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?

The London Marathon Expo 2019

Child care arranged, train tickets booked (not by me – I would have messed that up!), passport tucked safely into my bag, along with purse for essential pre-marathon purchases and an extra battery pack for my phone (to ensure my phone lasted long enough to take plenty of running related selfies).

Marathon expo time!!!

London Marathon expo

I picked Anne-Marie up at 9am and we made our way to Bedford train station.  Anne-Marie and I met sometime last year through the Run Mummy Run Facebook group.  Another Mum had asked for route inspiration around the town I lived in.  At the time I was struggling to make run club nights and was really missing what had been regular running out with friends so thought it would be nice to get to know some more people I could potentially head out on a run with in the area.  I offered to lead a few runs from that initial post, and before long, a group chat had been created between 8 of us and we headed out on a number of 3-4 mile evening chatty runs.  Anne-Marie also had a place for London this year and only lived up the road from me so we’ve met up for runs a few more times and decided to head down to the expo together today.  Between the two of us we figured we should be able to work out the train connections and arrive at the expo without too much hassle!

Good job we left at 9am for a 10:20 train leaving 20 miles away though…it took us about 40 minutes to find somewhere to park before a mad rush across to the station!

Three train changes later and a number of people who looked like runners stalked in order to find the correct platforms on our way to the Excel, we finally made it, making our way through the entrance as THE London Marathon theme tune was played.

Next hurdle – ensuring we lined up in the correct lines for our race numbers.  I was also collecting for another runner at my running club who couldn’t make it down to London before the race, so was hoping he had left me with everything required to entrust me with his race pack (and then praying I wouldn’t do something stupid like leave it on the train seat on the way home!  (I didn’t!)

Run LDN sign at the London Marathon expo

Numbers and chips collected – time to roam the expo!  I was hoping to listen to Mo’s talk on stage and also the Barbara’s Revolutionaries later on in the day, but unfortunately due to train timetables and having a curfew to be back for (childcare issues!) it wasn’t to be.  However, I did bump into Adam Woodyatt (Ian from EastEnders) whilst queuing to pay for a tube of Body Glide.  I asked him if I could be that annoying person who asked for a selfie, to which he told me that when he last ran the London Marathon he took over 1000 selfies with other runners during the 26.2 miles!

At the London Marathon Expo with Adam Woodyatt

After an unfortunate incident whereby I picked up a really old (pre-pregnancy days) Gu gel to take out on my 16 miler a couple of weeks back, I also made sure to stock up on enough tasty (in date) Salted Caramel gels ready for Sunday.  I won’t be making that mistake again.  I’m sure I can still taste that foul gone-off gel even now!

High on the priority list for the day was also to exchange my Cancer Research UK running vest for something which fitted a little better.  Initially CRUK had sent me out a Large women’s vest.  However, it dug in under my arms and looked ridiculous.  There was no way I would have been able to wear it without a lot of bleeding during the race and then swearing in the post-marathon shower.  A few weeks back I rang and asked if there were any other sizes available.  Apparently there was…if I was willing to wear a men’s Large vest.  I was.  Leaving everything to the last minute (as ever!) I decided to pop on my new male running vest to head out for 8 sunny miles last Saturday morning.  It felt great.  Rather baggy (particularly under the arms) but the vest seemed OK to run in, and I was assured by my friend Steph that it didn’t look particularly out of place.  I had planned to run 8-9 miles with Steph first thing in the morning, followed by a quick drive over to Kettering with Dan and Oscar for parkrun to top up my mileage for the day.  The second I climbed into the car after my run though my body started to cool and I could feel the beads of sweat dripping onto the areas rubbed raw under my left arm where the too-large vest had rubbed.

Kettering parkrun with Dan, Oscar and the buggy(Photo taken by Jon Woods at Kettering parkrun.)

Five days later and the marks are still visible!  The guys on the Cancer Research stand were great.  Really helpful, and I am now the owner of a Women’s XL t-shirt.  I’ll test it out in the morning, so that I have plenty of time to run, sweat and wash before Sunday!  The guys on the stand also filled my bag with temporary tattoos, foam boards, badges and signs to hold up.

Mary Pearson on the Cancer Research UK stand at the London Marathon Expo

We did manage to catch the end of Martin Yelling on the Main Stage before heading back home again.  I’ve been binge listening to the Marathon Talk podcast on my nightshifts just lately.  I’m pretty sure I hear his voice in my sleep right now!

