London Marathon, April 2019

I said to my husband ‘just 1 marathon’ as it has been on the bucket for some time. After completing the Rome marathon and getting a good for age place for London maybe I’d do 1 more! I’d also been trying and failing to get in though the ballot for over 6 years.  

After receiving entry confirmation, I searched for marathon plans based on an ambitious 3hr 15 min finish time. This time I would be running on home soil, wouldn’t be breastfeeding and was in a better place physically. Unless you challenge yourself you never know what you are truly capable of achieving. The bigger the risk the bigger the achievement, if it goes to plan!

There is not, and never will be a one size fits all approach when it comes to a marathon planning. It’s down to you to do the research and adapt/write a realistic training plan that fits around your commitments. Finding a suitable online plan and making it work for you takes time but is essential. Careful planning will do doubt increase your changes of a successful race.

I start structured training in October, but it wasn’t until January that I really knuckled down and focused. I followed the plan as best I could, 80% of my running was done on the treadmill whilst my littlest was in the Creche. Often gazing out the window wishing I was outside but taking full advantage of being able to pre-set my distance and pace and just focus on my running. I developed a love, hate relationship with tempo runs. Hating them during but feeling immensely proud after achieving each once, especially as they gradually got longer and faster. I was seeing improvement; the hard work was paying off.

I find it useful to race a half marathon a few months before a marathon to see where I am in terms of fitness. Unfortunately, I picked up a virus a week before the Bath half and had to make that tough decision to cancel. My first DNS. Looking at the bigger picture it was the right thing to do. London was my main goal, my A race.

With registration out the way along with last-minute panics I was feeling full of carbs and ready to race. My 2-week taper had been boring as hell. I find these weeks the hardest. I turn into a constant whinger but still swim, do core work and a few very short runs with quick strides thrown in to keep those fast twitch fibres sharp. This time I got it right, my legs felt light as feathers and I was mentally and physically rested. It made me realise just how often I train with heavy/over trained legs.   

Race day. Full of nerves but still able to get a carb breakfast down me, I was keen to get to the start line and pleased I had made it there injury free and in good shape. I had to stick to 4.38 per km to achieve my goal of 3.15. Once in the Blue Zone with my luggage handed over, this was it. As always, before a race my bladder seemed incapable of holding even an ounce of water. I opted for the female urinals. A New experience for me and certainly one I’d repeat. Quick and easy and no queuing!

I got into Wave1 nice and early still wearing my oversized bin bag, Just as well as I had one last wee minutes before the start. A bin bag covers everything, good tip! I eventually found the 3.15 pacer, a short guy with a large flag attached to his back. Totally oblivious this man was going to make or break me.

We are off…. but not as you might imagine, just a slow plod to begin. It takes a good 5k to get into your stride and even then, there was very little room to move. Loose the pacer now and there would have been little chance of catching up. for that matter. Runners were packed in like sardines, the Monday morning London tube commute springs to mind. I thought other runners would drop off soon and I would have the luxury of space again soon but to my amazement this didn’t happen until mile 17. I then realised I was slowing my pace to stick with pacer, craziness! I had nothing to lose, felt relaxed so pushed on. The crowds were as motivating and noisy as everyone tells you. I have no doubt their energy and enthusiasm kept me strong during the later stages of the race.

Km after km I kept checking my watch, altering my pace accordingly. If I kept this up, I would come in under 3.15. This was a real confidence boost and my legs still felt strong. I was able to pick up my pace over the last 5k and had energy in the tank for a sprint finish (marathon sprint finish that is!). That was it, I’d done it in 3 hours.11 minutes. That was 4minutes quicker than my goal and 13 minutes off last year’s PB. I was elevated and pleased to have finished strong. It was then time to find my family, guzzle 2 x pints of milk and eat a banana. Rest and recovery were the next steps and I was ready for it.

Would I do it again, who knows. I succeeded this time, and everything came together on the day. Pretty thankful really as I had given everyone my race number so they could track me live. Nothing like a little added pressure to perform well!