!)  Days can be pretty full on!  It works for us though and Oscar amazes me every day.  As much as the days can be hard at times they are absolutely worth it and I know that in two years time when he comes to start school I will miss my little sidekick so much.  So I’m making the most of now while I still have him home with me.

I took some time off from running over the Summer.  I’ve had a few problems in recent months which resulted in me spending some time in hospital.  It’s something to share for another day but it meant that I had to take 3 complete weeks off from running at the start of August.  I always find that time away from running leaves me so excited to get back out there achieving new goals on my return and this occasion was no different.  I had planned to set myself an ultra challenge this Summer (involving 198 miles and the Norfolk border), but obviously it wasn’t meant to be.  At the moment I don’t have plans to run any ultras for the remainder of 2019 (this may change of course!) but instead, I’ve pencilled in a full-on training plan based on the Hanson’s Half Marathon training method for the Bedford Harriers Half Marathon on the 1st December.  I am really excited for this.  I have a bit of a soft spot for Bedford Half.  It was my first half marathon back in 2011 which I was ecstatic to run in 2:13.  A couple of half marathons later and my PB dropped to 2:09:16.  I tried for a 2:05 in March 2018 but I’d trained too much on the treadmill that Winter and not enough on an actual road and so I wound up injured after just 5 miles.  I’d been back to run Bedford half in December 2017, but the timing was awful; my Mum had died a week earlier, and Oscar and I had been stuck inside all week when he caught Hand, Foot and Mouth.  I ran a 2:12.  I vowed then that I would return to Bedford and do the race justice, and this is the year for me to give it another shot.

I’m aiming big this time though.  I’m going to aim to run a sub 2.

Bedford is 14 weeks away.  I have never trained for a half marathon.  I’ve always just kind of increased my miles week on week and run halves as part of training for a full marathon.  I’m kinda curious what will happen if I train for a half marathon properly.

Hanson's Half Marathon training plan

Obviously I’m going to be following the Hanson’s Method again, although the half version this time.  Hansons gave me a 15 minute PB at London for the marathon this year.  Training in this style obviously suits me and my lifestyle.  I’d be silly to look for another plan.  Six runs a week, and I’m planning on making the most of the early morning running whilst it’s still light out.  Summer won’t last much longer!

Me - early morning sunrise run

Do you follow a training plan for a half marathon distance?
Does taking an enforced break from running leave you desperate to get back training again?
Have you run Bedford Half Marathon before?
Do you change the time of day you run dependent on the season?

What it’s like to run the London Marathon for a charity

I always said that I would never run the London Marathon for charity. That putting so much time and effort into marathon training is tough enough without also having to raise thousands of pounds.

Once, when I was about 7-8 I decided that I was going to raise money for Children in Need by getting up early and biking into school. My primary school was only about 4 miles away by car, but along a very busy A-road that my Mum wouldn’t let me bike along.  Instead she allowed me to bike along the backroads to reach my destination, adding a further few miles to the journey.  In the weeks leading up to the day I made sure to head out on lots of bike rides and thought hard about what to wear to keep warm during the cold morning and (the all important) snack choice for my journey.
The day arrived, and I jumped up to the sound of alarm, throwing on my school bag and eagerly jumping on my bike out of the shed.  My Mum followed behind me the whole way in the car and then took my bike back home again once we arrived at school, letting me know how proud she was of me.  I felt super invigorated and alive to have gotten out of bed so early in the morning and to have made my own way to school that day.  I made my way to my assembly with a big smile on my face.  It was only as I returned to my classroom after assembly when the school receptionist pulled me aside and told me that my Mum had slipped a tenner into the charity pot on the front desk for me biking into school that morning that I realised I had been so busy concentrating on the logistics of biking into school that I realised I had never stopped to think just how I would raise money from doing so!

Luckily, my fundraising skills seem to have improved somewhat since those days!

I really wanted to spend some time this year raising funds for Cancer Research UK.  I know most blog readers already know my back story, but for those who don’t, my Mum was diagnosed with Terminal Cancer a few years ago.  She was tough.  She fought hard and made sure she was around for my wedding day the following year.  She battled through several batches of chemo, and even helped me fundraise for MacMillan by selling cakes in Holt town centre.

MacMillan Cake stall - Me and MumThen, in 2014 and 2016 we ran the Cancer Research UK Race for Life 5k event at Holkham Hall together to raise more funds.

Houghton Hall Race4LifeMy Mum lost her Cancer battle at the end of 2017, and then in the following year we lost a further four members of our family to cancer.  Cancer has not been kind to us the past few years at all.

