In the Heat of the Marathon 20th July 2014

Fairlands Valley Challenge 26.3 HOT miles – Sunday 20th July 2014.
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My 22nd marathon in total and my 9th marathon in 2014 – not including NDW50.
A not so early start to pick up two marathon gals on the way to Stevenage Sunday morning. We arrived in plenty of time to register and do the usual pre-race pee without rushing. You can’t rush that pre-race pee or you’ll be needing a pee just after you start. The horror!!
Kelly and Julia – The marathon gals – were already on form and instead of dreading the hot, humid day I was looking forward to a laugh on the trails. My kit was ready for a hot day as well but looking back I could have done a bit more to keep myself hydrated better. The start was different to last year and the course was apparently different too. This was made very clear not long after we started out on the course. We were playing follow the leader until it was necessary to start reading the instructions and after a few minutes we were greeted with runners who had split and gone the old route at the start. Oops! Best keep an eye on those instructions then!!
Most of the start was similar to the 13 mile route I followed last year. Kelly, Julia and I kept up a decent pace until we started hitting the hills at about mile 4. That and the need to check route instructions kept making me stop to check where I was going. The day was already warm and I was determined not to push myself to hard because I wanted to save everything I had for the following weekend. I know this slowed us down a lot. Sorry girls. Sweat was pouring off us and we tried to keep hydrated as much as we could. As the miles ticked by these are the random things that amused me greatly. We met and laughed with other fellow runners – slower runners seem to have a deeper sense of humility and humour that always makes me feel welcome. My purple leggings were a hit, one statement of “I could really get into your leggings” was awesome haha!! The jokes of the Queens Hoo Hall nearly had me crawling rather than running.
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Kissing gate humour – “mwwwaa!! Darlins”. A one liner that had me stumped until I realised what Kelly meant – “Where’s all the Spartans?” Me “They’re over there….eh?……ooooooOOOOO!!!!!” Buff men in cloaks and underpants. I get it. Took me a few seconds, sheesh!! Another Kelly moment – “These fields are killing my legs” Me “Nope, don’t feel a thing” Kelly “I’m wearing shorts” Me “Nope, still can’t feel a thing” Kelly “RUN, BEAR!!!!” hahahahahahahaha!!!! That’s one way of dealing with my sarcasm! The “Are we there yet?”, “Mum, she’s doing it again” and so on. Vass up! Julia, that’s all I’m saying on that subject!!
The temperature throughout the run just kept creeping upwards. The fields were sauna’s and the few moments through trees were a welcome relief to the scorching sun. I’m really glad I managed to carry a bottle of coca-cola for each of us for mile 15. This perked me up no end, BUT!!! It stopped me from hydrating. I should have sipped at the cola and not drank the whole lot leaving me feeling filled which made me forget to keep taking on water. 5 miles later and I was suffering, a queasy knot of a stomach and other signs of heat exhaustion – reduced sweating and headache. This was not good and the day was not getting any cooler. I could push myself to finish but that would finish me for the following weekend. Instead I slowed myself down and started forcing myself to drink more. Kelly and Julia kept me occupied on far more amusing things and step by step we all got closer to the finish. My right knee held out until mile 20 which I was pleased with. A few more stretches picked up from the physio are working wonders as always. My only pain was my shin after rolling over on my right ankle not once but twice, G’AH!! No sprain thankfully but one sore set of muscles and ligaments that will be looked after this week. Dimwit!! Haha!!
It was a stupidly hot day for a run but I’m walking around today as though I’ve just done a bit of gardening in the heat of the day. My head is a bit sore from the heat yesterday. That’s it. I’m very pleased with my body glide spray that’s reduced bra and running pack chafing to nearly nothing. Even though I suffered with heat exhaustion I managed the symptoms well enough to keep going.
So am I ready for Lakeland 50? I’m much stronger than I was last year, much stronger. My kit choice is getting better with experience. Each event is different and I’m getting better at bringing just the right amount of kit along. I’m slower than last year but my ability to just keep going is getting better. After Lakeland 50 I have a hill training plan to “Love Hills” ready to go. I’ve picked my hills and I’m going to beat them!!
A positive weekend for me. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and will very likely be back next year.
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Photograph credit goes to Kelly. Yes we are that bonkers haha!!
Keep on running.
Helen

You Can’t Carry on Like This

More on the title of this post later. First let’s get up to date on what I’ve been up to.
Giants Head Marathon – Saturday 28th June 2014.
What a totally fabulous day that was. I had the option of camping the night before the event but with a choice of a free hotel room an hour away from the start or the thought of being eaten alive by midges I chose the hotel room. Only hardened campers would choose camping over a warm room and I’m definitely not a hardened happy camper!!
The forecast for the day was wet with a side of wet followed by some drizzle and maybe a shower or two. The weather I experienced was overcast at the start then light fluffy clouds with blue sky on the side. It was beautiful.
I recognised a few faces at the start but as usual with my inability to remember names I kept to myself. The race briefing was brilliant – “you will be treated as road kill” I can’t remember the sentence that had this statement in but that bit stuck! I was looking forward to the “Love Station” and it was obvious there were going to be hills in this event. I had heard all manner of horror stories about the hills on this event so my plan was to just finish. No racing, no pacing – just finish.
I started with Claire and Emma from Leighton Fun Runners (LFR) . A gentle run out of the village, a walk up the first steep hill, then we were confronted with the bathing farmers. Runners taking out phones and camera’s to immortalise the moment and we were running again. Claire was running strong and by the second aid station she was pulling away at her own pace. I was content to stay with Emma and go at her pace. The course was very well marked and the scenery was breath taking. Chalk man on the hillside (Cerne Abbas Giant) was much smaller than I imagined but now I can say I’ve seen him. The hill climbs – yes they were tough going, I’m no ultra bambi so I wasn’t skipping up the hills but I did take time to stop and look at the views this time. Wow. With the fluffy clouds and clear visibility the views were amazing. Worth every drop of sweat getting to the top of each of those hills. My knee had decided it didn’t want to cooperate by mile 10. Painkilling spray applied and things felt much better. At one of the checkpoints we met a lady who had fallen and hurt her hand. Out came the painkilling spray and compression bandage. It felt like I had more to offer than the first aid kit at the aid station!! The “Helen Grills” knick name was back haha! We met a few more weary soles after that point. We would pass a few and then they would pass us later. By that point we were travalling at a similar pace heading toward the “Love Station” at around the 20 mile mark. A long run across a field, then a road crossing and we started to see writing on the road. We were close to hugs. I’ve experienced Karen’s marathon hugs before and it’s a revitalising experience. You’ve made it this far, not long to go, grab some cake, drink, hug and get out of here before I kick you out…… hahaha!!
A couple more hills after that and at the end of a long, dusty, chalk stone filled track a guy who’s watching runners head towards the finish says “not long to go now, just another 1.5 kilometres” – hang on!! What!! The man at the top of the hill said that!! We round the corner and there’s the finish! OH!! Meters, not kilometres hahahaha!!! Finish time of 7hrs 9mins
The bling – awesome. Cerne Abbas Giant with trainers on. Memento – just as awesome. A bright blue shirt and a glass with the same picture. Only the glass has some additional coloured in “bits” lol!
I’ll be back next year. I really enjoyed this course.

