London Revolution Trails

When Threshold approached me and asked if i’d like to take on their newest trail, of course my answer was always going to be a big fat yes. Having previously completed the Trail series (Stones twice) I knew it would be class and there was no way I wouldn’t be joining in (for clarity, I was gifted the place, as an ambassador for the Trail series).

This event, new for 2019, coincides with Dulux London Revolutions, which sees cyclists take up to a maximum of 300km over one long day or over a weekend (much like the trail series options on foot). We didn’t see anything of the cyclists until we all pulled into the racecourse at the end.

Another bonus was that it was only on my BIRTHDAY, and looped around the Thames path literally around where i’m from and grew up. It was perfect.

It was also perfect because in September I am taking on the Thames Path 100km, and so it was great to be able to train a little on some of the route I will be doing then.

I wasn’t ever going to try and race this, but was going to just use it as training miles for the trail series, starting on the 8th June with Race to the Tower. Andy and I said we’d start together and then see how he was doing, and Emma (@jersey_girl08) and I were planning on running the whole way together, as we had done for day one of Race to the Stones last year.

I’ll be honest – I touched on this in a previous post so I won’t go into detail again here, but I woke up that morning having a bit of a panic attack. We got to the start at Marlow Rugby club, a small matter of 10 mins away from my parents, parked up and walked into the start area, breathing deeply to try and wish away the feelings I had about myself and the race and a trillion other things! I really just wanted to enjoy myself and this anxiety was SO NOT WELCOME. It was my birthday after all!

I found my friends and they were so sweet. I got a few cards and a badge from Em, and Chris and Kate from Threshold gave me a bottle of prosecco. Thankfully my Andy and the kids saw me off so I didn’t have to run with it…

We were joined by Lisa (@weesmileyrunner) and lined up at the start with Emily and Hannah from Twice the Health, who are training for Race to the Stones. It was my first time meeting all these lovely people and Sarah (@daisymayw) too from back home. Everyone was exited to get going, and in typical English weather style, we were debating outfit choices right up to the start. I had a vest, and a long sleeve, and a rain jacket… it was freezing at the start though. Just before they counted us over the line, the sun started to appear so I whipped off the jacket and wore the long sleeve for the first part.

9.15am we set off over the line, out through Marlow, weaving through streets and out past Higginson Park. I found it really weird as I grew up here. All my past boyfriends and friends live/d here so my memories of Marlow definitely weren’t of ultra running. It made me laugh comparing the 16 year old me drinking at the regatta in that same park, to the ultra runner me whizzing past it now.

weaving through brick alleyways

Just after 2 miles, we headed out to trail across fields and through some woodland. I always excitedly enjoy the start of an ultra race, but soon we found our stride and a comfortable pace. There were 6 pit stops on the ultra route which was loads! and the first one came up at mile 6 on the dot.

This stop counted for Pit stop 1 AND 2, as this was where the routes split (there was a half, full and ultra marathon option)

The marathoners and ultra marathoners both came to pit stop 1 (the half went out the opposite way from the start line) the only difference being the marathoners doubled back from here, but ultra runners carried on up some hills to add the extra 5/6 miles, and then came back through making it also the ultra pit stop 2.

I decided i’d take off my long sleeve now as i had my vest underneath. The sun was out to play and I was trying to keep up with the changing conditions.

It’s worth just noting, if you’re a frequenter of the Threshold Trail Series (Race to the Tower, King, Stones) the pit stops here weren’t as well stocked (as it’s a smaller event). I didn’t really mind at all as I had what I needed and to me the distance was manageable on not too much food, but if you’ll need more substantial food, it’s worth noting there isn’t any of the lunch type foods provided. What they did have were sweets, crisps, watermelon (THANK THE LORD!) bananas and a few snack bar type jobs. At two of the pit stops there was also just water provided (which again to me was just fine).

The route out here was a really nice mixture of country roads which were all pretty quiet, cute little villages and fields. As expected, there were the odd few ascents up the Chiltern hills, but only a couple really stick out in my mind as being ‘tricky’. We did pretty well at getting up them together, and at this stage we were all still together (not the TTH girls, they’d whizzed off on the marathon option).

There was a few beautiful moments up near Hambledon. Coming to the top of the climb (bottom left above) was so beautiful to look over the hills around us, and after a romp through Culden Faw – which I recognised from Tough Mudder-ing, we came out of some woods to a beautiful valley. I’d say this would be the ‘field of dreams’ moment from this race.

