The London Marathon – How I Got It So Wrong

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Sunday 13th April, 9:30am, queuing for a toilet and trying not to let nerves get the better of me. I take a couple of deep breaths and look around at the overall spectacle of this world famous event. Then, the nerves come back. I’m about to run a marathon!! 26 miles. No going back. I suppose if this was the only pressure I was feeling it may not have seemed so daunting but I knew that in order to be taken seriously for the #7days7irons challenge I would have to prove myself here and so I piled that pressure on too!

When I stopped to think a little while longer on the start line I started to relax. I had trained enough, I had ‘carbed up’ – something I’d never really done before but every article I had ever read about marathons recommended it – I had tapered my training, I had fuelled up as usual with Elivar Prepare and had 2 litres of Endure with me as I would when training. Finally, I had ditched my old trainers that were too small and squeezed my feet, instead I had my new, comfy trainers. What could go wrong??

10:00am and we’re off. I’m running the London Marathon and now it’s underway I am truly relaxed. The sun beats down, there are crowds of fantastic cheering spectators and bands line the way playing all manner of uplifting music. I’m enjoying this, the best running experience of my life. The first 5 miles seem to fly past, my feet are becoming a bit sore, perhaps a blister or two. It’s a little too hot, I’ve done months of winter training, I’m not used to the heat. I press on and try to block out the escalating pain in my feet.

It feels like my feet are bleeding, I know now, like I knew at the start, like I knew the day before and always have known to NEVER wear new trainers for something like this, ever! I can feel blisters popping and growing all over the soles. To add to that it feels as though my feet are slapping the Tarmac and so are starting to burn as well. The heat is zapping my energy and I want to stop and sit down. I chug away at the feed tube of my hydration bag and the cold, familiar taste of my sports drink trickles down my throat. Whilst it doesn’t take my mind off the pain in my feet it re-energises me and allows me to keep pushing on.

It is around mile 16 when, having continued to fuel myself correctly and dowsing myself in water whenever I got the opportunity, that my pained feet seem to ease off. The swelling and burning became more bearable. This is it. A turning point. Time to start pushing again. I knew that if I got back to a good pace that I could still finish in my target zone of 4 hours. I passed the pace runner that would have me finish in 4:15 and started the hunt for 4:00. He couldn’t be far away I was starting to eat up the crowd.

The 17 mile banner was over head and Bang! My left foot seemed to snap. Or at least that how it felt. I almost fell to the ground as I felt it give way. It was hard to support myself but somehow I managed to stay upright. As someone who doesn’t like to show pain I kept going. Smiling and hi-fiving seemed to give me the odd moments of respite and motivation. I limped and dragged and hobbled for the next few miles. Painful running was interspersed with painful walking and slowly but surely I saw my time goal slip away. Thousands of runners glided effortlessly past me whilst I wanted to grab them and say “Help me. I’ve really hurt myself. I’ve broken my foot”.

Eventually I got to within sight of the finish line and I managed to run really quickly towards and over the line in 4 hours and 54 minutes. Immediately all of the feeling came back and all mental pressure subsided simultaneously. The physical pain was very real and stayed with me for around another hour but I managed to keep it at bay whilst I collected my medal and goodie bag.

So, I was gutted with my time but strangely I had loved the whole experience. I loved the challenge and the fact that I’d had to really push myself through unrelenting soreness and onto victory! I enjoyed it because I had proved I could do it!

Ultimately I realised how amazingly difficult my #7days7irons challenge was going to be. I hadn’t just run the marathon this Sunday, in my head I had just completed the first of 7 consecutive marathons and this scared me. It was 5 times harder than I had hoped and so I questioned whether I would be able to do it. Not just 7 marathons but the swim and the bike beforehand too, 7 days in a row!

One thing’s for sure. I cannot and will not fail. The pressure I am piling into myself is huge. I have to succeed and I will! The London Marathon proved what I have always thought about staying mentally strong and focused.

7 days after the marathon I ran a 10k road race in under 55 minutes. No world record I grant you but a PB for me nonetheless. I ran it comfortably and in my old trainers that are too small for me.

Notes to self:
1) Carb loading doesn’t seem to work for me. I felt too heavy.
2) I tapered too much and too early. Should’ve done a few miles on Friday beforehand.
3) Don’t go off to quickly…ever!
4) NEVER EVER wear new running shoes for a long running event – no excuses, just DON’T DO IT!!

I’ve over a year to train and to become strong enough to complete 7 iron distance triathlons in 7 days. If the London Marathon, the very first training event of my #7days7irons challenge taught me nothing else it taught me that if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve got a very good idea what does and doesn’t work for me and I need to stick to my guns. The chance of failing is high so I need to do all I can to mitigate failure, changing tactics at the last moment is a recipe for disaster.

This is not just a vision any more, it’s very real…

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