Risk of Cancer

I decided to apply for a Cancer Research place for London 2019 and when I was offered my place I threw myself into training and fundraising.  Juggling everything (alongside five part time jobs and a toddler) has been incredibly challenging over the past few months, but I wouldn’t change a thing.  If I was going to be running the marathon in memory of my Mum, I was going to do the absolute best job I could on the day and I wanted to raise as much money as possible in the process.

I am obviously no stranger to running long distances.  London Marathon was my 17th marathon, and I’ve run much further in the past.  This meant that I didn’t feel comfortable asking people to sponsor me to run 26.2 miles.  I knew I had to either a) host some events to give people something in return for their money, b) put in some long hours myself in return for the money or c) both of the above.

I had been asked to raise a minimum of £2000 for Cancer Research UK, although I really wanted to raise £3000+.

I got in touch with Ronnie Staton to see if he would be interested in speaking to help me raise funds for the charity.  Luckily for me and the runners who came along, he was!

What an inspiration and all-round legend!
Ronnie provided a dynamic and inspiring talk to a room full of runners eager to hear all about his previous adventures.  When you hear Ronnie, it is obvious not only how incredibly passionate about running he really is, but also just how much he wants others to reach their full potential and to find events and challenges that excite them!
We repeatedly laughed out loud as Ronnie shared his tales in an entertaining manner.
Despite all his accomplishments, Ronnie was very genuine and down-to-earth, happy to answer all questions thrown at him by the audience, as well as on a one-to-one basis.  A large number of guests came to thank me for organising the evening at the end, – all inspired, and many of them already beginning to reconsider their Acceptable Reasons of Failure for future challenges!
Ronnie‘s commitment to help me raise money was fantastic despite suffering a stroke between the point of organising the talk and the evening the talk took place. In Ronnie‘s words “As long as I’m still breathing I will 100% still be there!”
Ronnie Staton event

I charged £10 per ticket, using Ticket Source for ticket purchases and there was a great turn out on the night.  I was also so touched and thankful for all those who donated raffle prizes for the evening, especially those who couldn’t make the event themselves.

Ronnie Staton event raffle prizes

 

One of the items we raffled off was this amazing Cancer Research cake by Emma’s Sweet Treats.

Cancer Research UK cakeWish I’d taken a better photograph of it.  I’m not even sure who won it on the night.  It looked amazing though!

In total we raised £842.73 from the ticket sales and raffle and it was by far the best money maker of my fundraising attempts.

As well as the evening with Ronnie Staton I also sat in three different supermarket entrances in the months leading up to the London Marathon with my charity fundraising bucket.

These were long days (usually starting by 7am) and staying sat in the same spot until late.  I found them hard.  I was fundraising on my own, although at two of the stores I had friends pop in to stay with me for a couple of hours during my stint which was really appreciated.  The first store I visited in my hometown placed me in the foyer opposite the Mother’s Day flowers and Mother’s Day card stand.  Mother’s Day was only two days away so that was hard going and a little emotional.  Having groups of people writing in cards about how great their Mum was on the table next to me was tough.  I was very thankful when a friend arrived to help out and provide conversation to fill the quiet times in my mind.  This was the store where I raised the most money though, at nearly £300.

Fundraising for Cancer Research UK at the Co-op

I found the second store the easiest.  I had decided to travel back to North Norfolk and visit the supermarket in Holt I had worked in during my college days.  Mum had also worked there during the years my brother and I still lived at home.  Despite there being many new faces in store, there were still plenty of faces I recognised (both staff and customers!) even though I had moved out of my parents’ home back in 2004.  My table was placed by the checkouts and customers and staff kept coming over for a chat and a catch-up which was nice.  I was so saddened to hear that a 24 year old employee of the store had died from cancer a few months earlier though.

Fundraising for Cancer Research UK at Budgens

My final store was fairly local to where I currently live.  This was the hardest.  It was the Friday before the marathon and so friends weren’t around to pop in and keep me company.  I arrived and was told I would have to wait an hour and a half until receiving a table or chair, as the staff on the shop floor didn’t have a set of keys to access the offices upstairs.  I ended up laying out my items on a stack of compost bags.  The first lady that came to visit me to donate change in her purse made me cry.  I’d had an early start that morning and the lack of sleep had made me feel particularly emotional that day.  If somebody says nice words to me it can often turn me into a blubbering wreck and this was no different.  I was set off again a few hours later when I guy about my age pushed a twenty pound note into my bucket and said that his younger brother had died from cancer as a toddler many years earlier.

So many people stopped to talk and share their stories of misfortune with me.  One guy had lost his Mum a few days earlier after she had only known about her cancer for just a few days.  He stopped to talk to me several times for the best part of an hour across the day.

Fundraising for Cancer Research UK at ASDA

In total, I raised £694.06 from my three bucket shakes in stores.

