Wednesday, 16 April 2014

10 lessons I learned on marathon day

While I ponder my full race report - brace yourselves for that one, it could be epic - let me highlight the top 10 things I learned on marathon day: 

1. Be prepared 
Sunglasses = happiness
Given my intense need to have a full and comprehensive understanding of how I will get anywhere, travel was never going to be a personal problem; however, it amazed me the number of people asking on twitter etc. about how to get to the start site THE NIGHT BEFORE! If you're laid back enough to just rock up to a marathon start line 'somehow' making it on time and go with no nerves then I salute you. In fact, I defy that you even exist! In my opinion, if there is anything that you can do to reduce the pre-marathon nerves and worries then do it - including knowing how the hell you're getting there at least 24h before the start. 

My preparation for travel is not reflected in my preparation of kit, however, and realised that I forgot my sunglasses while on the train to the start. It was scheduled to be a scorcher too. Uhoh. Fortunately, having runner friends who will be on the sidelines comes in useful and a quick tweet to Charlie and logistical planning for a meet-up en route meant having glasses from the 6 mile point. Bonus lesson: if you can't be prepared, then have lovely friends who can be prepared for you. 

 2. Arriving early = no toilet queues. 
OK, so perhaps my '2 hours before the start' arrival was a little eager. Fortunately it was a lovely morning and I could sit on the grass in the sun, watching the weird an wonderful marathon peeople go by, while sipping my Nuun and eating a crunchy peanut butter Clif bar. But seriously - there was not a portaloo queue in sight. I went three times in the space of an hour just because I could! After 9am (1 hour before start), however, the giant snake loo-queues began to emerge. I'll admit it - I was smug. And, importantly, - but perhaps oversharingly - empty. 

3. Marathon supporters are awesome 
Yes, AWESOME. Having my name on my vest, I felt that everyone was there cheering for lil' ol' me. "You can do it, Katy!", "Great running, Katy!", "You're amazing, Katy!" - now, I'm normally fairly rubbish at taking compliments, but on this occassion I lapped it up and I have to say, I felt pretty awesome too (well, for the first half at least, but that's for another time...). I also had a huge grin on my face after spending the first 10 miles high-fiving every child who thrust their tiny hand my way and even some who didn't... 

After one runner robbed me of a child high-five I demanded that he provide me with said high five personally, despite the fact he was carrying a water bottle and four gels. It was messy, required some reorganisation, and almost resulted in a face-first fall, but I got my high five dammit! Yeah!

 4. Balloons are the answer 
Having friends and family in the crowd is great and I'd have been devastated to miss them, so set about planning how to spot them in the throngs of supporters. Answer: a massive yellow balloon, otherwise known as 'Bob'. A quick check of my phone told me my family and the boy were around the 12 mile marker; all I needed to do was keep my eyes above the crowd and BINGO! - there was Bob. Further down the line, another text: Mile 23. Hey presto: there was Bob. I doubt I would've seen them if it hadn't been for the genius of Bob (or myself, for having the idea of Bob, but we'll give him the credit this time...)

5. It's not just a training run 
It had been suggested to think of the marathon as 'just another training run'. I get why that can help, and that's what I tried to think. The reality was, however, that this was not another training run: this was it - everything I'd been working towards since October. During training I never experienced the highs and lows like I did in the marathon - I don't think anything can prepare you for that if it's your first time. It's also further than my longest training run of 20 miles, and while 6 miles doesn't seem that much further, trust me: it is. I hurt a lot in the last 10k and seriously doubted if I could keep going at points. As my mum said afterwards 'I think that's how you're supposed to feel: it's a marathon, not a walk in the park!' So I guess now, in hindsight, she's right. If it didn't feel that hard it wouldn't be a marathon, it'd be just another training run. 

6. Finishing is a mixed emotion 
First: thank christ that's over. Second: exhaustion. Third: where's my medal? Fourth: overwhelming emotion and tears. Fifth: exhaustion. Sixth: exhaustion. Seventh: MEDAL PLEASE! And water. Lots of water please... 

In my mind, this moment would play out in slow motion - the Union Jack flags billowing in the wind down the Mall, the cheers a dull roar in the background, the finish-line colours bright in the sunlight and me galloping over the line to Chariots of Fire. In reality, I was faint for the last 2 miles and felt very dizzy up the finishing straight, struggling to focus on where I was and could only think of reaching that big red sign so I could stop. It wasn't until I went across the finish, gathered myself, got my medal and turned to look back down the Mall that the emotion overcame me - I'd just run the London marathon! Then I stumbled onwards and everything was a blur. But I had my medal, so all was ok with the world again. 

7. Running in warm weather makes you crusty 
Apparently it's the dried out salt from your sweat or something. 4.5 hours of sweat = crusty like a piece of crispy seaweed. Lovely. Bring wipes. 

8. Cold, hard concrete is my friend 
Hobbling up stairs and down a ramp to get to the changing area (I mean seriously?! Event organisers take note for next year: this was just plain cruel!) I was confronted with an empty, shaded underground parking lot with a curtain up. Never before have I been so happy to be cool! I lay face down on the concrete floor, ecstatic at the cold against my skin, and stayed there until another woman arrived and asked if she needed to call an ambulance.

9. A pint will never taste so good. 
Nor will a G&T, a champagne cocktail, a glass of red, or a whisky. I do not, however, advise having all of these things, one after another, directly after a marathon - yes, that is from experience. 

10. Never say never 
Never again is exactly what went through my mind at mile 23. I was at the bottom of the emotion rollercoaster and declared that I will never put myself through this again! But. Well. See. The thing is... Now that it's done, and now that I know what to expect, maybe the next one won't be just quite as bad?! Only one way to find out... Athens Marathon in November it is then!

What did you learn on marathon day?

Katy | City Girl Fit

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Happy 1st Marathon Eve!

This is it. My last night before I run the London Marathon 2014. My first ever marathon, first ever time beyond 20 mile in fact! Am I nervous? Yes. While training went well overall, on Sunday I arrived back from a 2 week holiday in the US where I ate my weight in food and consumed copious amounts of booze. This, I'm pretty sure, is not what they describe in the 'how to taper' handbook...

Nevertheless, back at the end of March I completed the Surrey Spitfire 20 miler in 3.09, and felt pretty strong. I also managed a treadmill sprint session and three outdoor runs on holiday:

Run 1: 6 miles along the Vegas strip

Run 2: 4.5 miles in Mammoth, CA

Run 3: 10 miles from downtown San Francisco to Sausalito.
Yep, including over the Golden Gate Bridge!
So thank you, marathon. Because without this race to train for I wouldn't have laced up my shoes and experienced these places in the unique way that running provides. Each was individual and awesome in it's own right and I LOVED it!!

Tonight, I sit here finalising my marathon playlist, laying out the kit and generally being a bit excited. While nerves definitely play a part, I have been lucky enough to avoid injury and know that I will be on that start line tomorrow ready to run the London Marathon, and adding some London-based selfies to my running pic collection :)

Whatever comes my way, however slow or fast I run, I aim to take in what is happening around me and ensure that I take the time to focus on what's important - the fact that I am even able to run, the fact that I am privileged to be part of a race that many will never get the chance to run, and the fact that by doing this I am raising money for two great charities in memory of two great men.

If you're running tomorrow then good luck! Enjoy! I can't wait to meet all 36,000 of you :) Number 5097 - come say hi!

Katy | City Girl Fit