I would have posted this earlier, but on Monday evening, just over 24 hours after I'd crossed my marathon finish line, I watched the news in disbelief to see the horrific scenes from the Boston finish line. I had still been basking in the glow of my achievement and it felt almost surreal to see spectators and runners being attacked. Having experienced the joy and good spirit that a marathon finish line is made of, it was just unbelievable to watch such devastation.
Although I didn't know anyone running in Boston this year, I've never been to Boston, and I live hundreds of miles away; it still felt strangely personal - and it seems that a lot of runners have felt this way, believing it to be an attack on a community which we are all part of.
However, I also think it's important to share positive stories about running and remember what these races should be all about.So I'm going to get around to describing my 2nd marathon...
I signed up for this race last May, with hopes of a long, steady progression of long runs and a consistent running base before I ramped the miles up to 20+ . Needless to say the reality was nothing like this as I got ill and injured in December and so started my first week of marathon training with a pathetic long run of 5 miles.
I ended up running only 2x 20-mile runs due to the time constraints, where I would have hoped to run at least 1 more, and maybe a run of 20+.
But my 2nd 20-miler went so well that I felt reasonably confident of achieving my goals. Last year, I think I dreamt of running around 4 hours, maybe even under if everything went perfectly. But as I started my training I knew this was an unreachable speed - this time at least. My new goal was to break 4h30m, which I felt capable of. With marathons though, there is so much unknown, and I just didn't know what might happen in those untried final 6.2 miles.
My strategy was to know my pace, stick to it consistently and just keep going. From my training runs, I thought I could probably keep going at that pace for a while, and I knew I would need mental toughness to force myself to continue. I made myself a pace band, based on a time of 4h28m (10.13 min/miles) which I thought would allow for the extra distance I'd end up running so I could still go under 4h30m.
The day started with me feeling very sleepy after a terrible night's sleep, but fired up with excitement. I got the train to Brighton leaving the family to come in later, and met other runners on the train. The train driver announced that the train was busy due to '..the Half marathon I think it is...', which got boos and rude comments from the runners crowding the train!
The race start was in a park, which was nice and muddy from rain overnight. In fact it was still drizzling as I queued up for the toilet. 20 mins later, I finally made it to the front of the queue, and shortly afterwards it was time to join the start. Then we were off!
This was one of the first races I can remember where people were running before the start line! I kept walking towards it, thinking 'this bit doesn't count', but eventually I had to join in. The race began with a loop around the park, which included a short uphill. My first mile was 10.13 - bang on pace so far!
We ran down to the city centre and somewhere after mile 2 I saw Pete and the kids for the first time. The course then looped back on itself and I saw them again. The kids had made posters which I hadn't been allowed to see before - it made me laugh!
At this stage it was cool and good running weather. The course did another bit of out and back, then we headed towards the seafront. We were running East - supposedly into the wind, but I didn't notice it being too bad.
Somewhere around mile 5-6 I saw the front runners coming back towards us - they were at about mile 11. It was great to have such a good view, and of course they sped past! My mile splits for miles 2 and 3 were 10 minutes, but here I started to slow down again. I didn't know the course but there were a couple of long uphills towards the furthest point East, then we turned and came back along the seafront, slightly downhill. After that it was pretty flat.
I remember checking my splits regularly from this point, but I couldn't find mile 10. I didn't want to go by the garmin as it was getting ahead of the actual mile markers. I had arranged to meet Pete and the kids around mile 12, and I started looking for them at mile 11. I was taking my gels and water as planned, and hoped I wouldn't miss them while looking down at my stock of gels! Then at mile 12 it got really packed. This was near the pier and the finish line, and the crowds were amazing.
I started to panic that I'd missed Pete and the kids, and I couldn't enjoy the incredible response of the crowd as I was getting so stressed that I'd missed them! I ran through 13 miles, then a halfway point, and just after that I saw them. I was so relieved I had to slow down and kiss them all - I kept moving though!
I ran the 13th mile in 9m49s - this was probably due to the roars of the crowd here, which carried me away.
After that it started to get tough. I really didn't know the course, and as we ran North, away from the seafront, I thought it would be a little road then turn round. I was so wrong - it was about 4 miles of residential streets. The support was still great, but for some reason I just loathed that whole stretch. It seemed a little uphill - both out and back! I suppose I just had no idea where we were going. At some point along here I was a bit behind my pace band splits, but I gradually got back on target again.
When we got back to the seafront it was further west on what some previous racers have dubbed 'the road to hell'. This was a long stretch out towards a power station! The crowds are thinner and the views are uninspiring! But I had a secret weapon - for the first time ever in a race, I'd brought my ipod. I'd made a special playlist of empowering fast music, and I think it helped me get through a few miles.
By this point I was hurting in various places, and my left leg had a pain all the way along my IT band. Just after mile 21, we turned around and headed East - towards the finish. Mentally it felt like we were on the way home now, even though we were really just still running as before! The sun was out and it was very warm. I think this brought people out too, and as we headed towards the pier again, the crowds were great.
As the spectators increased, I took my earphones out and soaked up the atmosphere. It was tough, but I just kept thinking - keep going - it was so simple, all I had to do was carry on with what I'd been doing all morning and I'd be ok! I was still on pace, but I knew that anything could still go wrong in the last 5 miles or so.
I felt hotter and hotter, and started drinking a lot more water than I would have normally expected. Eventually we got closer to the pier. A man pushing a wheelchair ran near me for a while and he was getting an incredible response from the crowd - it was so loud! Another guy was whipping the crowd up as he ran, and there was a lot of high-fiving going on!
Suddenly I heard a little voice among the chaos calling 'Mummy' - I looked round and there were Pete, Robbie and Emma again! I hadn't expected to see them here so it was a real boost. By this point I knew I was going to do it. The amazing spectators and atmosphere pushed me towards the finish line, and I saw the time on the clock was about 4h35m. I knew I'd crossed the line a fair way after the start time, so I was pretty sure I had done it.
Finally I crossed that finish line, and paused my Garmin at 4h28m! I stopped running for the first time, and my legs almost gave way. Tears sprang to my eyes, but I managed to keep them down! A marshal told me to keep moving and helped me walk forwards. Then it was medal, foil blanket, t-shirt, drink...
I was elated but exhausted. I had to walk a long way to get out of the finish bit and to the family meeting point, and I got really frustrated at having to go so far. It was hard-going!
We met on the beach and I collapsed on the pebbles in the sun!
4h28m0s - I really stuck to that pace band. I pretty much ran even splits over the first and second half, and I was 5010 out of 9067 runners, 1192 of 3177 women, but I'm not really interested in those positions!
Most of all it was an incredible experience. I stuck to my plan and got the time I wanted, and I ran every step of it - no walking or stopping at all, which I'm really proud of. A massive thanks to the organisers and all the spectators, who helped make this into something really special!