We came across a muddy section we’d been prewarned of, and realising i’d chosen my brand new WHITE Zeropoint calf sleeves today, I wasn’t sure how i’d emerge from it…

Sadly, nothing really happened, no mud was particularly forthcoming and I made it through unscathed.

We came out of this section back down through pit stop 2, grabbed a couple of snacks and started to make our way out back towards Marlow. The weather was turning again and had clouded over and was spitting a little. It was still better than the showers that had been predicted for the whole day!

The next section we were waiting to be reunited with the river, but it was another 5 miles before we found it, and in that time, Andy had begun to struggle with cramp. Knowing that I wanted to get a decent sort of time, he kindly told Emma and I to push on ahead, and Lisa stayed back with Andy, so around mile 13 we went separate ways, and I kept texting him every so often to check in on how he was going.

In this next section we also came across a ridiculously steep footpath, taking us up away from the river, through a scary murder worthy passageway that was pitch black apart from a few light holes littered through the passage, and then safely down hill again back to the river! Then just after we’d hit 20km to go sign, we found a lovely bridge complete with stairs to climb!

Eventually we came back through Marlow and past the bridge i’ve driven over so many times, and headed out along the Thames towards our next pit stop, back past the Rugby club where we left from.

We clocked up a good few river miles from here, passing through Bourne End and Cookham, admiring boats and houses backing onto the river, and being quizzed by curious dog walkers as to ‘What are you girls running for?”

A brief section across Cookham town and we were into Pit stop 4. This was a really little one, but Emma was struggling with cramp in her calf, So we took a little bit of time and I tried to keep things upbeat and be encouraging.

On the path as we left the pit there was a bees nest in the hedge! We gave it a wide berth and began on the path heading towards my hometown, Maidenhead.

This was absolutely so special to me, sure it’s a bit cringe maybe but there was something incredible about doing an epic race through where I grew up and spent so much time.

We did a fair amount of walking at this point, but slowly Emma started to lose the cramp and she found a third wind! We managed to pick up the pace for a couple of miles to take us over Maidenhead bridge, across the river and on the approach out to Dorney Lake – and eventually to the finish at Windsor Racecourse. We also ran past the cutest little family of geese, and obviously stopped to take a pic of the goslings.

I knew this part of the river path having run on it a good few times when staying at home, but it felt different today. I felt really strong but I knew I needed to help Emma through too, so we set ourselves mini goals, and would try to run up to the next mile watch bleep and then have a little walk to break it up a bit.

When we got to pit stop 5, we took a bit longer. Emma had a quick loo break and I grabbed some freddo’s for the kids for when I finished. We had already clocked up 27 odd miles, and the board told us we had 5.8 left to go. I was also trying to do some maths as though I didn’t want to rush Emma, I knew if we tried to keep moving we could be on for a sub 7 hour 50km.

They also said there was another pit a few miles ahead, but we agreed that we didn’t really need to stop again, so unless anything big changed in the next few miles, we would carry on past.

They had watermelon there so as we ran through I grabbed a bit and posed for the photographer.

I love watermelon on an ultra.

Anyway, we were now so so close. From this pit we had about 3 more miles left to run! 30 miles on the Garmin and I was eager to get it over with and see my little family.

The cruel ending of the course however, was that my family were across the river on the racecourse. Andy had checked where I was on ‘find my friends’, and my little dot had come up literally across the river from where they were. So as I emerged from the trees they clocked me and from the other side of the river my kids started shouting for me – ‘MUMMY!’ ‘I LOVE YOU’ ‘GO ON MUMMY!!’

This was amazing and it boosted me to get it done even more! But at this stage of mileage, 3 miles is FAAAAAAAAAR, and the last 3 miles from the pit was a big up and back to where they shouted for me on the racecourse. It took such a long time to reach that bridge to cross the river. I tried to run as much as I could to close in on the time.

Emma told me to push on and go ahead to get the sub 7 (which she actually also got – she was only 7 mins or so behind me in the end!), so I left her to finish her race and dug deep to finish mine.

I felt stronger than i’d expected and although the road along and into the Racecourse felt like forever, I ran my fastest mile of the race as my last at 8:58, which to be honest, after 32 miles, to run a sub 9 minute mile may have been my biggest achievement of the day!

As I rounded a few million corners, wondering when i’d start to see the finish line, sure enough, lined with so many colourful flags, there it was.

I kept putting one foot in front of the other, alongside cyclists coming in from their ride and actually congratulating me, one even said she felt like she was cheating! (other people didn’t have so many nice comments from cyclists!). As soon as I came round that last bend though, my kids saw me and shouted for me, and ran up to meet me so we could cross the finish line together.