Martin Yelling at the London Marathon 2019

This is the medal I’ll be making my way to the finish for on Sunday…

London Marathon medal 2019

Fundraising progress – I’m a smidge under £2000 now (the minimum target I was asked to raise by CRUK in exchange for my marathon place).  All being well I should hit this target by Friday as I’m spending the day at ASDA in Rushden, rattling my charity bucket and raffling off a £50 photoshoot voucher for a local photographer.  The target I set myself to raise for CRUK by the end of the year is £3000, and I will continue working towards this target until I reach it.
{Shameless plug for my donation page here}  (Thank you so much to all who have already donated.)
I’m also offering anybody who donates before the marathon on Sunday the chance to win a pass for two to West Lodge Farm Park.  (Just add ‘West Lodge Raffle Tickets’ in the comment section of your donation and for every £1 you donate you will have an extra chance in the raffle!)

I say that I should hit the target ‘all being well’ because Oscar currently has what we believe to be Slapped Cheek.  He is covered in a nasty red rash – lumps and bumps all over his little body!  The nursery he goes to have asked me to get the doctor to confirm Slapped Cheek before dropping him off for his regular nursery session on Friday, as it could also be a number of other things which might be contagious, or harmful to the member of staff working at the nursery who is currently pregnant.  He seems OK in himself, he just has this awful rash all over his body, which (if it is SC) could take 3-4 weeks to fade!  Hopefully it’s nothing serious.  He’s still adamant that he’ll be the one pinning my number on at the weekend anyway!

Oscar wearing my London Marathon number

For anybody who fancies tracking me on Sunday, my number is 51911.  I have no idea how I’ll do.  My speedwork sessions began with 8mm pace at the start of the year with the intention of dipping under 4h 30m at London.  I’ve still regularly ran 5-6 days each week but the sessions haven’t been as quality as I would have liked over the past couple of months.  After getting attacked back in February, I really struggled to get out for runs on my own again for a long while and although I tried to run on the treadmill to begin with, I really struggled with the speedwork sessions and long runs as I find I change my stride too much when restricted to the movement of the treadmill.  I also took a hit with flu for a couple of weeks, am undergoing tests at hospital right now and was diagnosed with anaemia a few weeks back, so my training cycle definitely hasn’t been as planned.  But when does a training cycle go to plan?!!!  What will be will be on the day.  I’d still like to think I can achieve a marathon PB (4h 54m 08s).  But, with the marathon, anything can happen on the day!  Watch this space!!!

My race number for London Marathon 2019

A long blogging hiatus as it’s been an incredibly busy few months.  But I’m hopefully back again now and on it.  Although I’ve possibly regained my momentum a little too late for the London I wanted to enjoy this year, I am finally coming out of the funk I’ve been in and ready to fill my days with lots of long Summer runs again!

Countdown to London Marathon

Are you heading to the London Marathon expo this year?
Have you ever had/heard of Slapped Cheek?
Are you as navigationally challenged as me?!

Christmas running

The week before Christmas is when I really start to feel Christmassy.  The cross-country series my running club runs in holds it’s final cross-country race of the year the week before Christmas, and my club always organises a Christmas Eve run around our local country park, finishing with hot drinks and sausage rolls at the cafe.

Everybody gets into the Christmas spirit at the Letchworth cross-country race.  Santa hats, tinsel and then Christmas themed sandwiches and cake at the finish (think ham and mustard, turkey and stuffing, brie and cranberry…!)

After a disappointing first two events of the series where I walked on numerous occasions and didn’t run the races I had hoped, I decided to wear my heart rate monitor for this event and to stick to a very reserved 165bpm over the cross-country course in order to remain consistent during my run.  No walking would be a success!

We set off and I managed a strong start as we first ran a lap of the field passing our supporting club members and out at the end onto the farmyard tracks.  I was ahead of runners I knew would probably overtake as we continued.  Several runners from my club went on to overtake me around the 1 mile mark on the course.

As we turned a narrow corner, we passed a chap playing Christmas songs on a brass horn of some sort which picked everybody up ready for hill we knew would soon be coming up.

The course heads out along farmyard tracks.  You run a lollipop shape around a couple of fields and then head back down the lollipop stick again the way the course first headed out.  The front runners always turn back onto the stick of the lollipop just as I’m about to leave it and so I like cheering other club members on here.  It was nice to see a couple of our runners in the top 10 as they turned back for the finish.

There’s only really one hill on the course (it’s on the stick so you run it twice), but I focused on trusting my heart rate monitor, overtaking several runners who had resorted to walking both times we made the climb.

I felt rather lumbery in style, but satisfied that I was getting the job done without giving in and walking the hills or with crazy varied paces over the 5.5 mile distance.

There’s a horrible short, sharp bank to climb with quarter of a mile to go.  Luckily there’s usually a marshal on hand to help haul you up, and I took advantage of the hoist out of the hole this year!

Quick smile and a wave to our two photographers on course…

Letchworth Three Counties Cross Country - Standalone Farm Letchworth Three Counties Cross Country - Standalone FarmI managed a little kick at the finish and still felt comfortable at the end, so my mission to race smart was successful.

Christmas cookie

Position: 332/400
Gender position: 107/161
Age category position: 13/16

First Christmassy run done, onto the next with parkrun the following weekend.

I headed to Kettering parkrun for my final parkrun before Christmas.  Although initially unsure how busy it would be (Kettering were holding a pacing event on the 22nd) it didn’t actually feel too busy when we were running around.  The initial plan had been for me to run with Oscar in the buggy and for Dan to use a pacer to attempt a new PB, but after loudly banging piles of shoes around downstairs for twenty minutes Dan came to the realisation that he had left his running trainers at work the previous day so would not be able to join in with a parkrun that morning.  Following our frantic search for his shoes, it left me with just enough time to jump into the car and make it to the start line in time for the start of the briefing.

So instead Oscar stayed at home with Dan and I jogged around the course with Laura, who I hadn’t run with in a little while so we had a catch up and an easy run round.

Laura and I at the Kettering Christmas parkrunI have this massive fear that one day on the Kettering course I’m going to slip and fall over on the boardwalk and then slide out under the barriers and into the water below!  Hopefully this won’t ever become a reality!

Official time: 31:46
Position: 269/432
Gender position: 75/187
Category position: 5/16

The club Christmas Eve run was different this year.  A couple of friends I normally run with couldn’t make it this year and I had worked a night shift on the Sunday (the night before), so rushed home at the end of my shift to sneak a quick hour of sleep in before heading over for the run.  I then ended up arriving late and missing the start anyway.

I had a lovely run with a friend and her husband who I managed to catch sight of as Dan dropped me off at the park, but I missed the annual pre-run photo and missed seeing a lot of people before they left for Christmas which was a shame.

Dan met us at the end of the run and Oscar was in a foul mood after a poor night of sleep.  It had taken Dan the length of my entire run to get Oscar to walk not quite as far as the cafe entrance and then we had a battle to get him into his car seat for home again afterwards.  It took approximately half an hour to convince him to stay in his car seat long enough to be buckled in for the journey home!  Not a battle we had planned on facing on Christmas Eve morning!

So frustratingly, the parkrun Dan and I had planned to attend on Christmas Day (Sheringham) had been cancelled a few days earlier.  National Trust had decided that due to the heavy rainfall in the area that week, they wanted to give the ground a little time to recover between runs.  The Sheringham event is fairly close to where my Dad lives…ten minutes away.  (Why oh why was parkrun not a thing when I lived at home?!)  The next nearest event that was being held on Christmas Day was in Norwich, nearly an hour’s drive from my Dad’s house and in the complete opposite direction to where my Aunt lives (Kings Lynn) who we had promised to pick up mid-morning and bring back to my Dad’s for lunch.  So a Christmas Day parkrun was sadly off the cards this year.

Did you take part in any Christmassy runs this year?
Does your parkrun ever get cancelled due to the weather?
Any tips for reasoning with a stroppy two year old to convince them to get into their car seat?!  Haha!

Another Gower marathon weekend away

Every year my running club go to Wales for a long weekend in three beautiful cottages along the Gower coast with the intention of running the EnduranceLife Coastal Trail Series races held in November.

The trip has been taking place for the last seven years.  I made my first appearance with the group back in 2014.  You can read about my previous Gower adventures in these recaps… >> 2014 recap * 2015 recap * (Oscar was only a few weeks old in 2016 so I didn’t go that year) * 2017 recap

The trip spans from the Friday afternoon through until Monday lunchtime, with car loads of runners arriving throughout the Friday and leaving across Sunday and Monday.  As Oscar attends nursery on Fridays and Dan was able to take Monday off from work I was able to spend the whole four days hanging out with friends and as much as I missed Oscar and Dan whilst I was away, it was so lovely to get away and just have a complete break with a bunch of like-minded people.