I also got Dan to place a large multi-box of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs in his staff canteen in the build up to Easter.  I bought the eggs with my own money.  Along with my staff discount, they worked out at less than 30p each, but most people donated £1 in return for an egg.  This brought in another nearly £50.

I also hosted a couple of smaller raffles, separate to the large raffle I held at the Ronnie Staton event although the amount I made from these was minimal.

Several people donated to my fundraising page online.  I was again so, so touched by the number of blog readers who donated or sent words of encouragement and raffle prizes for me to use.  I really do love this online community so much!

The total amount of money I’ve raised so far for Cancer Research since beginning my fundraising is £2,340.88.  It’s been a hard slog to get this far, and the pressure of fundraising has stressed me out on more than one occasion but I still want to raise more before the year is out, although there is much less pressure now that I have made the amount asked of me in return for my London Marathon place.  I found the pressure of fundraising incredibly difficult.  Hence the reason my blogging has been limited so far in 2019.  Most of my Fridays (my one childfree day each week) were taken up arranging meetings, printing posters, trying to drum up raffle prizes, advertising my events…  Fundraising really is a full time job if you want to make a decent go of it!  A friend said that if your training plan says ‘REST’, then you should change that and write in ‘FUNDRAISE’ instead and I fully agree!

Last November I was assigned a contact from the charity who would be keeping in touch with me up until the marathon.  Unfortunately he went off on long term sick and eventually left the charity.  I only had one check up call after November, although there was always somebody to answer any questions I had at the end of the phone which was nice to know.  I rang up a number of times; to see how to pay in a cheque, to ask about swapping my vest for the race…

Running the London Marathon as a charity runner was a complete different experience to running on a ballot place.  Reading the stories printed on the back of other runner’s t-shirts on the day whilst waiting in the pens was very emotional.  Listening to all of the charity cheer stations erupt as a runner came through wearing one of their charity vests was an insane atmosphere to be in.  You couldn’t help but smile as the charity supporters became so loud you could no longer hear the hundreds of footsteps pounding the streets of London.  I definitely held my arms up and cheered back at all of the Cancer Research supporters on the cheer stations I spotted out on the course.

After the race I headed over to the post-race Cancer Research reception at The British Academy which was just over the road from the finish line.  (Although up rather a lot of steps!)CRUK balloons outside the post race reception

My pass was for myself and two guests, but I didn’t have anyone with me on race day, so I just attended alone.

On each runner’s entry (through the doors in the picture below) everybody in the grand corridor burst into applause, which was lovely!

Cancer Research post race receptionIn the room to the left of the picture there was a booking form for a post-race massage and also the opportunity to get your medal engraved.  I signed up to both, leaving my newly claimed medal in the hands of a stranger and checking and double checking the time I wrote down for them to engrave.  Had I really run a 4:39?!

Engraved London Marathon medalI headed upstairs and had my photograph taken by a volunteer in front of the Cancer Research board…

Raising money for Cancer Research UK at the London Marathon…and then filtered into the room with the food.  There was a great spread in place.  I’d jotted down notes before the race of which restaurants were offering free meals to runners, but I knew I would no longer need to head out for dinner with the spread offered here!  Besides, it was nearly 4pm by now, and I would need to head home at some point!

I only thought to take a picture of my dessert plate…check out the mini Colin the Caterpillar!

Desserts after the London MarathonAfter about an hour or so (I’d used the time to call Dad, Dan and a running friend from club) the buzzer I’d been given began to flash to signal that I needed to head down for my massage and I was led into a large room where 7-8 volunteers were working on the legs of other runners.  I hopped up onto the waiting bed and lay out with my face in the hole.  I’d never had a post-race massage before, and was really looking forward to this experience!

Dee Stringer was my masseuse and my legs have honestly never felt so good after a race!  She worked on the backs of my legs, then the fronts and even got me to take off my socks and trainers for a foot massage (I did check with her to make sure I’d heard her right.  Even I won’t touch my feet after a marathon!)  I had no problems with stairs the following day which I fully put down to proper race pacing and the great massage I received.

The trip home was nice and relaxed.  I spent some time talking to one of the retired volunteers who had been helping out on the course and had gotten onto the tube the same time as me.  I love talking to random people about running!

This year, the 39th London Marathon surpassed the £1billion mark raised for charity. £1billion raised for charityThat’s a phenomenal amount of money raised for a huge number of fantastic causes and I’m very proud to say that I was a part of that this year, helping to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Cancer Research Mary Pearson

I can always remember as a child the race being on in the living room at home on a Sunday morning in April with my Dad glued to the coverage between cooking bits for our Sunday roast. Never back then did I think I would be running the iconic marathon once, never mind twice!