Enigma Double Marathon – Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th July 2014
This weekend had been booked as my test weekend for Lakeland 50. If I couldn’t manage this marathon double then as far as I was concerned I had no right being out on the hills in the Lake District. It wasn’t about fitness or determination it was about giving me the courage and confirmation that I had worked hard enough to make it further than I had last year in the Lakeland 50.
The Enigma Marathons are usually seven and a half laps around Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes. The first day was an early start and a number of things made it a very interesting challenge. The weather felt like one side of the lake was dry and the other side had constant rain. My favourite purple running tights had decided my thighs were far too much to contain and I ended up with chafing in a crucial place!! My first experience using Vaseline to prevent further damage was an experience to remember!! My right knee was great up till 15 miles this time. Painkilling spray and it was manageable again. With just under two laps to go Lesley appeared and kept me company. The distraction of company on those last two laps was fabulous. I managed a strong finish and day one was finished in 5hrs 22mins
The second day was tough. I wasn’t sore from the previous day. I was tired. A hot bath and massage on my legs had kept me moving freely but by morning both knees were complaining about the mileage. I had dug out my knee brace from years ago and put it on the knee that was complaining the most, my left knee. I got ready to go and headed out the door. The weather was going to be dry at least. Tub of Vaseline ready, electrolytes ready, me…..not so ready. There were a number of people there doing both days and it was obvious who they were from how fast we all started. The fresh ultra bambi’s skipped away and the rest of us shuffled up to running pace. My first lap was awful. Full of pain from my right knee. I thought I’d sorted this out with the knee brace……… oh!! It’s on the left knee! Sigh! A quick changeover at the aid station and the knee brace is on the correct knee. By the time I’m half way around the lake my knee is feeling much better. Dimwit!! I was joined by Kelly at this point and she had me laughing like crazy woman. Running comedy, nothing is better when I’m tired and want to stop than to have someone like Kelly make me laugh and forget everything but keeping hold of my pee!! Two laps later and I’m refreshed and shuffling along nicely. A lap or so later and Lesley, Mariam and Glyn join me for a lap of the lake as well. Thank you so much. The distraction of chatting away and shuffling away was fabulous. The day was getting hot and Lesley and Mariam had just run the Milton Keynes Half Marathon to then come and join me for a lap of the lake. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It was greatly appreciated. I had a lap to go and it really felt like I was running on empty. One more time past this bench, past the bridge, past the pond and so on until it was the last few hundred meters. Then out of nowhere my stride lengthened, the arms swinging, breathing deep and pushing myself to the limit to just finish this thing. Get it over with. I have no idea where this comes from but up to that point I was ready to walk to the finish. I felt like I was hanging onto a runaway horse racing home and no way of stopping!! A not too shabby finish of 5hrs 55mins.
So – I managed to break the spell of quitting. I also managed to complete my first double marathon weekend. Still not sure how but with the help of Kelly, Lesley, Mariam and Glyn it felt much easier than I had expected. Due the reoccurring knee issue I booked myself in to see a local physio last week for some deep tissue massage to see if that would help. I’ve recovered over the weekend and my knee is feeling much better. Next week is Fairlands Valley challenge. 27 miles of navigating to get me in the mood for Lakeland50 the following weekend. Woohoo!!!

My last post highlights that I have periods of quiet. Where I really don’t like to express what I’ve been up to for fear of judgement. Oh here’s another blog on some random subject, why don’t they just find something better to do – kind of thing. This blog sometimes feels like an effort in stupidity and narcissism. So yeah, this blog is a bit narcissistic but I also know that I’m forgetting things more lately. I’ve gone through and read some old posts and thought “I don’t remember that at all” which is scary but also a gentle reminder that I need to keep at this. This is worth the effort. Don’t stop!

The post title. You can’t carry on like this.
My marathon double weekend highlighted that I put myself through an immense amount of suffering for what appears to be a bit of metal on a ribbon. Well, no!! No it’s not!! Hearing “It’s not normal. Why put yourself through all that suffering when you can sit back and relax for the weekend”.
Have you ever heard that before? Along with so many other statements that doubt the amazing ability of the human body to just keep on ticking. I can understand why people say these things because I sometimes ask myself the exact same thing. I’m not ignoring the fact that my body is being put through an immense amount of suffering but……yes……BUT the alternative is just as destructive and quite astoundingly encouraged!!! Sit, chill out, don’t worry, munch on this, chill, don’t worry, munch on this, chill……. When my body is unable to carry on then yes, yes I will chill and munch and look back on all the amazing things my body has carried me through. That’s if I can remember anything hahaha!! I push myself to extremes because I can. It’s as simple as that. No one is forcing me to do any of these things. I can count on one hand the number of people who have actively encouraged me to do bonkers events. All of the suffering is for me. To prove to myself that I am not weak. Of course I enjoy the bling, that small item of proof that I did it. My personal record of achievement that has no meaning to anyone else but me. I’m not an elite athlete, I’m not even a fast runner, I’m a loving wife, mother, office worker, friend who enjoys the thrill of picking personal challenges that are just a little bit scary, that push forward, that keep me moving, that show me parts of the world I had no reason to visit until now. Why not! Rant over. Time to grab a cup of tea and “CHILL” hahahaha!
Keep on running.
Helen

Fighting the Monster Within

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I’ve been quiet over the last couple weeks.  This is the quiet, withdrawn side of me that seems to revel in self recrimination and doubt.  I’m not looking for hugs or boosts.  I’ve come to learn that sometimes I just need to retreat into my cave of darkness and hibernate a little.  Review my life, see what I’ve achieved or failed and assess how to come back fighting fit.  Thing is, I don’t notice this withdrawal from happy, nutters me.   There’s no particular time of year or event that triggers this.  So, bear with me…..hahaha!!

The quiet withdrawal wreaks havoc with my running fitness and my mental toughness to stick out a tough event.  The first failure of Northants Shires and Spires was the first warning sign.  I had blisters, so what!!  Last weekend I attempted the Wales Trail Marathon.  Everything went well up to mile 10.  Then breathing difficulties and knee issues!!  Did I push on?  No.  I just plain quit at the half marathon point.  Was I miserable about it?  Yes, yes I damned well was.  Irritated and angry with myself.  

So here I am.  I’m okay.  I’m not my usual determined self.  Hills are looking like mountains.  The effort to control my diet to help my fitness just seems boring.  

I feel like I’m stuck at the bottom of a well getting a good view of the world but not really feeling part of it.  

But that’s okay.  It has to be!  This is me, this is how I roll.  I will be back.  I just need to relax and be okay with myself.  Accept that I will have failures.  Accept that I can’t push myself through everything I’ve planned for myself.  Recognise my depression and accept it for what it is.  It is a part of me.  It’s who I am.  

So I’m planning myself an Ultra.  Planning helps structure my life and guides me out of this darkness.  Simple plans.  Reccie runs.  Plotting maps.  Investigating routes.  More reccie runs.  Whilst I carry on with the rest of my life and keep on moving as though nothing is wrong.  

Have a great weekend.  I’ll be at Giants Head Marathon.  Lets see if I can get to the finish this time!!

Helen

Too Much Too Soon

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Last weekend should have been a breeze.  The weather was perfect, the ground was soft, my body felt mended.  Nothing should have held me back.  Nothing!!!  Oh how wrong was I.

Saturday morning I met up with my running buddy Kelly at 8am and I had plans to recon a route as far as we could get before turning back to get home for 11am.  I had the route planned on the map, I had my etrex all programmed.  The only thing that could go wrong was missing footpaths.

It was a fabulous recon.  I missed one turning for a footpath, I should have known this one because I’ve used that path before but we soon got back on course.  Then we encountered a field full of new mother cows.  Dang it.  A quick look on the map and there was another footpath back along the way we had come further down the route.  Our first big U turn.  This footpath wasn’t used much and the height of the nettles around the footpath gate had us laughing and “OUCH, ouch, ouch”ing.  This is where we met our first farm animal for the day.  A great big pig.  He looked huge!  As we were discussing how big this pig was I got the feeling we were being watched.  Yes we were.  The pigs owner, obviously a bit worried about two brightly coloured individuals talking to his pig.  We waved, the owner waved back and we moved on.  This new footpath took us to the church in Hockliffe and from there we took the road to the next footpath section.  I couldn’t find a safe footpath route to cross Leighton road so taking the roads on this section was safer.  Our next U turn was at farm on Woodcock Lane.  Thankfully the very lovely lady at the farm directed us to where the footpath was.  We apologised and thanked her for the directions and carried on.  Some furious dogs in kennels, a very lovely little bridge across a stream and we were in a field with two very friendly horses.  Nothing but love for this trail so far.  It was lovely.  We then entered a field full of high grass.  Our feet had been wet since hitting the footpath from Stone Henge works on Mile Tree Road.  Our feet were now squelching with all the water drenching our legs from the long wet grass.  A soggy but firm route so far.  The next field gave us no clue to where the next footpath gate was.  No footpath through the field either.  So this was a walk around the edge of the field moment whilst we scouted out where the gate was.  Eventually we found it.  We were then heading downhill through a tree lined lane.  Mud, mud and more mud.  Okay, I’m regretting thinking that we had gotten away with not having to get our feet muddy!  A few moments of navigating mud puddle gates and we arrive in Tilsworth on Blackhill.  Kelly realises where she is and we also notice a great stopping point The Anchor.  Before this point we should have turned back at the field with no obvious footpath but we were enjoying ourselves.  Arriving in Tilsworth we decided to head towards Stanbridge along Stanbridge Road and make our run a loop.  I made a note of the next turning point to continue the route to Dunstable Downs centre and we continued on to Stanbridge.  Took a turn towards Egginton along Mill Road and instead of just staying on the road I dragged Kelly into some more fields.  More mud and a little bit of getting lost we ended up on Stanbridge Road not too far away from the industrial estate on Cherrycourt way.  By now our poor shoes looked like they had been dragged through a very muddy river but we did have an absolute hoot of a time.  We part ways at this point and I run home to end Saturdays run at 10.5 miles.

After getting home I found that all the old blisters that had been slowly mending were now separated and dead skin.  My feet looked a mess.  So I spent a good hour or two fixing them up before soaking them thoroughly in a lovely bath.  I felt good for the rest of the day.  Chipper.  I didn’t feel in the slightest bit tired because the recon was taken at a very steady pace.

Sunday morning was another early start to get to Northampton for the Shire and Spires Go Beyond Ultra.  I had my comfy trail shoes on and everything felt good.  The morning was already warming up.  The day however was not going to be fun.  We arrived with very little time to register and get to the loos.  The race started whilst some of our group were still otherwise occupied.  We weren’t far behind the main group of runners but this did have an effect on our group.  The terrain was far more road than trail which made was affecting my feet by the first checkpoint.  We only just made the cut off for this one.  We all pushed on and the day was getting hot by now.  The second checkpoint achieved with 5 minutes to spare this time.  The group had been pushing themselves and it wasn’t a comfortable pace for me.  I was struggling.  This should have been easy, the pace we were going was much slower than North Downs Way.  Maybe it was the heat!!  Or the roads.  Or the fact that I was wearing trail shoes and it had been mainly road up until that point.  I was not feeling the love of the event today.

After the second checkpoint things started to go downhill.  One of our group developed sickness and diarrhoea and our group split into two.  Two people looking after the sick member and the rest of us pushing on to the next checkpoint.  This was not ideal.  At mile 15 we start worrying about whether we’ve missed a checkpoint because we were in the middle of nowhere and we were getting close to the checkpoint cut off and there was no sign of this checkpoint.  We pushed on and at the top of a hill at a farm was the third checkpoint achieved with minutes to spare again.  Water refilled and a few snacks noshed we waited for the last three of our group.  A phone call from the sick member informing us that they pulled out and were being picked up.  Do we wait for the two left behind?  If we did wait then we wouldn’t make the next cut off at the next checkpoint.  This was getting very stressful.  We decide to head on and know that if there’s trouble they have phones and will let us know.  A few strides is all it takes for me to realise that my feet are getting blisters on the newly healed blisters.  Huge pain striking through my toes.  This is not good.  My head is not on right today, I’m not feeling the love for this event and I’ve been nothing but stressed out this whole time.  No, I’m not going to continue.  I encourage the rest of the group to continue and they do thankfully.  I felt relieved.  The last two members of the group arrive and hand over the chip from our sick friend.  The checkpoint is closed at this point and they’re informed that if they continue it will be unsupported.  They’re encouraged to sign waivers without reading them and then they head off to try and catch up with the rest of the group.  That was a bit strange!!  I get a lift back to the start from one of the checkpoint volunteers and we had a lovely chat on the way back.  Now I could have just made my way home.  All I would be doing would be hanging around waiting for the rest of the group to get back which could be another 6 hours.  I stayed.  I wanted to help at the finish but there didn’t seem like there was much to do.  So I made my way down the course, passed a pub and found the last gate before the finish.  That would do, I had a plan.  I got myself some late lunch at the pub.  Feeling refreshed I made my way to the gate and kept it open for the runners to go through whilst I made sure no cattle escaped from the field.  I even opened it for the owner a couple times which they found amusing and helpful.  After a few hours I get a phone call from my group that they’re close and could I get an order of drinks in for them at the finish.  I had 2 ciders and a shandy waiting for them.  It didn’t take them long after that to come past the pub.  Where were the other two?  What had happened?  A couple hours after the first 3 of our group had finished we got a call.  They weren’t far away but they had been having a very bad time.  There were no checkpoints and they had been knocking on doors to get water for the rest of the route.  An hour or so after the phone call they arrived at the pub only to find that they’d made it all that way to get nothing.  No medal, no finish arch, nothing.  We had 2 very unhappy exhausted people.  It was only later that we all realised that unsupported had meant they were running outside the event and would no longer receive any help or get a medal or recognition on completing the course.  OUCH!!!  This made it a weird drive home.  Some happy but not wanting to upset those that had gone all that way for nothing and then myself who just didn’t enjoy the day for completely different reasons.  What a mixed bag of results!!

The following day (Monday) and I’m feeling exhausted, wrecked.  This didn’t make any sense.  Then during the evening I kept wanting to go for a pee and that was a clue.  I thought I wasn’t hydrated enough from such a hot weekend.  I still felt rough the day after (Tuesday) so I take myself to the doctors.  Urine infection.  Well how dumb did I feel.  Of course!!  Sheesh!!  I’m now on antibiotics and feel like I’ve been pulled through a rocky desert by my legs.  This new ultra body of mine needs to sort out it’s “I’m sick” signals because I missed that completely.  I thought it was dehydration from the hot days, looking back it’s obvious it wasn’t and I shouldn’t have even toed the start line on Sunday.

That was one hell of a weekend but I think I need to put in some hard work on my form and work back in some regular short runs during the week.  I’m new to this whole distance running thing and I’m treating it like running 5k.  As long as I can run that distance I don’t need to do much else unless I want to get faster.  WRONG!!! I need to keep training as though I’m still working up to that distance.  I know that now.  I just have to implement it.

Hope you all have a week and weekend.

Helen

I’m Not Broken

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Before North Downs Way 50 I had foolishly or optimistically booked myself a place in the Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon.  Why?

Well, my plan for North Downs Way 50 was to take my time, not rush, not push myself too hard, have a great day out on the North Downs Way but this got completely lost until 20 minutes after I received my medal.  I pushed myself so hard, pushed past the painful feet, almost dragging my sorry tired arse up those hills.  I was driven – I NEEDED to FINISH!!!! There’s stubborn me and then there’s complete and utter I WILL DO THIS me and that’s what took over that day.

After Centurion North Downs Way 50 I felt tired, my feet felt bruised and I had a couple blisters that would need a week or so to work their magic and heal the damage I had reaped whilst earning that precious time limit and medal!!  I gave myself until Wednesday to feel okay.

In truth I felt like I could skip out the door and easily run 5k.  Sure my feet were still sore but I was still on way to much of a high to judge whether my body was capable of running a marathon a week after the battering I gave it.  I was torn!  Sensible or fun!  My husband was worried I was pushing myself to hard.  I was worried that I should be feeling more…….well……wrecked!!  This is insane.  I should be jumping over the moon about how fine I’m feeling yet I’m holding back, worried that this is a false sense of security, waiting for the wheels to fall off at any moment.  Nothing!!

Wednesday – I sit and work on my feet.  Just to see if there’s anything still out of sorts.  There’s some swelling, no surprise there.  My left ankle has lost some range of movement, lots of manipulation and its feeling better.  The backs of my knees have some swelling.  A little bit of tightness in the calves.  Do I run Liverpool marathon?  No.  I’m not running until the swelling goes.  I don’t want to break myself after I’ve done so well.  It’s worry holding me back, not my body now.

Instead I take part in the Blisworth 5 mile event.  5 tough miles on a Friday evening.  A short enough distance to test myself and long enough to see if my feet have recovered enough.

I was far too relaxed for this race.  The first time I ran this course I came in last! 62 minutes.  My best time was in 2012 at 44 minutes.  How would I do?

It was very tough at first.  Everything felt out of kilter.  My ankles felt like they were going to break like glass.  The downhill start engaged my upper body and I got the most painful stitch by the time I reached the bottom of the hill.  It all felt wrong and I was fighting hard to keep running.  Then the first mild climb.  My ribs reminded me that they had also worked hard at the weekend.  This was just plain uncomfortable.  The next steep downhill I managed better than the first and then it was the only big climb of the run.  I had a lump of heavy clay where my heart should be, my legs felt like they were going to stop and I was going to face plant into the road.  Then…….. freedom…….  All of a sudden everything eased, I took a deep breath, pushed into the hill climb, a rhythm started to develop.  I was in full flight by the time I got to the top of the hill and my pace was increasing, to fast, slow down.  But it felt too easy and I was pushing hard into the next hill.  2 miles.  Wow!  That felt quick!  3 miles and a water stop.  This is too easy!  I’m pushing myself now.  There are no more steep hills after this.  I finished in 45 minutes.  My feet felt like they had just run the North Downs Way 50 again.  I thoroughly enjoyed the 5 miles.  It also confirmed that I wasn’t worrying for no good reason. I was quite rightly giving my body a good recovery after working so hard.  The 5 miles did feel easy, too easy!! But it was enough.

My mind put at ease that I had made the right decision made it so much easier to enjoy seeing the social media posts of my friends taking part in the Liverpool marathon.  It looked like a brilliant time was had by all.

My lovely husband in the meantime gives me a great idea to navigate home from Dunstable.  No rush, no racing and the opportunity to create a route for an ultra that starts and finishes in my own town.  What’s not to like!

So Sunday afternoon I get dropped off at Dunstable Downs Centre and start heading back to Leighton Buzzard.  I have a route planned.  I have my own Ordnance Survey Map with footpaths marked.  It was all going so well…… And then I get lost in a field.  I followed the map.  I was sure I was in the right place.  But I’m in the middle of a field with no way across a small river.  Plus, to get to that point, I had encountered chest high nettles and thistles and such an overgrown footpath it was just silly!!

A quick recheck of the map.  I’m sure I’m in the right place.  Retrace through the overgrown footpath and back to the cycle route.  Dang it!  I wanted to find a trail route home.  At least I got to 7 miles before I called for a lift home.  I was far too tired to concentrate and it was getting close to the agreed time that I should be home.  I’m going back to that route again.  I’m going to find a trail path to Dunstable.  I’m sooooo enjoying myself hunting for footpaths hahaha!!  Plus my new trail pack was doing a fabulous job keeping my kit nice and snug.  A bit hot for a summer trail run but for a winter run this pack is going to be my bestest friend!!

Hope you all have a great weekend.

Helen

Centurion Running – North Downs Way 50 17th May 2014

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I had spent the whole of last week worrying and trying my hardest to convince myself that completing the NDW50 was possible.  In hindsight I’m glad I didn’t manage to reccie the route.  I would have been more terrified that I hadn’t trained enough.  My worry list was expanding each time I thought about the event and it was starting to really eat at me.  Why was I putting myself through all this, it seemed like a really good idea, a fun day out, a blast, an epic adventure, meet other likeminded ultra nutters – I had to keep my focus on why I wanted to do this in the first place.  Keep it together.  Don’t let fear creep in and destroy what could be an amazing experience.  Focus!!!

I was going to drive down there on the day.  Thankfully my lovely husband offered to book me a hotel room near the start.  It was free because of a reward scheme of some kind but it was lovely to have one less worry on the day of the race.  My first thank you goes to my lovely husband.

Friday morning and my work colleagues are saying good luck for the weekend along with – bonkers/nutter/insane distance hahaha!!  This really cheered me up.  Gave me a bit more steel for my focus.  Fear was not going to stop me!!

