About 10 years ago I remember sitting in the lounge at the gym with a friend watching the London Marathon on TV. He joked and said, "why don’t you do a marathon?" I laughed and called him crazy. Back then, I was strictly gym and said "I can’t understand why anyone would want to run for that long". That thought stayed with me until early last year.
A friend and I decided to enter Beachy Head Marathon... just because. This was a marathon with a difference – described as “one of the biggest off-road marathons in the UK” and “a challenging event”. We knew it would be more of a hike than a run so we didn’t feel under pressure. I had also ruptured a bursa in my knee 2 weeks before so it was more of a fun day out than a serious race.
Once I had completed Beachy Head Marathon, I wondered whether I would actually be able to complete a road marathon. I now knew I had the distance in my legs, it was just whether I could run it, after all I am still very new to running (only been running just over 2 years). I looked up marathons for 2019 and “the UK's flattest major marathon with huge support on route” sounded like the best one to start with – Manchester Marathon.
One of my friends is a triathlon coach so I contacted him to ask if he could coach me for running. All of a sudden, my Training Peaks was filled with four runs a week, Wattbike training, swimming, strength and conditioning, and stretching. Of course, as soon as I saw it I thought ‘no way am I fit enough to train two or three times a day’ but of course I got on with it.
I had already entered 5 half marathons for the start of 2019 so they were incorporated into my training. These were meant to be training runs but with all my training I was able to set new personal bests for my 5k, 10k and half marathon times.
It was during one of these half marathons I noticed a ‘niggle’ on the inside of my left thigh. As most people do, I got on with it and thought it would go away – it didn’t. Possible tendonitis! During London Landmarks Half Marathon I could hardly run and I decided I wouldn’t be able to run Manchester Marathon – how could I if I couldn’t run 2 miles without stopping to walk?
I had a chat with my sports therapist and asked him honestly if I could still run and he believed I could still do it. My coach agreed.
So at 9am on Sunday 7th April I was on the start line. To say I was nervous was an understatement. Although I knew I had completed the distance before on an injury, this was different. I wanted to run as much as possible and to enjoy it not just complete it (if I could complete it that is).
The weather was perfect – around 14 degrees Celsius and clear skies. I had my gels in my race belt and felt ready to go. I had met up with some friends from the running club that meets at my work. We decided to run together – to take it slowly and just enjoy it.
We were off!! 20,000 people running the streets of Manchester all with the same goal in mind – to complete 26.2 miles. We admired some of the costumes around us, a giant strawberry, Bert & Ernie, dinosaurs, rhinos, and Spiderman. Massive kudos to anyone who can run any distance in a costume – I overheat in just shorts and vest!
The support of the crowds is amazing, I didn’t have headphones on so was able to take in the atmosphere and hear the cheering and encouragement. They really do get you round the course! The course is marked out with mile markers. You always hear the same comments from runners when you get to a marker. At mile 1 “only 25 to go” – yeah thanks for that mate!
I was running comfortably with Louise and Clive, we were chatting away and Louise was keeping an eye on pace to make sure we weren’t speeding off to quickly. At mile 12 I had lost them, I think I just got caught up with my own pace. At this point I’m usually nearly finished so the thought then come into my mind ‘I’m not even half way there’
Luckily, I then saw Alison on the side of the road. “Come on, I'll run with you,” she said. Alison is a lot quicker than me, so all of a sudden we're sprinting past the 13 mile halfway point. We stayed together for around 4 miles, then she dropped back into a walk. I’m normally always ready to walk with someone, but I knew if I stopped my leg would start hurting so I carried on running.
I let the crowds carry me round and continued to just enjoy my run. 19 miles in I was getting close to that 20 mile mark! But all of a sudden I felt nauseous. It would pass, I’m sure it would pass, but it wasn’t going away. I didn’t know what to do – this hasn’t happened to me during training and I was now at the point where this is the longest run I had done without walking. I slowed into a walk, my head went fuzzy and my legs turned to jelly. I started to walk it off. “Well done Vinny you’re looking good” said a supporter as she handed me a jelly baby. I’m a pescatarian so I don’t eat jelly sweets but I needed something. So now I just had to make sure the gelatin didn’t affect the last 7 miles!
I continued walking half a mile and Alison caught up with me. She told me how she really wasn’t feeling the race and said that if she had seen a tram stop she would have just got on and dropped out. I told her my leg was hurting so I would probably run/walk the last 7 miles and she said she would join me.
At mile 22, someone put their arms round the back of us ‘am I glad to see you both’ – it was Clive. His calves had seized up so he had ran/walked up behind us.
We were nearly there – none of us cared about a time we just wanted to complete it.
Mile 23 ‘just a Parkrun to go’ – again thanks for that.
Mile 25 – we're nearly there – it’s nearly over. “I can see the finish line” it was one straight road down to the end – this road was never ending. I even commented that it looked like it was getting further away. But all of a sudden there we were – hands in the air, smiles on our faces, relief!
I DID IT! I completed Manchester Marathon in a time of 5:07. I was over the moon!
We walked over to grab our medals, finishers t-shirts, Soreen loaf (one of the best things ever) and headed to bag drop. It was all over, how did I feel? So so happy. I had managed to run for 19 miles straight without stopping, I had managed to complete the course with an injury, I had made some great memories and I had a new medal for my medal rack.
The trainers come off – the blisters were impressive – where did this extra toe come from? The flip flops went on and I was shuffling towards the tram station back to my hotel for a soak in the bath.
The smile still hasn’t left my face and I still can’t believe ‘I’ve run a marathon’.
So to answer my question earlier – why would someone want to run for that long? – well why not! The training gave me something to focus on, to keep me active and got me fitter, the race itself was fun, it was something not everyone can or will do, I made great memories with great people and I now have a massive sense of achievement! The main thing for me was to not get caught up on times – I’ll get over the finish line when I get there I just want to enjoy it – and I did!
About the author: Emma Vincent is a personal trainer and Sundried ambassador.