Monday, 18 April 2011

The London Marathon 2011

Yesterday I completed the London Marathon. If it weren't for the pain in my legs I might not be able to believe that sentence, but they are definitely reminding me that it is true.

I had my normal porridge and banana for breakfast, and then headed off on the tube to meet Rich and Clem so that we could travel to Greenwich together. Getting the train was really straightforward, and then we followed the masses to the park. Ablutions and bag check were negotiated, and then we all headed off to our respective pens.

There weren't too many people in front of me, but looking behind there was just a sea of people which was very inspiring. I chatted to a couple of people as we waited for the start, and then suddenly the countdown began and we were walking towards the start. The clock said 3:30-ish as I crossed the start line, so it really wasn't too long. The first few miles I really concentrated on slowing myself down, which wasn't the easiest thing to do as I was feeling good, people were setting out pretty fast, and there was still quite a bit of cloud cover so it was fairly cool. I clearly didn't do a very good job as my second mile was just over seven minutes. Oops.

I knew my family were going to be at about 9 miles, but I didn't know exactly where. I missed them, but I did hear someone shout 'Go TC' which I knew must be them as I had 'Tanya' on my top. By this time the sun had come out and it was getting warmer. I also managed to miss the first Lucozade station as it was only on one side of the road, and by the time I realised it was too late. I was trying to eat jelly babies, but they weren't going down very well.

The next landmark was Tower Bridge, which was definitely inspiring to run over. It was shortly after this though that I had my lowest point. My stomach was really hurting, which it tends to do if I get dehydrated, and this meant I really didn't want to take on any fuel. I forced myself to have a gel though, and had an internal debate:

'If I walk will it make my stomach feel better?'

'No, probably not'

'Better carry on running then'.

As we approached 15 miles I spotted a loo with no queue so I dived in. I wasn't really sure if I needed to go or not, but I thought it might help my stomach. When we came out of the tunnel into Canary Wharf I was on the lookout for my family again, but I missed them. I let this get me a bit down, and I didn't enjoy the next couple of miles. As I approached mile 18 though I knew my family would be there again, and I was determined to get to them. Luckily this time I saw them, and I was able to hand-off my iPod, which I hadn't used, and turn down the offer of more jelly babies and painkillers.

That's me in green - the best I have as an action shot!

Around mile 19 I managed to stand on a bottle and went over on my ankle. Luckily someone put a hand out so I didn't fall, and I tweaked something in my quad. I stopped and stretched it a little, but it was a little sore for a couple of miles. Clem overtook me at that point, after asking if I was OK. I caught up with her a bit later, and we ran a mile or so together, which really helped my. We then lost each other as we went through a water station.

I had another low point around Tower Hill, but once I got to mile 23 I was determined to run the rest of the way to the end. I took it one mile at a time, and was also trying to use some distraction techniques. I started counting down from 100, but I kept forgetting where I was! I had been pouring water over my head and down the back of my neck, as well as running through the showers. The last bottle I was given had the cap taken off, so I ended up pouring most of it down my back making me pretty wet for the last mile or so!

The support crew

I saw my family again just by the Houses of Parliament, after yelling at them as I could see they were going to miss me! Then it was just the run down Birdcage Walk and back up the Mall. The signs at that point were from 800m, but I swear it was the longest 800m of my life. Clem caught up with me again as we rounded the corner to head into the Mall, and we ran together to the finish, although she just out sprinted me at the end.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Marathon Day

One day you will no longer be able to do this. Today is not that day.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Marathon Expo

So in order to pick up your number you have to go the Expo, which is out at the Excel centre in Docklands. The process was pretty straightforward, although I did get half way to the train station this morning before I realised I had forgotten my registration letter.

So here is the number I will be wearing on Sunday. I am in pen 5, although I don't really know what that means. I'm not even sure how many pens there are!

There were then lots of stands selling running gear etc. I had a wander around, but didn't really need to buy anything. I got a prize from Nike for running more than 26.2 miles in the month (I beat the target by more than 120 miles!). It was just a couple of wristbands and a packet of 'sports beans', but came in quite a nice box. I did buy a bargain running top, the same as one I already have and like.

