Category Archives: Marathons

OMG, What a Wall That Was!

wall

Well, the first marathon of 5 is run and it is arguably the best one. I absolutely love the London Marathon (although if you had managed to get me to say that at mile 20 it would have been a miracle) and finishing it in a time of 3.58.16 was impressive indeed. Faster than last year and that was with the mammoth wall scaling I was doing at mile 17.

I don’t know why it hit me so badly this year. I don’t think I have ever smacked that wall with quite such ferocity. It was at exactly mile 17 – I mean I hit it as I was passing beneath the mile 17 marker. I literally stopped and knew that no matter what, I simply couldn’t go on. I was almost in tears as I leaned up against a fence, dimly aware of runners running past me. I simply couldn’t find anything to get me moving again. All of the feelings of failure and disappointment mingled with the exhaustion that I was experiencing and I just wanted to find the nearest St John’s person and wave the white flag at them.

How I managed to get going again, I honestly don’t know. I do know that I began talking to myself, then shouting at myself  “Come on, Nancy! Come on!!”. I have no idea what people must of thought (actually, I don’t really care), but the verbal whipping was enough to get me moving again – but it was one of the toughest things I have done. I had to walk again at 19, and then I finally managed to find my focus, settle into my mantra, and get it finished. The final six miles were run with me visualising my new favourite run along the tow path between Woking and Pyrford Lock. I pictured that run at 6.00 in the morning, with the mist coming off the water, the sun shining onto everything and the rabbits hopping madly away from me. Strangely enough, that kept me going and I finished in fantastic time.

Sadly, as thrilled as I am at the achievement, it is a long way short of the 3.50 Boston Qualifier that I need. And I know, the only way I am going to achieve that is by not hitting the wall again as hard as I did on Sunday.  Back to the books. And back to the tow path…well, as soon as my quads stop screaming at me.

Thank you to Joriel Joz Jiminez for the image

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Welcome 2009 – The Year of Five Marathons

Runners participating in the 2004 US Marine Co...
Image via Wikipedia

I can’t believe it has been nearly six months since I last wrote. Actually, yes I can. I just kept putting it off, and putting it off and before I knew where I was, it was the end of the year. I did run five races between the last post and this, including my piece de resistance – The Dublin Marathon where I wiped the floor of my previous best by finishing in 3:56:02. I will do a post which outlines my experiences at those five races, but this post is just a hello from me and a pledge for this year.

I ran two marathons in 2007.

I ran three marathons in 2008.

So…

I am going to run five marathons in 2009.

I am already signed up for London (again) and Edinburgh and I think I will finish the year with New York in November. I haven’t decided on the other two yet, although I have been invited to go and do the Munich marathon, which is three weeks before New York. I am quite tempted, although it means I am going to be quite tired for New York, but we shall see. If I want to up my tally again in 2010 then running two marathons in a months shouldn’t intimidate me.

In between, I will do some halfs and 10 and 16 milers along the way, but that is my goal. And I would also like to get a Boston qualifying time if I could (easier said than done), so I will need to shave more than 6 minutes off my best time.

Best get training…

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Olympic Inspiration for the Average Runner

I absolutely love the Olympics. Of course, I have favourite events – the Equestrian, the Swimming, the Marathon, the 10,000 metre – but I can sit and watch any of it. I almost wish the Olympics was run every year, although perhaps that would take the fun out of it? Or perhaps not…I reckon I would still be just as gripped by it. Having mixed allegiances means that I usually have two teams to cheer for. If the Aussies can’t get a medal then I want the Brits to (or best of all I would love them to both get one, like the silver/bronze achieved in the Equestrian Eventing). If neither of them are in the top three, then its NZ or Ireland. But I will still sit there clapping and cheering when anyone does a fine job or holding my head if someone messes up, no matter what country they represent.

So many people go on about the “magic of the Olympics” that it is now a bit of a cliche. But there really is a magic, and it is one which affects so many aspects of my sporting life – whether it be my running or my horse riding.

