This time last week as predicted, I was walking a bit ‘John Wayne is big leggy’ and feeling not as fresh as I might – it being the day after the marathon. I was a bit tired – but this tiredness was more I suspect due to post-race champagne excess and an early start for Monday work than the race effort. Yes – standing up after a time seated was a slow process, but I did not feel as destroyed or wrecked as I thought I might. The cocktail of euphoria, relief that it was behind me and an excess of adrenalin was serving me well.
Eight days on – the detail of my first marathon experience is both a fading memory and as clear as if it had just happened a few hours ago.
I have been reading other Stirling marathon race blogs – and is good to recognise similar versions of the day to my own, but also to read of a completely different race experience. Illustrating how with a marathon, or any mass running event, while it is a collective experience it is very much your own race.
Somewhere along this marathon journey – I came across this blog by Angela – That extra inch– Angela was also running her first marathon and her training sounded quite like my own. We exchanged a few comments and words of encouragement via our blogs in the latter weeks of training, and I enjoyed reading her race story.
Her account of the day had many similar observations and emotions to my own – we both love a good spectator sign, we both had a secret and not so secret time goal, and were both chuffed to join the marathon club – and as we completed the race with only 7 seconds between us, we must have been pretty close running companions amongst 1000s of runners.
On the other end of the racing spectrum – I have been following the training and race prep of Owain Williams aka Scottish runner. Owain was training for a sub 3hr marathon which he achieved with room to spare and great aplomb – Bravo Owain! Reading his account provided a great insight to how to apply mental toughness and the benefit of good race planning, not to mention the deserved reward of dedicated training paying off. ( Owain’s time 2.52.52 ) But – with his 6 min mi pace and the ( apparent ) ease with which he dealt with the finish lap section and other obstacles – it brought home to me the difference between experienced racers and those of us who just look to get to the finish.
If you are a runner or a marathoner be it a first of 50th time – I think reading the accounts of fellow runners’ race experience is both enlightening and fascinating, but I do appreciate that it might not be quite the page turner if you are not a runner.
As it happens – my own race story is not one full of great incident or drama albeit it has a good ending – and as I was mainly trying to keep myself moving for 26.2 miles, and it was raining – I don’t have many pictures, except those in my head.
Maybe this is why it feels a little bit unreal, now I am back to normal life and have cast off both the marathon training regime and the overriding fear of failure that has been with me since I decided to do this many months ago.
But of course, there are a few moments that stick in my mind – first off how emotional I felt at the start. Friends and family know that I am easily given to crying – both with happiness and sadness – so it is maybe not surprising that I was going to well up at some point – although I think the acceptable place for a good greet should have been the finish line !
Instead, as I lined up waiting for our wave to start, in the mildly surreal environment of a Safari Park I was quite overwhelmed and found myself sobbing – proper tears were running down my face. While race starts are given to drumming up a kind of collective emotion, particularly around music choices – it was not hearing the Proclaimers for the 3rd time that started me crying – but a deeper level of emotion I felt about how far I had come to get to this point. And a quiet acceptance that I was definitely going to finish the race.
My own race then went pretty well with some predictable setbacks but nothing too major. In the first mile, it was a crowded start so I was able to follow the accepted advice of start slowly, run slower. In fact, I was so slow that not only did I think that mile one was the easiest mile I had ever run – but my pace spooked my husband who was following me on the tracker because he thought I was going too slowly 🙂
So the first section is quite undulating and after a slow start, I did go a bit faster than possibly I should have – with my 10k split time at 59.27. My legs felt fresh and I was enjoying the day – looking out for supporters I knew would be at Doune which is about 4.5 miles in. The crowds on the race route in those early sections through Doune, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan were amazing – and I understand now how important crowd support is. I did as many high 5s as I could and hoped I was smiling, as advised( top tip from a fellow runner). I do have a tendency to grimace in concentration.
At the Stirling Universty section, I encountered a rookie error of not having scrutinised the race route closely enough. I reckon I spent so much time worrying about the laps at the finish I did not bother to check much else. So I was a bit derailed by the steep hill loop and by this time it was raining quite heavily – so I decided to slow down and put on music- up until then I was not using headphones.
