Monday, 28 May 2012

My First Marathon - full disclosure

Good news - I'm still alive to tell the tale!

Edinburgh was hot on Sunday 27 May 2012. When I got up at 0630 to eat breakfast (porridge, nuts & seeds, green tea, mint tea and a bit of pineapple, plus my supplements - iron, B vits, co-enzyme Q10 - all 3 hours before the start line, as recommended by Marathon Training Academy), the haar was thick and Leith was cold.

The haar had burnt off by 9am, but I was determind not to let my calm and relaxed attitude go with it! Dressed in my running kit, I kissed goodbye to my family and caught a bus up Easter Road (bus driver: "is it not cheating to get on the bus?"). London Road was busy with runners and the public toilets there were quiet - AND they had hot water and hand driers, what a luxury on race day!

I walked up to Regent Road, chatting to a girl from Southend who'd come up for her first marathon too. It calmed me down to be a welcoming local! The queues for the loo were pretty long, but the stewards directed us to about 60 loos in the car park of St Andrew's House, where the queues were long, but moving. It was quite depressing to see a security officer from St Andrew's House catching a couple of women who'd relieved themselves round the back of a stack of stone blocks instead of waiting the queue. They looked quite shamed, and I know nerves make you do funny things - but St Andrew's House didn't *have* to give up their car park for the day, they'd done us runners a good turn - and they get repaid in widdle. [sigh.]

I'd never before found myself in the loo queue with just a minute till the starting gun. But the race was so massive that I knew I wouldn't miss anything, and I wasn't alone. I was amazed at how calm I was! I took my first energy gel (topping up the glycogen stores) and did a little dance as I waited to get to the start line - which happened about 1008. One of my running friends saw me dance and said "you won't be doing that at the finish line!". Which of course was a gauntlet, thrown down!

It was hot but there was no point in worrying about it. I was confident there would be a coastal breeze, plenty of water stations, and that the residents of East Lothian would be out in force with their garden hoses. I'd put on sun cream and carried my running water bottle, and my kit was as planned - capri leggings and a technical t-shirt from last year's EMF half marathon.

It was hard not to take off fast, especially as the course is downhill for the first few miles, but it was so busy - by far the biggest race I've every done, surely - that I managed fairly steady 10 minutes miles. Mile 3 was my home turf, which was brilliant - high fives with friends and shout-outs from my neighbours really made me feel on top of the world!

By mile 4, my hips and lower back began to ache, but at that point we found the first of the impromptu showers on the route, courtesy of the carwash on Seafield Road. Hurray!! I found someone I knew who was in the team relay, and chatted a bit. He told me later that I spurred him on - he thought that if I was doing 26 miles and he was only doing 8 miles, he really ought to be going a whole lot faster than me. That, and he's at least a foot taller than I am!!

I had a few niggles but most of them came and went. I was pretty aware of my IT band for a while, but new trainers are waiting for me anyway. At about mile 16 my thighs took over pain duty.

There were no absolutely terrible moments. Yes it was hot, but apart from feeling my cheeks burn a wee bit, I didn't really notice after the first few miles. No point in thinking about what you can't change - I think I spent more time wondering whether to stop for a pee!

I listened to a variety of podcasts - there was a very interesting episode of The Food Programme about the soya bean, a dose of Wittertainment from Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo which is my regular Saturday morning long run listen-of-choice, the News Quiz, and a very long Marathon Training Academy podcast about marathon success stories, where I learned that George W Bush and Oprah Winfrey have both completed marathons - helpful to know as I didn't really want them to do better than me!! The podcasts were great diversions, especially as, despite the beauty of the East Lothian coast in the sunshine, it is fairly repetitive view!!

I had a range of things to think about when the going got tough. My kids told me to listen to Katy Perry's "Firework", one of their favourite songs,  and remember Scott dancing to it at school assembly. There was to be a pizza for dinner when I got home. There was meeting up with the Relay Team members in the pub in the evening. These were images to keep me going reserved for when I needed extra motivation. And d'y'know what? I didn't ever think about them. I never hit the low point I expected. It never got as bad as I'd feared it would.

