Posts Tagged ‘Brighton marathon’

MARATHON CHECKLIST FOR FIRST-TIMERS

10
Apr

It’s countdown time, your Facebook page is filled with running posts, injury posts and article upon article about what to do, what not to do, what you should have done, what it’s too late to do now and oh-my-god-you’ve-done-everything-wrong posts. Right? Yeah. ‘S’ok. Anyone who’s run a marathon has been there and heard most of it and I think I’m right in saying that you need to treat the advice in the same way that you treat all the suggestions about how to live your life, how to bring up your child, how to fold your laundry …… blah blah blah! Listen to all of it, nod, respect every viewpoint and then take the bits that are going to be good for YOU and run with them. In this case, literally!

For what it’s worth … here’s my list. Ignore at will or take what’s useful. Whatever you decide will be the right decision for you at this time.

– Whether you’ve done the training or you’re taking the ‘it’ll-be-alright-on-the-night’ approach, too late to dwell on should-haves and could-haves. Focus purely on the day that’s coming and getting yourself from start to finish. Remember – it’s all about the finishing photo!

– Don’t wait till you’re stressed out the day before your race to iron your name on your shirt. Do it a few days before so you have time to resort to Plan B without hysteria!

– You’ve heard it time and again but PLEASE don’t ignore it. NO NEW CLOTHING ON THE DAY! Nothing. Nada. Not even nail varnish!! God forbid – what if you find your new colour clashes with your laces????

– TOE NAILS. Cut them, file them … Brighton marathon is flat so little chance of you losing any – but why take the risk, eh?

– Double check your breakfast ingredients are all ready. Nothing worse than waking up to find Mum’s bought the wrong oats by mistake or forgotten to buy the all-important bananas!

– NO CARB-LOADING! You know that post-Christmas-dinner feeling when you can’t move because you’ve eaten so much? Why on earth would you over-eat the night before a big race – ensuring you arrive at the start line sluggish because your body’s still trying to cope with all that pasta! Stop it! By all means increase the carbs a little in the couple of days leading up to race day – but by ‘increase’ I mean perhaps a baked potato with your usual chicken and salad, maybe extra oats in your smoothie for mid-afternoon snack! Yeah, really! THAT is ‘loading’. No ‘double portions’. Double portions will merely lead to double trouble.

– I would love to know the percentage of marathon households emitting the familiar sound ‘OMG SAFETY PINS WE HAVEN’T GOT ANY SAFETY PINS’ on race morning. They’ll be in your race pack but invariably there’ll be a mishap. Just dig them out of the sewing box NOW so you’re not searching on race day and getting stressed. Besides, you know that if you have loads waiting you won’t need any because that’s just sod’s law!

– Charged your Garmin? #justsayin’

– Couple of wet wipes tucked away somewhere (they fold nicely in a mini sandwich bag) will see you comfortable if you get short-taken!

– Prepare for THE WALL! If (more likely ‘when’) you hit it you will feel that it’s affecting you far worse than any other runner. It isn’t. The wall is about perspective and strategy. Plough through it, leap (mentally) over it, go (figuratively) around it … but it DOES help to have a plan of action. Write a mantra on your hand and start chanting it to the rhythm of your feet (‘Nearly there, I’m nearly there’ or ‘I can do this, I WILL do this’ … or anything positive and ‘rhythmical’). Avoid phrases like ‘Don’t give up’ because they use negative words even though the meaning is positive. When you hit that wall your brain will only hear the ‘don’t’!! Maybe this is the time you can start counting strides? Pick a number, count, look up, take a drink, repeat, etc. I know somebody who wrote a few friends’ names on their hand and as they hit the wall they started having individual conversations with them (in their head). Whatever you do, it’s up to you. It’s never easy. You’re running a marathon, for goodness’ sake! There’s a reason very few people ever accomplish it. This is one of them. Give yourself the BEST advantage. PLAN your assault of that wall and remember … on the other side it’s time to run for home!!