I thought this next section a wee bit tough but it marked the half way point which is a nice feeling. My half time was quite slow at 2.13. Miles 13 – 17 I expected to be a bit light on crowd support and as it is a long straight stretch these miles were a bit of a slog. I tucked behind a group from Calton Athletic and just tuned into my Van Morrison on repeat!
By mile 17 I could see Stirling and what I thought was the start of the lap section. Much has been spoken about this and it was a bit of a mental test to run 2.5 laps at the end – but for me, the biggest challenge was knowing where the laps started. As I ran into Stirling I was looking for the gantry and not seeing it, then seeing a 21-mile marker, and a 3hr 30 pacer, I panicked that I had somehow taken a wrong turning. So I crossed over to a race official who told me I still had to keep going to reach the gantry 😦
Confusion aside, coming into Stirling the crowds everywhere made me feel like a proper runner, even if my arrival in the city coincided with me hitting a bit of ‘a wall’ at mile 18 and nicely timed as I caught sight of my family and friends. Of course seeing people who have come to support you is a massive boost – even if I was dealing with the reality of legs that did not want to work, a dodgy tummy and 8 miles to go.
The good thing about the lap set up is knowing you will see supporters again – the not so good thing is the course had a few nippy hills and narrow sections and disappeared into some very quiet spots – and this made it hard for me to keep running. Owain had given me the advice to try to not walk – but between miles 18 and the finish, I did resort to walking some sections. My pace dropped to a slow as 12 min miles, and I was reassessing my finish time from the ridiculously optimistic Chariots of Fire 4 hrs 30 to just finishing before the sweeper, to fingers crossed do it in under 5 hours.
I was wearing a watch – but I am never very good at doing the maths or reading the dial or even properly knowing what I have to do to reach the desired time in races, and I think in this case I was going a bit woolly of thinking.
Not much else to report other than my phone battery almost ran out and with it my sounds. I started developing cramps in my legs as I was doing the last few miles ( think I was drinking too much water ), but then once I had passed mile 25 I found a wee boost of energy and while I won’t say it was a sprint finish – I am proud of how I ran the last 1 mile 385 yards.
As I was approaching the finish line I caught sight of the gun time and saw it edge to 5 hours – and was a bit gutted – until I saw that the pink wave time was 4.40 something.
Hallelujah – I crossed the line over the moon to be comfortably under 5 hours and full of I bloody well did it and other end of race exaltations of delight (no tears).
My time was a sweet 4.40.00 which I was very happy with.
While I have been training for this race I have thought of lots of analogies around journeys and other life changing or transformative experiences. When I was in the latter stages of training and dreading the inevitability of the full marathon distance, it felt a bit like when I was pregnant with my daughters and full of the fear of childbirth, while knowing I had to go through with it. Now having completed a marathon I can say from my experience of both that childbirth is much harder and unpleasant ( sorry sisters ).
What it felt more like was studying for my finals – when you have to try very hard to keep studying and it all gets a bit boring and you try to remember stuff you learned 3 years previously – and know that it might just not come back to you on the day of the exam. I am very glad to have had a training plan and coach to guide me through a first marathon and I am sure that Sally’s training not only got me through the marathon but has helped with my recovery. ( as has my general health and nutrition since following the eating plans from fitnaturally )
Likewise in the days after the marathon, I have felt that same mix of giddiness and mild hysteria that I remember after my university exams were over. Alas, I have a day job to go to which means I have not been able to party to the same extent as I did after my student finals – but I have made a brave attempt 🙂
Will I do another one? I don’t think so, but I do understand now why some people do go on to run multiple marathons.
* one and only marathon as promised to husband
A BIG THANK YOU – to everyone who has sponsored me or made a donation to Smalls for All using MyDonate or Scottish Women’s Aid via the Justgiving page Through your generosity I have managed to raise £ 522 for Scottish Women’s Aid and £ 326 for Smalls for All. I am a bit behind in my thank yous and admin generally, but to anyone I have not managed to thank personally, I really appreciate your support.