Tag: marathon


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.

The right kind of support …

During September’s High Peaks 40-mile ultra marathon I had the amazing fortune to run alongside an inspirational lady called Kelly T (I’ll keep the surname back just in case). Kelly left me in total awe as I watched her battle valiantly with shin splints for most of the race while she simultaneously regaled me with her training plan stories in readiness for the Himalayan 100 mile stage race (http://www.himalayan.com/) a mere six weeks later. It only took about ten miles, though, to realise that here was a lady who had a headspace much akin to my own; in other words nothing short of a broken leg would permit the letters D, N and F (in that order) to creep into our running alphabet, mind or body. Yes, we were both slow, back of the pack, just about the furthest from ‘elite’ (or even ‘good’ – haha) that it’s possible to get, but we were on a journey and that was all that mattered.

Perhaps I’ll run into Kelly again sometime in the future? Perhaps not. As is normal in these ‘one-off’ meetings, we’ve had no contact since. That said, the running bond is still in place and yesterday morning I felt I just had to text her and wish her well on her incredible Himalayan multi-day challenge (in case you don’t click on the link I’ll just add here that the Everest Marathon is on Day 3!!). The text was simple: Amanda here from HP40. Thinking of you embarking on an amazing journey. Wanted to wish you success.Take care, stay safe, run well. Don’t stop when you’re tired; stop when you’re done!

The text I got back? OMG thank you so much for remembering and thank you for being the only person who understands! Everybody’s advice has been the other way round, but I’m going to smash it!

I wonder is it an ultrarunner’s nemesis to be surrounded by what I think is not so much a ‘lack’ of support but rather unintentionally misdirected support? Non-runners don’t care too much whether you’re running 5k or 50k, but whereas your 10k running buddy will tell you to go for it and push to the limit at the next race, this all changes as soon as the distance increases. Marathons? Yup, you’re already pushing boundaries running a marathon but marathons are so common nowadays – and more and more people are starting to realise that if you can walk then you can actually run a marathon if you want to, so supportive comments tend to be along the lines of ‘Yeah, go for it, Nutter’ or ‘Don’t forget to pace yourself’ – but nothing more than that.

Utter the word ‘ultra’, though – or talk in terms of anything over 26 miles – and suddenly, to the non-runner you’re a weirdo and they don’t want anything more to do with you, or they simply don’t know how to respond. ‘Standard-distance’ runners (as I’m going to call them) are suddenly at a bit of a loss, too – and the end result seems to be a bit of an impasse where everyone just gets on with what they’re doing and no-one really speaks about it at all. It’s funny. The subject of ultrarunning becomes the elephant in the room and there doesn’t seem to be any way of explaining that that step from marathon to ultra (in my super-limited and exceedingly subjective experience) becomes so much less about the running and so much more about the journey, about discovery, about learning.

This leads me back to Kelly’s reply to my text and the obvious misguided support for her incredible adventure, because it’s ultimately incomprehensible to the majority that endurance events aren’t about the run, the injuries (variable lol) or the pain (inevitable). They are all about learning – and the last thing an ultrarunner wants to hear before hitting that start line is the voice of concern (difficult as that may be for close family). ‘Be careful’, ‘Don’t push too hard’, ‘It’s not worth the suffering’, ‘When it gets too hard, don’t be afraid to stop’ or ‘I’m worried about you, why are you doing this?’ … Grrrrr – all voices of concern and of course they have their time and place, but leading up to an endurance event isn’t either the time OR the place! Hmmmmm. The more I write the more I’m realising just how crazy that sounds. However, during the 40m High Peaks Kelly slowed down massively for several miles and moaned about her stomach, how ill she was feeling, how everything was going tits up. Cruelly (or not?), I refused to express any kind of concern. The last thing you want when you hit the wall and are ready to sniffle and curl up and die – is for your running buddy to curl up and die with you. I offered water and confirmation that it was only X km to the next checkpoint. An hour later I was in the same position. Kelly’s words of comfort were ‘I know how that feels. Just keep going. It’ll pass.’ Perfect.

So, you get the idea? Crazy as it is, ultrarunners need the same ‘support’ as you’d give to someone going out for their first 5k! I’m incredibly and unbelievably lucky. I seem to be surrounded by people who just ‘get’ this – but most people, including Kelly it appears, are not.

So Kelly? GO SMASH IT – just as you’ve planned!! I read an article the other day which said that ‘having fun isn’t always fun’. They were talking about ultras, of course, and I think it’s the perfect description of ultrarunning – fun without fun LOL With that in mind, Kelly Thorne, I hope you have a LOT of fun on Everest.

But what do I know? I know nothing! I’m building on my philosophy here and loving the new outlook on life that even ‘training’ for an ultra has given me. It’s very special. It’s new, it’s exciting, I aspire simply to just not come last … and I think I love it most of all because it’s so far out of my comfort zone and there is SO much to learn. Now … I wonder if I can afford a bus to the Himalayas …

Poetic Ultra: Some Rhyme, No Reason

by Amanda Hyatt (12/7/2012)


You’ve got to be utterly nuts, you know,
You’ve got to be utterly nuts,
To choose to do an ultra-run,
And claim that it’ll be hard but fun?
You’ve got to be utterly nuts.

You’ve got to be out of your mind, you know
You’ve got to be out of your mind,
To train for months, through rain or hail,
And sun and snow, on road and trail,
You’ve got to be out of your mind.

There are those who’ve been locked up for less, you know,
There are those who’ve been locked up for less,
If you don’t stop conversing in code to your mates,
Talking fartlek and split-times, and LSD dates!
There are those who’ve been locked up for less.

The men in white coats will be round, you know,
The men in white coats will be round,
Fuelling for weeks upon flapjacks and porridge,
And trawling through websites for specialist knowledge?
The men in white coats will be round!

And you haven’t stopped grinning for weeks, you know,
You haven’t stopped grinning for weeks,
Come back from runs aching, dog-tired and in pain,
And beaming – can’t wait to get out there again!
You haven’t stopped grinning for weeks!

And you’ll never convince me it’s right, you know
You’ll never convince me it’s right,
Though you’ve never been happier, healthier, cheery,
And joyful of mind, though your body is weary?
You’ll never convince me it’s right

How hard can it actually be, besides?
How hard can it actually be?
To run a few hills, bit of tempo, a sprint?
Then lunch on a smoothie, a few squares of Lindt?
How hard can it actually be?

You’re leaving me no other choice, you know
You’re leaving me no other choice,
You, with your positive Yes-I-Can thoughts,
With your stresses compressed by your socks and your shorts,
You’re leaving me no other choice,

‘Cause I might just be tempted as well, you know …
I might just be tempted as well,
To feel just for once that adrenalin blast
After ultra miles run and a finish line passed,
I might just be tempted as well.


I think I’m a little bit nuts, you know
I think I’m a little bit nuts
Stepped out of the zone, left the comfort behind,
And the magic appeared! Am I out of my mind?
The men in white coats may be bigger and stronger
But they won’t catch me up because I can run longer!
I did it, I tried it, crossed over the line
First ultra, one hundred k run and I’m fine!
So ditch the ‘too old’ or ‘unfit’ or ‘too slow’,
If ultra’s a dream, then just get up and go
‘Cause it’s never too late to be nuts, you know,
Get out there and give it a go!

26 reasons not to run a marathon

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.


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!!


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 …..


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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