I am officially a marathon runner! Well, the term runner may be stretching it a bit as I certainly didn’t run all 26.2 miles. I did cover 27.15 miles though despite sticking as close to the blue line as possible.
The last couple of weeks leading up to the marathon involved a lot of sleeping. I must admit I was exhausted after the months of training and I can definitely say I understood exactly why tapering is important. My last “long” run before the big day was a recce of the first half of the course finishing at Tower Bridge. Given I was running on tired legs and just wanted to sleep it perhaps wasn’t the best mental preparation. All I could think about was how tired I was and how this wouldn’t even be halfway on the day.
I spent much of the week before the marathon anxiously watching the weather forecast flip between 20 degrees and rainy up to 25 degrees, the stormy, then back down to 21 degrees with showers in the afternoon. I am not a hot weather runner and spent much of the warm stretch last summer running at 5:30am to get it over with before the heat set in. Unfortunately, that’s not an option on race day.
A trip to the expo with Che left me feeling quite excited and a lot poorer as I bought one of pretty much everything VMLM branded. This may be the only time I do it so I want all the kit!
Race day dawned and I joined the coach to the start line with the other runners and got to the blue start area with plenty of time to eat my porridge and prepare myself. Polly & I found some space in a tent to stay out of the sun for a while. 20 degrees at 9am does not bode well...
We caught up with a few other Eagles just in time for a poo update from Kieran Santry before joining our start pen. The new wave starts made the blue start much slower in getting going than previous years and we crossed the start line about half an hour later than we expected.
Polly & I had been considering whether we could meet up with Che who was in the red start as it would be nice to run together having trained together over the past few months. However, a text from Dan advised me that Che had crossed the line about 15 mins before us, so if we were all planning to run at the same pace there was no way a meet up would happen.
The first few miles went well, we were on pace and felt ok. We had the course mapped out in our heads and broken into sections between known locations of supporters. Just before 10k we spotted Brenda, the first of our mobile support crew. After a quick chat and a photo we decided to carry on, collecting an ice lolly from a very generous spectator first. Brenda jogged alongside us for a few minutes and may have got in a bit of trouble with the marshalls when she tried to get back off the course.
Round the Cutty Sark we went and onwards to our next support stop in Deptford where Dan, Thim, James & Mark Yabsley were waiting for us with some amusing signs and, inexplicably at the time, a lettuce!
By this time the heat was building and Polly and I were starting to feel it’s effects. We decided to drop back from our planned pace and interject some walk breaks to make sure we got round. We were already seeing people suffering and being treated by St John’s for the heat and we were determined we were crossing the finish line and getting that medal.
Onwards towards Tower Bridge where we were expecting to see Thim again. A surprise encounter with Carol Moran at the mile 12 water station gave us an extra boost. Sadly there was no water left for us. We crossed Tower Bridge looking strong just in case the TV cameras were on us and were delighted to see Thim again with offers of water, bananas etc.
This was about the point where I started to feel pain under the ball of my left foot and realised it was most likely a blister. Unusual, as I’ve never had blisters on the soles of my feet in training and I’d made sure not to get my feet wet in any of the showers round the course.
Heading out towards the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf my foot got worse and worse and the run/walk strategy became a walk/run instead. I have to say, this was the part of the course I was dreading the most, but, as with the whole route, the crowds were amazing. The good weather had brought everyone out into their gardens and there was a party atmosphere all the way round.
We were looking forward to seeing Dan & James again at mile 17 and they didn’t disappoint! We also, finally, after 5 miles, found a water station with actual water left too. This allowed us to take on the electrolytes we had been carrying with us until we could get a bottle of water and we headed towards Canary Wharf with renewed energy.
Next on our list of cheer squads was Catherine Mulrenan and the Run Mummy Run crew at mile 19 and we were pleased to see there was a good crowd still there.
