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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.

Julie Creffield runs Brighton Marathon

I’m smiling now!!

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.

Jenni Falconer interviewing another athlete

Jenni Falconer interviewing another athlete

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.

Me and Dean

Me and Dean

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..

I finished!!

I finished in 5.54.16

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!!

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My well earned medal

  1. April 12, 2014

    I will of course be posting about my continuing journey on Twitter and I have a facebook page: http://facebook.com/fattie2fittie where I also post updates from my blog. I’d of course feel totally overwhelmed that a famous TV celebrity runner such as yourself is following my page, if you wouldn’t mind? Hehe. I have posted links to your blog posts on there too – hope you don’t mind?
    I’m going to have to check out your blog in it’s entirety this weekend. I’d love to join a running club but don’t have the confidence and worry I’m going to be the slowest, fattest person there. I need to get my mojo into gear, lose some weight again and see where that takes my running and my confidence. 😉

  2. April 12, 2014

    Loved reading all about your experience! I started running in 2009, with osteoarthritis of the knee (incidentally, running has helped with it). I lost 8 stone of weight (although last year fell off the wagon and out on 3 stone again!). Unable to run for a year after doing my knee ligaments in during a 5 mile race. Have lost my motivation to run – until I found your website! You reminded me that it’s okay to be a bigger runner and that we can run faster than a few thinner ones. We don’t always have to finish at the back.
    As soon as I get the okay to resume running again after a recent health scare, I’m going to pick myself, dust myself off and start running from scratch all over again. I just downloaded your online books and am hoping your story and inspiration will help me on my way.
    Thanks for making it feel okay to be a curvy runner.
    Oh, and I’m sure you’ll be signing up for another marathon next year! 😉
    Many many thanks from this fellow fat girl on the run.
    Jackie
    🙂

    • Thanks for this Jackie, I too have had issues with knee ligaments but have improved as my training increased. I wish you all the luck and do keep me posted with how you get on!!!

  3. April 12, 2014

    Just watched you on Channel 4 and googled your site. Your are fabulous I only started running 18minthd ago and have just done first 1/2 marathon you have given me the courage and inspiration to go for a full one but not till next year. Thank you x and I hope you have recovered xx

    • This is exactly the reason why I run marathons, and why I agreed to be interviewed by Channel 4. Keep me updated with your progress Tracy xxx

  4. April 10, 2014

    Brilliant Julie, well done. I love the bit about the Tiger – those costumed runners really do help to motivate you. It reminds me of being overtaken at the London Marathon finish line by a guy in a rain-sodden, woolen lobster suit! Forced me to do it again the following year (well that and the need to beat my brother!) I always thought if he could do it….

  5. Well done! Getting round a marathon course, whether running or walking, is always more about the mind than the body. My last Moonwalk, my knee, which had been injured a few weeks before, gave out at mile fourteen but, with a knee support, painkillers and sheer bloody mindedness I made it to the finish in 6:55 which cut an hour off my PB. Commando ran the Manchester marathon on Saturday, also with a knee injury and also managed a PB. Anything is possible and he’s already looking for his next one. Think I may retire from power walking them though because, as you say, the training is a big time commitment.

  6. April 8, 2014

    I spent Sunday chasing “Flashers” (my running buddies) round the Manchester Marathon on Sunday and, standing at mile 16, I have to confess that when I wasn’t cheering on my friends I was looking for the larger ladies and scanning their bibs so I could call out support to them by name. Although some were “in the zone”, I do hope it helped them. I know it helped some by the grateful glances cast my way with a softly mouthed “thank you”. We relocated to about a mile from the finish and it was amazing to start seeing the same runners and names pass us by as they approached the end. I so enjoyed shrieking encouragement at strangers and it felt fabulous to see some who were walking visibly lift from the support and start a gentle run again. I thought about you running Brighton and when we’d finally cheered in the last of our buddies, we headed over to the finish to meet up with everybody and, even though we were spectators and not runners, a few of us in our group got very emotional and broke down in tears at the sight of the finish line.
    Well done, Julie. Incredible achievement.

  7. April 8, 2014

    Way to go!! You are an inspiration.

  8. April 8, 2014

    Awesome race report! And yes I always laugh when I hear someone trains with 10 pound vest. What?! Try a 70 lb vest…then you will know my hardcore training. LOL You done good girl!…no you did a heck of alot better than good. you were Maaahhrvelous!

  9. Great job! Thanks for inspiring me!

  10. April 7, 2014

    I found your blog after a comment on mine (http://marathonblogtasticblog.wordpress.com) and saw you yesterday at some point on the Brighton Marathon course. I just wanted to say hello and well done, it was tough. I think it is too easy to be disappointed not to achieve a time goal and to see this as a failure but it isn’t! It is amazing just to complete a marathon, getting to the start line is tough on its own! My run wasn’t as I’d intended either but hey ho there are positives to take away, new friends, experience for the next time and a shiny medal! I admire your positive attitude – happy running x

    • I feel proud that I finished it…maybe I will focus on shorter distances for a while before attempting another marathon though!! Love your blog by the way!!

  11. April 7, 2014

    Well done, hun, I did a marathon walk a couple of years back and that was tough enough, let alone a marathon. I did rush my training with only two months worth, but I managed it in 8 hours. One of the proudest moments of my life! 🙂

  12. April 7, 2014

    Congratulations, when I was reading your blog I was having flash backs of when I did it and there was also the tiger man running the marathon. It is funny how many emotions you go through whilst running and especially when you see your friends and family cheering along the route. I can totally understand when you said you are not going to run another marathon in the near future as I have made that decision about 2 years ago and now I prefer to run a half marathon.

    You are a great inspirations to all of us (I am a big girl and sometimes it’s not easy to go out there and run cause I am embarrassed to be judged). I was waiting eagerly for your blog today to see how did you do.

    Now time to relax and enjoy a glass of wine x

  13. April 7, 2014

    I got a bit emotional reading your account! Great for you and I’m inspired. I’ve done 3 half marathons (one was yesterday) and planning my first full in Oct. Thanks for the inspiration! Marathons and half marathons teaches you more about your mental state than your physical. But I sure in the hell don’t discount the physical! ~Cheers

  14. April 7, 2014

    Just recently found your blog and thought of you yesterday! Congrats on your accomplishment. You are super inspirational and I totally appreciate how honest and open you are about your thoughts and your process.I started running a bit for the first time not too long ago and this blog has been a tremendous resource. Many thanks and congrats again! you rock!

  15. April 7, 2014

    You are amazing and well done!!! I only hope I manage to get round Edinburgh Marathon when it’s my turn but you’ve helped to make me feel it just may be possible. WELL DONE!!!!

  16. yeaaah!!! 😀

  17. Congrats! This is so impressive and such an accomplishment. As a girl who struggled to run walk to finish a 5K, I am in awe.

  18. April 7, 2014

    CONGRATS!!! What an amazing accomplishment. I am so proud of you. During my half marathon, there wasn’t a moment that I didn’t want to quit. But I finished- and so did you!!!!

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] The lovely Chantal would be looking after me today and she soon put my mind at ease by asking me some light hearted questions about my running, what distances I was doing and what races if any I had done recently, turns out she did Brighton Marathon too!! […]

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  3. […] finally in the last mile of the Brighton Marathon last month when I felt like I was actually gonna die, a bunch of kids of about 12 started mimicking […]

  4. […] ran London in 2012 and it was an awesome experience finishing in 5.50.39 a PB of course. In Brighton last weekend it took me 5.54.13 at least 20 minutes slower that I should have been able to run […]

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