For anybody trying to increase their chances of running the marathon next year, make sure you fully understand the commitment it takes to fundraise alongside marathon training.  If possible, try and raise as much of the total before marathon training begins after Christmas.  If you leave the bulk of your fundraising until the Spring months not only will you be trying to juggle high mileage alongside event planning, but you will also be competing for funds alongside everybody else running Spring marathons.

The minimum amount that a charity asks you to commit to is there for a reason.  Charities pay for their places.  Charities usually pay around £350 per place, which is much more than the £31 I paid for my ballot entry in 2014.  (The cost to me to run as a charity runner this year was £100.)  The charity is then counting on you raising the funds you have pledged to raise.  Most charities ask for a minimum of £1500 for a place, so have a really hard think about ways you could come up with that cash before agreeing to run for the charity.  Choosing a charity that means something to you or to those you know should be much easier to some extent – you and the people around you will have a determination to achieve your fundraising goal.  Don’t rely on donations from friends and family alone, and don’t expect everyone you know to donate either.  Unless you are a fundraising superstar I would avoid applying for a charity place just to get a chance to run London Marathon.

Have you ever raised money for charity before?
Do you enjoy a post-race massage?

 

 

 

London Marathon recap – Pt 2 the hunger miles

If you missed the first part of my London Marathon recap, you can find it HERE.

I took five gels with me for the marathon.  My favourites to race road events with are the Salted Caramel GU gels.  I’m pretty sure I could knock those back all day!  In my early days of marathon running I would use just one gel on a marathon, or get by without, using just Lucozade Sport or jelly babies to fuel me round.  A few years back, after failing to achieve a sub 5 once again at Mablethorpe Marathon I was talking to another runner from my club who said she used to be the same; hardly ever took gels on board.  Her long distance running began to improve drastically when she started taking 5-6 gels during a race.  Two weeks later I ran Chelmsford Marathon, and although I didn’t take on board as many gels as she had advised, I did substantially increase the amount I was taking, and really thought through my tactics and timings for nutrition before race day.  That was the race I finally went sub 5 at.  Now I always make sure to take on board plenty during the race.

I prefer to take my gels a half at a time, along with a few swigs of water.  It’s what seems to work for me.  I took my first half a gel at about mile 5-6 and took on four in total during the race.  Water stations were every two miles and I took a half a gel at most stations from this point.

The first Lucozade station was at mile 7 and the road for the following 100 metres was stickier than the floor at Zanzibar, a shoddy nightclub in my uni town.  You could hear your trainers peeling up from the floor with every step.  It was horrible!

Somehow at mile 8 I spotted a member of my running club stood on the pavement alongside the barrier.  I shouted as loud as I could and finally got their attention for them to shout back as I ran past.

My first twelve miles went by what seemed very quickly.  I was so busy reading the backs of people’s vests and scanning the crowds for supporters I knew.  I knew of several members from my running club who had intended on coming down to support runners on the day, and several more who I knew through social media or the blogging world.  Some had told me where they were hoping to be, but by the time I was out on the course I’m afraid I had forgotten most of what people had told me but I was finding it quite exhilarating scanning the crowds anyway.

Mile splits for the first twelve: 10:05, 10:04, 9:52, 9:55, 10:01, 9:56, 10:00, 9:49, 10:01, 10:09, 9:54, 10:10.

All much faster than the 10:18mm pace I had intended, but I still felt good so I wasn’t too concerned.  They say you should be able to run to the halfway point feeling good and like you could do it all over again, and I definitely felt like I could.  I was religiously checking the times on my Pace Band against my watch each time I went underneath a mile marker arch, and by this point I was more than a minute up on a 4:30 finish time.  I think the furthest I had ever run before non-stop, without any walk breaks was 16 miles-ish so I was pretty sure that at some point my pace would drop, but I figured even if I began run-walking from 20 miles, if I was able to hold my current pace until then I would still be on for a new PB.

We turned a corner and all of a sudden the bridge was in front of us.  For some reason – and completely unexpected, I found myself tearing up and a little lump rise in my throat.  I quickly glanced down to recompose myself.  I felt so emotional running onto the bridge.  On both sides were charity supporters, with large banners strewn along the edge.  A camera panned down from up high as I reached the far side and, along with the guy next to me we automatically raised our arms high in the sky and pasted on beaming smiles!  We laughed about it as we turned right off the bridge.  He said that his children had better have been watching the TV at that point!  I’m not sure that our shot made it onto the TV, but I have a lovely set of photos across the bridge in the online photo gallery from the official photographers.

London Marathon official pictures

(I intend on asking for some of the official photos for my birthday, so will post them on the blog properly then.)