This was the point where my watch informed me we’d done an 11 minute mile. I was pretty certain we had done no 11 minute miles on the entire course and certainly not at this point in the race. Those pesky tall buildings through Canary Wharf were clearly messing with my GPS signal.
Coming out of Canary Wharf round Billingsgate market I spotted the 7 hour pace car behind us and vowed to stay ahead of it. We picked up the pace and cracked on as fast as our blisters would allow.
Mile 23 was a sight for sore feet! There was no chance of a fly-by at this point so we did a slow trot-by. I can’t tell you how delighted we were to see so many Eagles still there despite our slow pace. Having been the other side of the barrier a few times and knowing how the crowd thins out as the day goes on and people go to meet their friends/relatives at the end I had nightmares before the race of getting to mile 23, finding everyone had gone home/to the Wellington and coming away disheartened. However, you guys made sure this didn’t happen and I can’t tell you how happy this made me. Thanks guys! A couple of friends surprised me by being at mile 23 with Dan too.
A mile further on and my boss was waiting to cheer me on outside our office at mile 24. I was so thrilled to see her I tried to sprint up to her for a hug. The pain in my foot when trying to pick up the pace was so much at that point that it marked the last attempt to run and we walked the rest of the race.
Approaching mile 25 I spotted a man with a London Marathon backpack on. I was quite surprised as I hadn’t seen the bag at the expo and was quite upset that I’d missed out on something.
Another surprise sighting of Thim as we circled St James’ Park was a real boost and we smiled as we turned the corner and spotted Buckingham Palace. 385 yards to go! The sight of the finish line and the volunteers with the medals was amazing and Polly & I crossed the finish line together, all smiles.
Having seen all the spectators enjoying pints of beer all the way round the course we were desperate for a pint. Unfortunately my blisters and Polly’s unexpected sore hip meant there was no chance of us attempting to walk all the way to the Wellington so we found the nearest pub and enjoyed a well deserved pint or two before heading home, exhausted but happy.
Things did not go to plan on the day with the heat and my blisters but what an experience! The course was lined with spectators all the way round and the generosity of the crowds who were handing out drinks, sweets, ice lollies, sun tan lotion, wet wipes, oranges, ice cubes , wine (we resisted that one..) etc blew us away. I am so proud to have completed the London Marathon. What a day!
So, would I do it again? The answer is maybe. ..
Throughout this process I have proved to myself that I have the strength and stamina to do far more than I ever expected. It didn’t go to plan on the day as the conditions were less than optimal and that does leave me with the desire to try again to do what I had hoped to do time wise. However, going through all the training again does not mean the conditions will be optimal next time either. Just look at the conditions in Boston the week before! So we’ll leave it as a maybe for now...
Thank you Eagles for giving me the opportunity to experience this brilliant race and for all your support and encouragement during training and on the day. You’re all amazing
I ran 20 miles!! I can’t believe I did that!
When I started this “adventure” in January I was as anxious about these long runs towards the end of training as I was about the day itself. So I’m so delighted to have reached maximum training mileage and the start of tapering.
The last 2 long runs have been significantly better than “the one” as reported in my previous blog. It’s fair to say my pain issues haven’t gone away, but somehow it’s been more manageable. Polly and I have trained together for the last 2 weeks and it's been great to have her company to distract me from the distances we've covered.
On the first of these 2 long runs we stopped for a hydration/fuelling break on the Thames Path close to Hammersmith Bridge. A few miles further on Polly noticed her glasses were missing from her pocket and after checking all possible pockets etc we concluded she must have dropped them somewhere along the way. In the way that you do on a long run we completely didn’t think about going back the way we came to look for them and carried on as planned, writing the glasses off as a casualty of training. Watching the boat race on TV later that day I couldn’t help but think that, with all the crowds on the riverbank, Polly’s glasses were likely smashed to smithereens by now.
Roll forwards 6 days and Polly & I set out to tackle the momentous 20 miler and the pinnacle of our training plans. Usually I have to make a decision when running along the Thames whether I fancy turning right at Kew and heading towards Richmond or go the other way towards Hammersmith. Today we did both to get the 20 miles in without having to do soul destroying laps of the park at the end.