The medal didn’t disappoint either – just as colourful as the finish line experience, and another beaut to add to my Threshold stash.

Another great thing is that the ribbons had the different distances on them, while the medal itself was the same, the ribbon showed the three different distances, which made it much less generic, especially if you’d taken on a longer distance – I want that to be written on my prize!

Emma made it through not that far behind me, and as she text me ‘i’m done’ I ran back over to the finish and grabbed her for a teary hug! I was so proud of her on her second ever ultra, she absolutely smashed it.

A cup of birthday wine later and we were reunited with ALL of the others, Andy, Lisa and the girls running the half, who now had joined the festival fun. The basecamp felt just like the other trail series camps, all the usual food stands and yoga going on, for the exception of a whole bunch of kids activities, bouncy castle, climbing wall etc, which was perfect. They were FREE firstly – parents can I get an amen? – and there was so much to do that my kids weren’t bored there while they were waiting, and we managed to stay for a couple of hours after too.

Yes – I was gifted this place.

Would I have entered if I hadn’t been? ABSOLUTELY.

I wholeheartedly recommend this as a great training run if you’re taking on summer ultras, whether they’re Threshold or not, doesn’t matter. This one had a 1/4 of the elevation of Tower, at around 500-odd m, so there’s a few meaty hills to get in on, plus you have monotony of the parts where it’s just river for miles. These are all great things to train yourself on for a longer ultra.

Even if you weren’t training for an ultra, the fact you can also choose half marathon or full marathon too makes this event an all rounder. Use it as training or use it as a standalone event, you’ll be getting a new bit of metal for your collection, and what a gem it is.

The problem with my body is…

…that actually, there isn’t one at all.

Unfortunately, that’s not often the truth I find myself believing about it.

It’s Mental Health Awareness week, and this year the focus is on Body Image. Having shared my struggles a little recently on instagram, I felt like I wanted to blog from my own experience of body image struggles, as a mum, an ultra runner and a mid thirty year old woman.

Please can I precursor this by saying these things;
This is my OWN experience, my own feelings towards my body, and based on MY experience of living in this body. Knowing what is big and what isn’t for MY BODY. I also realise that there will be irrational things which are stupid and don’t make any sense, but again, you don’t need to tell me or roll your eyes at them. I already know! (ALSO maybe you won’t think ANY of these things and it’s my insecurity assuming you’re already judging me for writing this out… urghh)

I can’t remember when my body issues started. I vaguely remember in 6th form that people started going to the ‘gym’. I was more concerned with eating cheeseburgers from the canteen, clearing out the common room vending machines or driving down for a Pizza Hut buffet during our lunch-plus-free-period-bonanza. I wasn’t a big girl. I wouldn’t say I was ever ‘fat’, but I started to see the little belly pooch at 16, but didn’t take much notice, or realise it’d be hanging around a good 19 years later…

I have what i’d describe as an ‘addictive personality’. Maybe not to the extent of the result of a Dr.Google search but there are certainly parallels.

I obsess over things, I suffer with anxiety and depression, I crave excitement and adventure and I become very low when these things aren’t happening. I wouldn’t say i’m a food addict, but I get into very bad cycles of eating, especially chocolate, take aways and the good stuff, el vino.

I’m small in size. 5ft 2 ish, with a short torso. I always get so frustrated with my brother who is a bean pole in comparison (but has had his share of body demons too) – why couldn’t I have got those genes? Why did I get the short and fat ones?

As i’ve got older, and had children, i’ve hit that place most mid thirties seem to. The one where the weight goes on and doesn’t come off quite as fast as it used to. Mine in particular congregates around my middle, not the best when you’re already short waisted and not vertically blessed. This means that when I put weight on, I can feel it and see it quite well.

It always used to be about the scales. The lightest I ever was was when I got married at 21 (I know!). On my wedding day I was 8st 2. My wedding dress was size 8 and a little on the loose side. But do you know what? On my honeymoon, I was STILL complaining that I didn’t like my body. I’d literally punch my 21yr old self in the face over that now.

I’ve been through stages of my life where i’ve been thinner. Notably before, was back in 2008/9, pre kids, lots of time to myself, and getting into running. Andy and I ran a 10k for Cancer Research at Ashton Court in Bristol (where we lived until 2010) and that led to me wanting MORE (addictive) so I booked into the Bristol Half. I had no idea about training plans, all i’d read was I needed to run 10 miles comfortably. So that’s what I did. Maybe 3 runs a week, one short loop (5-7 miles) and a couple of 10 miles. Weight fell off me and I distinctly remember a pair of TEENY Nike leggings fitting me (and also remember looking at myself in the shower and despising THAT pooch despite the tiny lycra).