At about 20 miles, people around me started walking. It seemed like everybody was walking through the water stations, and I was the only one not stopping! That was a bit of a spur. After all, by 20 miles, you're almost done, why stop?! I was well aware that "The Wall" could hit me at any moment - after all, I'd never run beyong 20 miles before - so if *that* was going to get me, or indeed, if I was going to get heatstroke or hyperthermia, I really should get as far as I could before I needed to take a rest!

Speaking of which - I'd never seen so much runner carnage in a race before. So many people getting first aid, including being put on drips! and lots of people in the recovery position on grass verges. Also, I passed rather a lot of people who'd, erm, passed rather a lot... judging by the smell and the state of their legs! I'm pleased to say that the worst I did was burp (which I did quite regularly!), which I'm putting down to sensible eating last week and my 7am brekkie.

Water stations were all well organised and sometimes we even got the choice of a bottle with or without a lid! I was pouring the water into my running bottle and emptying the rest on my head! I liked always having my own water with me, and in the third quarter of the race I was really glad of it - the longest section without a water station was also the hottest, with the least shade, least breeze, and least crowd support.

I had a Science in Sport Gel about every 40 minutes. My training has really helped me to notice when I need to take on fuel, when I start to get a bit tired and 'itchy'. I had a fetching bum-bag to carry them in which, I'm glad to say, didn't chafe!

My mum and her boyfriend Robert were there to cheer me on at about mile 13. That was lovely and lifted my spirits - in fact it made me quite emotional and I was choking back the tears!

I was so excited to see the big orange 25-mile sign and find myself still going strong. I knew that whatever happened I was going to finish the race now. And then I saw my husband and children!! What a thrill - they weren't sure they were going to make it! They gave me a big wave and took my picture - but now I was sprinting with joy! I still had about three-quarters of a mile to go though!!
3/4 mile from the end, grinning like a nutter and FINISHING STRONG!! (Note the non-chafeing bumbag.)
This last section of the race was a bit deflating. The centre line had been taken down, and the public were wandering along the same part of the road as the runners - it felt pretty disrepectful, as if we were stragglers, but there were still loads of us! But frankly I was giving it my all, thinking "this is it, I'm finishing strong - get out my way, pedestrians!"

The crowd were thick as we got to the finish line. I overtook everyone I saw with my final energy burst and crossed the finish line with a massive "YES!!", loud enough for race compere Bryan Burnett to comment on! The time on the gantry was 4 hours 36 minutes - the time on my watch was 4 hours 19 minutes!!

I was so happy to get my medal, I fixed my eyes on the medal lady and dipped my head to get her to put it round my neck. She gave me a big smile and said "well done, hen", and I was ridiculously, hysterically grateful and happy.

One I was out into the reunion area, I burst into tears. I'd done it! I'd completed my first marathon! After only 8 weeks of training (albeit after 15 years of building a solid running base!) it had taken me 4 hours 19 minutes to run 26.2 miles.  I could not have been any happier.

The stats for my performance are here, as tracked by my Garmin.

I did that little dance I'd started at the starting line (Paulo Nutini's 10/10 was the tune - it had been on the PA but I also had it on my ipod!) and tried to find hubby and weans. It took a while but we were reunited!
"Mum, can we go home now? it's too hot..."

I tried to have a shower but they were freezing! So I had a bit of a douse and put on my clean clothes. I realised my toes were hurting. "Well", said a lady in the changing room, who was a veteran of 5 marathons, "you can't do a marathon without expecting to lose a few toenails!", and she showed me the toes she'd lost nails from she'd lost in the last few years! I was unprepared for this - Marathon Training Academy, you should have told me!

Next stop was the Well Hung & Tender stall for a deluxe burger - featuring onions, bacon and cheese, accompanied with a cup of milky tea. It was so unbelievably good, I can hardly begin to tell you - but my face should give you a hint:
Nothing could have tasted better!

We had a long, hot, uphill walk back to the car, and I had to carry a nearly-five-year-old on my shoulders for most of it! It was possibly the hardest part of the day. But it was closely followed by meeting up with the other Leith Primary running parents in the pub. I was cheered when I arrived, and then hugged, congratulated, quizzed and bought drinks!

It remains to be seen if I lose toenails. It remains to be seen how much sponsor money I've raised for the Leith Primary playground fund. It remains to be seen whether I'll do it again next year (although I suspect I'd like to!). But I ran my first marathon in 4 hours 19 minutes. I do have what it takes to run a marathon and change my life. And I ROCK!!!

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