It is done. On May 25th 2014, I ran/staggered/walked 26.2 miles in 5:40:16. My first marathon. And I wasn’t even last.
I learnt a lot about myself yesterday. And I learnt more about how to do endurance. (Or how not to). So I shall do my best to remember everything and write it down so that next year I can do a better job. (Next year? AAHAHAHA. Fat Bean of 2011 is laughing at that)
The Night Before
All was fine. Nerves were, obviously, pretty bad but I slept and ate and felt rested on The Morning Of.
The Morning Of
04.25am. Woke up. Remembered. Basically only dozed until 06.30 when I decided “sod it I’m getting up”.
Breakfast. Should have made more of an effort here. I’m not a breakfast person anyway and forcing a slice and a half of PB on toast down my neck at 7am, three hours before a race, was a challenge. It also wasn’t enough. Even with the addition of a banana. I was peckish at the start line. You don’t want that. You don’t want to be full but you don’t want to be fancying a burger.
The Start Line
It was pissing it down. I had my disposable poncho (thank you Kiltwalk) and my cosies on so I was warm and dry. Spirits un-dampened. I’d mentally prepped to be damp so I was ready. Around me, athletic types did sprints to warm up. Less athletic types ate haggis burgers from a burger van. (Best thing to have at the start, EMF??) and other miserable looking sods huddled together under the shelter of a nearby building. Not me though. I kept moving. Wandered up and down the starting pens to locate where me and some running buddies were starting from. Then I met Natalie. A girl who’d been at the Maggie’s Centres training day. She’d been tracking my fundraising and due to her competitive nature had raised almost the same as me. That’s £2500 ish between us. Outstanding.
That’s us. Looking terrified.
After seeing Natalie, I ran into Claire Ellis who was fundraising for Lymfund which is the charity I will be fundraising for in 2015. We shared a hug and got a selfie for my mum (she’s on the board of MLDuk) and then basically, it was time to go!!
We got into our pens. Like cattle. Moo. And waited. Then we all started moving forward. And waited. And then we moved a bit more. And waited.
There was lots of waiting. I was gold pen on Regent road so one of the last to be let loose.
I got over the line about 10.15.
I’d been advised to pace myself slower over the first 10 miles so initially Garmin told me I was running 12:13 min miles. That was perfect. Nice and easy and downhill.
It’s bloody hard not to peg it with all the others though. Edinburgh is downhill for the first 2-3 miles so everyone went off like a rocket. “HA ha!” I thought. “I’ll catch you all!” Just at that point I saw Rosie. Mum’s god daughter and THE BEST CHEERLEADER EVER!!! She put such a smile on my face and it was lovely to get a boost like that so early on. I may have run mile two in 10:49. Oops. Never mind. She took this pic of me looking triumphant…
As a result of this initial sprinting from everyone, I was overtaking walkers at mile FOUR. Just as I was beginning to find my pace and regulate my breathing. I was getting into it. I was RUNNING A MARATHON.
As in training, I developed a bit of a stitch at mile 4. “A bit” being an understatement. But for the first time ever I kept myself running. Double breathing to try and get rid of it.
The next few miles were a blur. I’d run this part of the route through to Musselburgh already and I was dying to get to Portobello prom. Sea breeze, decent crowd and a nice long flat straight. By the time I got there, my stitch was fading and a quick sweaty hug off Steve Bonthrone (total nutter who was running all 4 EMF events that weekend. He’d already completed the half marathon in the morning and raced back to the start for the full) and I was high as a kite.
It was here that I saw Ironman for the first time (@ironpugsley) who I clocked a mile off with his Oakley’s. Another friendly face and some words of encouragement. I felt strong at this point. I was running 11:49 min miles. Correct pace but not slow enough to conserve.
From there it was a slog through to Prestonpans. The forecast was rain. ALL the rain. CRAZY rain. But the blistering hot sun came out.
Did I have sun cream on?
So. It was hot. And sticky. And luckily the breeze kept me cool-ish. I knew I had to start taking on nutrition around mile 10 so I had a couple of a Jelly Babies and a swig of my concentrated Zero fluid in my Nutrition Pack. Sweet. Bleurgh.
At mile 12, the Maggie’s Centres bunch were waiting to shout and cheer for me. That was BRILLIANT! I was buzzing. Big thumbs up for the camera and a smile. And then “LOOKING GOOD, BEAN!” Came from the crowd to my right. Ironman had somehow teleported to mile 12. Brilliant boost. Thank you, D.
I’d just started to see the elites coming back the other way at this point, which was really cool. And I later discovered that one had dropped to the floor beside my mum, writhing in agony shouting for help. His muscles had gone into spasm and mum, being a very talented lady with arms and legs and other bits, was able to fix him!!
At mile 13 I was walking to take on water and I heard “GO BEEEEEEAAAAAN” from the distance. My family! With a GIANT sign! Amazing. So off I went again. Decent pace. Feeling good.
At mile 14 I saw my colleague Lesley and her hubby Dave which was brilliant. They took my picture and I was STILL smiling!
