Here's to never giving up.
Choosing to train for a marathon with a toddler is not a decision I took lightly.
Life was stretched enough as it was, my own workouts were barely 45 minutes on a good day. ‘Free’ time didn’t exist and I had no idea how I was going to fit in all those miles.
But, having originally started training for the postponed 2020 marathon, it was a big life goal for me and as I always say to my clients……
You do have the time, it's just how you choose to spend it.
When it came down to it, the time allocation was actually the easy bit. It was a team effort, Matt replaced a few of his morning saunas at Shoreditch House (I think he actually uses the gym too) with childcare and nursery runs and we increased our tag-teaming efforts at the weekends.
Training was great up until mid-August. I was in a good routine, feeling strong and actually running faster than I had been pre-baby. That said, I’d only managed two long long runs (over 11 miles). One 17 which felt fine, and one horrific 20 miler, it was all hanging on the final push in September.
September arrived and instead of hitting training hard I first got Covid, then injured my calf and also had the joy of a few nursery bugs.
Unable to run more than a couple of miles without calf pain I tried to keep my fitness up with cycling and strength training but it's not the same.
Every few days I’d test my calf with a lap of the park and end up walking home from some mid-way point. I was gutted.
The two weeks prior to race day I was ready to sack it off and seriously considered postponing. I felt so far from ready. Even my fund-raising was super last minute because I didn’t feel comfortable asking for money when I knew there was a huge chance I wouldn’t be able to do it.
I was still undecided about whether to run the week before, but whilst it occupied a lot of headspace, I never fully made the decision to quit.
Something inside me knew there was still a small chance I’d be ok.
We’ve heard it so many times before……
‘The only sure way to fail is not to start’,
‘The only real failure is giving up',
……but how many times do we really get to experience it in action.
The London Marathon was a huge lesson in the importance of never giving up.
I felt quite emotional at the start, it's like the anxiety of the last few weeks had kicked in and this was a real defining moment. The final step in a journey I’d started in 2020 not realising that when I finally lined up to start it’d be two and a half years later and I’d be a mother.
I knew how desperate I still was to finish, I knew how much I still wanted to run it well. I uttered a silent prayer that everything would work out for the best and trusted that I was doing the right thing by giving it a go.
I’d regret it if I didn’t try and as I crossed the start it was out of my hands so I just started running.
I started fast and on hearing eight minute miles in my ear knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain that pace, but given I might only be doing a 5km I went with it.
Gradually I slowed into what felt like a comfortable rhythm. When my calf kicked in around five miles I remember thinking here we go….this is the test.
I knew I could run through it if it stayed at that level of pain, but also that when it goes, it goes and I wouldn’t be able to run another step if it did.
I prayed it would be ok. I was otherwise feeling pretty good and having such a lovely time I didn’t want it to end.
My lack of long runs meant that I had no idea what my body was capable of. I was consistently hearing ‘ 8:25 miles’ in my ear which I knew was probably faster than planned but it still felt comfortable, so I didn’t really have any evidence that I needed to slow down.
Every mile I’d check in with myself and my pace but it still felt good. Self doubt (or sheer exhaustion) was the only thing that would make me decide to slow down and I backed myself and kept on pushing.
I would go as far as to say I was loving it.
Running the London Marathon is an incredible experience and one that I will never forget. There are so many incredible moments etched in my memory……seeing my family for the first time, turning a random corner and suddenly seeing Tower Bridge looming up above, the insane crowd support and a few little surprises from family and friends popping up on route. It was amazing and I was so grateful that I was still feeling fit.
When I returned to Tower Bridge at 22 miles I knew I was going to finish. I was feeling strong, my (untested) fuelling strategy of a gel every three miles seemed to be working and I knew, if necessary, I could walk it from there and still finish before it got dark. I was going to complete the London Marathon!
My headphones died shortly after, so I ran the last few miles with the roaring sound of the crowd in my ears.
The last couple of miles were tough, mentally you know you just need to hang in there for a few more minutes there was definitely no attempt from me to go any faster. I was just so happy to be there, in the home straight, about to finish my first marathon feeling pretty good!
The National Deaf Children Society cheer stand was at mile 25 mile and that support carried me through the last mile.
With the finish line in sight, those tears I’d been holding back (on numerous occasions) returned. It meant so much to actually get there. I was so proud of myself for sticking with it, giving it a go and just felt truly grateful that despite everything, I still had managed to complete the race with a decent time (3:45:10).
People say it’s one of the best days of your life and it is definitely up there. I still can't believe how well it went.
I did it!
A Few Lessons Learned from my first marathon.
Aside from never, ever giving up because you never know what’s going to happen, I also learnt a few other things along the way which might be relevant to anyone on their post-natal training journey.
Some of these I probably should have known better but we all make mistakes and there was just so much going on in life I sometimes felt like I barely had time to breathe.
Training (in whatever form) is a stressor on the body. It takes A LOT out of you and your immune system can take a hit. Prioritising hydration and nutrition are key to avoiding injury and illness. I did my best, but definitely could have increased my intake or supplementation of vitamins and minerals. Nursery bugs and Covid are fairly hard to avoid but I might have had a better chance against them.
Seek Professional Support
My calf injury initially occurred about six months ago during a netball match. It popped up a couple of times during training but I didn’t see a physio until it was too late (ie. a couple of weeks to go). Had I done this earlier it could have been managed better from the start. As a mum it felt like such a commitment to actually take the time to train that all the extra time usually spent on after care and recovery strategies was more than I could give. Hindsight.
Don't Go Off Plan
I had to miss a few long runs for social reasons so had some big jumps in mileage which definitely weren’t on the plan. Whilst it felt ok, your body needs time to adapt to the training. This is why the long runs should generally only increase in 10% increments to allow the body that time to adapt and get stronger.
Rest and Recovery
As a mum you are rarely in charge of your recovery time as it is never mind when training for a marathon but I exacerbated this slightly by having a few long runs where I went straight out to parties or festivals after. It was summer, there was a lot going on but.......probably not the best recovery strategy to do another 50,000 steps dancing and drinking. Possibly why I felt so run down.....but at least we had fun!
Unfortunately you can’t do everything all at once, although I'm sure I still give it a go.
And no matter what…..
NEVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP BECAUSE SUCCESS MIGHT BE JUST AROUND THE CORNER.