Marathon

Guest Blogger, Running

Nikki's Guest Blog - Even for Runners, Rest is Best Sometimes!

After abstaining from running for 9 days (see previous blog) I was chomping at the bit and laced up my trainers (new Hoka One One) for a chatty parkrun with my friend Ros. Ros and I chatted our way around the friendly Fareham parkrun, at one point she asked if we were running fast and glancing at my watch I lied and said not especially! Think it was a course pb for her, she is on fire at the moment and I love running with her.  I was on a runners’ high for the rest of the day basically boring everyone with how happy I was.

The next day I was up and heading over to race HQ for my duty as Sweeper for the Meon Valley Marathon. In my kit I had various essentials for myself and any runners that may need a little help – mainly sweets, gloves (eGlove of course!) and ibugel  - oh, and tissues!  It was a glorious day as the runners met in the hall and Phil Hoy gave the runners the final brief and asked us all to make a note of his mobile for the duration of the race.  This is a tough course and he wanted the assurance that we would all look out for each other and if things got desperate we could contact him or the medic.

The start of the race is on the Meon Valley Trail for a few hundred metres before we take a right hand turn and head up towards Old Winchester Hill.  There had been some rain the day before but the ground was perfect and the weather was pretty good in the early stages. Myself and Dean had the role of taking down lots of orange ribbon that had been placed on the course the day before (by Dean!) and scrubbing off the markings on the trail and taking signs along to drop off at each marshal station. This meant that we were going along at a steady pace and ended up covered in orange ribbon. Dean was also having to use pliers to remove some of the signs that had been tacked to posts – our eGloves came in handy for this task – no cold hands and no splinters either.

The route winds through many shared paths and as sweepers we also had to ensure that every gate was closed behind us. Sometimes this meant that we ended up in a field way up high above the church of East Meon full of cows and bulls! Luckily they weren’t that bothered about us and our neon signs. Bearing in mind that I had had 9 days rest my legs were totally fine, especially the knee. I can only think that the rest and yoga etc paid dividends. Some runners were struggling in the second half of the race and made the decision to stop and get taken back to base by the marshals. We had instructions to encourage the runners to get back to race HQ by 4:30 – effectively before it got dark. This meant we had to have a pace of at least 15 min miles and with the hills that this run has that can be a challenge.

The second half of the run has some pretty challenging ups but some great downs too and the views as the sun was setting were just fabulous. There was a chilly wind too, so I was particularly glad that I had chosen to run with the eGlove Winter Elite – nice and warm! All the marshals were brilliant, lots of them popping up in two places throughout the day and yet they were always smiling and wrapped up warm. The light was starting to fade as we made our way along a track towards Meonstoke and then suddenly there is the field and the finish, we made it! The medal was an unexpected bonus and it is a pretty sizeable one too. The post run chilli and chat was great, everyone pleased to have finished and comparing notes. The rain started as we left and the temperature dropped. I love trail running and love this part of the world, just being out there in such a spectacular Autumn is uplifting and that together with completing the run with no pain made for a brilliant day. I am looking forward to running this route again.

Much stretching and elevation of my legs when I returned home. I am continuing with the Glucosamine with Chondritin – it could be a placebo who knows! The biggest thing for me was that after a 9 or 10 day break I didn’t lose anything major in terms of fitness, it didn’t hurt and if anything, it made me love running even more.

Sometimes rest is best!

 

Guest Blogger, Events

Anna the Apple - Guest Blog - Boston Marathon

When I finished the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon last year with a time of 3:24:06 I was over the moon because not only had I succeeded my expectations but I’d also earned myself a Boston Qualifier....

The very popular US marathon requires a certain marathon time in order to get a place and happily the time I needed was sub 3:35 for my age group. So I decided to apply to Boston for 2016 and bagged myself a place.

April 2016 swung by really fast and suddenly I was off to Boston with my mum for a girlie holiday…and the small matter of a marathon to do on day three. Over the weekend it was clear just how much of a big deal the Boston Marathon is to the city. Several people we spoke to – most of them non-runners – reiterated the fact that the city loved getting behind it, and even more so after the terrible bombings of 2013.It certainly felt like the entire city was buzzing with excitement. And just so many runners, easily identified by Garmin watches, trainers, Lycra and Boston Marathon merchandise.

On the day of the marathon, fondly called “Marathon Monday”, I got up super early, got my kit on, and headed out of the door with my mum waving sleepily to me and wishing me luck.

 

I wore throwaway clothes to keep me warm in the race village and had prepared porridge to take with me

I wore throwaway clothes to keep me warm in the race village and had prepared porridge to take with me

Transport to the start was provided for by the race and we were convoyed to Hopkins (some 26 miles away from the centre of Boston – the race is a point to point course) in yellow school buses. We arrived about an hour later… I had about two hours to kill before the race began.

It was nice and sunny but still quite cool. There were free bagels, bananas, Clif products and Gatorade It was quite the buffet. This was like no other race I’ve been to in that everyone looked fast. Everyone was lean, prepared and focused. The vibe of the place was very different to other races. There were no fun runners here. Everyone had run a marathon before in order to qualify. I felt so out of place. I know this sounds ridiculous as I earnt my place there like everyone else, but I honestly felt like I didn’t belong.

Eventually my wave was called. Everything was super organised. And the place was full of police, military and sniffer dogs (and snipers on the roof!). As I waited to start the nerves intensified as I looked around at all the lean, mean running machines next to me. And then we were off.

Miles 1-3: It was very crowded at the start but I didn’t really mind this as it kept my pace in order. There weren’t a huge number of supporters but there were sprinklings of people cheering and on their front lawns, set up for the day with chairs and drinks. It was downhill right from the start and I felt comfortable. But there were a few rolling hills as the initial miles tick by.

Miles 4-7: So far I’d been keeping nicely to my plan. I kept looking at my pace band that I had with me and felt on track but it was starting to feel really tough. It wasn’t supposed to feel as tough as this; my goal had always been to run easy and enjoy the race. I grabbed water from the aid stations and poured one over my head and sipped the other. Annoyingly they were cups which meant drinking was tricky but I squeezed the top together so I could create a spout. I also had to dodge the Gatorades as they were always first (could you imagine if I accidentally dumped one of those on my head?? #sticky).

The course was fairly dull. As a non-American I wasn’t sure what was significant and what wasn’t. As the course is pretty much a straight line to Boston you could occasionally see straight out in front of you and the 1,000s of runners ahead. It was mentally tough to see that.

Miles 8-12: At this point I knew things weren’t going well. I was struggling. I was losing motivation fast. The heat was really getting to me and I was struggling with the pace. I heard a girl next to me say to someone else, “It shouldn’t feel this hard this early”.

Annoyingly a gust of wind blew my trusty pace band away as I tried to read it – I kid you not. I watched it fly over my shoulder and gave a little scream which scared a nearby runner. I briefly contemplated going back for it but realised it was for the best. My 3:40 (and definitely 3:35) goal weren’t going to happen. Now I just wanted to finish. I stopped looking at my watch.

I was in marathon hell. Nothing about the course was helping, there was no shade and I was quickly spiraling into a dark, dark place. I took my gel early in the hopes that it would perk me up and then decided “sod it” and put a podcast on. I needed something to take my mind off the race. I wasn’t enjoying the race and was having a mental battle with myself about stopping. But stopping would be a) embarrassing and b) I’d have no idea where the hell to go or what to do.

We then came into the Wesley area. Suddenly there was a long (and I mean LONG) line of girls hanging over the barriers with bright red lipstick on screaming to be kissed. They had signs with funny messages and it took my mind off the race completely reading them. I’d heard about this before the race so it was fun seeing it live.

Just a small section of the legendary supporters!

Just a small section of the legendary supporters!

Their screaming was deafening. I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Some runners went over to have a quick peck and I even saw one guy get a selfie. It hugely lifted my mood.

Miles 13-16: Suddenly I was back in the groove. I was back in race mode and pulled myself together. This is BOSTON, I told myself. Don’t waste it. I saw a girl in the crowd handing out bottles of Vita Coco coconut water and I decided to grab one. Hands down this probably saved the race for me. The water was deliciously cold and tasty, and it perked me right up. I kept pouring water on my head at each water station but I kept that coconut water with me to sip on as I went on. Now I was just ticking the miles down until the hills would begin at Newton (mile 16).

Miles 17-21: I hit the first hill after a sharp decline and it was a long slog. It was tough but there was lots of support and I just remembered that after every hill there was a decline. I could do this. I remember reading a sign saying “May the course be with you” with a picture of Yoda and this made me smile. Another said “Motivational message for people I don’t know”. Random but funny. And my personal favourite “If Trump can run, so can you”.

When I was at the race village my mum had text me saying she was on the left next to a fire station (I do love my mum’s vagueness). I had no idea where that was. I assumed it wouldn’t be early in the race but at best 17 miles onward. So I now spent lots of time searching the supporters for my mum and any fire stations (thankfully I wasn’t aware that she was actually about 800m from the finish…).

