Little Runner Gal

Running, eating, sleeping and all the bits in between

Race Review: London Marathon

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The London Marathon. The 2nd of my 2 marathons in 2 weeks.

After listening to my body through the Limbo period between Brighton & London marathons, I’d done everything I could to prepare for a decent result.

My aims going into the event:

  1. Another sub 3:45 – having never done 2 marathons so close together, I had no idea how my body would perform. Rest, nutrition and training between the 2 had all been a bit of an experiment. But I knew I could run a sun 3:45 marathon so maybe I could do it again.
  2. Negative splits – I’d proved I could do this too, a new thing for me! So to have a strong 2nd half of the marathon would be ideal, however the pace was going. If the time wasn’t an option, then a comfortable race would be.
  3. Sub 4 hour finish – that would still be very respectable and, coupled with the above and the below, would mean I’d come to London and achieved what I felt I needed to.
  4. Have a great time – overall I wanted to enjoy the London Marathon this time. Last year it was painful. I didn’t achieve my target, I didn’t remember MOST of the sights and the wall was hideous!

So, as Scott left me at the blue start, eating my ritual breakfast, I had the familiar 3:45 and 3:50 finish pacing bands on.

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Somehow I’d wangled a start in pen 4. The 3:30 pacers appeared…now I definitely knew I was in the wrong place! But I had no intention of following them so it was fine.

The race started. Predictably the start was a slow jostle of people, but I’d already said I’d give it a few miles to find a decent, comfortable pace.

Both the runners and crowds were fantastic. We quickly merged with green start and then red just before the 5km timing mat. The atmosphere was great and I was loving it.

At 5km I saw my friend, Abby, on the timing mat, and crossed at 26:37, then further on saw club mates on the 10km timing mat and crossed at 52:55. Pace remained good.

I made a point of remembering Cutty Sark this time! And taking in all of the support.

I was looking forward to seeing Scott at mile 9 but we missed each other. Mum and Gemma would be at mile 12 so it was fine. My pace remained pretty steady. Just how it needed to be.

At 12 I saw Mum and Gemma, then Tower Bridge, which had me smiling instantly. The crowds were deafening. I ran past Denise Lewis interviewing a runner on the bridge and shortly after passed half at 1:51:54, only seconds different to Brighton.

But this was feeling different. I had a stitch type pain under my right rib. I never get stitch when running. It had been creeping on for a few miles and it was starting to become a case of WHEN rather than IF it was going to affect my race. I was soon to find out.

Miles 16 and 17 I slowed right down. The stitch type thing had me feeling like my lungs were shrinking. The amount of air I seemed to be getting in was rapidly decreasing. My legs wanted to run, my lungs wanted a break. Having never had this happen before, it’s usually the other way round, I had no idea what to do.

I finally saw Scott at 18 miles. “Are you OK?” he shouted. “No!” I replied! Not much help but I really wasn’t OK, and I was at the rather ‘honest’ stage of pain.

By 21 miles my pace had slowed right down to almost 9:30 miles. As I feared, it had been a case of WHEN rather than IF and I was well and truly right in the thick of the WHEN stage. 22 and 23 slowed down further. I didn’t even have the energy to check the pacing bands, but I knew I was well off. 3:45 had gone, the negative splits had gone and I was far from enjoying this.

I saw Scott once more, and then Mum and Gemma. I remembered to take in the Houses of Parliament. I promised myself I wouldn’t have flashbacks of last year, but I did in that final mile. The pain was identical, and I wasn’t moving fast. I was being passed by so many people. I felt terrible. The only saving grace, I kept telling myself, was that I hasn’t walked a single step. I’d never stopped. I had, however, finished, on about a 10 minute mile pace. For me, this hadn’t been the plan.

I crossed the line. Stopped my Garmin. I didn’t want to look at the time. My watch had done some crazy auto-pause around Canary Wharf so I didn’t know how accurate it would be. The finish line clock had said 3:55:something. I’d crossed the start line, full of hope, just under 2 minutes after the start gun so I was pretty sure I’d snuck in a sub 3:55. No negative splits, very little enjoyment and now, I was being held up by a very lovely finish line volunteer while I gasped to get absolutely anything into my lungs

1 out of 4 aims attained.

1.3 if you count remembering to see Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament this time!

Meeting my friends and family afterwards, they were so proud, but at that moment I couldn’t feel proud of myself. Maybe it was because I’d had such a great run at Brighton. As I said at the beginning of this (what has turned out to be) epic tale, I didn’t know what was going to happen. But somehow it hadn’t been enough.

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Consequently I have a lack of photos, which I regret.

