I have always admired people who participate in sporting and fitness events. The dedication to their personal goals, the commitment to their training and the sheer bravery in some cases too.
In 2014 I found myself a spectator for my partner who ran the London Marathon and again a year later for a friend. On both accounts, I was able to soak up the atmosphere, to see and feel the excitement, not only of those I know, but of all the like-minded strangers around me. All running for different reasons, their own personal story and journey. Part of me wanted to be a part of it all, but part of me was doubtful that I would be able to spare the time for my training and recovery in between, (being a group fitness instructor and taking 5 spin sessions a week as well as body conditioning classes this didn’t seem likely). I had only participated in two fitness events previous, a 10K run and a Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest. I enjoyed them both, however I didn’t do any training, and I knew that I would not be able to run 26.2 miles without a sufficient training programme.
The ballot was open for London Marathon 2016, and my partner and our friend both entered. I had suggested helping with training, but secretly I wanted to join in 100%. Unfortunately they didn’t get into London, but decided to sign up for Edinburgh Marathon instead. So I bit the bullet and signed up too! They had both done this before, I was feeling a little inexperienced in comparison, and to compensate I began a 24 week training programme as opposed to an 18 week programme they were doing. I thought this would help me gradually get focused and to work out how to fit my training in around my job and fitness classes.
With the marathon feeling like it was miles away and I had plenty of time to prepare, I found myself fairly relaxed with my training to begin, but as I started stepping up the miles, I became more focused. I would try and get 4 runs into a typical week. 2 of these being 3-5 miles of intervals on the treadmill, (it’s easier to keep track of times and paces on the treadmill when doing this kind of training). With this I would also do a short constant pace road run and a longer one which over the weeks I gradually built up the mileage on.
3 months before the big race my life got turned upside down. My relationship ended, myself and my daughter moved house due to this and my training was no longer important. Once settled into our new home, I slowly started training again, I actually found that it acted as ‘an escape’ and helped me to clear my mind. I was also able to secure an employment contract at Crewe Lifestyle Centre our brand new site, set to open 1st April. Things started looking up for me and instead of just training, I was enjoying my training again.
I was now only doing 3 spins a week, but I had taken on 5 Les Mills Grit sessions per week, these are HIIT classes, and as a Les Mills instructor I had to participate in 90% of the session myself. The sessions are great and I felt they complimented my marathon training. Unfortunately I was doing too much, and this resulted in both tendon and ligament damage in both legs. I had regular sessions with a sports physiotherapist and reduced my runs to 2-3 per week as I felt the Grit were helping build my strength and fitness levels so didn’t feel that my training would suffer from the decrease.
Sunday May 29th, the big day! Surprisingly I wasn’t nervous, I was excited. I was a part of the atmosphere. Once over the start line I realised, this was it, this was everything that I had trained for, this was my day to prove to myself my worth. There were bands on the course keeping runners upbeat, plenty of spectators supporting us most of the way around, the scenery was beautiful, we ran up and down the coast, it was great. I even ran a little with Ben Smith, the man who is completing 401 marathons, in 401 consecutive days! Until he ran faster than I could that was! I got to mile 22, and started to slow down, the furthest I had ran in my training was 20 miles. Running miles beyond here were running into the unknown! My legs were tired, it was a lovely sunny day, but perhaps a little too hot, and I began to feel sick. At the water stations I was drinking but also tipping the water over me to cool down. There were many runners that were walk/running their way, I was arguing with myself at this point, on the one hand I felt like I wasn’t running very fast anyway and that walking for a bit might help me get to the end and on the other hand, I had never walked in my training and I was scared that if I started walking I wouldn’t be able to run again! I saw the 25 mile marker; I was sure I had already passed this and felt disheartened! I decided to walk, alternating between walking and running for just over half a mile until the crowds were getting thicker, more and more spectators were encouraging us to keep going, and as I came to the final stretch with the crowds in their hundreds and the noise of everyone and the entertainment I felt my daughters energy, I don’t know how, but I was drawn to where she and my mum and her partner were standing and watching. Seeing the delight and excitement on her face made me speed up and get to the finish line.
I finished! 4 hours and 11 minutes! I was over the moon, my daughter was delighted. She was so proud of me, my family’s happiness was overwhelming. My hips and legs ached, I was hot, hungry and emotional, but the accomplishment that I felt, the pride, love and happiness were absolutely amazing. My training was a much bigger journey than I ever anticipated, and honestly I am grateful for it. Grateful for the opportunity to do the training and the marathon, grateful to all my friends and family who supported me, listened to me bang on about running, looked after my daughter so I could go and pound the pavements and most of all for believing in me when I doubted myself.