In reality, the first time I felt completely happy in my own body was when I fell pregnant with Milly. FINALLY I could appreciate my body for the most wonderful thing it was doing. AND to boot – my pooch would be taking a vacation for a while as my baby bump grew and grew… (don’t get me started on criticising the bump btw. It wasn’t a beautiful rounded bump either. It kind of went in and out for a good while…)

Becoming someones Mum gave me respect for my body. I became, for a while, appreciative of it. Of what it had done. That it wasn’t just me anymore – i’d made a human and my body now reflected that! And it took the pressure off how I felt about it for a while. And during my first pregnancy, i’d stayed pretty active. Running a little and going to the gym and swimming.

My post natal depression started to creep in when she was a few weeks old, but she was an awesome sleeper, and I credit my ability to kick the PND quickly thanks to enough sleep. She was 10 months old when we found out I was cooking him up. Things were about to get cray.

Between pregnancies I wasn’t very active at all. This continued once my little chunk of boy was born, as you can imagine – having a newborn/new baby and a 19month old was quite the handful. And this time I wasn’t so lucky with escaping the PND.

Exercise disappeared. I was struggling and I was lonely. I put on my fake happy and pushed it down. I couldn’t cope. I was drowning and failing and I actually was on the verge of not wanting to be here at all.

I was around 13 stone at my heaviest. 4 stone over my ideal weight. I wanted to lose it but coming in and out of weight loss clubs, I didn’t do too well. At most I lost a stone, and put it on again. But then I remembered what had once helped me get into those tiny Nike leggings and started to run, very cautiously and slowly. By the time this happened, Jasper was already 3.

I tried out Lean in 15, and found the world of HIIT. But soon enough running took over, and I became obsessed with it and getting better, faster, going for longer….

Three years ago, in May 2016, my old desire to run a marathon reignited and I started to look for new challenges. Anything to keep me motivated and on track. I was eating well and I was losing weight and getting fitter week by week. For the first time in a long time, I felt happy with my body – there was a long way to go but I was doing something about it. I was pursuing the run on a regular basis and a half marathon soon became three half’s in a 6 week period, and so began my pattern of addictive behaviour, but this time, applied to something i’d not applied it to before.

The next thing was to run every day in December, which I did. 120 miles. The most i’d ever run in a month. I was so happy. I was looking super trim, and felt so fit.

May to December, 2016.

I was over the moon to have a place in both London and Brighton marathons in 2017 (and long story short!) – i’d entered an ultra marathon, Race to the Stones, just from watching someone i’d met on instagram do it, without having even run a marathon first. I thought I could do that too and I booked on! I wanted to try and get in a marathon first, and I trained hard and started to raise money. But being the keano that I was, I got injured and as I was doing London for Mind, I deferred Brighton to 2018. I couldn’t do both this time.

Lining up for my first marathon I had no idea what to expect, as i’d only reached 18 miles in training due to the hip issue.

Despite it all, I managed a respectable 4:23:17 for my first ever marathon, at London no less. But that was it. I was well and truly hooked in.

Despite all these long distance races, I noticed that I wasn’t really physically changing much. The long runs would keep the weight down, but I wasn’t very toned, and the fact that I was rewarding myself with food, didn’t help me to find that athlete’s physique I was after.

2018 came round and I was in my best shape running wise for Brighton. I had a perfect training cycle and ran a Good for Age time, to qualify for London 2019. But guess what? Those Brighton pictures? I saw a physique I didn’t like. All that training. All those hours of running. I STILL couldn’t accept the body I was in. Thick thighs. Big hips. Skinny face sure, but zoom out and it was a different story.

July swang round and I took on my first ever ultra marathon, 100km over two days (do you see the escalation here?). Still not quite mastering my nutrition, and injured in the lead up, I managed to run the thing with my new running family; Martha and Daryl, a pair of pre weds wanting a challenge together before married life, and me, wanting to show my kids just what the hell mummy can do; and had the absolute best time of my life.

I didn’t realise there was such a world out there. I certainly hadn’t been an outdoorsy type of girl since I was pre teen, but this new found freedom to be me, to be outside and enjoying nature and pushing this body to the limits? was a new exciting challenge, and I lapped up every minute of it. As soon as we were done, I knew i’d be back for more.

Finishing our first ever Race to the Stones.