As we approached Hammersmith Bridge Polly suggested we stop at the same place as last week and just have a quick look for her glasses. Amazingly, tucked down behind the bench we spotted them! Not only were they there but they appeared to be in one piece! With the amount of footfall the area must have seen in the previous week we were totally shocked.
For those who have been reading my blogs you may recall a similar incident involving Che’s glove which was lost by the canal one week and retrieved the following week. This is turning into a bit of a pattern. I’m half expecting to lose something on my planned recce run this weekend and find it again on race day.
The next couple of weeks are now about making sure I get to the start line in one piece, which is already proving tricky. On a well deserved spa break over Easter I managed to slip by the side of the pool and land heavily on my knee. Cue massive maranoia! Thankfully it’s bruised but there doesn’t seem to be any other damage. I think I need to wrap myself in bubble wrap for the next 2 weeks.
Well, time to taper now. A couple of long but not as long as they have been runs to go until the big day. See you at mile 23!!
As this is my first marathon I have decided to take the opportunity to raise money for the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).
If you would like to donate please visit my fundraising page at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BeckyFennelly1
OK so I think I have finally had “The One”. I’ve read about this experience in other people’s blogs over the years but had so far managed to dodge it. That run where you really struggle with everything, question your life choices and basically want to jack it all in from early on in the run.
I’m not saying the other runs were easy, they’re all hard, but this one really threw me. 17 miles the previous week had been tough. I was certainly relieved to finish it. But nothing compared to how I felt last week on attempting 18 miles for the first time ever.
The weather forecast for Saturday was snow. I found that pretty hard to believe on Friday lunchtime when I went for a walk in the beautiful spring sunshine. I secretly thought that the forecast for a “mini beast from the East” must be wrong. Apparently not.
I jumped out of bed at 6am on Saturday morning and checked for snow. Nothing! Great! Maybe they were wrong then. I got my kit on, grabbed a quick coffee and cereal bar and headed out to meet Che. Pretty much the minute I stepped out of the front door the snowflakes started to appear in the air. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad.
We set off down towards the river and by the time we got to Gunnersbury Park the snow was coming down sideways and hitting us on one side of our faces. When we hit the Thames Path, the direction had changed and the snow was attacking the other side. At least our complexion would be equally ruddy on both sides!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who sings songs in their head while running, and from the moment I stepped out of my front door the song of the day was “What a Difference a Day makes, 24 little hours...” but instead of singing about rain turning to sun and flowers my version referred to the snow and winter where there used to be spring.
At this early stage, I could already feel the discomfort from a niggle in my abs starting to build. What had previously been a bit of a distraction towards the end of my runs was starting to turn into pain and much earlier on in the run. In fact, tailing short club run on the Wednesday was enough to trigger the pain.
With both pain and snow building in intensity we carried on. By the time we reached our turning point the snow was blowing a blizzard, and we couldn’t even open our eyes properly for the obligatory run selfie. My internal song now changed to “Smoke gets in your eyes”, substituting smoke with snow.
I was feeling pretty damp and cold by this point as well as in pain, and I hope that this had something to do with the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t carry on that took over me from about 10 miles. I can only describe the next 8 miles as a feat of mind over matter and there is no way I would have got to the end without the amazing encouragement from Che. I am so grateful to her that she was able to spur me on to keep going, gritting my teeth against the pain and holding back the urge to burst into tears. I still don’t quite know how I made it to the end and had I been on my own I would almost certainly have jumped on the tube.
I cannot stress enough how important running with the right training buddies has become for me and this will certainly be a key consideration when deciding whether or not to take on something like this again. Che & I have both had good runs and bad runs but thankfully our bad runs have not yet coincided and one of us has always been strong enough to get the other one through the tough times.
