A long way just for a banana!

IMG_0642I first started running around four years ago. To face the facts I needed to get fit in someway or another and shed the uni pounds!

I had always only ever ran 5 miles or less; country roads, beautiful tracks, and occasionally on a treadmill, although I hate treadmill running. I feel as if you’re running to nowhere, you haven’t got the fresh air on your face, or the scenery to keep you motivated.

Running the Ashdown Forest with mum is a fave
Running the Ashdown Forest with mum is a fave

In the last year I have upped my miles an enormous amount, big enough to frighteningly be entered into the Brighton Marathon. Something I thought I would have never said. It all started over jealousy from my mum competing in the Brighton Marathon this time last year whilst I was travelling.

Everyone’s heard it and I’m sure it’s what put most people off; in truth training for a marathon is a huge commitment and such a strain on your body. But nevertheless it is extremely rewarding and no one can ever take the fact you have done a marathon away from you.

Knowing I would be travelling for the next year in the run up to the marathon I was sceptical if I was to have the time (or effort) to fit in the training; miraculously I did. It became a huge part of my travelling, keeping me fit, exploring new places and sparking a new relationship.

It started with a road trip across Australia with three guys where my one escape, my moment of peace, and a stretch of my legs from 1000s of kilometres of driving, was to run. We were stranded with a broken down camper in Alice Springs for three days, soaring heat, and a very boring, dried up town. Tom and I decided to take our first run together and miraculously ran around 10K in some crazy heat.

This sparked our love for running together and we continued it throughout our time in Australia, running in every new place we found, in the most craziest heat, pushing for our personal best, and sweating out all the crappy food we ate!

We loved it. This for us was a way of getting to know each other without the bunches of people surrounding us in hostels and dorm rooms.

When Tom and I eventually moved down to Sydney, where we were both au pairs, I used to run most days to clear my head from screaming toddlers. The route took me from Northern Sydney across the Harbour Bridge and down to the Opera House. The most memorable, surreal run route I’ve ever done.

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I had only ever run a maximum of 10KM in Australia, up until Christmas when I headed back to the UK. It did worry me that my miles weren’t high enough, but we did have the excuse of the ridiculous 35 degree heat to run in!

Since being back in the UK I slowly increased my mileage each weekend, whilst running a few 5KM runs during the week. My body still didn’t feel capable to run such a distance as 26.2 miles, but I couldn’t back out now. The hardest part of my training was the amount of time it would take from my weekend; spending half of Saturday racking up the miles, then being too knackered to do anything for the rest of the day was frustrating.

It’s a mental battle. Struggling to get your legs to go, pushing your body through all those miles, the amount of times I just wanted to throw the sack in and walk. But having Tom train with me made it possible to keep going. One thing I’d highly recommend is to have a training buddy.

The month running up to the marathon was the hardest. A love for Saturdays turned into hate, dragging my lead legs out of bed at 7am to pound them on the concrete roads for hours was hell. Tom and I would always try to make distractions, nattering away, but it’s tough.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Yes it’s hard the ‘before’ and ‘during’, but the ‘after’ is such a rewarding feeling. To be able to relax for the rest of the weekend having smashed 15 miles or so, pigging out on carbs and getting lots of sympathy massages.

Before competing in the full marathon I signed up to do the Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon; good for my training, preparing me and being able to experience the vibes of running amongst a crowd. Amazing how much the spectators can motivate and push you to keep going. A brilliant but tough day with a finishing time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.

After a years training across the world in sun, rain, ice, storms and insane humidity the weekend had arrived. Weirdly not feeling nervous but more excitement. Perhaps it was from my two-week tapering period. I was more scared that I’d forgotten how to run. The weirdest feeling when you go cold turkey on running for over a week. But it did my knees good, having suffered runners knees, and unfortunately still am.

Waking up at 5.30am to a gorgeous day we headed down to Preston Park in Brighton, where the thousands gathered ready to hit the 26.2 miles.

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Smiles at the start
Having to tape my knee up whilst in the 45 minute loo queue
Having to tape my knee up whilst in the 45 minute queue

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Here we go!
Here we go!

Myself, Tom and a lady from work, Claire ran together, until the last three or four miles where Claire sprinted off to the end. We smashed our first 10 in an incredible time, although probably too fast as I hit the wall much too early, struggling around the half way mark. But the crowds were amazing and pushed me to keep going. Unfortunately Tom injured his foot and hip on mile 19 which he really suffered causing him to slow down.

Still smiling!
Still smiling!

Having trained together I wasn’t leaving him and we were going to cross that finish line together. And so we did! I can’t believe we actually did it. One of the hardest things I have ever done, and one of the most rewarding. Despite the pains, tiredness, headaches, sweat, and emotions, I would recommend a marathon to anyone who feels they need to set their heart on a goal, because it’s worth fighting through for the end result.

The question always asked; would I do another one?

I’m still recovering from last week with an injured leg, but I’m sure I could be talked into another. My eyes are drawn to completing one in a different country, perhaps the Big Five Marathon.

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