On the right as you turn off the bridge is where I usually watch the marathon when I go down as a spectator.  2018 was the first year in a long while when I didn’t head down to support on the day.  Both Kev and Tom, who I had watched with for several years in the past were unable to make the date and so I headed out for a long run with a friend early in the morning followed by pancakes and race tracking on the TV for the rest of the morning.  Sunday mornings done right!
Whenever I’d traveled down in the past I’d always bumped into other runners from our club supporting in a similar area so I really scanned the crowd here, desperately trying not to miss anybody who was out trying to spot me.  It can be almost impossible trying to spot runners sometimes, especially when (like me on the day) they’re not in club colours!  I didn’t see anybody I knew though.  It’s amazing how having only run the course once before I could still remember every turn on the route.

The cheer stations were all great out on route, but especially the Dementia Revolution cheer stations.  Each one went on for so long, and spanned across both sides of the road.  If you found yourself running alongside a Dementia Revolution runner through one of these stations you couldn’t help but be picked up yourself!

I spotted a couple of the Cancer Research UK cheer stations, and it was nice to be able to raise my arms up towards them as I came through, receiving great support from people I’d never met before.

As I crossed the halfway mark I glanced down to see 2:13:41 on my watch.  A time I would probably have been happy to take for a half marathon at the moment, and also perfect numbers on my watch to still aim for a sub 4:30 marathon!  I had no idea how I was getting away with such consistent, easy running still!

One of the next water stations (I can’t remember which one, maybe mile 14/16?) I struggled to get across to the station before it finished.  Everybody was darting across to grab a bottle and it became a bit chaotic with choppy strides from everyone.  I ducked in to grab a bottle from the last volunteer and shouted out “Sorry!” to the female runner I’d had to cut in front of.  I wasn’t close, I didn’t ‘cut them up’ as such.  They then extended their stride coming out of the station, moved back behind me and forcibly pushed into my back, making me shoot forward.  It really caught me off-guard!  Luckily they disappeared and I didn’t see them again.

Miles 13-20 went as follows: 10:15, 10:01, 9:49, 10:56, 10:07, 10:18, 10:44, 9:40.

(I think the first tunnel is at mile 18, hence the 10:44?)

I knew by now that I would PB.  Even if I ran walk the final few miles, they wouldn’t be slow enough that I would be risking my PB and I could feel the grin spreading across my face.  I was starting to feel hungry by this point.  Really, really hungry, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.

By mile 21.5 I knew I needed to try and find some food.  I made my first walk break and raided a bucket of jelly babies that had been thrust towards me, choosing all of the yellow ones to nibble on for the final few miles.  (Yellow is the best flavour by far.)  My stomach was rumbling so loudly I feared that other runners would start turning and looking at me!

At mile 22(ish) I saw Ruth, and then Jenny not long after.  And then a little further up the road I saw a group of guys from my running club and even further up another runner from my club.  (These may all be in totally the wrong order of when I spotted them, but they were all fairly close together and in the perfect location for keeping me going!)  Not that there was any risk in me stopping at any point now, but this is the section of the race that everybody says is the hardest, not much to look at and with everyone now ready for it to be the end!

Going into the tunnel was eerie.  I passed lots of people walking under here.  Of course, it’s the perfect place to fit in a sneaky walk, – I’m almost certain I walked it myself last time – but I made sure to jog through to the end.

For a stats geek like me it was so annoying having the tunnels mess with my Garmin.  Both times my watch continued to add time, but not mileage as I ran the 0.2ish miles through the tunnel.  I really needed to rely on my pace band against the mile markers now to judge roughly where I was time-wise.

Since that first walk, I took a couple more until the end.  My legs were fine, my chest was fine.  I was still breathing well, but I was absolutely starving!  I knew I wouldn’t have much energy left in the tank by the end and that was most likely down to the fact that I hadn’t been able to keep any food in me the night before.  I never hit the wall though.  I probably could have pushed through, but the knowledge that I would PB now was enough for me and I was buzzing!

London Marathon were making a real effort to become more eco-friendly this year.  Lucozade stations were a mix of bottles, compostable cups and also a seaweed edible and biodegradable pouch containing Lucozade at mile 23.  Initially, I hadn’t intended on using one of the pouches.  (Don’t try on race day anything you haven’t had a chance to try in training!)  But my body really fancied some energy drink at that point, and I figured I could always just try biting into the pouch rather than eating the whole thing, or just throw the seaweed part away/spit it out if it really was truly awful.  In the end though I found it really handy to be able to carry the pouch, – much easier than keeping hold of a bottle.  The pouch was very similar in look and feel to a washing capsule pod.  I bit into it and managed to consume the liquid without getting covered, much easier than I thought.