– The expo ……… It’s exciting. It’s full of marathon fever. You can get lost in there. You can spend hours ……………… ON YOUR FEET! GO HOME! Feet need to be UP!

– Finally … marathon week … expect flu symptoms, bronchitis, IT band playing up, that old ankle injury will come back, you’ll feel ill, knees are aching a bit, that cough has returned ….. etc. etc. etc. You are not alone. Even better, for the vast majority of you these symptoms are all in your head. I can hear you right now: ‘Are you kidding? This sore throat/(insert appropriate symptom) isn’t in my head. It’s real.’ Yes, it is. Sorta! But it’s only a ‘temporary real’. I PROMISE YOU – a mile across that start line those symptoms will have disappeared (you’ll have a whole new set of things to think about haha). For now though, this is your body’s way of making you take notice. It’s merely saying ‘Time to compromise! You want me to carry you for 26 miles? Then feed me, give me water and get these legs on the couch!’ The least you can do is listen. It does have a point, after all.

I AM EXCITED FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. A marathon start line is an incredible achievement all by itself. Look around, feel proud, feel the buzz, ditch the excuses and do what needs to be done. The magic only happens outside your comfort zone. Go chase it.

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Inside my marathon head …

19
Apr

Welcome to the weird (and scary) world that is INSIDE MY HEAD!! If you want to know how to train for an ultra – or how to run a marathon – then may I direct you swiftly AWAY from this blog?? If, however, you’d like a list of ‘what not to do’, then … put the kettle on!!

So here we are again – Brighton Marathon time. I really REALLY want a PB. I want a particular number that will excuse from marathons guilt-free for the rest of my life! That’s not to say that I won’t run longer or shorter – but I just don’t particularly like this distance! So I want to see a ‘4’. If you’ve been following this blog you should know by now that when I say ‘4’ that’d be 4:59:59. That’ll do.

What have I done to train for that? Em … let’s see. Four weeks ago I ran the New Forest 50k. That’ll be my over-distancing, then lol My legs were great after that – or so I thought. I was ever so happy. A decent run and the only thing that got in the way was my headspace. And then? Can you believe that suddenly, five days AFTER the race and for no apparent reason at all, my IT-band started screaming at me, with my Plantar Fasciitis quickly joining in? So … training was quickly changed from ‘just keep the miles going, no need to taper’ to ‘Sweet F.A.’

Grrrrr.

It was hard to get psyched up for a run with a niggling injury so I put in place a Plan B. Plan DNF should perhaps have been an option but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to accept those letters yet, so Plan B was going to have to do. As I voiced said plan to my best buddy, I could hear Talk Ultra’s Mark Laithwaite’s voice in my ear … Episode 22  the Talk Training section. I could almost see him banging his head on his desk in disbelief. He’s laughing away, telling stories of people who’ve set their half-marathon and 10k PBs in a marathon! ‘Well, how does that work?’ he remarks (somewhat indignantly). I must add that although I’m jumping up and down on the couch yelling ‘Oh yeah, Mark, look over here, I’ve done that, too’ … it’s fascinating to then listen to his explanation of, indeed, ‘how it works’. I say ‘fascinating’, because it is. Encouraging, it’s not. But hey ho, I’m one of those people currently ‘stuck’ in the battle of contact v. cadence v. core v. coordination and if YOU are relatively new to running, then you need to listen to Episodes 21 and 22 of the above-mentioned Talk Ultra podcast! So it was with muted apologies to Mark, that I actually ‘planned’ to run a reasonably decent (for me) half-marathon and then reassess. If at that point I could feel that persevering further was only going to lead to unnecessary injury, then I would consider accepting the dreaded DNF – but at least with a half-marathon PB!! *cue Mark Laithwaite* ‘If you race shorter, you can run faster and harder.’ Well, in a way, I was racing shorter, wasn’t I? Hmmm. Besides, I’ve never actually run a half-marathon as a race in its own right, so there! Lol