There was this whole new part to my life now, that I never even dreamed of. It stretched beyond marathons. It was new territory and I wanted more of it. Because the more I got into it and the social media side of it, the more I saw that people were doing it better than me. Actually, maybe I wasn’t as badass as I thought – there were people doing it faster, and they were skinnier and they had better gear than me… and once again, social media started robbing me of the incredible things i’d achieved.

In a social media world, it’s flipping hard to make a difference.

And if you’re obsessive and addictive like me, and you constantly fall into the comparison trap, then NOTHING, honestly NOTHING will ever be good enough for you.

No amount of miles.

No weight loss.

No material stuff or accolade will cut the mustard.

If I don’t come to a place where I accept and appreciate myself or my body for what it can and has achieved, what is the point of looking to anything else to validate that? Because it can’t. Social channels can’t fulfill you. Likes and interactions don’t replace real world validation, and to be honest, even that is lacklustre most of the time.

I’m sure many of you repeat marathoners/ultra runners etc will understand that people sort of lose the ability to congratulate you or even care about what you’ve achieved. I get it, it’s not everyones cup of tea, but FLIPPING HECK BABES, I just ran my 5th marathon 2 weeks before my 5th Ultra marathon and you don’t even bat an eyelid? (In their defence, MOST of my family and a good few friends are epic at supporting me, everytime, thank you pals xx)

All that makes me feel is like i’m not good enough. Nothing will ever be good enough will it? What on earth do I have to do to get validation from you and WHY DO I EVEN FIND MYSELF STRIVING FOR THE VALIDATION FROM A PRACTICAL STRANGER?

I joined instagram to document my journey for me. I didn’t start out for likes. Or freebies (I hope that’s the theme you still see today, although i’m very lucky to be gifted a few things these days). I had no idea what I was doing and I found others in the same place, who inspired me and brought me into a world I knew nothing of.

I guess my point, if there even is one, is that I don’t know how I get to the point of loving myself for what I can do. To appreciate that my body isn’t anyone else’s and it has its limitations. That I am more than one crappy race photo which is more than likely an awful shot mid stride where everything is heading south and I look like death… The journey to that race is MORE than that one shot.

And also, the reasons why I do it. Yes I want to feel good. Of course, I want to look good. Who doesn’t like to be complimented on their appearance right? But what is more important to me? Can I win the mind game and convince myself that the good is in the people i’m encouraging to have a go too? The people that have signed up for and run ultras who would never have done so without being moved by my journey? surely that is the biggest flattery and achievement in this whole journey?

I’ve been hard on myself since taking on my 5th ultra marathon this weekend, on my 35th birthday no less. Shaving off 1hr 40 mins from my 50km time. But what did I do when I saw these finish line pics? I cried.

Because I put on weight. Because I want people to say i’m skinny and fit and to me that means being less than what I am here and now. Despite what I did this weekend. And that needs to change.

I showed Milly the finish line pictures and she demanded that there and then, I print out this photo for her to put in her room. “Why do you like it?” I asked her.

“Because it’s just me and you”, she said.

She doesn’t see me as a size or a weight. She sees me and her having fun. Running together, strong girls club. And being taught a lesson by a 7 year old is pretty humbling to say the least.

London Marathon 2019

The Expo Bit

Andy and I were going to do this London just the two of us, and my Mum and Dad came to ours to have the kids for us (in 2017 they all came to see me, but we felt like it was too much stress to take them in this time).

We travelled in Saturday morning and drove straight to eXcel and the Expo to go and pick up my number. I was a little worried it would be absolutely crazy, as before i’d gone on a weekday when it’s quieter, so we tried to get there reasonably early. As things do, it took us longer to leave the house and we eventually arrived in East London around 10, parked and walked up to where we needed to be.

Arriving at the expo.

It was really exciting to share it with Andy, he’s so supportive but he’s never actually been to an expo with me. Think he was a little overwhelmed (in his nonchalant way) of how big and busy it was – and though they’re not all like this, London being a World major marathon certainly makes that known in the footfall that built up through the time we were there.

I went straight to pick up my number, feeling all the excitement that I had that first time, and finally storied to let people know I WAS going to be running, not just spectating! We worked our way round all the photo ops, met up with plenty of instagram friends and hoped we’d get to see each other again in the morning (lots of us were in the same start).

We were hungry and got a bit bored so we left the expo and headed to our Premier Inn to start chilling and working out what I needed where for the drop bag, working out my gels, tailwind, and where we’d see each other on the course. It was going to be a lot easier with just Andy, or so we hoped, and the plan was to put my concentrated tailwind into little fruit shoot bottles that I could grab from him on course, alongside my Hi-5 Mojito flavour gels that I would take at 6,12,18 and 24 miles (you can buy those, exclusive to Wiggle). I’d start with a bottle and he had 2 more in the rucksack.

