My first marathon – What I learned and a few special thank yous!
I am writing this nursing three very sore and bruised toes and a massive sense of pride. I did it! Yesterday I completed my very first marathon, and it was one of the best days of my life!
Having worked so hard and consistently for the last 16 weeks, I gave this challenge everything I could, reminding me of a saying I heard a while ago ‘you’ve got what it takes, but it will take everything you’ve got’ – and I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t miss one training day or one early morning wake up, and the award for that is the feeling of achievement I have right now.
The day started early, of course. Given it was an 8am race start and we don’t have a car, I had to get 3 buses to get there, the first of which I caught at 5.50am. I arrived without hiccup, changed and dropped of my bag in plenty of time and took up my place at the starting line.
I was hoping for a 4 hour finish ideally, but I really just wanted to finish. I had all my podcasts queued up ready to see me through and one of my mantras – run your own race – was playing on a loop in my mind. I knew the race had pacers but I hadn’t considered that as an option really beforehand, but as we set out and neared the first mile marker, I found myself swept up with the 9 minute mile pacing group. The pace was comfortable for me and I settled in with this pack. Turns out it was the best thing I could do!
I ran with the group for the whole 26.2, chatting and encouraging each other and comiserating when another runner dropped back from our pack. I barely listened to any of my podcasts and instead I learned about my fellow 9 minute milers, how many races they had done, which was their favourite, their tips for when things get tough and what their post-race celebrations were.
When we came along the home straight to the finish line, our pack had dropped to just 5 of us, me being the only girl which I was very chuffed with! And we made it over the line in 3.53.59! Smashed it!!
To have a pacer meant I could just run and not worry about any of the maths involved, I knew if I stayed with them I would get my sub 4, and I did.
What I learned
- Anything is possible if you want it badly enough and are prepared to put the effort in. Obese to a sub 4-hour marathon runner in less than 2 years, there’s the proof!
- Pacers are a good idea and running doesn’t have to be a solo-affair. Chatting to others helped the miles fly by.
- I think I need trainers with a bigger toe box! After losing one toenail to the cause over training, I annihilated 3 more yesterday. Ouch. Off to the running shop I go to get some roomier shoes and perhaps better socks…
- All the effort and preparation beforehand makes for a great race day. Tweaks to your strategy, changes to fuelling, trying out new bits of kit, planning the route to race day meticulously – everything you do before the day is so important and well worth the effort.
Given that it is Thanksgiving in Canada today, where my running journey began almost 2 years ago, I would like to thank a few people who helped along the way – either knowingly or not – and made this dream a reality!
Matt Frazier, aka No Meat Athlete – when I first got into this crazy world, you were my guide! I followed your 13.1 roadmap for my first half marathon and listen to your podcasts religiously. You make the world of vegan distance running accessible to everyone and less daunting, so thank you! (Visit the website here)
Hal Higdon – I used the Hal Higdon advanced 1 marathon training plan and could not have done it without it, so thank you! For anyone looking to train for a marathon or a half marathon, check our the plans on Hal’s website, I found it to work perfectly. (Another post with more info about that to follow shortly.)
UK Run Chat Community – this community of runners on Twitter is awesome! Many times I tweeted random questions about form, injuries and tapering and got lots of supportive and helpful responses. Thanks UK Run Chat! (@)
Inge & Natasha – my physiotherapist and sports massage therapist. Need I say more?! These guys are amazing and kept me on the road. Huge thanks go to them!
Keith who paced me – I owe my 3.53 to you Keith, you legend! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and thanks for your ‘if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands’ sing-alongs at various, key stages. Much appreciated!
James Dunne at Kinetic Revolution – his straight-forward videos for recovery and stretching are easy to follow and so helpful. James explains why the exercises are needed and what they are for in a straightforward way and gets straight to the point. When I had some niggles with my piriformis a week out from race day, I was panicking a little but James video on how to stretch it out and create a dynamic pigeon pose to loosen it up worked wonders. I would suggest a cheeky follow on Twitter (@) and a look through his videos. Thanks, James!
And finally thanks Matt, my friends, family and colleagues who have supported me, listened to me moan, put up with me rolling about on a tennis ball in the middle of the office & avoiding after work drinks in favour of an early night, and showing them my manky toes at any given opportunity without complaining – or at least, not to my face!
Running may be a solo sport, but it requires a team effort.
So, here’s to the next one…once my toes heal, of course!