The London Marathon is just one of those things someone can only dream of completing.
I’d always said I wouldn’t do the London Marathon because I was worried I’d injure myself and it would affect my work.
However, during my 10km a month for a year challenge that I set myself after the buzz I got from completing my first 10km run, I naturally progressed my running distance to half marathon distance.
Anyway, during this time I had a client who I was training for the London Marathon who ended up deferring to 2019. So I though if I’m putting in the miles during their training I may as well apply and see. Long story short I did, I got in and that client is instead my friend and running buddy!
So, that is how I ended up with £3000 to raise for The British Heart Foundation and 26.2 miles to train for. EEK!!
The start: September 2018.
The only reason I agreed to the £3000 target was because I run an annual 3 hour long fitness class. In 2018 we raised almost £1400 for the British Heart foundation. As I knew I would be planning it again in 2019, I felt confident including that in my target.
It’s very overwhelming when you have these kind of targets to hit. So I sat down and created a mini plan/list. Firstly I had to keep up my long runs at the weekends leading up to Christmas. These varied from 10 miles to 12 miles. Usually, people who have signed up for the London Marathon don’t receive their “proper” training plan until after December so I felt happy with this base distance and concentrated on foam rolling and strength training at the gym.
Then I made a list of fundraising ideas. Asked my friends and family for ideas and posted on my social media platforms. I felt like I had my Marathon ducks in a row (that doesn’t stop the looming anxiety of being nowhere near £3000 mind you).
Targets to hit in 2018 were to reach 14 miles and raise £500 by January. I need bite sized goals to reduce the over..whelmed…ness…
However, Christmas to New Year 2018 I was SO poorly. On Christmas day I went to the gym and trained with friends which was fine. Then on Boxing day I went for a run with my marathon friend but by Boxing day evening… I was absolutely on the ground and I took to my bed until New Years Eve when my partner and I crawled to a party we had tickets for and left by 9:30am. Target well and truly not hit mileage-wise.
3 weeks after my illness I attempted my first 10 mile run after being so poorly. It went absolutely fine and although I didn’t reach the 14 miles I planned to, I hit my £500 target and managed to work out a good fuelling plan.
The fuelling plan A
I am an IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) sufferer. Pasta the night before a long run doesn’t suit me. Gels and exercise drinks don’t suit me. Ever heard of runner’s squits? I say no more.
Fuelling for an event like the London Marathon takes a little trial and error, and when you find what works you stick to it!
The night before a long run I decided to carb load on fishcake and chips from the chip shop. Now, I tried this one because I have always found that this take away makes me feel full but not bloated. It gives me a damn good night’s sleep. I don’t get dehydrated or have an upset stomach the next day. Do you know what? It also fuels me VERY well for a long run it seems! It contains protein in the fish cake and plenty of carbs for my glycogen stores.
On the morning of a long run, I got up nice and early so I had time to drink a couple of coffees. Then had a flapjack which is about 75g carbs for and I aimed to increase this to 150g as my runs increased in distance. I started to replicate everything I’d do on marathon day. Flapjack has slow and fast release sugars in, I can JUST about stomach it in the mornings (not a sweet breakfast fan) and it doesn’t sit heavy in my stomach during the run (or cause runner’s squits).
During my runs, as I couldn’t use the gels or drinks I needed to find a sugary alternative….and that was haribo or jelly babies. I know I know, living the dream! Who WOULDN’T want to HAVE to eat chips, flapjack and sweets?!
So flapjack first, then after hour 1 of running I 40g carbs with the haribo and then every 30mins from then on is another 20g carbs. So far in my training journey, this was spot on. I figured I would possibly have to change this as my runs become even longer in distance but finding foods that didn’t mess with my stomach is a huge achievement for me.
Jan and feb 2019
I hit my next fundraising target to £1000 and I had a gin tasting night and a beauty event in my diary as well as a half marathon event. As all of my events were getting fully booked, the pressure lifted completely and I was now enjoying my runs because I was confident I’d hit my target. I had my hotel booked too which was very exciting. Get in with yours quick if you’re running because they sell out fast, especially after the ballot is released.