The goody bag contained a can of London Pride and a Mars Bar, so Richard is happy since I can eat either of those!

I also saw the MSRC people as they had a stand, and I signed their wall. I'm looking forward to seeing them all at the end.

I'm feeling pretty good really. I'm carbo-loading and drinking lots of water. I have also worn flat shoes all week, and have been trying to stay off my feet. I ran on Tuesday, went to yoga last night, and will do a very short run on Saturday just to get everything moving. I just want to get on and run it now really!

Motivational quote of the day: Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Fundraising Event No.3

The final fundraiser that we have organised was a Grand National party. Richard went to Aintree for his stag, and since then we have hosted a Grand National barbecue every year. We decided to extend this to more people this year, and hence hold it in the pub as our little flat wouldn’t be able to cope with the numbers. Obviously since we weren’t having the traditional barbecue the weather was glorious!

We charged everyone £10 to attend, and that gave them an entry into the sweepstake, for which we had been donated some prizes. This meant everyone had a horse to cheer during the race, and they got something for their money as well. We had about thirty-five people there in the end, and a few more who paid and then couldn’t make it, so we raised about £400 from the ticket sales. We also got lots of entries into the ‘Guess the Finish Time’ competition.

A huge thank you has to go to The Hurlingham, who were brilliant throughout the whole thing. The room we had was perfect for the event, they were quick to offer help, and they didn’t charge us anything for the private room. There wasn’t even a minimum spend.

Thanks also to Riverford Organic and Berry Bros & Rudd for providing prizes, and finally to my family who all helped out on the day.

We also managed to get a collection at High Street Kensington tube station. Unfortunately we were allocated a Friday, with very little notice, so we weren’t able to get the day off work. Richard and I did about three hours in total though, and collected about £200, so it was definitely worth doing. It makes you wonder how well the collections at the really big stations do!

In other news this is now Marathon week! I am fully into taper now, and so just a couple of runs and a yoga session on the agenda. Other than that lots of drinking water and eating carbohydrates. It seems to have come around so quickly, but to be honest I am ready to run it now and would quite like to get it over and done with.

Motivational quote of the week: Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put in.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Reflections on Marathon Training

So I have now done the majority of my training, and am now in the 'taper' phase, so I thought I would take a look back at the training and how it has gone.

Having not trained for a marathon before I was kind of in the dark when I devised the training plan. I did use lots of resources to help me create it though. I have followed it almost completely, and am the first to say that I have been really lucky in not really having any injuries so far. I did have a bit of a sore foot, but it seems to be worse in heels than running. I have also had a bit of a tight calf, but lots of stretching and some sports massages seem to been keeping it under control.

The speedwork sessions have definitely made me faster as well as fitter. I've been doing 7 minute miles, which I didn't think I was physically capable of! The long slow runs haven't been as dull as I thought they might be. Once I get in a rhythm I can just keep going, and almost zone out a bit. I am also glad that I did some longer mid-week runs, as it meant that the long ones didn't feel quite so long. It also means that doing a six-miler now feels positively short!

Having done 21 miles last weekend I worked out that during my training I have run all the way from Canary Wharf to Kew Bridge, and from Tower Bridge to Kew I have run both sides of the river. That covers a huge amount of London!

I thought I was ready to taper, but now I am doing it I am feeling pretty restless. The idea behind a taper is to do your biggest training week about three weeks before the marathon. You then step your training down so that you have the maximum amount of energy left when you come to the race. My longest week was 42 miles, so my subsequent weeks will be 30 miles (75% of the longest) and 20 miles (50%). I will keep the intensity about the same, just stepping down the mileage, so I am still going to track sessions. The week before the marathon I will just do a couple of short runs and a yoga session.

It's so nearly here now, I can't really believe it. Hopefully this time in two weeks I will be a London Marathon finisher!

Best run: 21 miles. Because I can't quite believe I ran more than 20 miles!

