41. Reflections

It’s coming up for two weeks since I ran the London Marathon. I spent the first seven days with the medal around my neck, and since then its been in my bag everywhere I go. I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever come to getting an Olympic medal. I’m desperate to get back out running but for the first time in my life I’m doing as I’m told and resting my knee another week before hitting the streets again.

I have been completely overwhelmed by everyone’s encouragement, support and donations – the figure raised is now around £2000 which is incredible. Thank you all so so much for this amazing generosity.

On reflection over the past few days, as I’ve recounted my marathon mission many times, I’ve been thinking about my top ten things I would tell someone who is going to do the London Marathon (or any other marathon for that matter); things I have done and wish I had done. Here goes…

10. See a physio at the start: I only saw one when my knee got bad, and they could have helped from the beginning to prevent or at least limit the damage by identifying potential problems you may have. It’s worth investing a few pounds into seeing a great physio (just don’t listen to the bit when they say you shouldn’t run because it’s bad for your knees).

9. Enjoy the carb loading: Do it for anything over 13 miles, and practise your whole race day routine – try and run at the same time a race is (usually starting between 9 & 10am) to practise eating your two breakfasts at the right time.

8. Keep a diary: It may sound pointless, but record all your running, gym sessions and rest days. Put in what you did (eg hills, intervals, weights, long run), how long for and how you felt after. It’s really good to be able to look back and track any factors influencing your training, both helpful and not so helpful. Be disciplined and stick to a plan. Pace it, and build up gently.

7. Energy levels: Make sure you practise carrying enough gels with you, and can consume water regularly. Try adding electrolyte tablets to your water, particularly on long runs.

6. Tapering is weird: Fact. I thought it would be easy, as I knew in my head why and how it would work. But when it came to it, I really struggled and started to doubt I hadn’t done enough and thought I should be out doing longer not shorter runs. Trust me, it’s weird but necessary.

5. Get your head in the game: Find headphones that you know will stay in/keep still, and use them on every run. Find music that you love, it’ll be playing for a few hours solid.

4. Don’t high five kids: Not much more to say. Sounds awful but this was the best thing I heard on the morning of the marathon, and was a bit of a life saver. Kept me from being distracted. Apart from the mum holding the baby, too cute not to high five.

3. Shoe laces: Check your shoe laces are tied up tight enough. I never had a problem until the actual day when for some reason I just did them a bit loose. Big mistake. My toes still hurt from them rubbing inside.

2. Supporters: Don’t forget they’ll be loads of people supporting and encouraging you right from your first training session, with you every step you take. They are vital, a lifeline to keep you going. I could not have done it without them. Try and get a few people to come and cheer you on. It makes such a difference. If you’re doing the London marathon, give out your runner number for those at home on the day so they can track you online. They feel like they are involved, and it means everyone knows how you’re doing – I had friends in Uganda, South Africa and Australia tracking me! Get your name printed on your top and thousands of people who you don’t know will cheer you on. It’s such a boost when you’re struggling.

1. Watch the clock: Look at the timer when you go over the start line. That was the most irritating thing the whole way round – I’d forgotten, and it meant I had no idea what my pace was. Learn from this!

Two more top tips:
~ It’s really hard to take everything in, it can be quite overwhelming on the day but you want to try and remember everything. I tried to remember moments, and every so often just think to myself, ‘flip, I’m actually running the marathon, look around and enjoy it right now’. I’d try and think of one thing that stood out about each mile, mainly to give me something to do – at the end of each mile I’d go over the list and add a new thing from that mile.
~ Read ‘Marathon running for mortals’, it’s the best book out there for “normal people” wanting to run. It was really realistic, and a real help to me.

Bizarrely, if I was offered to run a marathon in a months time, I’d do it. Next year, no. I absolutely loved it, but there is a high level of commitment to training needed which is quite intense, time consuming and becomes relentless towards the end; once is enough! There’s a part of me that knows I could run it faster and that’s frustrating. Maybe one day.

I’m proud of having done it, but now it’s time for a new challenge…