So … now you know exactly what NOT to do – EVER – let’s just skip to the start line! Was I ready? No. Was my knee hurting? Yes. Was I going to pull out? No. My wonderful physio Jamie Webb constantly reminds me that if I tell myself something’s going to hurt, it will! So I start the race quashing any ITB complaints, mentally sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting LA-LA-LA-LA-LA at the first sign of any moaning from that region of my leg. It kind of works. I say ‘kind of’. Around Mile 7 or 8 there’s quite a decent downhill and whereas I’d been hoping to pick up a few seconds with the help of the slope, that was probably the most painful section of the course. I was forced to stop and stretch. It didn’t bode well so early on but I picked up, stuck with my plan and ran for the halfway mark and a PB it was. Yeah, yeah, it doesn’t really count, I know – but it’s good for the soul. 🙂

It wasn’t fast by any standards. I don’t do fast (yet!!) #everhopeful But if I’d been able to sustain that pace (roughly 10.30/mile) for the rest of the race I’d have been ecstatic. Unfortunately, an unforeseen toilet break brought me to a standstill for almost ten minutes!! I’ve never had to stop before but just didn’t have an option (at least when you’re trail running there are TREES and no queues!!!!). I took advantage and stretched and this was probably helpful but my pace – mentally and physically – took a massive dive after this. Note to self: This is something I’ve REALLY got to work on – this pace drop mid race – no matter what the distance! Hmmmm! The death-defyingly dull and ugly course that is Brighton marathon didn’t help, either. However, I had a man in a red tee-shirt with HEAVY LOAD written on the back – a wee bit in front of me. I spent the time making sure he didn’t get away from me. Once I came out of the power station and onto the home stretch I did a better job of sucking it up and getting the job done. In fact, I was really pleased with my own personal performance over the final 4-5 miles. Too little too late, perhaps, but I finished feeling good about those final miles. I set off on my little ‘seek and destroy’ mission and reeled in the ‘Heavy Load’ man – followed by another targeted ‘pair’. I passed a LOT of people on those four miles and, even better, I stayed in front of them!! My final target for the race was a pair of yellow tee-shirts who I’d chased for MILES!! (I’d picked them up at mile 15!) I caught them in the final 800 metres – my day was made!

Even the sun came out – HEAVEN!!

I’m happy. I didn’t see my ‘4’. Dammit! Got to do another one now  I did, however, still see a PB. 5:11 over last year’s 5:17.

Next time.

Next time I’ll see a ‘4’.

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26 reasons not to run a marathon

12
Apr

26 reasons not to run a marathon

Why not 26.2 reasons, you ask? Well, because there are at least .2 reasons why you should! That’s why. One is because it’s a pretty amazing challenge to overcome – and the second is because when you cross that finish line, for one second you are completely invincible!

So – the 26 reasons not to run? I’ll leave those up to you. You already know what they are.

That’s not to say that the journey to invincibility is not challenging. What a joke! But it is also, I think, deeply personal. You have to constantly find things that work for you – not what seems to be working for everyone else. Books and training and 1001 top tips can help a lot, but in the end it’s all about you, how well you know yourself and, yes, how well you manage yourself!

6.30 a.m. Fresh pineapple. Porridge and raisins. Loo x 3.

7.30 a.m. Out the door. The Brighton Marathon signs are up. The city’s waiting.

8.30 a.m. Hook up with running buddy. Final loo stop before race. Everyone’s laughing at the long queues and commenting how nobody really needs the loo. ‘It’s just nerves …’. Ha! I wish! Another several litres later … Maybe I should have bought some Huggies Pull-ups!

9 a.m. And we’re off! Well, the rest of the pack is off. It’s another 15 minutes before Mandy and I reach the starting line and Goddammit I need the loo again – and I’m not kidding! It’s not nerves! It’s called a full bladder!