I was watching the interview with Paula Radcliffe a couple of days back and I could feel the ‘magic’ filling me. I was so inspired by her determination, her smile and enthusiasm, despite the disappointment she experienced in Athens in 2004 and the sheer scale of the competition she was facing. In the short interview, you could see in her eyes that she adored what she did for a living. Running marathons was her dream ‘job’, despite the hours of training, the tears, the triumphs and the sheer hard work. When I was out running this morning, wanting to stop and have a rest at 6 miles into my 7 mile run, I thought of her and how many times she would have felt like I did (although probably a lot faster and a lot further into a run). Would she have given up? No. Would any of the athletes who were competing have given up? No. And what separates me from them? Physically – a lot. Mentally – not very much at all.

I think every runner can draw inspiration from Paula and every other athlete at the Olympics in Beijing. I know that most of us will never run at that level, but just getting out there to run – to compete with ourselves and the clock and the terrain – puts us in the same league. I am as proud of every one of my medals as any Olympian, even though I know that everyone else who ran the races I did have the same medals hanging in their bedrooms. Each one is as good as any Olympic gold medal to me because I know I did the very best I could. That’s why I wish the Olympics could be run every year – just to let me watch the people I so admire, and remind me to keep doing my best no matter what.

In the meantime, I have a half marathon to run on Sunday morning. Paula will be lining up just after midnight on Saturday night, and despite the fact I need my sleep, I will be setting the alarm to watch the women’s marathon. I need my inspiration more, and I want to be just one more voice to cheer her on.

Good luck Paula.

Thank you so much, Vidiot, for the image. I was more than 2 hours behind her in New York so just didn’t get a chance to see her. This almost makes up for that.

My London Marathon Finish 2008

Wham!

Oh no. I’ve hit it. That damned wall. I don’t know how to describe it. I have just passed the 20 mile marker. The Docklands is a memory, and there is only the long straight along The Embankment to go. But from one step the next, everything that ached before suddenly begins to scream, and worse, the battle with my mind begins.

“I hurt, Nancy, I really, really hurt. My legs feel like they are half a ton each, and the weak Spring sunshine feels like I am heading into a furnace. I have to stop, please.”

Instead of thinking in miles, I begin to think in steps. Just a few more steps. One foot after another. I try and still the voice in my head which is crying to me “stop, please, just for a few moments”. I begin reciting a mantra, at first in my head, then under my breath, then out loud.

“One foot in front of the other, you can do it, come on, you’re nearly there. One foot in front of the other, you can do it, come on, you’re nearly there”

21 goes by, then 22. It becomes difficult to see straight. I grab water, knowing that nothing at this stage will assuage my thirst nor give me a burst of energy. All my energy has been used up. It is now simply will that keeps me going.

23, then I see the tunnel. I know that Bachi is on the other side – he told me where he would be. My emotions have gone all over the place. I want to see him, I want to cry, I just want to stop. I come out of the other side of the tunnel and there he is! I pass him my pack – it is so close to the end I don’t need any gels.

“I’ll see you at the finish!” he cries. It is the boost I need. I don’t stop. I want to stop.

I know people are calling my name. I can’t hear them. There are runners walking. I look at the ground and pass them, all the while repeating my mantra. I know how they feel. I know they have given in to that voice. I won’t give in. I can’t, I am just too close. The cheers and cries are so loud and yet it is like I am in a bubble, the walls of which are muffling the noise. Houses of Parliament, I turn towards Birdcage Walk. Soon the signs begin.

800m to go. I try and up my speed. I can’t. There is nothing left. After what feels like another hour, 600m to go. Come on, Nancy, pick up speed. Miraculously my legs keep pushing and my stride extends. I only have to keep this up for a few more minutes and then I can stop. It is the thought of stopping that propels me forward. 400m to go. I still can’t see the finish line, but I am under 4 hours and it is so close. 200m to go. Can I sprint? Sprint? I can hardly move! I can feel tears chocking me, but I want to laugh out loud as I round the bend and there it is. After nearly four hours, it is almost done.