Now I’ve had a few days to think on it, I managed 2 sub 4 marathons in 2 weeks. Sub 4 was my dream, and I’ve done it twice in 2 weeks.

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I feel a lot prouder now.

Here are the grizzly facts. They don’t help my view of the race!

Results results 2Results 3Ever the optimist (despite what the above might suggest!) I’m determined to take away something from this experience so here’s what I’ve learnt about myself during this:

  • I wont be doing 2 marathons back to back again! I know plenty of people that can, and do. A great runner at my club even did better at London than Brighton, and he tried hard at both. But I don’t think I’d do it again.
  • I’ll never walk! Despite knowing my lungs weren’t going to keep up the 8:30 minute miles, I didn’t walk a step.
  • I’m probably too hard on myself. I need to set more realistic goals in order to ensure I’m not so disappointed.
  • There’s always new things to go wrong! I’d worried so much about my legs I’d neglected the recovery of my lungs. Something I’d never experienced before. So that’ll be in the recovery plan from now on.

So, onward and upward.

“What’s next?” they ask….A HOLIDAY!

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Catch up soon!

LRG x

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Limbo!

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Not the kind where you shimmy under a stick, although that’s something to return to for holiday!

The time between the 2 marathons, Brighton and London, has been great. But I’m a creature of habit, and having no real plan has been a bit disconcerting for this creature. I didn’t know how I was going to feel after Brighton, in body and in mind, so decided to play it by ear.

My legs were surprisingly OK. Without wanting to irk other runners, I was bounding up AND down stairs! SORRY! Quads were a bit tight, so on the Tuesday I had a sports massage and a swim. Everything felt good. On Thursday I decided I trusted that everything felt well enough to replicate my final taper week before Brighton, so I did a gentle 10k with friends. My legs were still heavy, so lots of stretching followed and lots of rest Friday.

Saturday, as I had done 2 weeks before, I went for an easy parkrun. I was chatting with a club friend, who is also running London, for much of the first mile. Everything felt good and I was keeping it relatively easy. As he broke away I knew I had to keep it gentle, so left him to it. Our 2 lap course saw me soar through lap 1 in just over 11 minutes. It was the first time I’d looked at my watch (as I always do at parkrun – the 2 laps help me know if I’ve managed a negative split). If I kept up this pace I’d get a PB. On the weekend between 2 marathons. Weird. So I did keep it up, it felt comfortable, and I did get the PB. Not what I had planned. This Limbo thing is strange.

Same tapered final long run on the Sunday that I’d done previously, and lots more resting. Rest Monday, along with some stretching, and just an easy one coaching club tonight before an easy 20 minutes on Thursday and Saturday. Ooh, and a sport massage on Wednesday, same as 2 weeks ago!  I feel lazy, but at least I have a bit more of a plan now, so my head is happy.

I’m doing the carb depletion thing again too. I’m not looking for a PB at London, but anything that helps me to NOT hit the wall (and this seems to work for me) and I’m all for it. It’s tried and tested for me. Might all be in my head but, hey, whatever works!

I still don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. I’ve heard it takes a month to get a marathon out of your legs, so London was always going to be a bit of a “jolly” – however jolly 26.2 miles can be! But I’m getting good at listening to my body and following what it says, so fingers crossed it’s saying the right things!

BRING ON LONDON!

LRG x

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Race Review: Brighton Marathon

“Are you ready for Brighton then?” I was repeatedly asked in the week before the marathon, and my response was always the same, “Yes, I’m in the best shape I have been before any marathon. My training has gone well, I don’t have any injuries and I’ve done everything I can do.”

And it was true. This was marathon number 4. 1, 2 & 3 had been exceptional learning experiences, but plagued by undertraining, overtraining and injury respectively. In my eyes, I’d failed at getting my sub 4 hour marathon in 2014, but this was going to be it.

The week before the marathon I began my carb depletion diet on the Sunday. I was less crabby than the last time I did it, which was good, but I was sick to death of meat, eggs and cheese by day 4! My training was slow and careful in the final week; 8 miles Sunday, coaching intervals Tuesday, slow leg turner on Thursday morning and a final couple of miles on Saturday morning.

Carb loading from Thursday was bliss! And a day out with friends to the Expo on Friday had me tingling with excitement, nerves and anticipation. I just wanted to be on that start line!

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Saturday night I slept terribly. I mean properly awfully. On any normal night I’m out like a light. I must’ve had about 2 hours in total. But I was still up like a shot at the 5am alarm and we were on our way to Brighton.

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I met up with friends in the start area and planned where I’d see everyone along the route.

