Number 2 on my bucket list is to run a marathon before I'm 40.
Number 1 is to visit St Petersburg and go back to Moscow again. Number 1 actually seems far more achievable than Number 2, but then common sense and logic has never been my forte.
I figured if I am only going to run one marathon in my life then I would like it to be spectacular. Scenic. An adventure. More than simply popping out for five hours or so on a Sunday to do a long run (am I being optimistic on my time here...?) then cracking on with the roast afterwards. I want to soak up the atmosphere beforehand and bask in the glory afterwards, albeit battered and broken no doubt.
People try for years and years to be successful in the London Marathon ballot so that was out of the question and I wanted to go somewhere where I would at least be somewhat distracted by the surroundings whilst running 26.2 miles.
TWENTY SIX POINT TWO MILES, people!
I chose the Marathon de Paris, on April 8th 2018.
I won't lie - the deciding factor was the few days I could spend in Paris beforehand plus all the pastries, cakes and bread I could stuff my face with in the days before the marathon and pass off as 'carb-loading'. Er, dream come true?
As you can see in this post, I've not been running too long. I figured the best thing I could do would be to devote a full six months to getting marathon ready instead of the typical 16 or 20 week training plans that most runners follow. I'll be documenting my progress every month as I think it will be interesting to look back on in years to come. Running a marathon is quite the achievement but getting to the start point fit, healthy and in the right frame of mind is just as much an achievement, if not more.
October marked the start of training for me and on October 1st I took part in the Lincoln Half Marathon to kick it off. I wanted to beat my Gothenburg time of 2:27:48 from May and although I achieved this I was really disappointed with how the race had gone for me. It's no secret that I have bipolar disorder and I have to work really hard (alongside medication) to stay on top of my moods and thoughts. I got to the 6 mile point absolutely fine, happy with my splits and feeling fresh but then something just switched. The thoughts crept in and became more difficult to push away.
I started walking.
By mile 8, the race may as well have been over for me. I started lightly jogging again, but the rumination was just too much. Exhausting, even. I'd really wanted to finish in under 2:15hr and when the pacer went past me around 11 miles I could have picked up and followed them, if not picking up the pace and finishing ahead of them. My legs had so much to give still; my mind was just not willing.
I couldn't be bothered.
I did beat my Gothenburg time, coming in at 2:22:55, but when I crossed that finishing line I lost my sh*t spectacularly. It wasn't pretty AT ALL.
I went home and immediately signed up for another half marathon at the end of October.
Midway through the month I thought I would go for a ten miler at a comfortable pace to prepare for the next race. I planned a nice circuitous route from my gym, incorporating an early hill then back down through scenic Lincoln and finishing along the canal. It was pissing it down but I wasn't particularly bothered. I'd packed a gel and some fudge and just gently plodded along in my own little world listening to some retro tunes on Spotify (Fleetwood Mac and Chaka Khan, anybody?).
As I was approaching the 10 mile mark, not far from my car, I pressed my Garmin ready to stop it and accidentally flicked the screen instead. I'd downloaded this widget a few months previously which was a 'half marathon predictor'. It uses your pace/speed during that specific run to predict your HM time if you were to continue on for 13.1 miles. It was displayed on another screen on the watch if you clicked through. Well, what do you know? It said if I carried on as I had been over the past 10 miles I would complete 13.1 miles in 2:14:58. THE MAGICAL SUB 2:15!
I thought to myself "Sod it. I'm going to do it."
And I did. I ran up and down a 1km stretch of the canal until I had officially run 13.1 miles and when I stopped my watch, it said my time was 2:13:27.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was euphoric! I'd done it. Smashed my goal. More to the point, I'd done it without really thinking about it until near the end. My mind had been happily engaged and my legs were strong. I went home, had a bath, and for the first time ever after a long run I didn't have to come down the stairs backwards for a few days after! Result all round, I'd say!
The last weekend of the month brought the Worksop Halloween Half Marathon. It was the day after the clocks went back so it felt like I'd had an extra hour to wake up (and mainline caffeine, obvs!) before the event plus I was running it with my bestie. Well not *with* her as she is like the cheetah to my sloth, but we were there together and I always look forward to seeing her pretty face waiting for me at the end. That's one advantage of being slower: there is always someone cheering you on as you finish!
It was an undulating route through evergreen Sherwood Forest and the surrounding countryside. The sun was shining and there was a crisp Autumn chill in the air, making for a very pleasant and comfortable running experience. Running through Clumber Park was a particular highlight. Evidence of the seasons gently changing was all around and then as we meandered through Worksop College it felt like I was trespassing at Hogwarts!
This was the first race I can truly say I enjoyed. I treated the first 5 miles as a gentle warm up and from there my focus was on getting to the 10 mile point. Once I reached that, I reassured myself that there was just 5km to go now; half an hour or so and I would be done. Just a park run, really. The last mile was downhill, which was a definite bonus. I live in flat-as-a-pancake Lincolnshire so I'm unaccustomed to any kind of incline, remember!
I finished in 2:17hr, feeling strong and happy that I had enjoyed myself. I'd felt no pressure of a time and I was pretty ecstatic with my result, given the gradient (did I mention it was a hilly one?!).
October also saw me break my 5km PB. I always feel like by the end of a planned shorter run I've only just warmed up so it took a fair while to learn to pick up the pace so I could achieve a sub-30 minute 5km. As you can imagine, I was chuffed to bits to record my fastest mile of 8:22 and fastest 5km at 28:10 during the same run on October 14th! It wasn't my brightest idea to run along a deserted canal towpath in twilight without any reflective gear or lights, so perhaps that made me run faster?!
All in all, October was a great springboard to increasing miles in future months. My total distance was 49.08 miles in a time of 8:33:08. In November, I'm planning more frequent, faster runs incorporating some hills and speed work with long runs sitting around the 6-7 mile mark.
Paris. BRING IT ON!
* If you enjoyed this post, check out So you think you can’t run? to read about what motivated me to begin this marathon journey... *