It’s been a couple of weeks since I completed the marathon. I think I’ve needed a bit of time to let it go, the whole marathon thing. Although I enjoyed most of it immensely, I have to be honest and say that it was one of the most stressful things I’ve done in a long time, both to my body and my mind. As a yogi, I was constantly reminded and aware of this. I will tell my story as I feel it has several tips which any new or even a well-experienced marathoner may appreciate. In a nutshell, you can not prepare yourself totally for a marathon. It really depends on the day – the weather and how you slept, ate and trained in the preceding days.
The days before had played total havoc with my nerves as you will have read in the previous post. Brandy was a great medicine here, worth repeating. On the day, I was OK once we started mixing with other runners. Although the race didn’t start until 10, we were at the train station at 7.50 waiting for the only train to the city which would get there at a reasonable time. I was thankful, not for the hammering rain (although forecasted), but for finding a tiny little cafe near the start, full of other runners and their families. Several conversations with other runners really sorted out my nerves. I left there warm and dry. Not only did I have a waterproof on with a hood but used my bin bag to make a skirt so that my legs would not get wet! Not catwalk worthy, but hugely practical!
At the start line, I really felt the buzz. It reminded me of my clubbing days where we would all get dressed up in cyber/dayglo colours and wait for the club to open in eager anticipation! But I didn’t have 26.2 miles to run then but to dance for 9 hours. The excited tummy was pretty much the same! I spent most of the waiting time trying to figure out how to work an mp3 player a friend lent me. I had already loaded up my marathon playlist and charged the device. However, when I came to switch it on, the battery was as dead as a dodo! I was heart-broken. I’d not really done any training without music and had designed a special playlist which would take me on a journey right up to the finish line. I know, it sounds ridiculous. But it’s kind of meditative when I’m running and it really helps me….but it was not to be this time! So I left the blessed thing with my husband and off I went. Then some magic happened…it stopped raining…there is definitely a GOD!
It took nearly 15 minutes to cross the start line and I was determined not to run until I did. I’d done a little yoga that morning and lots of squats at the start to fire up my legs. The first third of the marathon was almost all downhill. Not steep descents but downhill nonetheless. Before even 5 miles, it seemed we were out of town and running around the mountains. YES, you guessed it, I had “she’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes” stucked in my head for many miles (in the absence of trance music!). I was also thinking how glad I was to have been so over-cautious about my expected time, because everyone really did go nice and slow and easy at the start. Everyone was relaxed. I did stop at about 6 miles to go to the loo. There was a queue but no-one was hanging around. I was put off by the queue at 3 miles but in hindsight, I think it’s better to go as early as possible. The legs get the wrong messages about running on, the further you are when you take a break. But usually after the first pee, I don’t need to go again, as it all seems to shut down.
I passed a level with the finish line around 9 miles, so from then on, it was out and back. By this time we were already at the coast and the sun was shining brightly. I had worn my baseball cap, mainly to keep the rain off my face and I still had a fleece around my waist. I ended up giving the cap away and the fleece to my husband at mile 15. I didn’t realise that Edinburgh has a beach! The scent of seaweed was so strong and it took me right back to my childhood holidays in Cornwall and Devon. Where there were houses, there were people and they were so supportive! The kids wanted a high five from as many runners as possible. Some people open their windows and played music out into the street, some offered sweets and water. There was a bit of entertainment along the way, mainly drummers.
Just after the 13.1 timing mat, I was thinking ‘brilliant, I can really do this, I feel great’. But less than 1 mile later, my quads (thigh muscles) started to really HURT BAD! I hadn’t planned for this. It had never happened before. I had cramps beyond my worst nightmares. I was hoping to meet my husband around the 15 mile mark, so I kept running until then. I stopped and stretched when I saw him, but you have to stretch for a long time after running two hours! Someone even offered me an ambulance! I was horrified! Did I really look that bad? I wanted to stay with him longer, but he would cross the road and see me on the way back. I did get going again but it was tough. I kept thinking ‘well at least my knees aren’t hurting and my hamstrings are OK!’. Anything to turn to the positive. We ran round a kind of abbey at the turning back point, which was a nice and welcome change. The terrain was a little bumpy in places but not too bad.
I saw him again at 21 miles. This time I asked him to walk with me. I took another energy gel and a few gulps of water and went on my way, thinking that the next time he would see me, I would be a marathon runner! From then, every mile was tough. The markers seemed to be torture to look out for. I would try and run to the next one, with the promise of a walk or stretch when I reached them. But it was really tough. Then I seemed to lose a mile! I really don’t remember seeing the 25 mile marker when someone shouted “come on, you only have 1 more mile to go”. I was running and stayed running until the finish. I didn’t notice the rain starting again either! I couldn’t see my husband in the finishing crowds but it didn’t matter. The roar and cheer of everyone was simply awesome. I had to try really hard not to cry. The last time I cried at the end of a race, I couldn’t breathe or talk and started wheezing!
I collected my rather enormous and heavy medal in the shape of Edinburgh Castle and collected my goody bag. I had my photo taken and I wasted no time in eating my energy bar and having a stretch. I was a little miffed at having to walk across a huge field to the family meeting points. He wasn’t there either, so I decided to get my bag from the luggage lorries. I had packed a carton of almond milk to mix up a protein shake with, but it has burst open. This was really the only other major disappointment of the day. There was still a good bit of it left, so I mixed it up and enjoyed it immensely!
My husband turned up shortly after. He’d had difficulty getting a train from the 21 mile point. We went to get a coffee and that’s when the heavens really opened, but not for long. Then we had a ridiculously long walk to the train station. But I was happy. I’d just completed my first marathon in 4 hours and 39 mnutes! And I didn’t hit the dreaded wall, get any blisters, get wet or have any chafing. Pretty good result by all accounts. And after a week, I managed a little 2 miler. Felt like a beginner all over again.
Although I have nothing to compare it to, the whole thing was really well organised. No long queues for anything. It would’ve been really nice to have had shuttle buses waiting outside. As it was, we had to walk more than half a mile (felt like more!) to the bus or the train station. Some complained that they didn’t get their timings in the right format. I wasn’t expecting to get them as and when I did, so couldn’t moan.
Would I do it again! Probably not. But that’s what they all say….