Marathon Debut – Rome, Sunday 8th April 2018

26.2miles or 42K…it’s a LONG way!

When looking at my annual bucket list I realised I’d been adding too it rather than crossing things off so decided to book my first marathon! I’m not going to lie, there wasn’t much research involved, I fancied a city break (also on my bucket list), I wanted to run in warmer weather and tie it in with school holidays. That was it…a few clicks later I’d entered the Rome marathon.

Once I was happy with my training plan (they are so many online, the mind boggles) I started in November, 5 months before race day (plenty of time?!). As a full time mum + working evenings it didn’t leave much time. At every given opportunity I HAD to run…. long, short, intervals, tempo. Additional cross training and strength training would have been beneficial but without the luxury of time there had to be sacrifices.

As the weeks progressed I soon found the long weekend runs tedious, especially on my own in the unforgiving winter months. My saviour was the running clubs social runs on Sunday mornings and doing additional miles either side. I later substituted my long runs with XC and County Championships races which I wouldn’t recommend. I wanted to do it all (as usual) and had a pretty solid base fitness to fall back on if needed.

In comparison to my usual short, fast races I had to consider race nutrition combined with a sensitive gut. This could get messy! I tried different combinations during the training. For me gels are a ‘no go’ so ended up making my own non-bake date slices. These little powerhouses are packed full of natural sugars and easy to digest. Check out my previous blog post for the recipe.

Another consideration was race kit.  I’ve had the unfortunate misfortune of chafing in previous endurance races, it’s not pretty and very painful so high up on my priority list. I ended up covering my feet and most of my body with Vaseline! It did the job perfectly. A little cheaper than buying and trying new kit…but admittedly not as fun!

Training went well until the final taper week. On completion of a hard interval set I suffered with sciatica. I’d never experienced nerve pain before; its debilitating and utterly frustrating. I couldn’t run, ‘game over’ did cross my mind. Thankfully I was down in Devon the weekend before flying so had 2 of the best leg massages from my mum (who is and has been a therapist for over 15 years. I may be bias but she is awesome). Then another 4 days before the race and used a power plate as much as possible. If you are not familiar they give a deep/intense massage, great for injury.

We flew out to Rome on Friday, arriving too late for the kids (bad parents booking the cheapest flights ☹) and registered at the Marathon village/Expo the following day. Sounds straightforward BUT with 2 kids HARD work. Imagine a hot day, not really knowing where you are going, getting the metro with a pushchair, having to stop for snacks and emergency toilet breaks what felt like every 5 minutes, you get the picture…ARRRR (a marathon felt like the easier option to race day childcare. My husband rocks!) I didn’t really think this whole process through when booking. I had an unrealistic vision, it would be easy (who am i kidding), I should have known better. That said it’s good to get out of your comfort zone every so often or life gets stale 😉

Fresh pasta from a local market went down a treat Saturday night. I had avoided high fibre foods for 3 days and was missing veggies but didn’t want to recreate a Paula Radcliffe moment on race day! Alarm set (early) but couldn’t sleep maybe due to nerves or the fact I was sharing a bed with both kids just to keep the peace.

Sunday morning and my legs felt rested. This was the longest period without training since I don’t know when. I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere. Peanut butter and banana on toast was inhaled even at 5.30am, I was well fuelled and ready to go.

I was in wave C with the fastest pacer running a completion time of 3.45. With a target time of 3.30 I thought I had been put in the wrong wave but not having run this distance before who was I to question the experienced officials? Conditions were perfect, 20 degrees at 8am with no wind. I knew I had to stay well hydrated if I wanted to achieve my target time. 3,2,1….we were off at 8.52am. It didn’t take long to get into my stride, I was placed just a few lines back from the start of the wave. I made the most of the water stations every 5k and sponge stations every 7.5k. The heat was getting to me and I was flagging at 25k. After a little nutrition I soon perked up and continued to run a consistent 4.48km. The energy from the Italian crowds and bands kept me going when I needed it most, I was loving this! As the route bought us back into the city passing the famous sites (Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, Vatican city) I was on for a sub 3.30. From that point I went for it and heard my little support crew with the final km to go. The finish line was in sight and I completed my first marathon in 3 hours 24 minutes. The training had paid off, I had beaten my target time (with a wee stop along route!) and now it was time to enjoy my holiday with the family and EAT my bodyweight in gelato!!

I would highly recommend this marathon if you’re up for venturing out of the UK and don’t have little children 😊