Until 7.4.2019 I was one of the 99.5% of people who have never run a marathon. That has now changed.
How did I get there?
Some 4 1/2 years ago I started C25K with expert coaching from “Laura” who spoke to me from my iPad. I remember how scared I was having to run for 8 full minutes uninterrupted on the treadmill. At the same time, I banned gummy bears from my glove compartment and managed to lose about 3 stone in weight. I did Parkruns, built up to the GNR and other half-marathons and started to train for Kielder Marathon in 2017. Training went well and I got up to 30k on the railway paths. 3 days later, I ran Durham City 10k and halfway through I got an almighty pain in my plantar fascia. Hobbling the last 5k to the finishing line was a big mistake as I could not run (or even walk) for a good while. That injury stopped me running for 4 months during which I lost stamina, endurance and speed …the only thing I didn’t lose during that time was weight.
After the injury, I decided that something had to change. A friend told me about Nick Constantine, a Chi running coach in Whitley Bay. I had a single coaching session with Anna. My running was filmed, analysed and criticised. To my horror, I noticed that I ran like a cartoon character (legs half a meter ahead of the rest of the body and my shoulders hiding tight behind my shoulder blades). It looked absolutely hideous. So, back to basics. Learn to run again from scratch. Inspired by McDougall’s “Born To Run” (a must read for every runner) and Ken Bob’s “Barefoot Running”, I decided to give barefoot a go. For 6 weeks my skin hit grass (that is the most soothing experience when you have plantar fasciitis), tarmac and gravel. …and no, I did not encounter any dog-do or glass splinters. Very slowly I changed my running style and gained some strength back. But I still lacked confidence, always worrying about overdoing it and getting plantar fasciitis again.
In October 2018, I got my usual “Sorry” magazine and the too small running top from Virgin London Marathon (I’ve got a collection of those now) and decided to enter Manchester Marathon instead. After looking around and checking with others, I decided to download and print the ASICS training plan. A super plan which helps you to train 4 times a week with speed sessions, Parkruns, long runs, fartleks, recovery runs and strength training to get you around a marathon in under 4 hours. The plan is still completely unfollowed on my bedside table. I didn’t dare to do speed sessions, being frightened to get my dreaded plantar fasciitis again.
In February Anna and I joined the “Weekend Longer Runs”-messenger group and for the following weeks, I did a long run every Sunday covering 26, 27, 30, 27, 32, 34, 25 and 18km with a shorter run midweek. During the long runs David Browbank gave me all the advice he collected in his running career (“…a fixed point in the distance does not run away from you”, “don’t start too fast”, “tiredness is only in your mind” and “distract your mind with the 7-times table when you get tired” …). Anna also got me through some very useful strength training following Jeff Horowitz’s “Quick Strength for Runners” book.
On Saturday we drove down to Manchester and met up with a lot of Elvet Striders for a “carb-loading-meal”, arranged by Corrine, in an Italian restaurant. (I think carb-loading is totally overrated; I practised carb-loading for 12 years and at the end, I still struggled to run for a bus!). The next morning was not too hot and not too cold, slightly overcast, perfect running conditions. Luckily I bumped into my running-pal David who started in the same pen as me. We ran together for most of the marathon, relaxed at a decent manageable pace just above 9 min/mile. 10km passed in under 57 min, half marathon mark in under 2 hrs, 30k in 2:49. After 30k I needed to use some of David’s mental tricks to keep me going, concentrating on fixed points ahead of us and running towards them, being happy to have done another short segment. After 35km I had to let
David run off and slow down myself. The flat road ahead felt like running up Redhills Lane and I needed to walk here and there. Even reciting the 7-times table didn’t work and I gave up when I got to “47”. 2 miles before the end I heard a familiar voice shouting for me. Mike Elliott gave me a big shout and run for a bit next to me. Every energy boost was needed to keep me going /running. Then I had Alex Brown overtake me (David and I overtook him much earlier) looking fresh as a daisy and whizzing past me with no signs of tiredness. I didn’t even try to keep up with him. The last 2 miles were crowded with great supporters and somehow I managed to get over the finishing line faster than anticipated after 4:11 hours. That’s nearly as fast as Stephen Jackson (at least per kg of weight that is).
…after all that effort, I still don’t know why Tamsin Imber thinks a marathon is “like a strawberry cheesecake”. But hey, I might do another one and get behind her secret.