Seven drinks stations were also removed from the course this year, to prevent wastage and all clothes discarded at the start of the race were donated or reused.  You can find a big list of all of the ways London Marathon are trying to become more environmentally friendly HERE.  I think it’s fantastic that even larger races have begun to put so much effort into making running more eco-friendly.

I had a little walk and soaked up the sights before the final few turns, picking my running back up at 25.5 miles again.  It was amazing running past the 600 metre to go sign, where I usually head to watch runners finish.  And then to make that final famous turn towards the finish.  I pulled past several people at this point.  Again, there were charities along each side of The Mall.  One guy just in front of me stopped dead to wave at his charity and take a bow.  I almost crashed straight into him.  I didn’t expect anyone to stop along this part!

Miles 21-26.2: 10:43, 11:43, 10:49, 11:13, 13:50, 11:57, (Nubbin 0.67m): 10:30mm.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I pulled my phone out from my Flipbelt.  I already had a text from the marathon containing my finishing time, and one of my friends had already messaged to congratulate me on my PB.  I’d only been over the line a matter of seconds, so it was lovely to know that people had been tracking me throughout my race from home.

Finishing the London Marathon

I grabbed an official to get him to tell me who had won the race and was told Kipchoge, but not in a world record time.  He couldn’t tell me about any of the brits though.  Last time I’d run at London, there was a board at the finish displaying the top 5 male and female runners for everyone else out running that day, which I thought was a nice touch.

Finishing the London Marathon

It’s always nice looking back at stats after you’ve run a race you’re happy with.  Running a marathon should be like the tides in the sea…you let all the runners go out at the beginning, making sure to run a nice and steady start.  Then, during the second half you should let the tide come back towards you, passing everyone as you go!

Runners passed at London

I had my photo taken by the official photographer and moved along to collect my bag from bag drop.  Obviously my bag ended up being right at the very end of the enormous bag collection area.  I munched away on my race finisher apple along the way.  I made my way out to the tree where WDAC usually meet after London, only I must have been too slow, because I couldn’t spot anyone around.  I sat for maybe ten minutes in case anybody came by, but then decided to make my way to the Cancer Research UK after party.  I’ll write about that in a separate blog post though.

Finishing the London Marathon

I was running this marathon in memory of my Mum, raising money for Cancer Research UK.  My fundraising page is still open for anyone who wishes to donate.

Official time: 4:39:03 (** New PB by 15m 5s**)
Finishing position: 25006/42438
Gender position: 8079/17737
Age category position: 4235/9373

Runner stats at London Marathon

Ultimately I was so chuffed with how well my race had gone.  I had run so consistently up until mile 21.5 when I’d taken my first walk.  I never hit ‘the wall’.  I felt good throughout (other than super hungry!)  When speaking to Dan that evening he told me that he thought the tracker had broken for a while when my predicted times never altered each time I crossed over another timing mat.  Apparently the prediction had shown 4:27ish for the longest time!

Splits at the London Marathon

I trained using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, a book I researched and read numerous recaps on before deciding to purchase myself.  I do intend on writing a full recap of my own about how I found the training, but essentially – I loved it and it worked for me!  I’d definitely recommend it if you like the idea of running 5-6 days each week and capping your longest run at 16 miles.

What was your favourite PB moment?
Have you ever been so hungry in a race you’ve struggled?
Have you tried the Lucozade seaweed pouches? What did you think?

London Marathon – a new marathon PB!

I really, truly did not expect to PB last weekend.  Although I’d been running regularly and consistently since the start of the year, I hadn’t had the smoothest of training cycles.  I was attacked on one of my tempo runs back in February (resulting in feeling uneasy training outside for quite a while, resorting to the treadmill for several of my runs instead), had been hit hard by the flu for a week and also been diagnosed as anaemic with just over a month to go until race day.  I didn’t have huge hopes for my marathon time, but still intended on giving London my absolute best shot and with the intention of working hard for a new PB.

That would be a big enough ask in itself.  It had taken me ten attempts before I finally dipped under the 5 hour mark for the first time at Chelmsford marathon in 2015 and my PB of 4:54:08 was still standing, despite London now being my 17th marathon.

The week before race day also wasn’t ideal.  Oscar came down with Slapped Cheek, leaving him rather unsettled and creeping into bed with us every night, happily starfishing away between Dan and I – leaving us with limited room to sleep ourselves.
I also spent the day with a collection bucket in ASDA that Friday whilst Oscar started off at nursery, before being sent home ill in the afternoon.  He seemed fine to me, stayed up late riding his bike and chasing my charity balloons around the lounge before finally succumbing to sleep that evening.

The next morning I woke and didn’t feel the best.  I felt achy, sluggish and my stomach hurt.  I made the decision not to jog around parkrun the morning before the marathon, but Dan changed my mind at the last minute and so off I trotted, pushing Oscar round in his buggy.

