How Not to Run a Marathon

Now that the dust has settled and that I am walking more normally rather than looking something like John Wayne (you should have seen me trying to get down the steps from the plane last night and negotiating steps in the airport.  Let’s just say that was ‘interesting’), I thought it was time to write this before I forget all the details.

To cut a long story short and indeed if you don’t have time to read all of this just now (it may be lengthy!) these are the things that this weekend has taught me:

  1. Marathons are not easy – you must respect the distance.
  2. If you don’t train properly expect to get out what you put in.
  3. Even when you have got your fueling and hydration strategy sorted, a spanner can still be put into the works.
  4. I am tougher than old boots and a stubborn so and so.
  5. It is very hard to run and cry at the same time (I did know this but had forgotten!)

This was of course my massive PB from last year and I had high hopes.  However, it really only occurred to me when I looked at my training log in comparison with last year, that I was way under the mileage I’d racked up last year.

Manchester Training

That’s only 194 miles compared with 262 miles last year.  Not looking good already.  I’ll cut to the chase though.  I started well and fairly confidently.  Was running with Annie (Abz1903) again as last year, but she wanted me to run my own race, so just after the first water stop I decided that I needed to visit the facilities and she went on (and in fact went on a PB 🙂 ).

I was still feeling good, but have spent very little time running on my own this year.  My aim was to try to catch up or at least sight of Annie again, which I think I did, but the distance between us was far too much, so I let it go.  Then the mental battle started to happen.

A cheery runner, who turned out to be V23 my fellow Fetcheveryone 700 mile thread buddy came past with her mum, which was fantastic.  We had a quick hug and then they pushed on.  This really lifted my spirits for a while, but things were starting to feel not quite so great.

My hips hurt a bit (never had that before) and I when I tried to take some of my fuel it did not go down well and made me feel a little nauseous.  Somewhere between miles 10 and 12 (I can’t remember exactly where it was now) I started to get cramp in my left calf.  There were a couple of little twinges in my Vastus Medialis (yes I looked it up as it has previously given me issues), but nothing like I have suffered before.

I pushed on as much as I could.  I should state here that I’d got my hydration pack on with electrolyte drink on board and although the weather was warm, if I think I remember correctly it wasn’t quite as hot as last year.

After half way was when things started to go completely downhill.  I was absolutely miserable.  I wanted to stop and pull out but every time I saw a sign saying that there was a refuge point ahead, I couldn’t actually see the sign for the refuge point.

I cried, I cursed and swore at myself and my stupid calf.  I hated it – all of it, running, everyone else running, the supporters, the marshals the lot.  All I wanted to do was go home, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  By 16 miles I actually phoned my friend Fi (who had absolutely stormed it for a PB of around 3:26) and told her what was going on.  She gave me a bit of a talking too but it was decided.  I would push on if I could but if things got too bad I would pull out.  No sense in trying to be a hero and potentially hurting myself.

Another runner who was struggling around this point that I had been speaking to gave me some salts to take which was very much appreciated.  Not sure if it helped or not, but was certainly better than all the sweet things on offer.

I now found that I could run just a little, so I started doing a 30 second run followed by a 30 second walk.  Around 18 miles there was a lovely marshal who going back and forward giving high fives to the runners runners and I told her I needed a hug instead.  I got the biggest hug, in fact several of them.  She told me if I couldn’t keep going there were medics and folks who could help just round the corner.

I think this may have been a turn around point for me.  I started to grit my teeth and thought if I could possibly get to 20 miles, then I could finish.  The calf was still being a bit of a pig, but it seemed that I could cope with 30 seconds okay.  The miles started to clock up.

Around mile 22 I called Fi again to let her know how I was doing and that there was NO WAY IN HELL that I wasn’t finishing this.  She’d seen Annie at the out and back section and I knew Annie would be finished soon.

On I pushed.  There were quite a few people struggling now and the course at the less sharp end was very much quieter and at points quite lonely.  For quite a long time I felt I had to justify the fact I was walking as when there were folks they were yelling encouragement, but there were times that I was stopped in my stride as I tried to run, even for 30 seconds.  Damn you cramp!

By the time I got to 24 miles, I knew that things were not actually so bad.  There was going to be no PB – yeah right, get real Carol, however I knew I would still be able to get in around the 6 hour mark, which in the past would have been a time I would have killed for.

Finally at mile 25, but it still seemed a long way to the finish.  Not many supporters about now, but the marshals and the Race Angels who were out (although no Autumnleaves this year 😦 ) were fantastic with their encouragement.  I eventually turned the corner and in the distance I could see the finish.  This is totally the worst point, because it seems to take so long to get there!  I pushed as much as my calf would let me and then ahead I saw V23 and her mum again and I managed to catch up with them and run over the line with them.  There were more well deserved hugs as V23’s mum had been having knee issues, but was undeterred and wants to do another marathon 🙂

We wandered through the finish area and my friends came to meet me.  I got my goody bag, t-shirt, drop bag, alcohol free beer and pictures taken, although not necessarily in that order.

Here’s what the run looked like compared with last year.

Manchester Comparison

Things could have been very different, however as the saying goes, no point crying over spilled milk.  Time to recover and move on.  My next marathon is in 8 weeks and is off road, so it will be a very different beast and I plan to treat it with a lot more respect.

Manchester Bling

This is all 3 of us before the start 🙂

Manchester Start

I am pleased to report that the organisation was fantastic this year, no foul ups as far as we could tell, but it isn’t totally ‘flat’ 🙂

Manchester, I may be back, just not quite sure yet!


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