Friday afternoon and I’m at home checking over everything that I’ve packed.  Batteries, charger, shot blocks, electrolyte tabs, sun cream, anti-chafing stick, hat, map, torch – the list goes on.  Worry is a great organiser but its pants at trying to rationalise!! The kitchen sink would be next! An hour or two of checking, lunch downed and I’m in the car on the way to the hotel.  Oh jees this is really happening.  Oh dear, what have I done, I can’t do this, it’s bonkers, insane, why am I doing this!!!!  That’s it fear.  I’m not listening to you, you’re not helping.  Pink, Foo Fighters, Alex Clare and others get played in the car at full volume to drown out the bad thoughts.  One bad traffic jam drive on the M25 and I’m finally at the hotel to chill.  But where’s the start?  So I unpack and drive to the start.  Not far away.  20 minutes max.  Excellent.  I grab some food on the way back and arrange to pick up Stuart on the way to the start in the morning.  Fabulous.  Some company for the morning.  I thought I would find it difficult getting to sleep.  Nope.  Out for the count.

Yep.  This isn’t just about the NDW50 it’s the mental battle beforehand to get to the start line.  I had completed at least one 50 mile event before.  I knew the distance was a mental battle rather than physical.  I knew I could tackle hills on repeat after getting to 35 miles in the Lakeland 50.  The kit I had was good.  The electrolytes would work in the hot weather if I timed them right.  There was nothing left to do.  I was in the school hall with Stuart and Mark, ready to go, looking at all the other super SUPER fit people thinking – I shouldn’t be here, I’m nothing like them, what the hell am I doing.  Then completely ignoring the bad thoughts.  I’m here, I can do it, what have I got to lose, get out there and do it!!

A quick race briefing – it felt quick, it probably wasn’t.  A huge cheer for the volunteers.  Total respect for the volunteers.  You guys n gals ROCK!! Then we walk to the start.  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear………

Stuart tries to get me closer to the start but no, I’m slow, I deserve to be at the back, let the faster people go in front so I’m not holding them up.  I must admit though.  The picture Stuart took was fabulous.  I look like I’m really pleased to be there.  Totally not how I was feeling inside.

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Then everyone starts running.  It’s happening.  Most of what I remember of the start was orange trainers, mud trail, black shorts – they fit nice, solamon pack, ultimate direction pack, bright yellow trail shoes, hairy legs, skinny legs, wow those calves are HUGE!, traffic jam at the first kissing gate, then open trail, I like those purple trail shoes.  A lot of following/being in a pack of runners before the first short hill on a road.  After that things were a bit of a blur.  I remember a very sandy track that was tough to get through.  A lot of scouts with huge back packs.

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Picture credit goes to Jon Lavis – Still looking very fresh at this point.

The first checkpoint was fleeting, water refilled, coca cola gulped down and on my way within a minute.  A very impressive turnaround.  It felt almost formulae one pit stop style.  Bacon sandwich at mile 12 – I’ve never had a brown sauce bacon sandwich.  I have been suitably educated, it was deliciously yummy.  A mixture of trail and road and then there was the next checkpoint.  Water bottles refilled again in formulae one style along with more coca cola.  Nearly 15 miles and I was still feeling okay.  Yes it was getting a bit hot but I felt comfortable.  My High Five Zero tabs were working their magic – I made sure I had at least half a tab between each aid station.  Shot blok every 3 miles.  I’ve never had coca cola on a long run before but this was working well for me too.  I was feeling very good.  I was even within my own calculated times for the aid stations.  At least an hour before their cut off.  Wow! I can do this.

Negative thoughts at this point were – just because you feel good now doesn’t mean you’ll finish.  There’s Box Hill to come yet!!  You’re slowing down, you’ll start missing your own cut off times if you don’t keep up the pace.  You’re too slow!!

The Box Hill check point was cruel but joyous to see.  One minute you’re following a trail, the next you’re standing next to a dual carriageway and across the road is the check point.  Lovely red tape markers say to turn left.  Hmmmm, is this right?  I wave HI to the lovely aid station volunteers and head in the direction of the tape.  AH!! It goes to an underpass.  Right!! Under the road and jog on to the aid station.  Phew!  That wasn’t far.  Another lightning fast pit stop.  Bread scoffed, coca cola drank and I was on my way again.  Gotta love Centurion volunteers.

I think it was after this stop that I decided my feet needed checking.  I could definitely feel hot spots so better to sort it out now then after the hill climb to come that I’d been warned about.  Socks off, blisters popped, pain killing gel applied, socks and trail shoes on and away I go.  Sorted.  Now I must admit, pain killing gel is not something I’d recommend in any way for blisters but I really didn’t want to mess with my hydration and I knew taking oral painkillers can mess with my thirst mechanism.  On a hot day like this I couldn’t risk that.  So please don’t take this as an okay to use this yourself.

Box hill.  Seriously! This hill should be in Lakeland50 not near Dorking!!!! Good grief! One step at a time, keep moving, if I have to stop I count to ten and then move again.  Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, oh hell, there’s MORE STEPS!!! Keep moving!! WOW!! Look at that view.  Keep moving.  The top – HAH!! BOOYAHH!! DID IT!! I BEAT YOU!! Not sure if that was the hill I was yelling at or my own disbelief but boy it felt good.

Reigate Hill check point was a welcome sight.  More of the formulae one style water refill and coca cola and the promise of jelly and ice cream at the next check point.  I was starting to worry now though.  I was falling behind my checkpoint closing time agenda.  This wasn’t good.  I had to increase my pace.  I had to run everything but uphill.  Every uphill had to be done quicker or I wouldn’t make it in time for the coach.  I must get back before the coach leaves!!!!

My head went down after this point and I’m sure I missed some wonderful views.  I did however see some wonderful optical illusions.  Giant bear head statues that were a mixture of logs and leaves.  Grey rabbits that were plants lined up just right.  I was thankful for the distraction.  Wild garlic that was so over powering it was sickening.  More steps.  More fields.  I checked my watch and noted the next checkpoint with jelly and ice cream was just over a mile away.  I NEED to get to that checkpoint.  KEEP MOVING!! The trail opens up onto an open field downhill and there’s another runner in the distance.  I’m catching up with him.  All the while chanting “jelly and ice cream, jelly and ice cream, jelly and ice cream”.  I made this guys day apparently, the thought of jelly and ice cream was so enticing at this point.

The trail came out onto a road and just around the corner I could see the aid station.  I tried to run up the hill towards them but there was nothing in the legs for this.  No matter how much I wanted that jelly and ice cream.  After lots of cheering from the volunteers at this aid station and lots of encouragement on how well I was doing I finally got to the jelly and ice cream.  OOoooooooooooo my!!!!! Heavenly food!!! Absolutely perfect.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!

