Things they didn't tell you at the marathon chat by Becky Fennelly

Things they didn’t tell you at the marathon chat...

For the second year in a row I attended the marathon chat event. Last year I attended as a “maybe I’ll think about doing one sometime” whilst this year I was there as a “Yikes, I’m running a marathon! I need advice!”.

I picked up some good tips. Some I decided were not for me this time around (70 miles a week??!). One thing that was not covered though was not to wear brand new Dr Martens 2 days before your long run.

I love my DMs and was very happy with my new pair that I bought last week. I thought I’d wear them to run a few errands on Thursday, but after a while I could feel the right boot rubbing against my heel. By the time I got home, said heel was pretty much shredded.

I opted for Nikes on Friday over the boots but I could feel the damage done to my heel with every step and was a little apprehensive about the impact of my “injury” on my long run. Thankfully when I put my running shoes on, I was delighted to discover that they are much lower on the ankle than my Nikes and they didn’t rub at all. Crisis averted! However, I think the new boots will be sidelined until after the marathon.

The last 2 weeks have also been milestones for me as each long run has been my furthest run ever. Previously, a half marathon had been my longest distance, but as of last Saturday I am now up to 15 miles and so far so good. I also made my hills debut, although having discovered that West Walk is way longer than I thought, my return visit may not be imminent.

 I have really appreciated having my regular training buddy Che with me on long runs to keep me motivated when the miles start to bite. It was good to have Polly along for a good chunk of last week’s run too.  A few shouts of encouragement from Glenn & Nicola in the last half mile of one of our runs were also welcome.

We’ve enjoyed exploring new routes as our runs get longer. One unexpected bonus of running a long way is that I somehow managed to become the 9th fastest woman overall on a Strava segment on Saturday. As a slow runner in an area populated with many much faster runners this has never happened to me locally before. The only other time I have logged an all time trophy was when visiting my sister in Preston where it appears no-one runs!  I was the only runner in her local park on a Saturday morning and I got 3rd fastest ever on a short segment near her house.

On further inspection of Saturday’s achievement, it appears that it is a very long segment which most people do not run as a continuous run (Hanwell Flight to North Greenford). I was the 9th fastest woman because the segment has only been run 9 times! At my marathon training pace and with the amount of mud we encountered it took me 1:52:49 to complete the segment, almost an hour slower than the fastest time and a good half hour behind the 8th position (Jess Hood!).  There are a few Eagles names I recognise on the list of women faster than me for the segment. This would seem like a good segment to go after if you’re into that sort of thing since it appears to be run so rarely. I’ll be sad to lose my top ten status though. I don’t know when I’ll ever get another!


Racing Hot & Cold by Becky Fennelly

The last two weekends have been taken up with races. These races were booked before I knew I was running London Marathon and my training plan to date has been drawn up to accommodate these races. They've become part of my regular racing schedule and I didn't want to miss them.

The first of the races was Marrakech Half Marathon. If anyone's either raced it or read my race report from last year you'll be aware that it has it's challenges with maintaining closed roads, scooters, donkeys etc all over the place, and some issues with route signage, but there's something about this race that keeps dragging me back there (could be the lovely sunshine..).

The race itself went to plan. I did break one of the cardinal rules of racing by trying something new on race day. What I thought was porridge at breakfast turned out to be some kind of rice pudding, not a food I've ran on before. After a tough long run the previous week I was feeling a little anxious at the start line, but thankfully my back felt good and, despite not pushing my pace as this was now a training run rather than a target race, I managed to knock 6 minutes off last year's time. This was even after having to stop and wait for a coach to do a 3 point turn on one of the "closed roads". Maybe rice pudding pre-race is a good thing!


For my midweek run I decided to continue my foray into running home from work by running a couple of stops further on before jumping on the tube the rest of the way. I took a little jaunt down The Mall just to get a feel for some of the London route. I was going the opposite way up the street than I will be on 22nd April but it still gave me the shivers thinking about how I will feel coming down it on race day.

This week was a drop down week due to my long run being the Winter 10k on the Sunday, another of my favourite races. It has such a fun atmosphere and I do enjoy running closed road Central London races (bodes well for April..). I set off into town with Che & Dan. It felt pretty chilly after the warm weather of Marrakech last week. We joined the 20,000 runners taking on the course and enjoyed high-fiving huskies, penguins and snowmen on the way round. I din't push it for a pb time but I thoroughly enjoyed the run. I finished feeling the strongest I have ever done after a 10k. 

It really feels like the training is paying off. It might not be showing in my official race times yet as I am trying to minimise injury risk, but when my back doesn't cause me problems, I'm finishing races with plenty left in the tank and with a spring in my step. Long may it continue...


It Started With a DNS by Becky Fennelly

So I'll start by admitting that I do get Stephen Ralston and David Powlson mixed up. I think I know the difference now but I always hold back from cheering them on just in case. In other cases of Eagles mistaken identity I have been confused with Fiona Moriaty  on more than one occasion.

