I’m Running the Berlin Marathon for the Surrey Air Ambulance Charity in Memory of Joyce Wood
It’s the final countdown. After many months of training and preparation, the Berlin Marathon is now only days away. On the 25th September, 40,000 runners will gather on the start line of the 38th BMW Berlin Marathon and I will be one of them! Am I nervous? Yes. Excited? Yes. Inspired? Absolutely!
Mention the words “running” and “marathon” in the same sentence and you will invariably receive a mixed response. To some the thought sends shivers down their spine; “why do you want to do that?” For others it breeds instant thoughts of self doubt ” I could never do that,” and I was no stranger to both of these reactions in the past. BUT, then I reached my thirtieth year. Aged 29, the prospect of the looming 30th birthday flicked a switch in my brain and the gauntlet was laid. Well there is nothing quite like the pressure from the clock ticking to force one into action!
It’s been a surprisingly enjoyable journey by all accounts. I started the training in January cautiously after the New Year’s resolution was made and marathon entry form completed. With the OK from the physio to get going after a calf tear the previous September had healed, the marathon training plan began with 3 x 20 minutes a week. As my confidence grew, this gradually increased to regular 30 minute runs in the week, gradually building the distance in time at the weekends. By March, I was up to 90 minutes at the weekend and had nearly lost the fear that my calf would tear again, meaning I was actually enjoying my runs!
I decided I needed to enter a race to really see where I was at in terms of fitness and speed. Before I knew it, I was at the start line of the Fuller’s Thames Towpath 10 miler race along the banks of the River Thames on an incredibly hot Sunday morning in April. I had just returned from a week’s break in Marrakech, where all training had blown out the window due to the heat, the dust, and generally falling into holiday mode and so I felt a little unprepared. But it was a good test by all accounts and I got round and felt delighted to receive my trophy of a finishers pint glass and even more delighted to dunk it into a bin of orange squash and collapse on the grass in Chiswick and enjoy this well earned drink!
A race is a brilliant motivator on any training program. You feel part of something, you feel a sense of achievement, you feel motivated to do more and to do better, you feel inspired by all the people around you and for me, I felt elated as this was the furthest I had ever run!
In May, I joined a running group, doing interval sessions every Tuesday and strength and conditioning circuits every Thursday. The sessions were the perfect accompaniment to my training programme and the group training was a nice change from the solitary runs I was starting to get fed up with. I learnt to run with a new technique – the Pose running technique, which is much more efficient than my previous heel-toe strike. It took a few weeks to develop, but has been absolutely worth the effort.
I raced my first half marathon, again in blistering heat and again along the Thames in July. The Down Tow-Up-Flow Half Marathon follows a lovely scenic route along the banks of the Thames in Marlow. The start has various obstacles including kissing gates and narrow bridges across the river, which interrupt your stride and cause a bit of congestion, but it then settles down into a beautiful and enjoyably scenic run. My only mission was to complete it and to practice taking fuel on during the race. It is definitely worth practicing ingesting gels in training and not for the first time on a race as I did, but it all turned out OK and in 01:50:38 I had completed my first half marathon race and felt elated once more.
Three more weeks of training quickly passed and I was on the start line once more for my second half marathon race. Again, I had chosen to run alongside water, but this time, by the sea in Seaford for the South Coast Half. This was a lapped course, which is completely uninspiring but good for fast times. For me, it would be a good test to practice taking on fuel again and try a new and much better brand of gels called ZipVit and practice running at marathon pace. I was pretty happy with my improved time of 01:45:48, but felt pretty tired when I crossed the finish line and then had to run an extra three miles to hit my target 16miles for the day. Perhaps I was a bit ambitious thinking I could maintain that pace for any longer than 13 miles! Anyway, another successful session in the bag.
The past three weeks for some reason have been the hardest as motivation has dwindled, despite such positive results from the last race. Despite missing more sessions than I would like to admit, I could not forego the long one – 18 miles. Stocked up with a camelback full of electrolyte drink and more gels than I could consume in my bum bag, I was determined to make this a good one. The alarm went off at 5am on Saturday morning and I woke up and made my porridge. I went back to bed for an hour, then was up, dressed, stretched and out the door by 8am. Amazingly, all went well. After 9miles, I turned, refocused my technique, keeping the stride length short and at as high a tempo as I could manage and headed back home, thoroughly chuffed to have successfully completed the run and slightly nervous that in just a months time I would have to do this plus an extra 8 miles.
It turns out my right knee was less than thrilled about the experience, and has given me some bother since then. A week of rest, massage, agonising foam roller sessions and yoga and it seems to be on the mend again. I just hope it holds and gets me through the final phase and the ultimate test – the race!
If you would like to sponsor me, I am running for the Surrey Air Ambulance Charity in memory of Joyce Wood. All donations are greatly appreciated and can be made on the following link: