Running a marathon…

I’d just like to say I’m no expert here… I have run 4 marathons to date and I have learnt something new about running, marathons or myself each time I have run one…

Therefore with spring marathon season well and truly under way I thought I would write a post about my experience of running marathons.

My first marathon was London in 2013! My sister Sarah got a ballot space so me and one of my other sisters – Katie, entered as well so she would have some company both training and running. Our other sister Emma was in China for the year so she escaped!

Katie got a space through our local running club at the time (Newham and Essex Beagles) and I signed up to run for Action on Hearing Loss as our Mum is hard of hearing. We all fundraised together for the charity and did a lot of our training together, especially me and Katie as we lived close to each other. Sarah was in Portsmouth so we only ran a few times with her, including the Portsmouth half marathon that ran through the harbour with the tide out?! That was fun!

Anyway, on race day I was in a different start to the others which wasn’t ideal, I had done almost all my training with Katie so I wasn’t used to running long distances alone…

Also it had been really cold in the lead up to the marathon and on the day it was really warm so I was totally confused as to what to wear?!

By 8 miles in I had already had enough… We had run up to 20 miles in training I knew I could go further but I didn’t want to, I had started out too fast, I was demotivated by running alone, this was not a good day. The first half took me 2hrs, the 2nd half took 3!!! I struggled a lot, I didn’t notice any of my friends or family out supporting on the course. The best thing that happened to me was at mile 17 a spectator gave me a mini Mars bar… I was so hungry this was amazing and definitely helped me to get through… I finished the race in 5hrs 0mins and 52seconds, I was disgruntled, disappointed and I genuinely did not enjoy the experience.

Everyone says London is great, fantastic atmosphere etc, I hadn’t felt like this was the case… So I signed up again for 2014! I wanted to understand what it should feel like!

This year would be different! With the help of some amazing friends at work we made a plan! In 2013 I had struggled from 8 miles with motivation, so we decided to try and avoid this happening we would have people stationed every 2 miles to cheer me on… And to make sure I could spot them they would all be carrying giant helium filled balloons in a H shape, to ensure they could spot me I would also run with one of these balloons… Crazy? Maybe? Would it slow me down? Yes! Did I mind? No! I was out to enjoy this race!

Me and my balloon headed to the start, some balloons had been left with my mum and sisters and others had been put in our work office at Canary Wharf where the others were meeting up to pair up and head out onto the course!! We had guesstimated how long it would take me to get to each stage and they would get their balloons and head to position in plenty of time! They were also taking mini Mars bars and flat coke in little bottles (recommended by my physio) small bottle, tip a little out and add some water, this was instead of gels or a sports drink and it actually works really well!

The plan worked amazingly! Mile 8, Janet and Rhiannon, with their balloons, I spotted them easily in the crowd and ran over for a hug! Mile 10, Abi and Arthur! Again, easily spotted! This was working well. We hadn’t stationed anyone around the half way section as the crowds at Tower Bridge are very busy! But my friends Caron and Gary were at Mile 14! Then Polina at Mile 15, my mum at Mile 16, Polina again at Mile 17, just as I approached her passing South Quay station disaster! My balloon got caught in a massive gust of wind and blew away! So Polina gave me her balloon and on I went! Mile 19 my sisters, Mile 20, all the friends had met up and were together, Mile 21 my mum again, then it was 5 miles on my own to the finish! I plodded it out with a big smile on my face ( and Polina’s balloon).

I ran slower, stopped to chat, I also walked for approx 1minute at every mile marker after 15miles, but I was faster! 4hrs and 50mins later it was over! And I had loved it! A well deserved picnic in the park followed with my epic support crew! So this was what a marathon should feel like?

2015, no marathon for me, I was taking a break from long distance running and doing a lot of cycling instead… 2016, Jenni ran the London Marathon and after supporting her our blog dream and 6 marathon majors target was born!

During a chat on the phone one day we decided to enter Chicago marathon! One long phone call later we had signed up! We don’t really get to train together as we live so far apart but I did make it up to Southport to run the half marathon with her! Then October came and off we went. You can read our blog post about it here.

We had both arrived in Chicago with various injuries so reluctantly we decided to run it separately so as to be sure one of us wasn’t pushing to match the others pace etc… This wasn’t terrible, we had both trained alone so this time, unlike my first marathon I was prepared for a long run on my own!

In the most part I enjoyed Chicago, it was my quickest marathon to date 4hrs and 35mins (and 15 seconds if we are counting seconds?)

I started well and it went downhill from about 18miles when I started to lose motivation, I was finding it harder and the last 8 miles was tough for me. I chatted to people in the crowd, took a gel every 5km and battled through!  We did it, slowly but surely I was getting the hang of this marathon running!

Then my most recent marathon! Tokyo! You can read the blog about it here. I arrived in Tokyo very injured with an ankle operation planned for as soon as I returned home! I had no idea if I would make it round but I wanted to try!

This marathon taught me I have more mental grit than I ever knew! Thanks to a fantastic guy Michael who ended up running the whole course with me! I genuinely was considering stopping at 10km, in incredible pain and struggling immensely, but thanks to Michael I didn’t! Please do read the blog as it tells the story and I don’t wish to repeat it for those who have read the story already.

Chatting away really does help the miles go quicker! So if you are struggling, chances are someone else is too, have a chat, cheer each other along! It makes a massive difference! 4hrs 41mins (and 23 seconds later) we had survived the Tokyo Marathon. Potentially my biggest achievement to date.

So, in summary what have I learnt?

Self motivation, you need to motivate yourself, don’t rely on crowds or atmosphere. Chances are you will be running alone, regardless of if you have planned otherwise… Get comfortable with this, train alone, learn to zone out and just keep going…

Friends and family are amazing! If you can get people to support you do so! They will be a massive boost! That quick hug and a friendly face for a few seconds does wonders!

You will likely get hungry! Plan for this and try to ward it off… practice nutrition and hydration before the event, by the time you know you are hungry it’s too late…

Make friends! Smile, chat to and encourage other runners as you never know when you will need the support in return!

Enjoy the day, don’t beat yourself up over time, pace, form, as that will start to waiver your motivation… You signed up for a marathon, that’s daunting! You trained for it, that takes incredible dedication. You made it to the start line, you are amazing! You can do it!!!

For everyone running spring marathons, or even any marathon this year, good luck! You will be awesome! Let us know how you get on!