Anyway, back to my training, and after the high of finishing 2017 with my 50th parkrun I found myself spending New Year in bed with the dreaded lurgy. This was particularly disappointing since my training plan started on New Year's Day with the Serpentine 10k, a race I really enjoyed last year and was looking forward to.

Luckily I wasn't struck down as badly as many and I was back out for a gentle run by the Wednesday. However, this still meant I found myself working on a revised plan with coach Wei Hei before week 1 was out.

Wei Hei had had to work my plan around some booked races so my first long run was the Richmond Park 5k followed by extra miles in the park. It was good to have Wei Hei for company and the run felt pretty comfortable.

The following weekend we decided to start with parkrun and the run down to Chiswick bridge and back to get up to 9 miles. I was really pleased to have my long run buddy Che along for company. Coach asked me to do parkrun at marathon training pace and I must admit I wasn't quite slow enough despite clocking one of my worst times ever. I normally love all the encouragement from the marshalls but when they're shouting "nearly there!" when you have the rest of your long run still to it's a bit disconcerting.

When I first started discussing doing a marathon with Dan, we talked about training for one at the same time. However, I am now glad that he is not training as I got home from my long run to a delicious brunch all ready and waiting! I could get used to this!


Sadly this week, he was away all day on Saturday and I had to fend for myself. Wei Hei had proposed an 11 mile run from Paddington Station back to Northfields so, along with Che, we set out on the train on a wet and cold morning. After a couple of good runs this was to be a tough one for me. After a bit of a back problem in the week I found the run very painful and could happily have stopped at any point from about 4 miles onwards. My wonderful training buddies kept me going though the last few miles by talking about wonderful Caribbean destinations and the holiday plans I have made for post marathon relaxation and, through the art of distraction, I completed the run. Thanks Ladies ,I couldn't have done it without you! A wave from Ronan in the last half mile helped too.

Unfortunately I had to cook my own eggs when I got home this week. I will have to have words with my husband.


Unlucky in Ballots by Becky Fennelly

I have always considered myself to be unlucky in ballots having entered the Wimbledon ballot every year for 20 years and never having won tickets. I've also had a number of rejections from London Marathon to date. I should have known my luck was turning when I won a £30 Bob's Cafe voucher at the Eagles Birthday quiz (which will now be used to buy a slap up brunch after a long training run). I can't begin to say how delighted I am to have won the ballot place and am so thankful to the club for giving me this amazing opportunity!

For those of you who don't know me I have been with the club for about 4 years, joining the beginners group in January 2014. My husband Daniel joined the club first and I found myself socialising with runners as he made friends. He decided to join a group of Eagles on a trip to Amsterdam and I went along to support. I found myself feeling a bit left out as all these people really seemed to love running whilst my experiences were bad memories of school cross country runs in North Yorkshire. I decided I needed to give this running lark another chance and signed up for beginners.

I amazed myself by actually enjoying it and have now completed a few half marathons which I really didn't think I'd ever do. Since then I've been volunteering with the beginners as often as I can to try and help inspire others to do things they never thought possible. And that's how I find myself here today.

Having been at mile 23 every year to cheer on various Eagles friends I have become more and more inspired to run a marathon and, being a slow runner, London stands out as the best option with the generous cut-off as well as being my home for the last 10 years. There were other options in the mix too as I really wanted 2018 to be my marathon year, but London was the stand out favourite.

I had planned to spend 2017 preparing myself for a 2018 marathon by training hard for Ealing Half and then building up from there so I was in a good place for starting marathon training in January. Unfortunately, things rarely go to plan, and after a really strong start with some great long runs with my training buddy Che and some seriously early starts in the hot weather, I injured my back in August.

I had to pull out of all my races in September and have been on limited mileage for the last few months while I attempt to recuperate. The problem is still with me but the pain is far more manageable now (most days). So after some debate with myself as to whether this was the right time for me to begin marathon training, I decided there would never be a perfect time and I should stick with my aspirations and enter the ballot. After all, I'm never lucky in ballots anyway....

So I was both shocked and delighted to hear my name called out at the Christmas party and promptly celebrated with a few too many glasses of prosecco. I woke up the next day a little worse for wear and with a 6 mile run in my schedule. Looking out of the window it appeared to be sleeting and pretty miserable outside and the temptation was to stay warm and cosy in front of the TV. Knowing I was about to embark on a serious training I decided I could not allow myself to start slacking on my training so I dragged myself out for one of the wettest, hardest runs of my life. I'm hoping that not all my training runs will be that hard!

I've been overwhelmed by the support and advice I've received so far from my lovely Eagle friends including offers to run with me even though I'm slower than most. I'm particularly delighted to have Wei-Hei on board as my coach as she has been part of my journey from the start, having been one of the runners on the Amsterdam trip who inspired me to take up running in the first place. 

I finished up 2017 by completing my running goal of getting to 50 parkruns by the end of the year on 30th Dec (just made it!), so now it's time to focus on my 2018 goal of completing the London marathon.

This is not going to be an easy journey given my mileage drop in the last few months but I am determined to get to the finish line and can't wait to be on the other side of the fence at mile 23! Thank you so much for the opportunity!