I stayed at this aid station longer than I should have but oh boy did I need it.  Refuelled and water refilled I set of to the penultimate aid station.  I was losing time and was definitely pushing myself harder than have in any other event now.  I met up with two lovely guys who missed the red and white tape signalling the footpath in the verge.  I can see how they missed it.  If you weren’t looking for it you would have no idea it was there.  We were all going at a similar pace at this point which helped me a lot.  This had to be the loneliest ultra I had done.  Normally I’m with a group of people and we’re all different strengths but we stick together and get each other through the tough patches.  Today I was slow, way behind the majority of slow runners and feeling like I needed to catch up or lose the chance of getting back to the start on the coach!! I was so grateful for the distraction to my ranting fear that was now forcing me to move ever faster than I felt comfortable with.  Lots of kicking branches, tripping over rocks, nettles and I even managed to bash my foot on a tree stump!! OUCH!! A few steps later and I could feel the hot spot from the skin that had just been moved to start forming a blister! Damn it!! A few moments later and one of the guys stopped.  A blister he had been ignoring had popped.  OUCH!!!  A quick discussion on what to do and my idea of pain killing gel seemed like nothing to lose.  At least it would get him to the next check point.  Shoes and socks off, gel applied, socks and shoes on.  Back on his feet and walking for a bit.  Then after a minute or two, back to running.

There was so much woodland trail, fields and stairs going up and down that I lost track of how close I was to the next check point.  Just as I was cursing the fact that there was this large F**ing hill climb once again and my legs are just turning to jelly and I’m not going to make it I see a person near the top of the track.  It’s the check point.  Wow!! I still have a chance.  As I’m forcing myself up the last bit of the track I’m quickly sorting through in my head what I want to do.  Sort out the blister, get it comfy, cola, water, move move move move…… The checkpoint volunteers were absolute angels here.  You beautiful wonderful angels.  I tried sitting in the chair but couldn’t reach my foot so dropped myself on the floor to get to my poor painful foot.  I tried to pop the blister but it was too far under the skin so painkilling gel applied again and that would have to do.  Loads of cola supplied by the wonder angels.  Then a helping hand to get my butt of the floor and I’m up and running again.

The last section was a blur of panic looking for tape, distraction of being investigated by cows, walking when I wanted to run through a field that had uneven ground hidden by grass, following my gps because I’d lost track of any sight of red and white tape, road, field, more woodland trail then an open field.  All of this whilst I’m panicking about the time.  It was getting close, the finish must be close.  There can’t be much more.  Keep running, keep moving, don’t stop.  It’s starting to get dark so I pull out my head torch, just then the trail turns to giant sticky and slippery mud.  Head torch on, back pack on and I’m running again.  Another field, wait, is that the finish.  It must be.  So close!! I’m running as hard as I can now, out of the field onto the road, oh thank goodness its downhill.  Oh wait!! The last bit up to the school and the finish in the school field is uphill.  ARGH!! I can’t stop now!! I need to run!! I’m met by the most wonderful person who keeps me moving, keep going, come on you can do it, last bit, not long now, keep going, you can do it, nearly there, you’ve got two minutes, come on, you’re doing really well…….. My legs felt like they were going to break apart, my lungs just couldn’t drag in enough air, my heart felt like it was going to run to the finish on its own, my brain had lost all sense of what the hell was going on – FINISH!!!!

I DID IT!!!

With seconds to spare!! Seconds!!!! 13 hours, 29 minutes, 15 seconds.

I couldn’t move, I’d stopped and couldn’t move hahahahahaha!!! I did it!!! I tried to gently sit on the ground but I fell to my knees, took off my back pack and lay down on that cool lovely grass for at least 10 minutes.  A very lovely volunteer handed me my medal – a very hard earned medal.  Only ultra runners get one of these and today that was me!!

I really do wish the two ladies who came in after me whilst I was lying there on the ground had got a medal too but they’d just missed the cut off.  I really felt for them.

Eventually I got up with the ever present helpful volunteers on hand.  A very sweet cup of tea and a few bites of a giant hot dog roll and I’m ready to get changed and head back to the start.

Now here come the thank you’s.  A massive thank you to Louise who gave me a lift back to the start because the coach had to leave with the last of the runners already on it.  A big apology to Peter who followed me when I lost sight of the red and white tape.  I’m sure we would have made it to the finish a couple minutes sooner without having to climb over a fence!! Big thank yous to ALL of the Centurion team/volunteers – you were all so lovely and kind and helpful.  Thank you.  Lastly, thank you to my lovely son Vincent who knew I was running 50 miles and made me some badges and insisted on buying flowers for me for when I got home.  Bless!

The Fussy Eater Nightmare – HEALTHY FOOD!!

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As I’ve been resting from my marathon weekends there’s nothing to report on how well I ran lately because, well, I just didn’t.  So because I don’t like standing still or my brain just doesn’t stop….. either way, here’s a post about something else about me.  Food! My enemy! My nemesis! My kryptonite!!

Yeah, yeah, yeah!! I should be this healthy eating monster with all the mileage I’ve been doing lately.  My body should be treated like the ultimate temple of awesomeness because its managed to carry me great distances.

Unfortunately no.  I’m a stupidly fussy eater.

Most of my food aversions are down to my strength of character as a child in making sure I only got the food I liked.  Mash, white bread, cheese, more cheese, sausages, ham and the occasional apple here and there.  Salad was avoided like the plague and broccoli was a complete and utter nono!!

The rest was down to the fact that certain foods just did not sit right.  Rice made me unbelievably ill.  Chips (yes chips) gave me stomach ache.  Onions – abdominal pain that would have me doubled over, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!!!! And loads more foods that either raced through me like I’d just eaten a weeks worth of laxatives or gave me the most unbelievable gastric pain.  I had every right to be fussy if food hurt.  Didn’t I?

That all changed in 2010.  I found I had a very unwell gall bladder that finally decided to make itself known when I had started to increase my running mileage.  I had been running for just over a year by that point and I was struggling with a very strong pain under my ribcage.  Not quite a stitch but enough to stop me running with nauseating pain.  Apparently my age and history were enough to get it removed and what a difference that has made!!

I’m eating broccoli at least once a week.  Boiled and raw carrots have been recently introduced.  Cucumber is just plain weird but I’m getting there.  I still have issues with tomatoes and onions so I’m wondering if I’ve developed a slight sensitivity to those.  Rice – love rice now.  It’s eaten more than mashed potato nowadays.

So how come I’m now trying all these healthy foods?  What’s happened?

I’m bored of the same food, my lovely husband just despairs at my eating habits, I see loads of posts about healthy eating this/that/the other and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to live forever changing my diet now!

Little by little I’m adding a new thing.  Waiting for my body to react, waiting for me to adjust to the new flavour/texture and not forcing myself into huge meals of alien food that my pallet is not familiar with.  A bit like getting a fussy kid to eat new stuff.  I should know.  I’ve got two kids and both of them have gone through the fussy stage but both of them now have a very healthy diet and are not afraid to try new things.  So my kids are setting an example for me.  I should really follow suit shouldn’t I?  It’s only fair :-)

What’s your nemesis? Your BAD habit? Does it restrict you or make you who you are?

Fussy eating is a nightmare.  But I like what I like and to hell with everyone else or whatever that thinks they know the best flavours of wotsit nonsense!!  I’ve found that my fussy eating is down to who I am essentially.  I’m one downright stubborn, no nonsense, get on with it person.  That’s probably why I’ve managed to keep improving my distance when running.  If I WANT to do something, well, there’s very little that will stop me from getting it.  It’s my superpower mmwaahhaahhaaahhaaarrrrrr!!  So, I’m going to use my superpower for good this time.  With great power comes…….. yeah yeah……

Happy running

Helen

 

Enigma Good Friday Marathon 18th April 2014

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This will be my third marathon this month.  6th April – Brighton marathon completed in 5 hours 29 minutes.  13th April – London marathon completed in 5 hours 27 minutes. 

