Three sleeps to go!
I know I'm old enough to know better but for every exciting thing that I can remember I've always counted in sleeps. Birthdays, holidays, going back to school (yes I was one of those kids who loved school, I'm not sure there's much I don't like) I always count sleeps and now it's just 3 sleeps to go until I finally take to the start line of the London Marathon.
Given that I have a lot of nervous pent up energy right now, eating tonnes of food and a taper will do that to you, I thought I'd share my final thoughts on running London.
1. It's a HUGE achievement just to get to the start line - If you've trained for a long race you'll know what I mean. All the training puts a big strain on the body and parts of your legs, ankles, feet, you name it will hurt in the oddest and most frustrating way. So getting to the start line is a massive achievement. I like to think of the marathon as the victory lap for all of my hard training. With people cheering me for all of those early morning training sessions and times when you turned down a pint or a glass of wine because you had a long run in the morning. And so I think we should take those cheers and have fun! As much fun as possible when you're running 26.2 miles! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a number of times after some pretty painful long runs and early morning starts I've vowed never to run a marathon again*. So if this is my last marathon ever I'm going to enjoy it. My plan is to try and take in every second, every part of the course, the sound, the buzz, the excitement (*just to clarify, never say never)
2. You learn a lot about yourself in training - You know that little voice in your head that tells you to give up, you can also train it to keep going. For a while at the start of my training I'd lost my mojo. I didn't believe in myself, I thought I couldn't do it and that made everything harder. It didn't matter that I've run a marathon before, in fact that made it worse. I was putting an extraordinary amount of pressure on myself. I was constantly comparing my training runs to other people, people I don't know and who I wasn't training with. I started my training with 10 weeks to go and I was on the back foot. I made excuses and learnt pretty quickly that excuses don't make you faster but they can really effect your mindset. I've spent the last 10 weeks training my mind as well as my body and both are stronger than ever.
3. No-one actually cares about your time but you - As soon as I realised this it took a big weight off. I was chatting to my best friend Rachel about getting sub 4 and she was reassuring me that I'd be great and I realised that she's my oldest friend she will not care if I come home in 3.55 or 4.55 she'll want me to be pleased with my time yes but really ... it's not like I'm going to win the race.
4. You'll eat more than you thought humanly possible - Even before marathon training I ate more than most people I know and not just girls. Add in 5 days a week of training and I have possibly doubled my fuel consumption. Luckily I've been supported by KIND throughout my training and they've given me lots of fuel to see me through. I asked my friend Alex, a dietician, for some sound bites on KIND bars. Given that they will be stuffed in our finisher packs and it will be the first thing most of us eat after running for 5 hours I thought it would be interesting to know what's in them. Alex massively over delivered and she's done me whizzy graphs and everything. In summary, "KIND bars may help you to stay a fuller for longer because of their relatively higher protein and fibre contents".
Alex advises that "KIND snack bars may provide up to 20-30% of fibre needs for the general population per day, which is much higher than the other snack bars shown**. The fibre will come from the fruit and nuts, and is needed for a healthy digestive system, as well as helping regulate our energy levels and keeping us fuller a bit longer." As KIND bars are in the post-race goodie bags, I asked about post-running nutrition, "In terms of post exercise snacks, if people are trying to build muscle then eating something protein and carb rich after exercise is good, within about an hour. Eating as soon after exercise as possible is a good idea, but so is getting rehydrated. A good thing to have post exercise is milk – ticks off the nutrients and the hydration. But more practically when out and about these bars would be a good solution." So that's it then, a glass of milk and a KIND bar, can't believe I'm thinking about the post-race moments already!
5. Is it worth it? - The early morning starts, turning down social events, not drinking, the pain in every part of your body for long periods of time especially your knees and lower legs - but do you know what even as I write the list I know I'm one of the luckiest people ever. I am due to run one of the most iconic races in the world, I'm fit, I'm healthy and I can't even call the changes in lifestyle sacrifices that would be embarrassing. Let's say it's been an adjustment. If you sign up to a marathon a huge cloud suddenly comes into your world, it's there every time you do anything. You worry about getting injured and you're exhausted all of the time but I know when I toe that start line it will be worth it.
6. Finally I learnt the difference between a PR and a PB - When my final Sunday long training run didn't go to plan and I realised my dream of a sub-4 marathon time in London was becoming less and less likely it made me think. My PR for a marathon is 3:54 set in Paris April 2013. It was a blooming good time even if I do say so myself but it was set at a time when I was at uni and had no responsibilities or commitments. I ran my long runs when it fit around my social calendar sometimes mid-week and set up my day around my training.
Life is very different now. I wake up at 5:30am most mornings to fit in walking my dog and my training before work. I balance work commitments and late nights at work and have to and want to prioritise work. There were times on my run that Sunday when everything hurt but it was the desperate desire to keep going and not physically being able to that made me want to cry. I've never felt that before. When my legs kept stopping and walking when I wanted them to run I shouted out aloud in frustration. I wanted so many times to call my boyfriend and ask him to collect me. I've read of other people stopping their runs recently and explaining why they didn't do the distance set on their plans. When the chest pains started at 16Miles my mind told me to walk too and I did but I wasn't going to give up. I would walk the whole remaining 5 miles if I had to. I learnt a lot in the remaining hour of that training run. The main thing being that whilst I might not get a Personal Record on Sunday I will for sure get a Personal Best. I gave the final days training my all and when I'm in the race I'll give it everything I've got, my very best. I won't leave anything in the tank but put it all out there on the streets of London so that even if I don't set a new Personal Record I'll know that I've given it everything I can. Whether my final time starts with a 3, a 4 or a 5 it will be my Personal Best effort that I can give and that will mean everything.
(The photos on this post are post-run snaps from the last 10 weeks - raw, unedited, real photos of post and mid-run pain!)
** Below: Whizzy graphs created by Alex Russell, Registered Dietician, comparing KIND bars to other snacks.