Before we went for some carb loading, I had the small matter of a 20 minute shakeout to do. We rarely get to run together, as Andy usually has the kids while I train etc (yes he’s amazing!) so we both laced up for a swift out and back along the Thames, and the weather was certainly a treat. The end of storm Hannah pushed us right along the river, but sadly we had to fight our way back again with the wind right in our faces. Andy doesn’t own quite as much kit as I do so he was in his only running gear of shorts and a tshirt! He was pretty chilly when we got back! A quick change and we made our way down to the Beefeater at the Premier Inn before the hoards of runners arriving beat us to it!

For dinner I had a vegetable linguine with added chicken, something I then heard other runners ordering around me (there wasn’t much pasta on the menu and we didn’t want to travel into London now it was around 5.30) with a side of french fries, obviously. I also had A GLASS OF WINE. Shock horror, but let me just remind you, I am not a professional. And it seemed to work for me in Berlin. I was hoping it would send me off to sleep nicely.

The ‘morning of’ bit

Unfortunately, like the night before, I had a crappy nights sleep, tossing and turning all night, and woke up knackered. What a great start!! Alarm went off at 6am and I started to get dressed and faffed about what shorts I should wear. I didn’t feel massively prepared but with 5 previous marathons and 4 ultras under my belt, I sort of turn up to these things on a bit of auto pilot. I think also because I wasn’t going out to prove anything in the race, things didn’t feel too stressy at all.

Er, we’ve stuff to do here dude…

Andy and I said goodbye and I toddled off with my bag to the train station, merging with runners from every which direction, Woolwich to Blackheath please.

The thing I love the most about the vibe before a marathon like London is the willingness people have to chat to anyone, to take their mind off what is about to happen. This isn’t common place in London so I lap it up on marathon day!

I love the platform conversations, boarding trains (for free!) packed with deep heat bathed bodies and listening in to reasons why and wished for outcomes. I made a couple of friends on the train, Mark and Roy, both doing their first marathons today, both with that tangible first marathon excitement. I loved chatting with them and we walked up to Blackheath together and stayed together for a while after arriving.

When we parted ways I went looking for some friends, and bumped into others! Seeing Han (@hannbeam) was lovely as I hadn’t seen her probably since Race to the Tower last year! She smashed it btw and BQ’d. I went to see Jordan in the Championship start (they get their own toilets, but she was still doing the wee dance in a queue like the rest of us!) and we had a little squeeze. I Love Jordan. (p.s she was my friend first but she’s also my kick ass coach, PMG Coaching)

We also chatted over what my strategy was, and we decided I would go find Paul (Addicott, pacer extraordinaire and fellow Brooks team mate) and join his Sub 4 hour #FUNBUS for the race.

Thankfully when you have a friend who is a pacer, it’s pretty easy to spot them! So I made my way to Paul and soon enough we were on our way to the pens. I bumped into Georgina and she had only run Brighton a couple weeks back, and wasn’t sure how her race would go, her plan was similar to mine, and just try and stick with Paul and see how things went for a bit! We all huddled together for a picture of the fun bus.

Paul and his Funbus.

I’d been chatting with George right up to this being taken, and we sort of just jumped in in front of the camera. As soon as the photographer had taken the shot, I realised it was none other than my OTHER Brooks team mate James aka @morningcoffeerun, fresh from MDS in the Sahara. The MDS is the hardest footrace in the world, a multi stage event, and not one to be scoffed at. I was so excited to see him because safe to say, he’s a bit of a #runcrush of mine! This was only the second time i’d met him in real life, following our first Brooks #runhappyteam meet up in March.

We hadn’t planned it but we stuck together, chatting and catching up, trying not to get hypothermia with the Baltic wind that picked up at the start, shuffling forwards towards the line, eager to start. It was also James’ 20th marathon! Seriously go and follow him, he’s a proper inspo.

Right let’s get on with the race…

The race bit

We started all excited (mainly to be moving and getting some blood pumping again) – and spent miles 1- 2 embracing the speed humps in the road. The volunteers were shouting ‘HUMP’ as we approached and we joined in. Soon we decided it would be fun if we made it like a mexican wave type affair and we started to call the hump before it happened and as we reached its peak we threw out hands up like we just didn’t care. I mean, it really was fun and everyone seemed to join in… i think.