Will I improve by a few minutes again? Will I even make it around the first lap? Why? What the hell am I doing? This is impossible! I’m never going to make it! Those were the thoughts rolling around my head Thursday night.  That’s when I start digging in and somehow I’m organising my kit, checking the weather forecast and pushing those “impossible” thoughts into a corner to whimper away until I’m finished. 

I’ve done the Enigma style marathon before at Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes.  Seven and a half laps of the lake.  Sounds nuts.  Run in circles seven and a bit times up to 26.2 miles.  Yep.  You’re right.  But here’s my view – every three and a bit miles you get cheered along and you have a water stop with jelly bears/jaffa cakes/home made cakes.  Yes the scenery can get a bit monotonous by the seventh lap but I’ve found it’s given me a type of mental toughness that’s helped me get through some tough moments.  Running and normal life. 

So? How did I do? Well, it was good fun.  The weather was just right, cool and sunny.  My aim was just to finish.  No pushing myself.  No digging deep.  Just jog on round until it’s over and enjoy the day.  Like hell did that happen!! As usual we walked to the start as a group, waited for a couple minutes for everyone to get behind the line.  Then David (the Fox) set us off.  I felt very comfortable and I settled into a pretty good pace very early on.  I chatted to a few people on the first and second lap and then we started spreading out.  I was a little surprised that I still felt good.  Lap three and I’m still going strong.  Where the hell was this coming from.  Lap four and five and six just rolled by.  Still going strong.  Plus I still felt good.  Running past Karen on the last lap and I get the cow bell.  I love that sound.  I didn’t want to ruin the last lap so I kept to the same pace.  Kept the same momentum and at each turn, bridge, hill, corner I would say – That’s the last time I pass you!! A few hundred yards to go and I’m digging deep for the finish.  4 hours 48 minutes.  Well blimey!!! I wasn’t expecting that and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be that easy!! Third Marathon on the third weekend in April.  Nice one.  Plus my time was much faster than the first two. 

This was also a celebration of 100 marathons completed by a lady called Heather McDonald Hamilton.  The yellow and blue 100 marathon club t-shirt waiting for her at the finish along with a number of other items celebrating such an achievement.  Seeing someone achieve this is just amazing and truly inspiring.  There’s a real feeling of camaraderie at the finish of a 100th marathon.  I hope to be there one day…… one day!!

So what’s next?  Well I’m due for my rest part of training for the next couple weeks.  I find this part of training tougher than putting in the miles.  Strength exercises, stretches, short speed workouts and repeat.  I’ve learnt the hard way that the rest periods in-between long mileage events can really pay off.  I’ve grown much stronger and I’m finding each attempt at distance easier.  I’m not sure if that’s because I’m stronger or if the negative voice in my head has just given up and gone for a cup of tea somewhere.  Either way, I may be bonkers running these stupid distance events but I find them to be a deeply fulfilling challenge.  Bring it on!!

Happy running

Helen

Virgin London Marathon 13th April 2014

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Wow! Just WOW!!

I’ve had a couple days to mull over this one.  The only thing I can compare the London Marathon to is the feeling of meeting your idol face to face and sitting down for the afternoon for a relaxing chat.  That’s what it felt like.  Yes.  I’ve never done that but I’m sure I would have the same feeling before and after. 

Picking up my running number was entertaining.  I’m no Londoner and the thought of getting lost on the tubes or taking the wrong one is always a worry.  As I’d taken Friday afternoon off work there were no wall to wall crowds of people which also makes me feel very uncomfortable.  Phew!  Passport and marathon letter shown and woohoo, I had my number.  Chip collected on the way through to the exhibition.  The exhibition a thrilling mixture of corporate power from fitness companies, charities vying for funds and other marathons around the world.  Now I’m a very weak person when it comes to gadgets and fabulous discounts but other than the Brooks running shoe stand I found very little in the way of good value gear on offer.  I trawl the internet for bargains on a regular basis and after visiting the exhibition I’m very glad I do.  Most of the offers were for gear on offer at more expensive prices than their online stores from a month ago.  Sneaky!! I don’t like sneaky “Special Discounted Prices” that are more than the original price a month ago.  There were a couple bargains to be had around the latest running shoes that I couldn’t resist.  So yes, I am now the owner of two pairs of Brooks Ghost 6 running shoes.  Can’t have too many running shoes?  Can you?  Nah!!

Saturday I made sure I rested as much as I could.  So much so that I was in bed and solidly asleep by 11pm.  That’s early for me!  Which made waking up at 4:30am that much easier. 

Packed running bag, running outfit and shoes selected the night before to stop the early morning panic “have I got everything?” Out the door and walking into town for the 6am coach on time.  Nerves jangling away – will it be hot, how crowded will it be, toilets (oh jees, now I need the loo), traffic, will we get to the start in time, weather, am I wearing the right stuff, my shoes feel tight, did I pack my water bottle, watch, where’s the watch, got the watch, money, where’s the money, there’s the money, hair bands, ribbons, it’s too hot, I’m wearing too much, oh seriously, now it’s freezing cold, what the hell am I doing………….. you get the gist.  Brain melt down followed by bag rummaging for the hour on the coach. 

Quick change of plan as the coach stopped and said we needed to get off.  Do I take everything or leave stuff on the coach?  I took everything!  The walk to the start thankfully had portaloos along the way.  Phew!  That’s one worry out of the way.  Then the start.  It appeared to be sparse of people when we arrived and moving around was fairly easy.  As time marched on the blue start area where we were starting filling up with more, more, MORE people.  Sooo many people.  Then it’s drop off bags time and line up in the starting pens.  A chilling 20 minute wait after the start horns have sounded and we’re all moving towards the start.  At the moment it’s feeling like any other really crowded event.  Lots of people waiting their turn to run over the starting mat.  Then it’s my turn, it’s really happening, there’s crowds of people cheering us through the start gate.  More people a mile down.  More and more people at every mile, cheering, shouting, hooting, waving, high fiving, screaming and taking pictures of runners.  26.2 miles of cheering crowds.  There was simply no let up, no quite spot, no peace, no lull.  It was constant.  Moving you forward towards the finish.  The sheer number of runners along with the incredible amount of spectators was overwhelming.  I couldn’t stop grinning.  Random chatting with random runners was fabulous, everyone appeared to be so happy to be there. 

Reaching Tower Bridge had Julia and I jumping up and down waving our arms and screaming for joy, we made it half way.  WOOHOOO!!  It wasn’t long after Tower Bridge that it was obvious Julia had much more in her than I did.  She carried on and I started to walk/run after mile 14 – again!!  I was still happy with my time but it wasn’t tiredness that was killing my running.  My insides were churning like crazy threatening to explode as if I had an alien trying to escape.  The whole nervous excitement had gotten to my guts.  It didn’t dim the mood of the day at all though.  I carried on high fiving kids, costume spotting, bottle avoiding, landmark spotting and my favourite – cheer bombing.  Every now and again a crowd was obviously waiting for someone to cheer so I’d put my arms up and “WOOHOO!!!” runners beside me would hoot and then the roar of the crowd starting to cheer on runners again.  26.2 miles of cheering crowds.  How anyone had a voice left Sunday afternoon is amazing! 

