A few months ago I revealed I was going to be running the Amsterdam Marathon in October this year. Well, I wasn’t fibbing and I have been upping my running game ever since as 26.219 miles is a bloody long way and I don’t really fancy collapsing half way in.
I try to run between 5 and 8 miles 5 times a week if I’m pushing the pram with one or both girls in and a bit further if I’m running solo. That might sound like a lot and without sounding like a big nobby show off I reckon I have a fairly decent level of fitness. However, fitness isn’t everything when it comes to distance running, it’s what’s going on in your bonce that can be your success or downfall.
With October sliding alarmingly closer and only having taken part in one race in my life (the Wetherby 10k) I made a snap decision to participate in the Leeds Half Marathon last Sunday.
I LOVE running, it’s my favourite past time and it makes me feel ALIVE but there’s something about signing yourself up to an official event that makes you feel like you’re a complete amateur who can’t run at all…
On the morning of the race I woke up to my gear all set out and got a sudden burn of bile at the back of my throat. I’ve run 13.1 miles a few times but never in a race. I was nervous. Nervous but excited!
After downing my usual ‘rocket fuel brekky’ which is basically a pint of extra strong milky coffee, a banana and some toast I lunged around the kitchen for half an hour in my knickers trying to muster the pre-run poo. The pre-run poo is CRUCIAL if you don’t want to shart at the 6 mile point.
Having prepared myself as much as possible I headed out the door to meet my friend and a few other ladies who were also running the race. Number pinned to my t-shirt and still feeling all biley I tried to run to meet her car and found that my legs had been replaced by soggy noodles. What was I doing? Why was I doing this to myself? F*ck.
As we drove in and chatted I realised that we were all nervous, it wasn’t just me, we were in this together. It’s hard not to be inspired around these women, especially my friend Kath. I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you but she’s 40 this year, she’s a scientist, has three kids, cares for a clan of other peoples before and after school, her house is immaculate AND she runs like a whippet. She’s strong, intelligent and funny and she inspires me.
We arrived and there’s a crowd of people all looking athletic doing weird stretches and looking generally like they knew what they were doing. I never warm up, I’m too lazy, I just want to get on with it so I tried a couple of positions I’d seen in a trainer advert once then we went in search of the starting point, so as to get a good place near the front.
It was strange standing in my shorts in the middle of Leeds City Centre waiting to be told I could start running. I had no idea where I was going, I hadn’t even looked at the course! I put my ear phones in and got myself all psyched up with some Eye of the Tiger. Yes, really.
Then it was there, the GO klaxon and thousands of people were fumbling at their wrists to activate fitbits. We were off and before I knew it I was staring at the road feeling like I was going really slow and noticing I could feel my heartbeat in my thighs.
Most of the race is a bit of blur of just running and getting on with it. I like to think about random things when I’m running to take my mind off the physical exertion. We ran past an Aldi’s store and for a good 5 minutes I was wondering what the theme was in the centre aisles that week.
It was quite a hilly course and the sun was beaming down on us so it got quite hot and sweaty but there were so many spectators out to support us. People were out waving and cheering, spraying hose pipes to cool us and handing out water and jelly babies. It felt AMAZING to be part of something, a bunch of humans all just running for different reasons. I tried to read every t-shirt I ran behind and some made me feel really emotional. One ladies read “For Charlie who was born asleep” and I felt tears prick my eyes so I touched her shoulder as we ran and she smiled at me in recognition. That got my blood pumping and helped me up a big hill.
As we neared the 11 mile point and my fitbit voice told me what my pace was I realised I was actually doing pretty well, I was averaging just under a 7 and a half minute mile and I only had one left!
As we appraoched the Headrow and the finish line I couldn’t help but absolutely beam as I approached the big clock and ran through the line at 1:36.11. my personal best for that distance.
I walked through the line of officials who pat you on the back, hand you a goodie bag and place a medal around your neck feeling powerful and like I’d accomplished something. I was proud of myself.
Apart from my marriage and my wonderful children I haven’t ever really done anything I was really proud of. I didn’t even finish my degree because I lost my drive for it but here I was and I’d finished a race and I HAD A TROPHY.
Yes, I know – no big deal, everybody who finishes the race gets a trophy so what? But when I started running I bloody hated it, every step was minging but despite myself I kept going and as with most things in life the more I did it the better I got and here I was with a pretty decent Half Marathon time swigging down a celebratory beer and buzzing with endorphins.
Nothing brings you back down to earth like the realisation that I’ll have to do TWO of those runs to complete the distance of the Marathon. I tell you what though, I haven’t lost my drive for this, if anything doing the half has boosted my hunger to eat up those miles and cross that line.
The thing about running is that it’s just YOU. No one else is going to do it for you, there’s no crutch, you just have to keep going.
In the slightly altered words of Dory –
Amsterdam, I’m coming for you.
On my lower half – For this race I wore my #Brasilfit technical shorts which were amazing for keeping me cool and they have a separate cycling short under a looser outer short to ensure nothing gets bum bunched!
On my feet – I had my usual #Asics gel trainers which I’ve been wearing in for 4 months ( never go out in brand new trainers for a long distance run unless you want to come back without toenails.) I find they are great for keeping my knees loose.
On my upper half – I wore my ‘lucky’ Victoria’s Secrets Pink top… I don’t think it has any performance value other than it’s very thin cotton which I like as I hate getting too hot and it’s bright pink with palm trees on the back 🙂
I can’t promote running enough, as well as the obvious health benefits it has awesome mind boosting effects that can banish even the darkest of moods.
The hardest part is the first mile but I always think if you go a mile you have to come back a mile – that’s two miles!