I cross the line.

I did it.

Race Report (Part 1): Flora London Marathon – 13th April 2008

The race was so incredible that I simply have to spread my report over several days, otherwise the posts will simply be too long – so do bear with me. I am in a lot of pain still. My quads are protesting very loudly every time I attempt to sit down, stand up or try and climb or descend stairs. My emotions are still all over the place. And I am still pinching myself because I can’t believe it is over.

But the question on everyone’s lips is…

Did I do it?

Did I break my 4 hour barrier?

I contemplated leaving everyone in suspense until I had done my good, bad and ugly, but I just can’t. I crossed the line, whipping almost 7 minutes off my previous time, in a scorching 3:58.25. It was all I could do to sprint that last 800 metres through the haze of pain and exhaustion, when I knew I was so close and my watch was telling me that if I kept up the speed I would do it. But I have achieved a marathon time with a “3” in front of it. I still almost can’t believe it.

The race, as usual, was fantastic. The crowds were huge, despite the unpredictable weather. We started in the cool sunshine. By mile 8 we were sloshing through a deluge – soaked to the skin from the rain with water dripping off our noses and hat brims. The Embankment was run in sunshine, and the rain hit again just after I had crossed the finish line. At least it meant the temperature was far more manageable than it was last year (which is clearly reflected in my finishing time).

I am thrilled to say that I didn’t walk once, unless you count getting trapped in one of the bottlenecks as walking. At one point around mile 22 I had that odd sensation where your mind suddenly gets a mind of its own (so to speak) and my legs nearly stopped running. I am sure the people around me must have jumped in surprise (or they would have if they weren’t so exhausted themselves) when I shouted ‘NO! COME ON NANCY! GET MOVING!” at the top of my voice which snapped my mind out of it and kept me going. I had hit that mental wall at 20 when you suddenly feel you can’t go on, but still managed to keep a steady 9 mile a minute pace going until around 24 when all the world felt like it was going to end and I was sure I was going to drop dead on the spot. But by that time I had stored up enough ‘spare time’, even with the two 10 minute miles at the beginning thanks to the crowds, to still cross the line within than magical 4 hour barrier.

I will do the ‘bad and the ugly’ tomorrow and then the ‘good’ on Wednesday because the race is so monumental I feel that finishing it on a low note would be doing it a disservice. But I have my 2008 medal, and I can’t wait until 2009…

Long Runs with Drinks Included

I went to the pre-London Marathon Expo at the Excel Centre yesterday to collect my race number and spend some requisite ££’s on socks and shirts and other stuff (it’s all part of the ritual), and I was stopped by a friendly chap at the SIA Stand (Spinal Injuries Association) and we started to chat. Of course we began with the standard “are you running on Sunday?” and “what time are you hoping for?” but when we began to talk about how many marathons I had run, he told me a story…

“I have a friend” he said “who is just about to run his 450th marathon”

My jaw literally dropped.

“He started off just like you, in his 30’s, thinking he would do a couple. Then he did 10. Then he saw there was a club for people who had run 100 marathons, so he aimed for that. Then he decided to find out how many marathons he could run in a year. He’s now just about to turn 50 and he is still going strong”

I was speechless, although I managed to stutter out…”what kind of times is he getting?”

“Oh, he used to average around 3:15 although he is finding now it is more like 3:30”

I couldn’t help but be so utterly impressed. Wow! What an inspiration. Here we are getting ourselves all nervous about what is a big race, and this chap does them as training runs. The funny thing was, as I thought about him, I realised that nerves are good (I get nervous before every race, no matter how big or small) but that this race isn’t the be all and end all. If I don’t make my 4 hours on Sunday, then I’ll do it next time, or the time after, or even the time after that.

“If you think of it this way”, the SIA gentleman continued “it is like doing your long training run, but someone very kindly provides you with drinks along the way”.

Hear hear to that. Mr. 450+ Marathons whoever and wherever you are, I take my hat with ears off to you. You are truly and inspiration.

Thankyou Clean Wal-Mart for the image