Our run/walk race plan is to warm up with the first 5k, then do an hour on Run 12 mins/Walk 3. Psychologically, we only have to do that four times and then it’s an hour gone! It doesn’t quite work that way. I come across a friendly and convenient pub and leg it into the loo after the first 12 min stint (the 5k bit was a cinch). The pub DJ informs the rest of the clientele that ‘Amanda has made it back out onto the course in record time …’! We set off again. The heat is already getting to Mandy and that hill has taken its toll already. She’s finding it difficult to recover and starting to worry! It’s not good. We’ve done 3 of the 4 and another couple of hills and we’re walking quite a lot. Mandy’s getting tense and nervous. ‘You have to go,’ she says. It’s a quandary. We were going to do this together – but she needs to relax, too – and she’s not going to do that if she keeps worrying about holding me back! That sounds laughable in the ‘whole’ scheme of things, but at that part of the race I was going strong and it was still easy, while she was struggling. It was going to be better for both of us to split up. The only thing that convinced me was because I knew she was mentally VERY strong and that she WOULD finish. I made her promise and ran on. The run/walk intervals ceased to exist. Why? I don’t know. Was it a good decision? I don’t know. Do I care? I don’t know. In retrospect, I wonder if my knees might have lasted longer had I stuck to the original run/walk plan. For weeks I’d been telling myself ‘Stick to the plan’ and ‘You must have a plan and don’t sway from it!’. When it came to the day, all I could think was ‘Stop wondering what to do and just bloody get on with it!’ I went with the latter and ran the next 10 miles and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I ran through the halfway point extremely conservatively but feeling very chuffed, well up for the challenge and so far no joint trouble.

Oops! Shouldn’t have said that! Jinxed it! Here it goes …………… Ping! … Knee No. 1.

Well …. Mile 18, that is. I can feel it starting to really complain and I’m walking now. It’s a long straight road that’s going on forever but it’s completely flat and lined with residential houses. The residents are all out on the street shouting and cheering and handing out sweets, coffee (!), CAKE (lol), and I passed a plate of cocktail sausages, too! Unusually for me, I didn’t stop. That can’t be a good sign lol

The only problem with this road is that there’s a sharp turnaround at the top and then you double back. Doubling back is fine. What’s NOT fine is when you’re on your way up and you’re looking at the state of the people coming back. It’s like they’ve suddenly gone through a time warp and aged about ten years. Makes you wonder what the hell is at the end of that road that’s so evil. Twenty minutes ago, they were quite normal(ish) human beings. The road back has morphed them into strangely unrecognisable bipeds.

It’s ‘wall’ time!

Thankfully, I never hit it! I’m going far too slowly to ever reach that wall, thank goodness – and I don’t have any times to beat, any goals to reach other than to keep putting one foot in front of the other until, as my training buddy said, ‘somebody hangs a medal around your neck’! Having said that, this IS where several things start to crumble and my day becomes less enjoyable. My right knee brings me to a complete standstill. Sore and achey and fatigued are all things you can push through and ignore and deal with as you wish. Shooting pain from ankle to hip is not one of those …. (sorry! Distracted! Just been passed on the road by a pig on a lead! …..) …. Where was I? Yes. Ho Hum! Not in a good place. The loop around Shoreham is abysmal. No people, no houses, nothing to look at, other than a bunch of other people looking totally dejected and taking this away-from-the-public-eye opportunity to lean over the wall and throw up into the river! I pass five in a row, bums up – wish I had my camera. Bless ‘em but this is ‘photographer heaven’! The loop is silent apart from retching – and endless. Some students with a sense of humour have graffiti-ed the arches of the bridge, colourfully announcing ‘THE WALL’. It’s the only smile raised for the next half an hour – and probably doesn’t do the job for the majority!

Shoreham is behind me. I’ve walked most of it. Feeling low now because I’ve got loads of energy and am itching to run but can’t manage more than 50 yards at a time. I try to push on, because actually the stopping and starting up again each time is almost worse! Nope! Leg just will not let me. Keeps collapsing underneath me. Ho Hum. Think again! Next strategy!