The Walky Talky building, the Shard, Houses of Parliament – wait, that’s near the finish.  I’m near the finish.  This is the last couple miles.  I’m running and I just can’t stop.  It’s starting to hurt like crazy but there’s no way I’m stopping until I get to that finish arch that I’ve seen on telly so many times.  Jealously watching.  Wanting to run through that arch myself one day.  Thinking I’ll never be fit enough to run a marathon.  That’s for crazy people.  That’s for all those other people on the telly who have made it there.  Raising money and training hard.  Wait, that’s me.  I’ve run a marathon distance before, I know I can do it, I’m here running with all these other people, I’m running the London Marathon and I’m going to run through that finish arch just like all those people I’ve watched on telly.  It’s the last 100 meters and I’ve got the biggest grin on my face ever.  For the first time in a race I get to the finish and start jumping up and down woohooooing away.  Completely drunk on endorphins. 

The long walk to the bags was painful hahaha!! But I was one very happy girl. 

My only damper for the day was going the wrong way to get to the coach to get home.  Being completely drained I ended up panicking that the coach would leave without us.  An endorphin high will get me so far but crowds and crowds of people, a deadline to get to the coach and not knowing where the hell I am.  Perfect storm for one of my panic attacks.  Thank goodness I was with sensible people.  I’d have completely lost it if I was by myself.  Coach finally found and on our way home.  Wow what a day!! 

Leighton Fun Runners Coach – fabulous.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.  I don’t think I would have been able to cope with the London tubes or trains that day. 

Julia – What an amazing effort.  5hrs 3mins of awesomeness. 

London Marathon Marshals – you all did an absolutely amazing job and I would love to hug each and every one of you but that would take me until next year so instead – THANK YOU

To all the other fabulous runners who took part – you’re amazing.  You did it.  Massive sympathies to the family who lost a very special person that day. 

So – would I do it again?  No.  Don’t get me wrong.  I really enjoyed the day.  It was an amazing experience.  I doubt I will ever experience anything like that again.  The sights were amazing.  But I’m just not comfortable being completely surrounded by so many people.  7 hours of on the verge panic attack was a lot to handle and if I’d been there alone I would have walked away at the start. 

Roll on Friday where I run around a lake seven times for a spinning medal from Enigma Running. 

Happy running

Helen

Brighton Marathon 6th April 2014

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I surprised myself on this one.  I was expecting more from this marathon.  More runners, more crowds, more miles, more atmosphere, more everything!  What I got was very nice.

Even though there were at least 9,000 runners taking part and their families in tow I was not overwhelmed by the sheer number of people around.  The commentator for the start kept everyone informed and he was making sure everyone knew where they should be and at what time and what was going to happen next.  It was 20 minutes to go before the start and I was getting nervous!! I had left my water in the car along with my hairband and my waist pack was deciding it didn’t want to zip up at all.  Thank goodness I’d been spotted by Karen and David before the start.  Karen suggested using the safety pins to keep my pack closed.  Genius!!  As for the water, well it’s not like there isn’t any around on the course and my hair?  I used the hole in my cap and had a loose ponytail instead.  Sorted.  What felt like seconds later the marathon started for the elite runners.  Seeing them run past the start was electrifying and those of us who hadn’t started yet were cheering them on.  A good 15 minutes after the elite runners started the last of the runners went through the start line, some even getting to high five Paula Radcliffe.  Cool.

The first hill was in the first mile which got me warmed up nicely, then in and out through Brighton town, the streets lined with cheering crowds.  Lots of charities advertising their causes and lots of runners running for them.  It was amazing to see so many people lining the course around the town centre.  After all of that it was a bit of a culture shock to then be taken out of Brighton along the coast and being able to see all the runners ahead and also all the runners running back along the same road.  SO MANY RUNNERS!!!! It was amazing see all those people, different shapes, sizes, capabilities.  Amazing!! After running through the closed in streets this open road was a nice breather.  No cheering crowds, just all of us runners pounding to the beat of the marathon.

Coming back through Brighton was exhilarating again, winding us through residential streets.  Residents playing music and kids handing out bowl after bowl of jelly beans and jelly babies.

Then we head out to the dock, another long road along the coast with the occasional cheer from groups of people lining the route.  Once we get to the end of the docks we head back towards Brighton Pier along the seafront.  By this time I was walking more than running but I was still enjoying myself thoroughly.  Every now and again a crowd of people would get a bunch of us walkers to get back to running.  When we did we got loud cheers which kept quite a few of us going.  The pier was getting closer with every step and runners beside me were starting to struggle with the mileage.  I was tired, I could push myself to run faster but I didn’t want to.  I didn’t want to ruin myself before London next weekend.  That’s my excuse anyway.  As we all got closer to the finish the crowds got bigger, the cheering got louder and it was difficult to stop and walk now.  Pulled along by the sheer roar of cheers I kept myself going to the finish.  5 hours 29 minutes 54 seconds.  I honestly thought I was closer to 6 hours because I eased off the speed after mile 14.

The finish was just as well organised as the start.  Only when I got past the baggage trucks and then out onto the seafront to head back to the car did the sheer number of people in Brighton hit me.  I had wanted to meet up with David and Karen afterwards but everywhere was drowning in people.  So, instead of worrying I got myself a cuppa and a pork roll and got myself back to the car park.

This marathon did take up my whole weekend and even though I didn’t stay in Brighton I did have to come down on the Saturday beforehand to pick up the number and chip for marathon day.  With the marathon being sponsored by Visit Brighton I’m sure a lot of business was made over that weekend.  Parking on the day was a complete nightmare even though I had paid for parking in advance.  Road closures made getting to the car park a complete nightmare.  Thankfully I’d given myself more than enough time but the stress of getting there did make me leave a couple things in the car.  This is an expensive marathon – the payment to enter, the requirement to pick up your number the day before and staying or parking in Brighton all adds up.  Having said that I did have a fabulous time and I thoroughly enjoyed the drums, the music, the cheering crowds, the organisation, the views, the gentle hills and the sheer friendliness of Brighton.  Thank you.

Roll on next weekend when I get to run the London Marathon.

Happy running

Helen

Started 09:28
Finished 14:58
Chip time 05:29:54
Gun time 05:43:06
Pace (miles) 12:34min/mile
Pace (km) 07:49min/km
Distance Split time Split pace Total time
5km 00:33:23 10:45/mile 00:33:23
10km 00:33:35 10:48/mile 01:06:58
15km 00:33:21 10:44/mile 01:40:19
20km 00:34:24 11:04/mile 02:14:43
25km 00:41:14 13:16/mile 02:55:57
30km 00:44:38 14:21/mile 03:40:35
35km 00:45:35 14:40/mile 04:26:10
40km 00:46:57 15:06/mile 05:13:07
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