Kettering parkrun with Oscar in the buggy(Photo by John Woods)

A little later that afternoon I struggled to eat my lunch.  My stomach pains began to increase and after my traditional pre-marathon pizza dinner I headed straight upstairs to the bathroom where I spent most of the evening.

Pre-marathon pizza night(One huge meat pizza for Dan, one regular sized vegetarian option for me…you’d never know which one of us was planning on running a marathon the following day!)

Luckily I’d already planned my travel arrangements to get to the race earlier that day, but by now I had been so ill that I worried I would make the start line at all.  I panic messaged my friends Laura and Steph, who reassured me that two Imodium before bed and another in the morning would be my best option.  I was already feeling hungry, but daren’t eat any more that evening.  I headed to bed around 9pm, but was up again by 11 and back to the bathroom.  I felt miserable and incredibly sorry for myself.  There weren’t tears, but had I woken feeling the same as I’d felt the previous night, then there most certainly would have been!  This time I also mixed up a pint of Strawberry Lemonade nuun to take to bed with me to try and help rehydrate ready for the race the following day.  After an incredibly hot weekend the week before, the conditions were forecast to be pretty perfect for running at London and I was grateful that I also wouldn’t need to worry about losing excess sweat out on the race course.

Thankfully, when my alarm went at 4:30am on Sunday morning I was feeling much better.  I did feel like I’d been poorly the day before; rather drained and pretty knackered from not enough sleep, but much, much better than I had on Saturday night.  I was going to London!

I decided to top up my now very empty stomach with a bowl of chocolatey cereal before heading out of the door.  I had packed my usual race-day bagel with peanut butter in my bag ready to have two hours before the start of the race, but knew I needed something extra inside me now as well.  The higher in calories, the better!  I nervously ate the small bowl of cereal, fully expecting to have to rush upstairs straight after finishing it, but although my tummy still ached, I didn’t feel like my body needed to reject the food.  Winning!

The drive down to Edgware was much easier than expected, and I then stalked another runner wearing their London Marathon bag in order to find my way to the station.  (This is the real reason London Marathon insist on giving runners all the same bags I’m sure, not for security reasons!  That, and so that everyone can have a good laugh looking at your underwear stashed in the see-through bags!)
Free travel on all trains heading into and out of London on race day is a very nice touch for the runners.  London travel confuses me at the best of times, more so when traveling alone and so it was nice to know that if I got on the wrong train I would be able to just jump off at the next station, turn around and come back again for free!

There were several runners heading on my first train and when I got off and looked for my connection it was made really easy by the huge banners depicting ‘RED START’/’BLUE START’/’GREEN START’ in the station.  I made my way up the escalator next to the Red Start banner after grabbing a cereal bar from the huge luggage crates filled with goodies for marathon runners.  There was fruit, cereal bars, crisps, milk…loads of options for people to fill their bags with for pre and post-race.  Another great touch!

Catching the train at the London Marathon

The platform here was crazy.  Everybody on it was wearing running shoes and wearing their official bag drop bag.  I arrived as it was announced over the tannoy for all runners to move down to the end of the platform to give everybody the best chance of getting on the train.  Turned out though that the train didn’t travel as far as the end of the platform so I missed out on that first connection.  I witnessed runners desperately trying to squeeze other runners further into the carriages so that they could also jump on board.  I felt claustrophobic just watching them all pressed up against the windows as the train sped off.  Holding on to wait for a second train four minutes later and thus managing to snag a seat was definitely worth it!

Catching the train at the London Marathon

Obviously there was no confusion on where to go on reaching the next station.  Everybody piled off the train and began the walk towards the red start.

Walking to the Red start at the London MarathonCharity runners are at a big disadvantage at London Marathon – There was a mountain to climb to reach the start area!  I remember the walk from the station to the blue start being totally flat when I ran on a club ballot place back in 2014!  I felt absolutely wiped out by the time I got to the top and was already sweating!

Walking to the Red start at the London Marathon

Lots of charities had banners on either side of the path up the hill and runners were splitting off to both sides to meet with the other runners from their charity.  I didn’t spot the Cancer Research UK banner, although was later told that it was right near the bottom of the hill.  I wasn’t walking down and back up that beast again!  I did spot the Institute of Cancer Research banner though, and bumped into my friend Lindsay and her boyfriend.  Lindsay was having twelve inches cut off her hair at the halfway point for charity.  I stopped and spoke to them briefly before getting my number checked and making my way through to the Red Start area.