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I was in the first wave of runners from the main start, so I made my way to my start pen and worked my way through to about 10 people from the front. My target was a sub 4 marathon. I knew the splits for that off the top of my head. My training suggested I could sneak in somewhere around 3:50 if all went to plan and I was cautious about my pacing. I had the 3:50 pacing band on. I’d also, rather optimistically, worn a 3:45 pacing band mainly so that I could pitch myself somewhere between the 2, if possible. I’d made my peace with the fact I was likely to be ripping it off after 10 miles.

We started and I was across the line quickly. I knew the first mile would be slow with the crowds and the incline, so I just got myself comfy.

In miles 1-6 everything was going well. I always use the “run the mile you’re in” strategy, and each one was strong. Pace was between the 2 pacing bands. The plan was being executed well. The support was strong and I’d seen friends and my boyfriend, Scott, already. With my name on my club top everyone cheers you on, and I was smiling back at them all. The tried and tested strategy of gels every 30 minutes was working.

I’d read a marathon tip from Xempo the week before and I kept asking myself the question.

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Miles 7-12 saw up heading along the seafront towards Ovingdean. Support was less but still encouraging, and as the course loops back you can see the speedy ones coming back in the other direction. My pace was still pretty consistent and each mile was under the 8:35 per mile of the 3:45 finish band….so I was buying myself some time for the harder miles to come.

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Back along the seafront and into Hove I saw Scott, friends, family and club mates. The support was awesome and a real boost after the quieter miles. I crossed halfway in 1:51:43. The 3:45 finish band said halfway would be 1:52:30, so I had a few seconds spare on that finish time. It was positive, but I was pretty convinced that would be eaten up in the harder miles to come.

Miles 14-18 were pretty steady. Good support along the route and plenty of water stations. Another out and back, it was nice to see the faster ones coming past. People started flagging. Runners that I had been around for the first half were stopping or dropping back, and a few of them I saw on the loop back while they were still heading out. Remembering my Xempo mantra I still felt OK at this pace. I carried on.

Scott ran alongside me just after 18 miles. I could still chat fine and was happy enough, I knew I was alright.

I’d been warned about the ‘grim’ miles up to and around the power station. Not only was the scenery a bit bleak, it was around that time that ‘the wall’ creeps up on you.

At 19 miles I saw the #UKRunChat banners, which was a great boost. Just after that there were runners heading back at their 23 mile mark, and I began to get insanely jealous of them knowing they only had a parkrun to go! Still my pace was consistent and I saw 20, 21, 22 come and go. Each time my watch beeped my mile had been around the 3:45 pacing band.

With a parkrun to go myself now, I had to really dig deep to make these miles count. I was passing people who were struggling. At 23 I saw my Dad and Stepmum, I was still able to smile and wave. Here’s me at 23.5 miles, courtesy of Bob Fudge.

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24 and 25 along the seafront were great. It felt like everyone was cheering my name and I had loads of shouts about girl power. Until that stage I hadn’t realised that when I looked around me I was the only female. Lots of chants telling me how strong I looked. I knew Scott would be at 25 miles, I was starting to flag and I felt weak. I saw him there and told him I couldn’t talk but I was OK.

The final mile and a bit was the only part I found tough! But the crowds were amazing, and I saw a club mate who looked just as shocked as I was to see me there so soon! I saw I had around 2 minutes to spare on the 3:45 finish. All I had to do was keep moving and I might make it. The guys around me were stopping. I couldn’t stop.

I saw it. The finish gantry. I managed a sprint finish and passed a few more on the way through. 3:42:34, a time I hadn’t even dreamt of.

I almost kissed every single volunteer I came into contact with after that!

Medal round my neck and bag collected, I was on cloud 9. Straight down to the beach for a dip in the sea!

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My smiles says it all!

I looked at the stats afterwards and here’s a quick round-up:

1st half: 1:51:43

2nd half: 1:50:51

Finish: 3:42:34

Average pace: 8.29/mile (5.17/km)

Slowest mile: Mile 1 @ 8.59 min

Fastest mile: Mile 8 @ 8.18 min

Finish position overall: 1525 out of 9200

Finish position All Women: 163 out of 3347

Finish position Female age 18-34: 75 out of 1423

I can safely say I could have done nothing more to make that run the best of my life. So far!

So now to invest the same amount of trust in to my recovery and mini semi re-taper type thing for the London Marathon, which is in 10 days now!

As an event, Brighton Marathon was great. Course is good, support is great, scenery (for the best part) is lovely, water stations are frequent and marshals were fantastic. My only criticism was the cups of water rather than bottles, but that couldn’t dampen a top class event.

On to the next!

LRG x

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