We moved slightly ahead of Paul – again, we’d not really planned it but i think both James and I wanted a little wiggle room. We’d both said we weren’t very good at following in groups so we sort of stayed just in front, but still in reach of the bants and the pace group.

The first point I was looking for Andy was at the 5km mark, as it was a stones throw from the hotel. High on life, I high fived him as I breezed past, so excited to be doing this amazing race again! I didn’t need to grab anything from him so soon into the race but I appreciated he’d got it all ready. Just slightly up from there I clocked Lou with her donut, and screamed my way across the road for a hug. I love Lou.

Lou and her amazing Donut give up sign

James and I carried chatting on and off, dropping back and then running side by side, it seemed to work, and other than one moment where I just HAD to pull over for a pee around mile 11 (James being a man peed much faster) I spent the next mile trying to catch up with him. Again, luckily, I was looking out for a blue pace flag to try and get back to him. I overtook Paul and the group, and EVENTUALLY found James and pulled up alongside.

I saw Andy around mile 12 and grabbed a new bottle of Tailwind from him. It was going pretty well taking supplies from Andy (I really had wanted to do a marathon sans hydration pack) and then we turned a few corners and it was time for Tower Bridge, the absolute best bit of London.

We pushed over the bridge and I honestly felt amazing. I was so happy. Nothing was hurting and I was feeling great. I remembered back to my first London, my first ever marathon, and the comparison was crazy. Distance felt different, shorter, more manageable. I suppose when you do enough distance races that sort of happens to you. It’s not easier but you manage it differently.

I ran past Alice, another Brooks team mate. She was struggling, so I checked how she was and if she needed anything. She was happy to see a friendly face I think, but gestured for me to carry on so I did, hoping that she’d get through the second half ok.

Everything was awesome, up until mile 16, when I was checking my phone for the next meeting point, my Tailwind slipped out of my hand. It was full and i’d only had it for a couple of miles. CRAP! I text Andy and he told me not to panic, he’d be ready near 30km with another one.

Panicked texts…

30km! that was around 19 miles, and i’d only just passed 16 miles. I turned to James and said i’d need to do a gel early to make it to the next lot of Tailwind (I sip it at each mile marker) and we’d been synchronised on gel taking to this point.

Somewhere in this mind melting mile, I lost James, his body was saying no to pushing and he dropped back (p.s HE still got a massive PB so soon after MDS!!!) But I was panicked at my routine now being compromised. It was working so well and you become dependant on the repetition of how you’re taking in your nutrition. Was this the end of my race now? Surely i’d blow up and not be able to hold on to a sub 4 without the Tailwind; it had become my security.

I took my gel just after 17 miles, and with one left in my spi-belt and 9.2 miles still left to run, i’d see Andy at the next meeting point.

Although I didn’t.

I missed him.

He’d told me where to look but I just couldn’t pull him out of the crowd. Faces blurred into each other and the 21 mile marker went past with me frantically scanning both sides of the road incase I couldn’t remember left from right (I couldn’t!). That was my last chance and now I had one gel to last me the last, draining, 5 odd miles.

I hoped and prayed that i’d taken on enough fuel throughout the previous miles. I played mind games, and pushed myself forward when Paul overtook me with the group. I couldn’t let him be in front, because for the quarter of a mile that he drew ahead I had a decision to make. Assume failure, or push on for the sub 4 that I wanted so much.

If he was in front, the temptation was too great to throw in the towel. It hurt now. I’d had 20 miles of great running but it was getting down to the wire. Losing the fuel knocked me, so I gritted my teeth and pushed back on ahead, closing in on the other 4hr pacer who was a few minutes ahead of Paul.

I split my one remaining gel over mile 23/24 and drank it down with sips of plain old water. I hoped it would trick my body into thinking it was still getting carbs with each mile that ticked by…

I played games up the flyovers, pretending they weren’t inclines to battle up. I tried to join in with the chants through the tunnels, tricking my mind that I was still present and confident. I knew the cheer squad would be on Embankment so I willed myself there. The best feeling ever seeing them, and I managed to pick out my lovely Sara, who gave me an amazing hug, and as I ran off (time was ticking) Becca fired me a confetti cannon! It was amazing I loved it SO MUCH. Just wish i’d been filming it! It gave me a massive boost and I focused on Big Ben (what I could see of him anyway) and running towards him, because then the finish was a couple of corners away.

I rounded onto Birdcage walk and shouted for James, he wasn’t ready for me, he was working his butt off, but as I put all my emotion and energy into calling his name, he saw me and shouted back “Go on Babe!”

The longest road. Those signs.

800m to go

600m to go

400m to go

Under the footbridge, 375m to go….