The trip down was fairly fast this year.  It had started to rain as we reached the border to Wales (standard Welsh weather!) and was absolutely tipping it down by the time we were headed off to the pub for our Friday night meal and so, so windy.  We could barely hear each other talk on the walk down and I instantly regretted bothering to straighten my hair when it became a knotty mess by the time I reached the pub!

Drinking in the pub at GowerNobody stayed up too late on the Friday night.  This year the course for the race had changed.  Essentially, it was the same route for us marathoners, but starting and finishing at a different point in the course (about where mile 20 would usually fall, along the final beach).  I’ve never run the half marathon route before but I’m told that this had totally changed this year.  The half marathoners had to register at the finish the same as us, but were then bussed back to start in a different location.
We’ve been used to our cottages being within walking distance of the finish line in previous years and all the runners stumbling back at different times at the end of their races.  We thought that perhaps this year, with us all having to hang on to the end and then fighting out for hot showers at the same time might prove rather tricky but luckily it didn’t end up too bad.

What I didn’t plan on was waking up at 4:30am on race day with incredibly bad period cramps and a killer headache.  Oh great, thanks for that body!

I jumped into the van with a bunch of others from our club and we set off to the start line, about 10 miles away.

Gower marathon start beachThe sun was only just beginning to surface and there were deep puddles across the car park from the rain the previous day.  The beach itself was tough to move across and my back was killing already!  I’m sure I was a delight to be around!

Gower marathon start beachI was livid to discover there was no Clif bar in my starter pack!  The price of the race had gone up by £10 this year (to £60) and we didn’t even get a Clif bar at the start, just a Tribe bar.  I was gutted.  It was really turning out to not be my day!Tribe bar at EnduranceLife Gower marathonThere was even a Clif banner just outside the registration tent to rub it in a little more!

Clif Bar banner at EnduranceLife Gower marathonAfter taking a quick photo by the starting flags we raced back to the van for half an hour as the rain began to come again, and hard!

Gower marathon start beachLuckily it had slowed somewhat by the time we needed to emerge from our cars and so we sheltered in the tent until we were summoned for the start.

Gower marathon start beachFull wet weather gear required!

Five of us set off as a group at the back.  A few miles in we saw a teenager come off a quad bike out on the track.  He spun to a stop and flipped right off the top.  Seemed OK though.  Got up and sped back off again.  We started chatting to another runner, who I later came across on Instagram when scrolling the #gowermarathon hashtag.


View this post on Instagram

Gower marathon report part 2 – After getting through the dunes it was a climb up onto the hills and a wonderful walk along the ridge. These wonderful people kept me going up as we played cat and mouse all the way up although eventually 2 of them did over take, never to be seen again. Once i got to the top and was running to the top I realised I was actually really enjoying myself, i did not think this would happen. We finally made it to check point one. The first of 4 to be ticked off. My timing was a bit slow but it was down hill from here to check point 2. The sun was shinning what could possibly go wrong 💪💪💪 . . #marathon #marathontraining #trustthetraining #trusttheprocess #womenwhorun #runningcommunity #runningclub #racereport #thisgirlcan #thisgirlcanrun #thisisstrong #youmatter #selflove #strongisnotasize #believe #rainyraceday #imasurvivor

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Not long after that first checkpoint I carried on along with Guy (who went on to sped off up ahead), leaving the others to run at their pace, knowing that I would get cold if I didn’t continue to move a little faster.

It wasn’t long before I came across another runner who I fell instep with for several miles.  We ran across the long beach together, overshooting the cut through as the marshals had left up the half marathon route directions for further along the beach.

EnduranceLife Gower marathon beach

I always find beach running hard.  Not only is it tough going underfoot, but it’s mentally tough for the scenery to be exactly the same stretching off into the distance.  It did feel much easier going round the course in this direction on the beaches though for some reason, despite the wind being against us for most of the way.

There was another checkpoint just after the beach.  I didn’t need to take anything on board so just checked in and carried on, losing the runner I had spent the last few miles with as he topped up on fluids and snacks here.

The hill after this was the toughest of all.  It used to fall about 6 miles into the original marathon course (in the other direction) and was always the trickiest part to navigate down.  There is a spring which appears in the middle of this hill, making the going underfoot very slippy as a lot of the ground is covered in small rocks which I struggle to get any grip on.  One of our runners has been down on his bum every year he’s entered this race and I’ve been very close each time!

EnduranceLife Gower marathonThis year though, we were to make our way up the hill instead, along the already-worn muddy track.

EnduranceLife Gower marathonIt’s really quite steep in places and it was raining again by now.

EnduranceLife Gower marathonIt’s always worse if you stop – it makes it so hard to get going again afterwards!

After the tough hill came the slippery mud.  Glad I was wearing an old pair of trail shoes!

Mud at Every year my running club go to Gower for a long weekend in three beautiful cottages along the Gower coast with the intention of running the EnduranceLife Coastal Trail Series races held each November.  One of the runners from our club has been organising the trip to Wales for the last seven years now.  I made my first appearance with the group back in 2014.  You can read about my previous Gower adventures in these recaps... >> 2014 recap * 2015 recap * (Oscar was only a few weeks old in 2016 so I didn't go that year) * 2017 recap  The trip spans from the Friday afternoon through until Monday lunchtime, with car loads of runners arriving throughout the Friday and leaving across Sunday and Monday.  As Oscar attends nursery on Fridays and Dan was able to take Monday off from work I was able to spend the whole four days hanging out with my friends and as much as I missed Oscar and Dan whilst I was away, it was so lovely to get away and just have a complete break with a bunch of like-minded people.  It had started to rain as we reached the border to Wales (standard Welsh weather!) and was absolutely tipping it down by the time we were headed off to the pub for our Friday night meal and so, so windy.  We could barely hear each other talk on the walk down and I instantly regretted bothering to straighten my hair when it became a knotty mess on arrival at the pub!  Drinking in the pub at GowerNobody stayed up too late on the Friday night.  This year the course had changed.  Essentially, it was the same route for us marathoners, but starting and finishing at a different point in the course (about where mile 20 would usually fall, on the final beach).  I've never run the half marathon route before but I'm told this had totally changed this year.  The half marathoners had to register at the finish, but were then bussed back to start in a different location.  We've been used to our cottages being within walking distance of the finish line in previous years and everybody stumbling back at different times at the end of their races.  We thought that perhaps this year, with us all having to hang on to the end and then fighting out for hot showers at the same time might prove rather tricky!  What I didn't plan on was waking up at 4:30am on race day with incredibly bad period cramps and a killer headache.  Oh great, thanks for that body!  I jumped into the van with a bunch of others from our club and we set off to the start line, about 10 miles away.  Gower marathon start beachThe sun was only just beginning to surface and there were deep puddles across the car park from the rain the previous day.  The beach itself was tough moving on and my back was killing already!  Gower marathon start beachI was livid to discover there was no Clif bar in my starter pack!  The price of the race had gone up by £10 this year (to £60) and we didn't even get a Clif bar at the start, just a Tribe bar.  I was gutted.  It was really turning out to not be my day!Tribe bar at EnduranceLife Gower marathonThey even had a Clif banner just outside to rub it in a little more!  Clif Bar banner at EnduranceLife Gower marathonAfter taking a quick photo by the starting flags we raced back to the van for half an hour as the rain began to come again, and hard!  Gower marathon start beachLuckily it had slowed somewhat by the time we emerged for the end of the briefing and to shelter in the tent until we were summoned for the start.  Gower marathon start beachFull wet weather gear required!  We set off as a group from the back - five of us.  A few miles in we saw a teenager come off a quad bike out on the track.  He spun to a stop and flipped right off the top.  Seemed OK though.  Got up and sped back off again.  We started chatting to another runner, who I later came across on Instagram when scrolling the #gowermarathon hashtag.         View this post on Instagram  Gower marathon report part 2 - After getting through the dunes it was a climb up onto the hills and a wonderful walk along the ridge. These wonderful people kept me going up as we played cat and mouse all the way up although eventually 2 of them did over take, never to be seen again. Once i got to the top and was running to the top I realised I was actually really enjoying myself, i did not think this would happen. We finally made it to check point one. The first of 4 to be ticked off. My timing was a bit slow but it was down hill from here to check point 2. The sun was shinning what could possibly go wrong 💪💪💪 . . #marathon #marathontraining #trustthetraining #trusttheprocess #womenwhorun #runningcommunity #runningclub #racereport #thisgirlcan #thisgirlcanrun #thisisstrong #youmatter #selflove #strongisnotasize #believe #rainyraceday #imasurvivor  A post shared by Eleanor 🇬🇧 (@iron_woman98) on Nov 11, 2018 at 5:03am PST  Not long after that first checkpoint I carried on along with Guy, leaving the others to run at their pace, knowing that I would get cold if I didn't continue to move.  It wasn't long before I came across another runner who I fell instep with for several miles.  We ran across the long beach together, overshooting the cut through as the marshals had left up the half marathon route directions further along the beach.  EnduranceLife Gower marathon beach  I always find beach running hard.  Not only is it tough going underfoot, but it's mentally tough for the scenery to be exactly the same stretching off into the distance.  It did feel much easier going round the course in this direction on the beaches though for some reason, despite the wind being against us for most of the way.  There was another checkpoint just after the beach.  I didn't need to take anything on board so just checked in and carried on, losing the runner I had spent the last few miles with as he topped up on fluids and snacks here.  The next hill was the toughest of all.  It used to fall about 6 miles into the original marathon course (in the other direction) and was always the trickiest part to navigate down.  There is a spring which appears in the middle of this hill, making the going underfoot very slippy as a lot of the ground is covered in small rocks with little to get any grip on.  One of our runners has been down on his bum every year he's entered this race and I've been very close each time!  EnduranceLife Gower marathonThis year though, we were to make our way up the hill instead, along the already-worn muddy track.  EnduranceLife Gower marathonIt's really quite steep in places and it was raining again by now.  EnduranceLife Gower marathon

I did fall on one steep downhill that was covered in mud like this.  I didn’t fall hard – more just slipped onto my knee on one side.  It didn’t bother me at the time.  I was just glad that nobody had seen me!

The steps on the course were much tougher going in this direction and they were at 26.5 miles rather than at mile 20!

The steps at EnduranceLife Gower marathonBecause so many runners had already been over them they were slippy and muddy.  The leaves on top made them even worse.

One mile to go sign at the EnduranceLife Gower MarathonAlways the best sign in a race!

One mile to go sign at the EnduranceLife Gower Marathon

Heading back down the steps on the other side was just a mudslide!  Somehow I made it without injury.  A couple of our club members went down on the steep steps though.IMG_20181110_161109The finish was a little confusing.  I ran along the seafront past all my club mates who had already finished and were stood waiting to organise lifts back, then turned up and had to run up the bank of sand through the finish, over really choppy footprints that had been left by all the other runners.  It was really hard to stay upright!

Upon finishing another guy from our club pointed out that my knee looked really swollen and collared the paramedic on duty to take a look.  I hopped up onto the massage table and luckily he said that it would just result in some bruising by the look of it, I hadn’t done any serious damage.  He sent me off with an ice pack, still annoyed that not only had there been no Clif bar at the start, but there was also no Builder’s bar at the end!  Those two bars are by far my favourites and I really was gutted that neither of them were at the race!

The finish at EnduranceLife Gower marathon

Total distance: 27.8 miles
Official time: 7h 18m 57s
Position: 104/119
Gender position: 19/26

Our last runners came through just in time, – the heavens opened as we leapt into the waiting cars to head back to the cottages.

Once showered and changed, we headed back to the pub for dinner, and then returned to the cottages to celebrate with an alcoholic beverage or two!

EnduranceLife Gower marathon medalThe next morning we made our usual walk down to the beach as a group.  There was a rainbow so close we thought we’d be able to stand at the bottom underneath it.  It looked like it touched down on the beach right in front of us!

Rainbow at Gower beachSarah ran to try and stand in the colours, but it had disappeared by the time she got there.  :(

After a quick milkshake in the cafe, those people working the next day had to head off and so the remaining few of us decided to walk across the land to Worm’s Head – an island for all but a few hours of each day.

Worm's Head adventureI walked across with a friend in 2015 but the others I was with this year had never been.

Worm's Head adventureLast time I went I somehow managed to make it all the way across in Converse, but I made sure to take an old pair of trainers this time!

There were loads of seals out sunbathing along one part of the rocks.

Seals at Worm's HeadWe ended up only going part way across, with some of the guys not wanting to tackle the tricky terrain further up.  But it was still a really lovely morning.  Then, back to the pub once more for lunch!

It was much quieter on the third night, with most runners having left during the day.  I stayed up late to finish watching The Haunting of Hill House.  Sooooo good.  I really want to watch it again and try and pick up on all the little titbits throughout the story now that I know how it ends.

I’m always sad to leave Gower.  For a few days it’s nice to get away from reality and feel like I can take a proper break from everything.  The signal isn’t great over there, so it is like living in a little mini bubble for the weekend.

Have you watched The Haunting of Hill House?
Have you seen seals at the beach before?
Does your club organise an annual race away?