Last weekend I ran my first ever marathon! And I won’t lie I am bloody proud.
Running a marathon had always been something I had wanted to try. After years of seeing thousands of people run the London marathon either on TV or in person, I was always in awe that people could actually complete it and run that far. And the atmosphere from a spectators point of view was always great, people lining the streets to cheer on people of all ages and backgrounds running for charity, a personal best time or just as a challenge to say ‘I did it’.
Since this has been my first year out of full time dance training in 6 years, I decided now would be the time to tick running a marathon off my bucket list. I’ve always enjoyed running and I wanted a new physical challenge to try so completing to would be a huge achievement. I had initially applied for the ballot for the London marathon, however, gaining a spot is pretty difficult, so my next choice was Edinburgh. A beautiful city and part of the country, and as I grew up nearby I knew I could guarantee some home support from friends and family. Also, choosing to run for a charity that meant a lot to myself, and my family, made it even more special and made me want to give it my all.
Signing upto a marathon can be a huge commitment. It’s not just about the 26.2 miles on the day but involves months of training and running potentially hundreds of miles in the lead up to the race to prepare yourself for the challenge you are planning to undergo. I began training in January, luckily we didn’t have much snow but heading out for a run in those cold wintery mornings definitely took a lot of willpower. My training week usually included about 3-4 runs and 1-2 cross-training or strength and conditioning sessions. My long runs tended to be on a Sunday, where I reached my furthest distance 20 miles 4 weeks before the big day. Most advice suggests not to run the full hog before race day and that it is important to ‘taper’ down training by decreasing the volume and intensity. This allows your body to have more time to rest and regain energy, so that you are not too exhausted by the time the big day comes. Training for this sort of event is quite difficult to say the least. It not only eats up your free time but the impact of road running can put a lot of strain on your body. Long runs were draining and often left me completely wiped out for the rest of the day. But I enjoyed the freedom running gave me. Time away to reflect on my thoughts, be outside and enjoy the fresh air, and explore different areas of London in a new way depending where my run would take me.
Also I won’t lie, knowing I had to fuel myself more to ensure I had energy to run and still be alive for the rest of the day, meant I got to eat more food (which is always news to my ears!). This isn’t to say I went to town on cake and chocolate, but still making good food choices to fuel my runs and help me recover afterwards. On days where I would do my long run, I tried to fuel myself how I would on race day. This included having the same breakfast usually porridge with some fruit and peanut butter. And also a bit of trial and error trying different snacks, such as energy gels, to top up my energy stores as the miles crept up.
Race day came around very quickly. 4 months of training leading up to 1 day and 26.2 mere miles of running. I had a mix of nerves and excitement, but once I got going and having the crowds cheering, I settled in and began to enjoy the run and the views heading out of Edinburgh along the east coast. As much as I wanted to fully embrace the crowds and atmosphere, I still chose to run with my headphones just as I’d done in training. I found being able to listen to podcasts and take my mind away from the pain in my legs prevented me from hitting ‘the wall’ sooner than I would have.
But having my own cheer squad with my family and boyfriend really helped. And spotting them at mile 12, 16 and 20, not only gave a moral boost, but meant they could hand over some extra snacks to keep going (always thinking about food). I won’t forget seeing my mum and sister running behind me during the last mile to try and make it to the finish before I crossed the line. There was no way I was stopping at that point and I pushed that last mile as fast as I could feeling every ounce of pain from the past 25 miles. I found myself starting to well up in that last stretch. A mixture of pain, happiness and feeling proud that after all the hard work I could finally say
I DID IT!!!
4 hours 39 minutes and 17 seconds
My rough goal was 4 hours 30 mins but with the heat and general achy legs, I think my time was pretty damn good for my first time round. And the refeed after was excellent! I made the most of the excessive calorie burn from all this exercise by going out for pizza and ice cream afterwards with family and friends. And the following days after included a lot of rest, slow walking from the sofa to the fridge, and a wonderful 90 minute massage to help ease those poor little legs.
All in all, running a marathon was one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done. I may be slightly crazy to want to go through it all again as I have applied for the London Marathon again next year (keep your fingers crossed for me). For anyone thinking of doing one, I definitely recommend it. You don't have to aim for a super speedy time, but you will surprise yourself at what your body and mind are capable of!
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