Now I find myself sitting here with a sense of nervousness about the next long run. Was the weather a key factor in how I felt meaning with better conditions I won’t go through another run like that? Or is the pain a sign that I am pushing myself to my limit and I can expect every run the feel like that from now on?
Here’s hoping it was “the one” and this week is a much happier story.
Messing about near boats..
It seems like time is flying now and I’m writing this with just 6 weeks to go before the big day. Most of the things that concerned me about the training happened all at once a couple of weeks ago with both the bad weather and a cold hitting me in the same week. I guess it’s actually quite fortuitous to have them both happen at the same time as this means the disruption to training is all in one go. It also happened on a drop down week which limited the impact.
Over the course of “snow week” I watched the weather intently, continually checked out the state of the pavements and kept putting off running for fear of slipping and causing myself injury (the other training concern that’s been on my mind). I read lots of comments and advice from all you hardy Eagles about running in the snow, but that fear of injury kept me from giving it a go. As the week progressed I started to feel a bit under the weather which turned into a cold by Friday, just as the snow was due to clear.
I had been planning to run the Big Half on the Sunday and was secretly hoping it would be called off to avoid having to make the decision myself about whether or not I was well enough to run. As it turned out it wasn’t called off but neither was I up to running, so a day in bed it was.
Thankfully the cold was fairly short lived and I was back out and running a couple of days later, not feeling that my unplanned week off had done me much harm.
The training plan called for a 17 mile run the following weekend and I had planned a route along the river. I was aware that the Thames Meander was taking place on Saturday but after checking the start time and route, I was confident we wouldn’t get caught up in the middle of the run on the Thames Path so Che and I set out on our run early on Saturday morning as usual.
Despite my best laid plans this was not to be a nice peaceful riverside run today. It wasn’t long into the run before we noticed a large number of boats being prepared along the banks of the river. Maybe there’s a bit of a club event we thought. As we carried on further along the river the proliferation of boats continued and we noticed quite a lot of teams of young women accompanying the boats. As we got towards Putney it was clear we had found ourselves slap bang in the middle of a major regatta complete with event village, food stalls etc. We had little choice but to stop running at this stage as teams were carrying large boats around and any attempt to get past them would have likely resulted in being clocked over the head by a boat/oar/other boaty paraphernalia.
We crossed the river at Putney Bridge to start our return towards Ealing. Almost immediately we were faced with a group of individuals running hard towards us with race numbers attached. The number of individuals started to increase steadily. We had definitely found ourselves on an unexpected race route! Some of the first speedy runners we saw started coming back past us in the opposite direction, so it appeared it was an out and back route along some quite narrow areas of the Thames Path. It once again became difficult to maintain our speed as we dodged large numbers of runners heading towards us from both directions. A check of the race numbers informed us it was the now infamous Rough Runners half marathon & 10k events. It was nice to see a few familiar Eagles faces amongst the runners and cheer them on.
We passed a couple of water stations with a single person manning them. At the second water station I heard someone comment about being directed the wrong way across a field. Shortly after this we saw some people heading back towards us for the third time so this was more of a continuous back & forth route rather than an out and back.
At a couple of points we came across a marshall who directed us along the race route despite us not wearing any numbers. Having read the feedback about this race since our run it seems we were actually quite lucky to come across marshalls at all. Che and I commented at the time that we were very glad not to be doing that race and everything we have read since has borne out our concerns about the route and organisation of the event. It was no EHM that’s for sure!
We finally made it to the end of our epic boat and race dodging run, both feeling hungry and thirsty. We shared some nuts but as we had run out of water we both found it pretty much impossible to swallow them and had to dive into an Irish Bar for a drink! Just water, honest! The barman very kindly gave us a glass of iced water each which was extremely welcome. I’d never been to that bar before but since the barman was such a nice chap I may pop back in for a pint or two sometime.
Lessons learned are to check your route thoroughly for events taking place, take plenty of water and choose moister foodstuffs next time.
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!
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...
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.
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!