Friday, 29 November 2013

A day to remember for the rest of my life!

Well, it's been way too long since I last posted on my blog.  And I have really appreciated those messages from people asking me to write again, wanting to know what I've been up to.  

Needless to say, I've been busy!

My last post was just before the London Marathon.  And I have never got round to posting about it.  So now I will!!

I was so focused on getting a good time and nervous about the environment, running in such a huge crowd of people and the fear of just having a total melt down.  But as is often the case, on the day I dug deep, focused on what I had to do and just got on with it. 

It was a really brilliant day and phenomenal experience.  After a panic about how I was going to get to the start, I was offered a lift to the mainline station, for which I was enormously grateful.  On the train there, lots of nervous people were striking up conversations with strangers.  Strangers united by what we had ahead of us… I don’t think there was anyone on the train who wasn’t taking part.  A group of four Japanese women, who had clearly come to London just to take part, were chatting and laughing nervously. 

I sat opposite an amazing man, who told me that he was running for a homeless charity.  He himself had been homeless and had a breakdown five years before.  The charity had got him back on his feet and into work, so he now raises money for them.  I felt quite humbled.

We all piled off the train and went to our different start locations.  The signs along the route, telling people not to wee in people’s gardens, made us all laugh and eased the tension.

My friends were madly texting and phoning me, wishing me good luck.  I piled past the Rhino costumes to find out where the toilets were and where I was supposed to hand my bag in.  The big screen and speaker system was keeping us posted and the tension in the air was tangible. 

Finally, after at least two visits to the toilet, it was time to hand my bag in. That meant I was handing my phone over too.  After a final call to my kids and a friend, the phone was gone and despite being in a crowd of thousands, I have never felt so alone!

I made a final visit to the female urinals (seriously, I just had to do it!!!) and have never seen anything so funny!  Portable urinals are clearly made for men.  And men are generally taller than women.  I walked in to see a row of women, standing on their tip toes, bare bottoms showing, trying to wee through a cardboard cone. 

And then I went to find my start point.  Alas, as I was running for a charity, I was almost at the back.  The only people behind me were the ones wearing the silly costumes!  I didn’t envy them one bit!

 As you may remember, the Boston Marathon was only a week before London.  The dreadful bombing was fresh in everyone’s minds and we had a minute’s silence to remember those people who died or were injured.  It was spooky.  In a crowd of over 30,000 people, you could have heard a pin drop.  And then we heard the siren go off to start the race.  It took a slow 20 minutes walk to even reach the start line. 

And then we were off.  It’s amazing how focused you can be.  I ran past the Cutty Sark, and didn’t even notice it!  (For those of you who don’t know what the Cutty Sark is, Google it – it’s amazing!!).  I remember the bit where someone in the crowd had been handing out pieces of orange to everyone.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t so nice for us at the back, who had to run over all the slippery orange skins people had dropped! 

There were cheering crowds all along the 26.2 mile route.  Bands were playing.  Pubs had big speakers with music blaring out at us.  It was brilliant.  I knew roughly where my friends were going to be cheering me along and was thrilled to actually see them! 

We were given water and isotonic sports drinks at regular intervals.  I remembered the rule about drinking to your thirst, not feeling you had to drink the whole bottle.  I was warned about the debris of empty water bottles along the route and was very careful not to trip on them. 

It was a tough run, mostly because I wasted five minutes queuing for the toilet and found it really tough trying to get past people.  But the atmosphere kept me going.  I remembered the rule about not walking.  The rule is:  if you stop running, it’s unbelievably hard to start again.  So don’t do it!

As I got to the final few miles stretch, I was hoping to see my children.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t struggling at that point.  In my head, I was trying to work out whether I should just say “sod it” and walk the last mile.  “I could just walk.” I thought.  “It’s not like I’m going to get a prize if I run.”  I was just so tired.  But then I wondered what my kids would think if their Mum was walking.  How could I let them think I’m a loser!

As these thoughts were wizzing round my head, I suddenly heard a loud voice calling my name.  I looked back and there they were, waving and shouting at me.  I could hardly give up now, could I?!!

As I turned the corner from The Embankment into The Mall, running past Buckingham Palace I was looking at the count down signs.  1,000km to go, then 750km.  All I could think was: I don’t do metric!  Why aren’t the signs in miles!  And then, finally, to the sound of blaring music, with a massive grin on my face, I crossed the line.  I’d done it.  I wasn’t sure of my time, but I’d run a marathon. 