Then my nan died
My wonderful nan. She was 93 years old and it was very sudden and unexpected and I took it quite badly. She had woken up that morning, got washed and dressed, drank a cuppa and went to turn on her TV and died. My parents found her.
The day after she passed I had booked to run a half marathon in Great Bentley. It was the probably worst run of my life but I equally needed to be there as much as I didn’t want to be there. I came away with a personal best of 2hr 24min.
My training then very much coasted along until her funeral took place. Once that was done I was able to focus back on my training properly. I was absolutely gutted…devastated….that I wouldn’t be able to tell her all about this marathon. I would always call her after any big achievement.
Days after my nan passed a lady who attends my fitness classes threw a coffee morning to fundraise for me. All I wanted to do was call my nan to update her on the money raised and I couldn’t. When I found out the Eastenders cast were running it, my immediate reaction was to call her. I wanted to update her a lot along this journey…you forget and still have those auto-pilot thoughts of “I’ll call nan in a min to tell her!” or at least I did.
By this point I was up to 15 miles running semi-comfortably. Fuelling needed a slight tweak as I was getting to the point where by marathon day I’d be carrying two share bags of blimmin haribo! So I reached out on Instagram and my cousin who ran Manchester marathon suggested I try some Clif Blok energy chews which worked WONDERS! Suited my IBS to a tee. However, now the flapjack was causing me an issue as I had built up to TWO in the morning of a long run and by the 2nd-3rd hour of running….bad times were occurring and toilet breaks were needed. SO, back to the IBS drawing board on that and I have bagels a try. White bagels with a tiny bit of spread on….perfect- no issues. Hurrah!
One of the runs I did in March was a massive turning point for me in my view on training and life in general. Unbeknown to my and my friend we had booked onto what we thought was “just a 15 miler”. No… it was a 15 mile RACE. From the start…we were last. And there we remained right to the end of the race arriving 8 minutes after the last runner before us.
It was in Langham so it was very hilly which was great for our training. But arriving at the beginning and seeing what I call “real runners” took me right back to my school days when I skipped PE because I was rubbish. As I looked around at all these people wearing plastic bags and all sorts talking about their race strategy and what not I thought…..none of this matters guys. A PB doesn’t bring back anyone you love from the dead. A fast time means nothing when you lose someone close.
I also realised that not one single person in that room was of any influence to MY marathon and MY day and MY time. When I crossed the finish line last I received no medal (only the winners got prizes unlike the other runs I’ve taken part in) and there was a handful of people left waiting to close down after us having waited for us to arrive with the last runner marshal and every other marshal picked on en route. We called them our entourage. It didn’t matter! Because I had completed a very tough and hilly 15 miles as part of my training for the London marathon so it had served it’s purpose. I’m never EVER doing it again though, there is more to life for me than that run.
ANYWAY, I had reached around £2400 by late march ready for the three hour long fitness class- hurrah!! I was absolutely going to hit my target so that was one less thing to worry about.
The home stretch! 2 weekends of running followed by one weekend in my taper and the final weekend being the big day! Still only at 15 miles maximum run but of course still teaching 15 fitness classes per week and actually feeling very strong and together about it all. I really listened to my body. My muscles were tight and fatigued so I focussed on rehab for those. I knew I could walk 26.2 miles if I had to with ease so with small bouts of running included I would finish I had absolutely no doubt at all.
Even when I received comments about how 15 miles wasn’t enough. One comment was said 3 weeks before and one the weekend before the taper. So I couldn’t do anything about it anyway because I wasn’t prepared to go out and push it beyond what I felt capable of and risk injuring myself and not running it at all.
It really got me thinking about how no one can affect YOUR journey and goals. It is literally all on you to put the work in, be clever about your training, listen to your body and do what is needed for YOU and no one else. I questioned what each person thought they may be achieving by saying comments like that SO near the marathon? I wasn’t confident that they genuinely had my health and wellbeing in their best interest. Had they been genuinely worried they would have questioned all other aspects such as am I getting enough rest and sleep and recovery etc. I thought what difference did it make to them what I do to train for MY marathon day? Nothing.