Walking to the Red start at the London MarathonSeveral members of my club were running for charity and we had hoped to meet for a pre-race photo although my phone network was no longer responding and only a couple of runners managed to meet up before the start. (I’m guessing because there were so many runners posting pre-race pictures of themselves on social media!)

After circling the Buxton water stand where I thought we were due to meet for several minutes I realised there were two Buxton stands at opposite ends of the start area and so I headed to the changing tent instead to strip out of my tracksuit trousers, organise my gels and cover my arms and legs in Body Glide.  (Thanks by the way to everybody who recommended Body Glide on Instagram after my last minute vest-rubbing dilemma the weekend before.)

A quick trip to the loo, a final Imodium taken just to be sure and it was time to hand in my bag at the bag drop area and make my way to the starting pens.  I had been placed in pen 3, but with the 4:30 pacers being in pen 5 according to the London Marathon website, I dropped down into pen 4, with the intention of crossing the line from the back of the pen, nearer to where the 4:30 runners were.

Finding my pen at the London MarathonI started talking to the other runners stood around me whilst we were waiting for the race to start.    Whilst we were grateful for the cooler weather, it was very chilly standing around and we’d all removed our top layers to place in the bag drop by now, so were eager to get going.  We could see the TV coverage on the big screen and it was so exciting to watch the elite men start, knowing they were would be out on the course somewhere in-front of us and that we would soon be moving along into position to start our own race.

Pen four of the Red Start at the London Marathon

The line started moving almost immediately after we watched the elites take off on the screen and we found ourselves winding along the taped path and out onto the wide road behind the pen 4 barrier tape.  On the way I managed to spot a crash of rhinos!

A crash of Rhinos at the London Marathon

We also weaved past a sole industrial bin, and it seemed every single male had to stop and pee alongside it.  It was pretty disgusting and stunk!

A crash of Rhinos at the London Marathon

Once on the road I kept making my way further back until I was at the very back of pen 4 and the marshals holding the pen 5 tape came behind me, bringing with them the runners from pen 5 and the 4h 30m pacers for the red start.Pen four of the Red Start at the London Marathon(This shot is with me at the back of the pen and the camera looking forward towards the start line.)

I didn’t intend on sticking with the pacers rigidly, but had hoped to use them as a rough guide to keep on track with my running without having to think too much into it.

Pen four of the Red Start at the London Marathon

(This shot is facing back towards Pen 5 behind me.  You can see the 4:30 red pacer flag.)

We had what felt like a fairly long walk up the road until we reached the famous turn towards the start line that is always shown on TV.  From here we could see the actual start line and broke into a jog just a few metres before crossing it.

The Red Start line at the London MarathonThe street was lined with support for the runners pouring out to start their marathon journey and the first mile shot past very quickly.  I had intended on trying to stick between 10:10 and 10:20 minute miling.  (A consistent 10:18mm pace would see me cross the finish line in 4:30.)  I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be crossing the finish line in under 4 hours 30 minutes at London having been so ill the day before but wanted to stick to the race plan as much as possible rather than try and change things at the last minute.  If I was to crash and burn then so be it, but at least I would have tried my best!

I ended up running the first mile in 10m 05s, and tried to slow myself down for mile two.  I didn’t do a very good job of slowing myself down though, running mile two in 10m 04s!  As I passed underneath the arch of balloons declaring that runners had now run two miles I glanced down at the 4h30m Pace Pockets pacing band on my wrist and realised I was only a couple of seconds under the 20m 36s I needed to be at for mile two.  With the twisty-turny course of London and the insane numbers of runners out on the street it is impossible to run just 26.2 miles, so as things felt so, so comfortable (I was running at what felt like a chatty pace to me) I decided to continue running in the metronomic pace I had adopted for the past two miles, despite it being slightly faster than I thought I was capable of.

My main memories of those first few miles were the hills!  How did I never realise quite how hilly London was?!  For sure the red start had more hills than blue did.  As we came down one hill there were also two horses peeking over a high wall down at us!  I wonder how long they were there for, as I’ve seen several people mention them on social media this week!

The merge between the starts was fairly smooth.  When I ran in the blue start last time I remember this being incredibly busy and stressful with the crowd having to pull me along at the pace it was moving at, but there was none of that when merging from the red start and we wove neatly into the ballot runner stream.

Having missed Cutty Sark in 2014 (No idea how!) I made sure to look out for it this year and did manage to spot the massive ship as we ran round it!  Haha!

As always, I’m going to split my recap into two, so that’s the end of part one.  I hope to get part two up over the next couple of days while it’s still fresh in my mind, so watch this space!

* Place names may be totally incorrect.  I am hopeless when it comes to navigating around London and no longer have the sheet of paper Dan used to jot directions down on for me!

What’s your travel sense like in London?!
Do you follow pacers or use a pace band when running for a target time?