The next few miles were harder than I’d imagined. Seeing huge throngs of people coming back towards you and knowing you had 6 miles to the turn? That SUCKS. And the way the route goes you can see miles ahead. Still headed in my direction. Still can’t see the turn.
Garmin died around mile 18. Which was fine because by that point I was just trying to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and not falling asleep in a shaded hedgerow at the side of the road.
I’d seen my family again as I was approaching the turn which was lovely. But on my way back down past them after the BEAUTIFUL Gosford estate (which I hated every quiet minute of) I was a wreck. For the first time ever I hit The Wall. Hard. I wanted to stop. I hurt. My little sister gave me a hug and I burst into tears.
It was at this point I got irritable. Which is unlike me. (HAHAHA). Here is a comprehensive list of things which started to annoy me:
“It’s just around the corner” remarks from the crowds. This was fine when there was a mile marker “just around the corner” but more often than not, there wasn’t. And I had no Garmin so I had no idea where I was. And EMF had located their mile markers so infrequently that at one point I went from mile 16 to mile 20 without seeing one. Not easy.
Scuffing. Other runners scuffing their feet along. Slightly unsympathetic but I was too hot and very sleepy. STOP SCUFFING YOUR FEET LIFT THEM OFF THE GROUND I screamed in my head. If I’d brought my iPod (I didn’t because IT WAS SUPPOSED TO PISS DOWN) I’d have fired on a playlist at this point.
That’s pretty much all that annoyed me.
At mile 20, the sweeper bus passed the other way following the stragglers who were at their mile 12. Ouch. One guy in a lion costume was refusing to get in. That was quite entertaining.
After mile 20, I was in unchartered territory. My hamstrings seized at mile 22 and I had to stop and stretch beside a man dressed as a smurf. And then at mile 24 something wobbled and pinged in my left knee. But I kept going. I ran from mile 24 to the finish.
Ran is probably an exaggeration. I stumbled. That’s right. I stumbled to the finish line. As I got to the corner and onto the finishing matt, the heavens opened with a huge crack of thunder. I pegged it as fast as I could (not fast) to the line and crossed it with my arms out like a sodding Olympian.
All the hard work. All the pain. Everything was over. Someone thrust a medal at me and then I was being lifted up by Brian and my sister who’d somehow managed to get through security into the Runners Only bit.
Here’s me having just cried quite a lot.
From there it was a 2 mile walk to my friends house where mum massaged my legs and feet which were cramping out of control. I also had a salt bath to help drain the fluid from my joints.
I went through my phone which had all got a bit mental. So lovely to have so much support!!
So. It’s the morning after. Moving is, at best, difficult. I can’t bend my legs. And the sunburn on my arms has blistered. Which is super lovely. But. I have a medal dangling above my bed that weighs the same as my car. And. I’m a marathon runner. And I’m so proud.
Although I’ve never given birth, I will controversially compare this type of pain to that. Because I’m sure as shit going to want to forget how much this hurts before I do it again!!!
In hindsight, I should take a note of the things I’ve learnt for next time:
1. Sun cream. If the weather forecast is shit, PUT IT ON ANYWAY. This is WORSE than the legs because it hurts ALL the time. It’s like having a Chinese burn down my whole arm ALL the time.
2. Nutrition. Pringles saved my life. Most sports nutrition is sweet. Obviously. It’s the quickest way to get essential sugars and salts into the body in a tasty way. Except gels are not tasty. Apart from the lime High5. And the isogel I got at mile 23 (wasn’t a gel. It was too watery.) was DISGUSTING. So Pringles and shot blocks will be the way for the next marathon.
3. Hydration. I pretty much nailed this. I needed to pee within an hour of finishing the marathon and I take that as a good sign. I drank water at all the stations but rarely took in the full 330ml they gave you. However I wasn’t unbearably thirsty at any point.
4. I will hurt. I didn’t realise how much I’d hurt. Apparently it’s normal not to be able to go from seated to standing and vice versa.
5. Body temp. It won’t regulate now. I’m frozen and in 5 minutes I’ll be too hot.
6. Beer. All I could think about at mile 25 was beer. I’d have taken a pint, easy.
Overall, I had a brilliant day. It really was life changing. I feel like a different person. Like I’ve physically and mentally achieved something I never thought was possible. AND….. I DIDN’T SHIT MYSELF!!! (Massively relieved about that…)
I want have an Oscars moment to say a thank you to everyone who has been so wonderful over the last year.
Mum, Dad, Lissie, Sean and Brian who have driven me to places to run, who have run and cycled with me and picked me up when I couldn’t get up.
Rosie, Sarah, Janie and Emily – the Belchamber girls who never fail to be wonderful and supportive.
My Emily. For making me laugh and worry about shitting myself.
My colleagues for listening to me harp on about this bloody marathon for a year. And for being there on the day to shout at me.
Ironman – for your endless encouragement and support and wisdom. You really are a Marathon Angel.
The Twittersphere for all the support and love.
And a special mention for those that I did this for: Granny, Grandad, John, Sean and Mum.
She believed she could, SO SHE DID.