Friday 16 September 2011

My most important race

Nearly two weeks ago, I ran the marathon that I've been building up to over the last few months and I've not told you about it yet, I'm clearly a bad blogger ;) It was the most fantastic race, the one that I think means the most to me out of all my races so far, and I've tried to write this blog post about it lots of times, but just couldn't find the words. But, I need to share with you what happened, and whether these are the right words or not, I need to start writing again.  So, I'm afraid this is a bit long and rambling, but bear with me!
There were two reasons why this was such a momentous race for me.  

Firstly, I didn't stop. 
I just kept on running.  

Now that may sound like common sense but in every marathon I've run, I have always got too tired or felt too much pain, and decided I had to stop to stretch, to get my breath back, or to walk for a bit. This time, that didn't happen. Admittedly I walked through a couple of the water stations which had cups (so I could get some fluid down my throat, not down my top!) but didn't go to all of them, and for the first time, I was really conscious of a physiological strength that I seemed to have found from somewhere that meant that even when it got hard, I kept on running. I did have one trick though, which I think helped - I used the counting to 300 method that I've read about a bit - apparently Paula Radcliffe does this, and it definitely helped to keep me focused up some of the hills and I'll keep trying it when things get hard in future races. But anyway, the not stopping was a big deal for me and as I passed other, obviously seasoned, marathon runners, and many guys, I really did feel like I deserved to be a part of this race. 
The second reason this was a momentous race for me, was my finish time, which is of course directly related to the not stopping.
I went into this race feeling very positive - I knew I had trained hard, that I hadn't been injured for ages, that I'd lost weight - and so I knew I should do well.  I ran my last marathon four months ago in 4hrs 47mins and I really believed that this time I would be able to finish in under four and a half hours.  I was really, really hopeful and knew I'd be incredibly happy with breaking that time.  So, I started the race with a plan - a pace plan - I knew how fast I wanted my average pace to be to make my time.  But I just felt much stronger and after the first half a mile or so just decided to go for it at a faster pace - to run how I felt comfortable.  I thought if I was flagging trying to keep to that pace later, I could readjust at half way - but I kept going and amazingly managed to maintain a really consistent pace throughout.  Although it turned pretty sunny towards the end (I finished with bad sunburn), and along last section of the course there wasn't really any local support, and hardly any runners, my nutrition worked (some lucozade sport over the first 13 miles, and then a cereal bar at 17 miles), my legs worked, but most of all, my mind kept me going and I amazingly finished in the grand time of...wait for it, drum roll please.... 

4 hours 9 minutes and 12 seconds.
This is a massive 38 minutes faster than my last PB!! I can't explain just quite how elated I was, and still am, at running that time!! Finishing in 4hrs 9mins turns me into someone I never dreamed I could be - a sub 4 hour marathon runner. That goal is now realistic and at my next marathon in April, that's what I'm going to aim for.  Sub 4.  I can't believe that's even a possibility, but it really is.
Now, I know that thousands of people run sub 4hrs, and to be considered a decent marathon runner by many runners, I'd have to break the Boston qualifying time (for 2012, for a women of my age, that's 3hrs 40mins) but for me, sub 4hrs is just fantastic.  My previous marathon times are below, and they were all really hard work, which maybe helps show why this is such a big deal for me..... 
2008: 5:00:12
2010: 5:41:46
2011: 4:55:17
2011: 4:47:55
So, that's my marathon report.  I know it's not a usual one in that the organisation, location, course and crowds haven't really been talked about, so I should just add that I am tremendously grateful to the Thanet RoadRunners and the fantastic marshals for putting on a race that obviously really suited me and that I hugely enjoyed.  I will definitely be back next year to try it again. I was very lucky too that I was able to drive home straight after the race, and although I had some mild aches and pains the next day, it wasn't anything that noticeable, and I was fine by Wednesday when I went for another run - I'm sure that not having any injury or particular pain (other than the obligatory loss of a toenail) has helped make me feel even more positive about the whole experience!!
Anyway, I'm back into the training now, and getting ready for my next race: the Blenheim Park Half Marathon at the beginning of October.  It's a fundraiser for the British Heart Foundation, so hopefully I'll be able to break my 2hrs target that I still have for the half, and raise a couple of hundred quid at the same time.
I really do love running.  A marathon course is definitely where I belong.