At 7am yesterday morning I made the mile and a bit journeyuphill through Brighton to Preston Park for the start of the Brighton Marathon 2014. The streets were empty bar a few stragglers from the previous evenings festivities, the only sound was the seagulls which had kept me awake for most of the night.
I was tired. But more than that I was scared. So scared.
If you had asked me a month ago how I was feeling, it was excited but a back injury saw me taper earlier than I needed to and then everything started to hurt. My left ankle, my knees, my hips and my back all taking turns in giving me gip. For 3 mornings straight I have woke up feeling like I have had a good drink the night before, sick with nerves.
Perhaps I should have deffered my place, but I was under so much pressure to see it through. I was raising money for charity, Channel 4 were following me as part of their coverage, my training had put a stress on my relationship the last few months too…so many people were counting on me doing it.
So there I was at the start line in the light rain unsure of what the next few hours would entail fearful that it would all end in tears, and maybe even in hospital. But anyway, I had got to the start line and that is half of the battle. I met a lovely lady who follows me on twitter and we took a selfie which lightened the mood. I had seen Paula Radcliffe briefly in the VIP area earlier and she was starting the race giving hundreds of people high fives as they went through the start line. We were off.
I started off steady but it wasn’t long before I hit the first hill, I had my headphones in listening to Marathon Talk podcast trying to feel like this was no different to along Sunday training run. I was ultra aware of my body though and could already feel a bit of back ache by mile two.
I didn’t really have any close friends or family on the course for various reasons so that was playing on my mind a bit, but I had girls from my running club both in the race and as spectators so at least I would have some support. At about mile 4 though I saw my cousin Daisy which was a lovely surprise, she was there supporting her partner that was running. But it was a real boost.
Channel 4 had recruited me as one of the runners they would be following for their coverage of the race. This had involved an afternoon of filming last weekend on Brighton Pier on the hottest day of the year so far. I had also been interviewed first thing in the VIP area by Jenni Falconer who funnily enough knows me via twitter. It helped settle my nerves to some extent but I also knew they would be looking out for me on the course and just hoped they wouldn’t want to talk to me. In the early stages of the run they did catch up with me but luckily it was only visuals they were after.
It wasn’t long before we had hit the seafront and I was going strong. I had taken on a gel and a couple of paracetamal to take the edge of the pain that was getting worse with every mile. At about mile 7 I bumped into a couple of ladies from the Run Mummy Run online group I am part of and I ran with them for a short while, but I couldn’t keep up and fell back a bit. Along the seafront we could see the faster runners on their way back which was great because I got to see my East London Runners colleagues who were flying around the course.
By about mile 8 I was surprised at how many people were walking. I know that sounds a bit rich coming from me who has often walked sections of long races, but mile 8 seemed incredibly early to be walking and it was in such huge numbers by runners who were younger, and slimmer than me.
The slope of the road was making my ankle hurt and by the time I got to the half way point I was convinced that I would have to pull out soon. I had managed to run until this point, apart from a few short bursts of walking as I took on water or painkillers. My speed had been ok with some 10.5 minute miles and nothing slower than 13 minute miles on the hilly bits I guess. But it wasn’t a confident first half, I was just trying to get around rather than really pushing myself as I figured the pain was just going to get worse.
I crossed the half way mark in about 2 hours 40. I spotted my running club buddies who screamed loudly from behind the barriers and offered me jelly babies, all I could manage was “this is hurting so much” “everything hurts” but at least I was still running.
The next section of the route took you up one big long residential road, for like 4 or 5 miles…oh my days I think I actually swore as I looked up the hill into the distance unable to even see where the runners stopped or turned. By this point people were walking on both sides of the road, so that meant people an hour ahead were already walking. It was soul destroying. I walked, I ran then I walked some more but with everyone around me walking it was hard to find the motivation to run when I was struggling with serious pain in my hips and back, and was all out of painkillers. I think I had given up a bit, knowing I was nowhere near the 5 hour target I had set myself. I kept looking at my Garmin trying to do the maths, I figured it was impossible now to get a decent time.
But then something changed.