Worst run: Guess what, track session again! It's a killer. This week was a pyramid - 400m, 800m, 1200m, 1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m. All at 10k pace.

Quote of the week: "Running is a lot like life. Only 10 percent of it is exciting. 90 percent of it is slog and drudge." David Bedford

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Running, running, running

I seem to have a touch of writer's block, and can't think of anything interesting for this week's installment. I feeling like all I am doing (other than work) is running, eating and sleeping. I'm tired all the time, probably because this is my longest mileage week.

In better news it is sunny, and my sore foot seems to have been a heel-wearing problem rather than a running one, or more probably the combination. Anyway, the upshot is that it doesn't really hurt any more.

The fundraising has slowed down a lot, but we still have the final fundraiser to go, and not many people have paid for that yet. I have also managed to get a bucket collection at a Zone 1 tube station, so I am hoping that will be a money-spinner. I would really love to get to £4,000, a figure that I would have laughed at if someone had suggested I would get to at the beginning. If anyone wants to sponsor me click on the link on the right.

Best run: 8 miles tempo. I honestly can't believe that I am now running 8 miles at 8 minute mile pace. At the beginning of training I was struggling to do 4 miles at that pace.

Worst run: Track session. Again. This is why I go to the track sessions. They are really tough, and there is no way I would push myself that hard if I was on my own. And none of the girls were there this week, just scarily fast boys.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


I can't believe it is a month today until the marathon. And if that didn't make it all seem rather real, then the arrival of this certainly did:

Yep, that is my registration for the marathon, and that is the number I will be running with. The numbers are issued at random, not according to your predicted finish time, to make it easier to deal with the bags at the end.

So in the absence of any fun races or trips away to talk about I thought I would tackle the issue of fuel. There are three aspects to fuelling for running, and I don't claim to be an expert on any of it, but this is what works for me.

Firstly there is the pre-run. For me this means eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and having something carb-heavy like pasta or pizza the night before a long run. In the morning I will have porridge, normally about an hour before I set out.

During the run is a bit more complicated. Once my long runs pass the two hour mark I find it useful to take on some extra calories. The main ways I have tested doing this are shown below:

That's Lucozade drink, jelly babies and a gel. I think I am going to stick to the drink and jelly babies during the race, since I find the gels disgusting, both in taste and texture. You also need to take them with some water to help them absorb, and I find it all gets a bit complicated. The advantage of jelly babies is that they are easy to buy, and much cheaper than gels! Luckily both the 'Meet the Experts' day and Silverstone had Lucozade there giving out samples, and so I have had lots of freebies.

The basic idea is to take on simple carbohydrates (essentially pure sugar), which tops up the glycogen levels that have been depleted once you have been running for some time. I have been quite sparing with the fuel I have used mid-run, so that hopefully my body is used to getting deficient and can deal with it better. Hitting the 'wall' is generally thought to happen when you have used up all of your stored glycogen. I don't claim to know all about the science though! It is important to practise using gels or whatever you plan to use, as some people's digestive systems don't react well to them, and you don't want to find this out in the middle of a race.

Finally post-run I try to drink/eat something as quickly as possible. I usually have a For Goodness Shakes drink as I stretch immediately after finishing. This is supposed to have the perfect mix of carbs and protein to help you recover, all I know is it tastes nice! I also generally crave something salty, and hula hoops are the snack of choice at the moment. I then whack a potato in the oven while I finish stretching and shower, so I probably eat that about an hour after I get back.

As I said at the beginning, this is what works for me, but everyone has there own routine, and it is really a case of figuring out what suits you.

Best run: Long run - 18 miles - it's amazing the psychological difference it makes having run a distance before, and this was a lot easier than my last 18 miler, even though it was much warmer. I even had to stop and buy some more water.

Worst run: 8 mile tempo run. I had to cut this short at 6 miles, as I just wasn't feeling it at all. I think I had done too much after quite a hard run at Silverstone, and my legs were protesting.

Motivational quote of the week: Champions are born in the cold, wet, dark months