OK! Will get to that damned line no matter what. Give myself a stern talking to! I should be pissed off, I tell myself. I’ve spent 22 miles doing none other than keeping in front of that unbearable 5 ½-hour pacer! She’s been driving me insane and it’s been thoroughly motivating (and fun) to make sure I stay in front of her – and far enough so I can’t hear her inane chatter and that piercing, dog-whistle voice. She’s overtaken me now. Dammit!!! So ……….. what to do? Choose another target, that’s what! Got it! There’s a short dumpy (yeah, yeah, it’s Mile 22 and I’m not feeling charitable any more …) lady dressed in vile fuchsia from top to toe and wearing a ludicrous feather. She is NOT going to cross that line in front of me!

Note: Apologies to the lady in pink with the feather. Absolutely nothing against you at all. You were an opportune target and I was thinking solely of ‘me’ and getting ‘me’ to the finish line by whatever means available!

So ………. I have my target. Magic! I’m also finding myself in complete AWE of the three army lads who’ve been maintaining more or less the same pace as me, but at a WALK! I got quite a giggle trying to walk beside them at one point and discovering I needed almost 3 steps to their one stride! It was quite amazing, really (and made even better because I finished ahead of you, too lol (well, every tiny victory counts, doesn’t it?)).

Battle of the feather continues right to the end. I break into a run and maintain as long as I can. Hundred yards, then walk, quick stretch, run again, walk, quick stretch, …….. Those blasted ‘ramps’ are looming like mountains. I’m compensating for my right knee with my left one and distributing weight rather oddly. I find a good balance and hey ho, here comes another of those damned speed bumps, which play complete havoc with my legs. It gets silly. I start trying to see the funny side. I’m thinking of things I’ve read which could be useful to me now – at Mile 24. On a 10k run, two miles is nothing. At Mile 24, those two miles seem neverending. At one point, I’m watching my shadow just to check that I’m still moving!!!!! No, really – it’s a bit like that. I’m wondering if I’ve suddenly stepped on a travelator because I don’t seem to be progressing.

AND THE FEATHER HAS PASSED ME AGAIN!

Smile, look confident and remind yourself that you are accomplishing exactly what you said you would …. to get to the finish line! That’s what one of the books told me.

I smile. Doesn’t help much.

‘Make your own reality.’ A slightly more helpful tip. I picture the finish line – and then laugh at the thought that it could be 30 yards in front of me and I’m so blind I can’t see it!! For some of us ‘picturing’ the finish line is probably the best we can do, so actually ‘seeing it’ is a whole other challenge!!

My watch beeps! Bloody marvellous! Look at that! It says I’ve finished!!!!!!! If it wasn’t so tragic, I really would roll on the floor laughing. I stop momentarily and show it to one of the spectators, who finds it hilarious! I guess calibrating does have its uses, but at my level of running I’ve just never bothered. Never had to. Now I know why you do it. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!

WATCH IT! CONCENTRATE! HERE COMES THE FEATHER AGAIN!

No bloody way, Sweetheart. You are NOT crossing that line before I do! The army boys are to my left. There’s a tiger on my heels (literally).

Last bit! Look! There it is! The supporters are fantastic – and have been fantastic all the way (thank you to ALL of you!). I can hear my name being called and I don’t need any energy gels. I’m desperate to sprint all the way to the finish …………… but I can’t. I’m choking back tears from the sheer effing frustration! Another tip I’ve heard frequently – and used often …..

J.F.D.I.

Yep! That’s the one!

Works every time.

Knee stuffed. Do I care? Out of the corner of my eye I think that’s Karim running the last bit with me. Can’t afford to turn around and check. (It was, by the way).

Cross the line. I’ve run a marathon. For a second, I’m invincible.

(Feather comes in behind me ………………….)

5 hours 41 minutes – but who’s counting!

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