I heard a small child say “look mummy there is a tiger”
The tiger man was behind me. The Tiger Man, Paul Goldstein was also being followed by Channel 4 and I had heard him say he hoped to get round in 6 hours, 6 hours and that is while carrying a 9 foot tiger on his back. I figured if he could do it then so could I, I’d already been overtaken by a rhino, a storm trooper and peppa pig!! So I started to speed up again, and with each runner I passed I said “Dont let the tiger get you” which motivated a few people to pick up the pace. I managed to hold him off for a couple more miles but at about mile 20 he overtook me and I was in pieces by that point and just had to let him pass.
At the mile 18 marker I was expecting to see the supporters from the charity I was fundraising for MAMA Academy but I couldn’t see anyone at the place where they said they would be. This was tough as I had looked forward to a bit of moral support. So mile 18 to 20 were pretty low, and the route was very uninspiring too taking us through an industrial area. Again lots of walkers on both sides of the road. I was still run walking, stop starting often when members of the public cheered me on.
One lady turned to me and said “We are ahead of a lot of slimmer girls”, it shows I’m not the only person who thinks about such things. There was a guy running for “Help for Heroes” with a backpack, he was power walking as opposed to running, but getting incredible support from the crowd. Someone asked him how heavy his pack was to which he replied “20lbs” I thought about that for a while. I am currently about 35lbs overweight, so technically speaking I was carrying more weight than the “help for heroes” guy and I just found out the tiger mans tiger weighs 30lbs, so I was carrying the equivalent plus a little more.
No wonder I was finding this race so tough.
At the turning point just after 21 miles I could see the pier, the sun had come out too and I realised if I could maintain a 12 minute mile I could perhaps get under 6 hours but it would be close. So I started picking people off. Everyone was walking, so I got lots of support from the crowds along the promenade. But it hurt. It hurt so much. Just before mile 23 I saw my 3 running club friends Ninnette, Claire and Alex and they were amazing. They decided to run with me for a bit to keep me motivated and it worked, because I so would have walked otherwise. I noticed the tiger man in the distance and they were like “You can take him” but I didn’t think I could. Low and behold I did take him though, overtaking him with about 1000 meters to go. It was amazing. I was getting really emotional now, at the support I was getting, at how tough it had been, how close I had been to beating my 2012 time.
The crowds by the finishing straight were amazing the sound deafening. With about 500 meters to go and with me starting to see double, and feeling very lightheaded, Decathlon star Dean Masey appeared and shoved a microphone in my face and said “can I interview you for Channel 4?”, to be quite honest I can’t remember what I said other than the fact I was crying and saying how hard it had been. It was such an amazing climax to a race of such highs and lows.
I crossed the line in 5 hours 54 and 16 seconds, only 3 minutes or so slower than my London Marathon time from 2 years ago.
I was then interviewed by Jenni Falconer who was just so nice to me which made me cry even more, I can’t believe I was so emotional it was just so overwhelming. For the last 3 weeks I had been worring that I wouldn’t even get to the start line, then it was fear about not completing the course at all and I had done it.
Fifteen months after becoming a mum, having lost close to 5 stone in body weight I had got round the tough Brighton Marathon course, and in a respectable time too. I stand by my blog post from yesterday morning, everyone should run a marathon at least once in their life. The things that you go through emotionally, what you learn about yourself and what others can learn from you..
As I said in my post race interview while sniveling into Jenni’s shoulder “Everyone can do it, you just need to set yourself a goal, work hard towards it, and just never give up”
This morning I am in a whole heap of pain, my shoulders are surprisingly my biggest problem (perhaps because I was so tense), and of course my legs hurt, but no blisters, no chaffing, and no missing toenails.
I had an incredible experience this weekend, but also an amazing 8 months training for it. I am gutted that the training didn’t translate in the way I hoped it would and there was no PB to show for all my speed work at track (Sorry Grant) but the race yesterday was very much a mental one, a battle with myself to believe and prove that I could do it.
I have no desire to ever do another marathon (well not for a few years anyway) It is a huge commitment and takes a lot from you emotionally, but boy is it worth it for your sense of accomplishment.
Thank you so much to everyone has supported me, everyone from East London Runners (Especially the 3 ladies who ran the last mile and a bit with me) and to everyone who sponsored me, the ladies from Run Mummy Run who are a constant source of support and to Fabian who has put up with all sorts from me the last few weeks.
Look out for the Brighton Marathon footage on Saturday at 7am on Channel 4…but ignore the bits of me crying please!!