Saturday, 23 April 2016

Brighton Marathon

Pink Marathon Hair ^^

So when I last wrote, I had 10 days to go until the start of my taper for the marathon.  This saw me complete a second 20 mile run and then a 23 mile run.  My pace was a fair bit slower than at Milton Keynes but I was carrying a rucksack and running on pavements around pedestrians.  It did however look like if I had a good day that I would be able to complete the marathon in under 4 hours.

I have to say that having this target time in my head started to make me feel quite pressured and I found the taper period really stressful.  It didn't help that it felt like my body was breaking down with all sorts of aches and pains seeing me trailing back and forth to the osteopath.  I could barely think about running, let alone doing the visualisations I normally do, without crying.  I amassed a stack of running magazines from my subscriptions that I simply felt too sick to read.  I was so anxious that I couldn't even talk about it as I didn't really want people making "helpful" comments.  I did manage to talk to a couple of people and I had some kind reassurance from a former colleague, Simon, who has done two marathons, and managed to find the right things to say.

The taper apart from all that went off alright; I did the White Horse Half Marathon on 3rd April, my birthday, and the plan was to run that at 1h55 as that would be just right for getting me in under 4 hours a fortnight later.  Of course, I ended up going a bit faster than expected, met a nice chap called Ben who was training for his first in London, and because I was chatting to him, I carried on at this pace until he left me for dust at 18k.  I thought I was on track for a new PB, but I'd forgotten how fast I got around in Bournemouth last year and so was 15 seconds off it!  I came in at 1:47:58.  I also managed a fairly fast 13.5k run the weekend before.

Did my best to rest etc and ate so much that I put on weight in the run up and soon it was time to go down to Brighton the day before.  Mr Just Keep Swimming went to the expo whilst I was able to rest in the Premier Inn, and then we went out to Zizzis for some pasta.  It's definitely a good idea to book a table well in advance (I booked this in January).  Bella Italia weren't taking bookings on the night and Zizzis were totally booked out - the last thing you want to do is to trail around and queue for food.  Zizzis were pretty slow with their food which was a bit of a pain.  We got a reasonable sleep (although I did deploy half a lorazepam to assist) and woke up at 7am. 

We were in walking distance from the start which was really handy as no need to stress about taxis.  Although we arrived in plenty of time and I did not need to use the bag drop as Mr JKS was carrying my few items, the queue for the loos was awful and poorly directed so I was in the queue until 8 minutes before the start which was not ideal.  I'd put myself in the 3h30-4h corral in the hope that I would get swept along and achieve my sub 4h goal; I was hoping to find the pacer but it was totally impossible to.  I did see some other Mind runners and was able to wish them all the best.  The corral was very muddy so most of us started the race with mud stuck to our trainers - not ideal, but at least it wasn't wet!

Start of the race was fairly unremarkable.  The first mile is uphill, but that's pretty much the only hill.  I felt really thirsty and felt a bit frustrated that the water was only being handed out in cups (which is pretty much only 1 mouthful) but I took a couple of cups at the early aid stations which seemed to help.  After 5 miles I got to the Mind cheering point which was the first time that I would see Mr JKS.  I was super happy to see my lovely contact from the Mind events team and stopped to give her a quick hug.

After that we had a fairly long run out to Roedean, and we saw the elite runners come the other way.  As we came back from Roedean, there was a chap handing out orange slices. Goodness me that was unexpected and incredibly delicious. Exclaiming over the deliciousness I got talking to the only person I had a real conversation with - John. He was running for the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust because his wife had an ectopic pregnancy last year. Happily she is now 4 months pregnant now even though they had been told they wouldn't have another pregnancy. We also talked about mental health.  I emailed the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust when I got back home and they were able to point me towards his fundraising page and I received a lovely email from him afterwards.

Back from Roedean and into town again.  The atmosphere at this point was absolutely amazing.  I felt absolutely fantastic and was totally enjoying the experience - bands, crowds - just brilliant. At 12.5 miles I ran past the second Mind cheerpoint, and then at 13 miles I saw Mr JKS again.  From there it was on into a residential area until about mile 18, and there were huge numbers of people handing out sweets which was fantastic, I hadn't really expected that.  There was also a steel band, a brass quintet and more orange slices.  I met a few more Mind runners but didn't really chat to anyone.  At this point I would have been finding it hard to speak as I was maintaining an amazing pace that was far faster than I had anticipated.  Secretly, I was starting to wonder if, far from sneaking in under 4h, I might sneak in under 3h45 and achieve a good for age time of 3h45.

At about 18 miles, I saw the lovely Fiona!  This was a total surprise as although I knew that she would be there, I assumed that she would be following her much faster husband around.  However, there was an excellent app that provided updates as to where people were and I assume that this helped!  As you can see, I was very happy to see her.

Soon after this as I got towards 20 miles I was starting to find it all quite hard going.  I saw Mr JKS at 20 miles and rejected the coca cola that I'd been planning to have, I just didn't fancy it.  There was then a couple of fairly soul destroying miles through an industrial estate and I was starting to hurt and my pace was starting to drop.  Saw Mr JKS again at 23 miles and he ran a little way with me but I was worried that that was cheating so told him not to!  At this point, my watch died...  I don't particularly rely on it for pace, but what I *do* find helpful to know is how many metres are left to go.  I found that very helpful on my 20 and 23 mile training runs...  Looking at the statistics just now, I had maintained a pace of 5:16 minute kms until that point, and with 4.2k to go, I had nearly 25 minutes to cover it to come in at under good for age time.  I was hurting very very much, but I think that had I been able to see how far was left to go, I would have managed to motivate myself a bit better.  I ended up walking a bit, and then walking again at 25 miles as I started retching which is always a sure sign that my body is at its total limit.  I started feeling really disappointed with myself, which was a bit silly as I had totally smashed the time I was hoping for.  The crowds were shouting out my name, and whilst that had been super early on in the race when I could wave/thumbs up in acknowledgement, I just found it really frustrating.

Somehow I managed to keep it together a little more and I was surprised to see the finish as I had missed the 26 mile sign. I could not even muster a sprint finish and lay down on the floor as soon as I got over the line and started crying. The St Johns Ambulance people got a bit overexcited and wanted to put me in their ambulance but I managed to get up at the sight of the wheelchair. I cried all over the lady giving out space blankets and all the way out of the finish section (500m) and then lay down in the middle of the Mind tent and cried some more. Then I had a cup of tea and sat up and had a banana and a lovely lady who had volunteered her afternoon gave me a calf massage.

So, that was that really.  Less than 3 minutes off good for age and I finished in the top 4% of women.  Not bad for a swimmer.  Not bad if you knew me at school.  Not bad considering that at most I ran 3-4 times a fortnight.

There was minor blisterage, very sore legs for a couple of days, and now I just need the osteopath to put my glutes and right hamstring back into the right places and I should be good to run again.  I've found the last week very fatigued and I guess I am just impatient about getting back to it.  I'm super envious of everyone who is running London tomorrow and hatching my own plans for the future.  Of course, it's not long before my next one as in 3 weeks time Mr JKS and I will be doing the Windermere marathon.  That's not going to be a flat out race, I am expecting us to average 10-11 minute miles, walking up the hills and just trying to have a nice day out seeing the lake from the land rather than face down in the water...