The hills kept coming but I didn’t really notice them. It broke the race up nicely and I found myself overtaking people who were walking or struggling. Amusingly I was only aware of Heartbreak Hill after I’d climbed it and saw a huge sign saying I’d conquered it. I suddenly felt giddy that I’d gotten past the worst of the race.

22-26 miles: I was running strong and was happy. There was a gentle breeze which had a lovely cooling effect. The crowds were thick. I finished the coconut water and ditched it. I raised my hands and smiled and this made the crowds louder (other people were doing this too, I wasn’t the only loon).

My only annoyance was a painful stitch in my side. I tried stabbing my side, breathing differently, putting hands on hips, stretching upwards…nothing shifted it. My only relief was bending over as I ran – this, I know, looked weird but it provided me with minutes of relief after I did it. At this point in the race you do whatever you can to stay comfortable. I saw that famous Citgo sign in the horizon and smiled – finally another landmark I recognised.

We went under a bridge where the words “Boston Strong” were painted.

I took this photo on our last day when we drove back to the airport

I took this photo on our last day when we drove back to the airport

And then it was time for the only two turns in the entire race, the famous: “Left on Hereford, right on Boylston” (I’d only heard about that the day before). And then the crowds were crazy. I pumped my arms and smiled and smiled. I could see the finish in the distance. Still so bloody far away but within my grasp. I felt strong and overtook people as I headed to the finish. And then it was done.

Finish: My time was 3:38:46. I am fully shocked by this – somehow I managed to get my goal despite giving up earlier and ignoring my watch.

I stumbled to the medal collection point. My dad rung me almost immediately (he’d been tracking me from home in the UK). I was just blissfully happy to have survived.

I met up with my mum and we sat in a quiet Starbucks. It was the perfect location to decompress. And the goody bag had an APPLE. A GLORIOUSLY CRUNCHY TASTY APPLE. It was absolute bliss. No apple has ever tasted that good. Big words.

It was definitely the hardest road marathon I’ve done, despite going into it without a time goal. My easy pace I’d planned didn’t feel easy – I’m assuming because of training through winter and then having a very sunny and warm race. It was definitely a fantastic experience.

EDITORS NOTE:

What an awesome achievement Anna, and a fabulous blog! Thanks!!

You can find out more about Anna over on her blog (it's a favourite of ours, which is why we asked her for a contribution!), which also includes her fantastic review of the eGlove Sport Running Gloves. She's also on Twitter as @annatheapple

http://www.annatheapple.com/eglove-review-and-comparison/

 

 

 

Guest Blogger

Nikki's Guest Blog - Marathon Training

Eat, Sleep, Run, Repeat (AKA Marathon Training!)

So, there are moments when running seems to take over more than usual of my life! I am currently in week 12 of a 16 week training plan that takes me to the Paris Marathon on 3rd April. I love marathon running and I love a plan and lists, lots of lists, but, at the moment THE PLAN is dominating all of my lists and am I frankly feeling a bit like ok now jog on and let’s get this marathon done.  Sadly, it is not close enough for me to taper and these weeks are all about fine tuning and completing the last of the long runs.  So THE PLAN must be followed and things like visiting friends, going out, doing household chores (not worried too much by this one) and looking after my family kind of have to slot in. I ran my long run last week on a Thursday afternoon, which was strange. I have become quite good at running at different times of the day and varying the speeds I do these, this helps my body not get used to one time of day and one speed.  On marathon day anything can happen and speeds can vary depending on how many runners are around you, if you are taking on fuel, or have had to visit one of the “toilets” enroute, finger’s crossed that won’t happen.  So if you have run at different speeds it should be easy to adapt.

The final instructions for the Paris Marathon were also emailed today.  This is a pretty impressive 5 page document all about the last long run and tapering and what to expect.  It has great quotes in there too – “you are on the cusp of a formidable achievement.” “Don’t be shy, but don’t be reckless either.” 

With the long run planned, I am running to a local parkrun with a friend, running that and then running back.  I like breaking up the run into sections and also enjoy the company on the runs.  The fuel is ready, kit etc ready, hopefully the snow will not fall.  That left just the “steady one hour” to do and I found every excuse not to go out before pulling on my very bright run tights and heading out in between downpours.  I managed to find some sunshine and hit the local trails and in that little hour I reminded myself why I love to run and that having a plan is a good thing and that it will eventually be over and I will miss THE PLAN! Being outside, in the woods and having them pretty much to yourself is amazing, you get to see tiny little birds flying, groups of tadpoles in the tiny streams and even the odd deer or two. I came back with a smile on my face and mud on my shoes.  Now I guess I ought to tackle some of those household chores………