So I wasn’t and to this day still am not sure those comments came from any place of kindness. I didn’t think they were being malicious but I genuinely am unable to see what purpose it served them, other than to sound like they know what they’re talking about perhaps and assert their knowledge? (one had never run a marathon before mind you)
Anyway enough about that, the 3 hour long fitness class SMASHED my target and I was sitting nice and comfortably at £3138.15!!! BISH BASH BOSH!!
The taper week
The week building up I was getting increasingly worried about my IBS situation and started practicing taking Imodium instants. I trialled one on the Monday which was fine.Then on the Wednesday night took one and again on the Thursday day which worked a treat! I consumed all of the stuff I knew would cause upset…with no upset. YAY. So with this plan in mind I was able to enjoy a sensible but carby dinner, eat my breakfast in the hotel and prayed for no ill effects. I still had to teach my classes but I was able to teach off of the spin bikes so in all over did demo’s for exercises in most and 3 full classes which was just light activity. My legs didn’t feel “fresh” until the Saturday and I was foam rolling them to within an inch of their lives! I went to collect my number on the first day the running event at Excel London opened because I anted to avoid the crowds closer to the day. I took my mum and we had a super day out and saw some of the EastEnders cast- the actors who play Ian Beale, Honey Mitchell, Rainey Branning and Barbara Windsor’s husband too. Oh and Gabby Logan and Kirsty Gallagher. We just stood and looked, too chicken to speak to them or ask for selfies.
The hotel I stayed in the night before was absolutely stunning. The grange hotel at St Paul’s. I had a little 20 min spa visit with plenty of water and spent the day grazing on carbohydrates. That morning I got up nice and early (after the neighbours woke us up at 6am playing super loud music. After banging on the walls I realised it was to cover up….other noise….but managed to drop off again until the 7am alarm. Went for breakfast which was 3x white toast with marmalade. Coffee, Imodium, leave.
I felt like a fish out of water arriving at my start zone and leaving my boyfriend. I just queued for the toilet and sat in there until I had squeezed out at least 3 pees (TMI?) and by that point it was go time!!!!
I didn’t know at all what to expect. I didn’t play music because I wanted to soak in the atmosphere. I had my name on my vest so people were shouting my name and cheering everyone on. It was incredibly emotional.
I had 26 ribbons attached to my vest, one for each mile dedicated to people who donated’s loved ones and this passed the time INCREDIBLY quickly because every 10-11 mins or so I was having to go onto my Instagram story to update it with who it was dedicated to. I had SO many people at home following me, they all said they felt like the run it with me. They had all downloaded the app to see my progress and…well…my progress SHOCKED me.
My estimated time I thought would be at least 5 hours 45 mins if I had a good run, expecting over 6 hours to be realistic. 5 hours 20 minutes 32 seconds it took me. I feel like I ABSOLUTELY SMASHED IT. I ran…the WHOLE TIME. (apart from two wee breaks in the portaloos) I was so comfortable and enjoying the day so much it just flew by. I kept a positive mental attitude the whole way around, saying to myself “I’ve raised over £3k for charity”, “I’m running the marathon”, “all of my training has paid off”, “I feel so comfortable right now” and I can hand on heart say I had NO gremlins in my mind what so ever because I just plodded on my own, in my own space, running my own way and loving life.
When it came to the end there were signs that said “final 600m”, “final 400m”, “final 200m” and at this point only…after the whole marathon, did I feel it. I think it was because I was at the end, but my feet just screamed OUCH, my knees screamed OUCH and I physically couldn’t speed up my running pace, I just carried on plodding and when I crossed the line (caught right on BBC iPlayer btw!) I couldn’t believe it and had to ask if I was ok to stop running as couldn’t quite work out if I was done haha.
So there you have it, I’ve had sleepless nights worrying about fundraising and distances, I’ve run a race and been last from the outset, I have lost my lovely nan and grieved among all of the training, struggled with food, struggled with my feet and joints. But on the day, for me personally, I absolutely smashed it to my complete delight.
I’d always said I would never run the marathon, but now I’m not sure if it will be my last…
Have you ever run a marathon? Please comment your tips below!