Never, in all of my life, have I ever felt such a sense of achievement.  I could barely speak.  I was so confused that I couldn’t find the lorry that had my numbered bag on it.  I had to be helped by a nice man who was working there.  He found my bag for me, led me to a tree to sit down.  Opened my bag for me – because I literally couldn’t coordinate my fingers to open it myself – and gave me my drink and food.  Until the sugar kicked in, I couldn’t even make a phone call. 

Then finally, a text came through.  I had run the London Marathon in 3hours 53mins.  My target was to run it in under 4 hours, with 3h 45m being my ultimate goal.

I was disappointed that I didn’t make the 3h 45m I was hoping for – but really pleased to have conquered the 4 hour target. 

That evening, my friends came round and plied me with Champagne and pizza.  Apparently, I kept asking the same questions over and over and was talking complete rubbish.  The exhaustion and alcohol had definitely got the better of me!

It was a day that I will never forget.  It gave me such an amazing sense of achievement and a massive boost to my self confidence.  

Apart from having my kids... It's the greatest thing I've ever done!

And the million dollar question.  Would I do it again?

Sure as hell I would!!!!! 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

My Marathon Year!

I don't know whether it's a result of all of last year's Olympic excitement, but this year, all my local friends (who are seriously into their sport) seem to be committing to huge physical challenges.  There are 100 mile cycle races being booked, Iron Mans and half Iron Mans, and as for me... finally (and not without some trepidation!), I have a place in the London Marathon!

It would seem rather obvious to point out that running 26.2 miles is a huge physical challenge for an old bird like myself…!  But what I don’t think I really took on board, until I started the training, was what an emotional and psychological challenge it is. 

And so, this January, having recovered from Christmas and New Year, I started on my training schedule.  As it stands, I have four days a week when I run; one day when I swim; another day I go to the gym and work on my abdominals and core strength and finally, a day of rest.

I can imagine many people wonder where I get the time, because it does take a considerable amount of time.  And I have to answer that despite being the world’s worst morning person, I have had to learn to get up early.  And I mean early, when it’s still cold and dark.  I have also had to work out a way to combine it with other commitments.  For example, taking my kids to school by public transport and running home, instead of driving the car.  And the worst I’ve experienced so far is running in the half dark when it’s -2C and snowing, arriving back at the car with frozen hair and eyebrows.  Did I enjoy it?  Hell, no!  But the sense of achievement was incredible.

I am not a young person any more.  Young in spirit maybe, but not in body!  I admit that I sometimes worry that I will get up one day and my legs will just fall off!  But I am now committed to doing it and I don’t want to let myself or my children down.

I know I have a long way to go.  The longest run I’ve done so far is 14.5 miles – and I’ve only done it twice.  But I am discovering so much about myself.

I realise that I have the capacity to do far more than I give myself credit for.  I have no doubt that many of us, who are not over-burdened with self-confidence, are the same as me.  But I also know that I have to be prepared psychologically.  On a weekly basis, I am having to run ever increasing distances.  But I can’t do it if I’m not mentally prepared. I have to set my mind to the distance, or number of laps of the park, and just focus on doing it. 

Whilst I am very lucky to have a group of people I can train with, some of whom are experienced marathon runners, I have had to learn to zone out if they are either faster than me, or wanting to do a greater distance.  I have to rein in my competitiveness, forget about what everyone else is up to, and just concentrate on improving my own fitness level.  And that’s not always easy.

I don’t have vast amounts of emotional flexibility.  If I’m running with someone who decides, during the last quarter of the run, that they want to up the speed, or just do a couple of extra miles, I find it demoralising.  Part of me wants to excuse my lesser ability by attributing it to others being younger, or male!  The other part of me thinks it’s no excuse!  Maybe this is something I need to work on in the next couple of months.  To focus on my ability to deal with the ‘extras’ when I’m feeling like I’m already pushing myself.

When I first told people I was doing the marathon they asked what time I wanted to achieve.  To begin with, I said I would be happy to just finish the race.  Now, I want to do it in under four hours.  I know I will be really disappointed with myself if I don’t.  In the next few months, I will be keeping a training diary – which I hope I don’t bore you with!  And I also want to mention I am doing this for charity. 

My next post will be about the charity I’m running for.  And I will post a link to my Just Giving page.  If anyone feels inspired by what I’m doing, or just likes what the charity does, I would, of course, be really grateful for any sponsorship you feel able to give. 

All of a sudden, running 26.2 miles is seeming less of a tall order.  Raising the money for charity is scaring me more!

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