Sorry for the delay in the update this week – to be honest, it has been difficult to write it. After the high of the half marathon, it was probably always going to be tricky this week when, away from the crowds, regular drink stops and the actual race, it was just back to the road.
The midweek runs all went OK but then there was Sunday, always looming in the near distance – looking at me a bit funny.
For those of you who haven’t run the marathon (yet) this Sunday was the last LONG run before the day. The plans all seem to say between 20-22 miles on this last long run. You never run the full 26.2 before the day itself as it would take too much out of you – you have to rely on the training you have done, the crowds and the occasion to get you through that last bit. In the training you then start “tapering” – which is when you start bringing the training down. We were laughing this week how Angela, my parents and family all talk of “chip time” tapering” etc – all the marathon lingo that none of us had heard of six months ago.
I hadn’t felt 100% towards the end of the week but believed I was ready when I set out, but I knew that for some reason I wasn’t “in the zone”! Without the definitive time for the “race” to begin, I procrastinated for a while and didn’t seem to be able to get going. My aim was to do just over 20 miles. My longest run before had been 16 miles so it was quite a jump, but I also wanted to have broken the mental barrier of 20 miles – working on the basis that for the last 6 miles I would rely on the excitement of the day (as described above).
However when I started down by Tower Bridge – going East through Wapping down by the river, I started to feel really good, the views down there were amazing and with the shining (it was very warm again!) everything just felt good. I then made a mistake by sticking to the Thames Path (as the river looked so great) instead of Wapping High Street and I was so into my stride that I didn’t realise this for a while – so I didn’t seen the landmark that I was going to turn back at – so I carried on for an extra mile or so. Now this may not seem like it should be a problem but I have found out many times over the last 5 months that the marathon is a mental challenge as much as a physical one – and the problem was that I didn’t realise I was on the wrong path (and therefore wouldn’t see the landmark) I just thought for quite a long way that I must be going much slower than I thought because I hadn’t reached it. This started as a small thought but rapidly grew in to a real worry. Eventually I had to stop, phone Angela who looked on the map and said what had happened and how I had gone too far. The problem was that for some reason it didn’t help and though I carried on running, my rhythm had gone and I had started losing the mental battle about the rest of the run.
Back along past Tower Bridge, Victoria Embankment, Parliament, Birdcage Walk, The Mall (where we hope to finish!!) through Green Park all ok but always just thinking how slowly I was going and how hard it was. My mind was all over the place and I took another couple of wrong turnings – in a city I have lived in all of my life – just added to the frustration.
By the time I reached Regents Park (to do a circuit of the outer circle) it felt like I was running through treacle and I hadn’t even gone further than the half marathon when I finished so strongly. Thankfully Angela was there with a drink, sweets and support – but she could see I was struggling and the biggest reason I was struggling was that I couldn’t work out why/how I was struggling. Even writing this it feels ridiculous so I can imagine what you are thinking but I just couldn’t see a way I could get home (apart from the train). Angela waited while I did the circuit – one pleasant interlude included seeing a couple of giraffes in the zoo – though frankly by this time I was seeing a lot of things so maybe not. Also, there were a lot of runners in the park and of course they all looked like running quickly was the assist thing on the world – all smooth and effort-less while I was huffing and puffing. It was probably the lowest point of doing all of this. Anyway, I spoke to Angela again who said maybe I should think about stopping but I said (and meant it) that if I had stopped I don’t know whether I would have ever started again.
Through Euston, past an old family home, Camden Town, up through Holloway etc to Finsbury Park where Angela had go to, to meet Marie my mum, who had been sitting there, waiting for ages – she had been early so she didn’t miss me and then I had taken forever – by now this was meant to be Mile 16 (and at this time I didn’t know exactly how far extra I had done so I was working on the basis of an extra 2 miles) – it was wonderful to see them both, gave me a much needed lift. The reaming part of the run was a run that I have done on the way home from work a few times – always relatively easily and relaxed but it was tougher but at least now I could see a way that I could get to the end.
Finally in the distance I could see Angela and Marie at the finishing line – they had caught the train they hadn’t run there quicker than me – (although on Sunday I wouldn’t have bet against it). They were waving and cheering so I got up the last hill (I chose a hill for the last 200metres!) and I was there.
For some of the younger and more delicate of you who have been following me on this adventure I shall spare you some of my vocabulary at the end but I said something like – “that was a long way”.
I was absolutely shattered and at that point the only silver lining I could see was that I hadn’t given up – but that was about it.
Angela and Marie were great in lifting me up (mentally and physically) and then genuinely it didn’t take too long at home to start feeling more human again, though getting up the stairs at home was a bit of a problem. After eating including an omelette (the best I have ever had), a short ice bath for my feet and packs of ice all over, the shower felt great and I definitely started to feel better. Though I had a bit of a wobble when Angela said that she had found what looked like a great half –marathon to do in Lisbon next March – but as I hadn’t given up, it was all OK really. I then checked the map and the actual distance I had done was 22.75 miles. Not much more than 3 miles short of the whole thing. Later on I “spoke” on text to Sarah who had also had her longest run and she said what an awful time she had been through too – that she had also hit the dreaded wall but she too had got through it. We both said to each other that in the nicest possible way it made us feel both better how tough the other had found it all so it wasn’t just us individually. We were also both at a model showing for the set of Cosi fan tutte the next morning – when we both arrived walking very delicately!
So, anyway, another week closer – I didn’t give up and I have run nearly 23 miles. It was a reality check and now all thoughts of a certain time have now gone out of the window – I am back to my firsts priority is wanting to get round and finish the marathon.
I think you could have finished “War and Peace” in Russian quicker than reading this, so sorry!!! Back to training . . .