Past the palace. Didn’t look or care. What I cared about was turning that beautiful corner and pushing myself over that finish line. I was ahead of Paul. I was ahead of the second 4hr pacer.

I’d done it.

26.51 miles, 3:58:33.

It was over and it was SO WORTH IT. I’d given it everything. I’d been sensible in the first half and I didn’t wuss out in the second. It was a triumph in every way. Sure, it wasn’t a marathon pb. But my first marathon back, post injury rehab, on a less than ideal training cycle. I was over the moon. It was a HUGE LONDON p.b, from 4:23:17 in 2017 in my first marathon, to losing 25 ish minutes in 2 years where i’ve mainly run ultras and I haven’t exclusively worked on speed. Oh and after the last DNF marathon in Switzerland (I should really blog that…) my FIFTH road marathon.

Assuming my GFA is valid for next year, i’ll be back London. Because I know I can still do more with you. And you’re so awesome!

The only thing left to do before trying to find my husband in a sea of like 100,000 people was thank Paul for helping me get my sub 4, wrestle myself into compression leggings in a portaloo, chuck on my oofos and go for a medal shoot (much to andy’s dismay!)

I bought myself two doughnuts, walked around London for a nice flush of the legs and thought about just how lucky I was to have done another marathon. Can’t wait until next year.

The LONG road to London

It all began with such great intentions.

In January i’d signed up with a nutritionist and Jordan had agreed to help coach me for London; i’d decided after Brighton 2018 that i’d like to push for a BQ time (Boston Marathon Qualifying time for those who don’t know, which for my age is sub 3:30). This would mean working to cut at least 14 minutes off my Brighton time of 3:44, a good amount of speed sessions and generally plan following at 100%.

Also in January, the work on our house started. This was something we’d been looking forward to doing for YEARS. Working on getting our own house the way we wanted it! It was so exciting.

I started out with Andi Scott Shaw and PMG coaching at the start of January with all the best intentions to get back into shape after getting injured during the Swiss City Marathon in October. I joined Hotpod yoga in Margate being a complete yoga virgin (other than the hour i’d done at Threshold Trail ultra base camps) to help rehab my very very tight left leg (Glute/Hamstring/Quad/TFL/Hip Flexor…)

TOP TIP! If, like me, you take on multiple distance challenges in close proximity, make sure you roll, stretch, do yoga/pilates and see a sports masseuse or a physio etc. It will prevent injury if you have regular maintenance rather than save it all up and wait for your knee to explode on you (mine didn’t, but it felt like it).

My mileage after October was dropped significantly due to the injury. I’d gone through most of 2018 on 100+ mile months, to then 8 miles total in August – partly because of summer holidays and going away, partly because i’d done so much mileage I needed a break really. When I came back to run Berlin Marathon in September I managed 4:03, but my quad started ceasing at 22 miles (like in Brighton) and eventually a month later in Switzerland, it finally had enough. November and December I ran a total of 13 miles.

So I was building back up through January, hoping I could get to BQ shape, and lose the 10lbs i’d put on through being injured (i’m an emotional eater…)

It became pretty clear though that this was all happening at the wrong time. My focus was on the house, we moved out to our friends for what ended up being 5 weeks, and when we moved home we cooked in a microwave in our lounge for 3 more. Hardly ideal when you’re trying to follow nutrition plans. We ate conveniently and you know what that means. I put on more weight and parted ways with Andi as I just couldn’t stick to the plan in the environment i was in.

I was gutted. I wasn’t going to have the before and after shots like the other girls. The abs hidden under my fat were yet to be found… i felt crap.

It took a good few months of yoga for my hamstrings to start to release, but I started to notice differences in my flexibility (still shocking!) and could tell it was also affecting my running for the better. I started running to and from yoga where I could (a 4 mile round trip), doing my resistance band workouts, and working on my strength at the gym.

I managed to stick to most sessions through jan/feb but we had decided that a BQ wasn’t the right time goal for just now, and even if i ever actually wanted that (or if it was just ig pressure to do the ‘next thing’) and it wasn’t until March that I started to think about if deferring would be better.

When I storied about deferring London I had all the intention in the world to go home and do just that. I’d spoken with Jordan and I felt like maybe that was best. I was under a huge amount of brain fog with work and the house and I just couldn’t see how I would manage it. March’s mileage was 27, in what was everyone elses peak weeks. When I went home and checked it all out, I realised that London are very generous with deferrals. You had up to the DAY BEFORE to defer. I hesitated over the form and thought i’d just think it over a bit longer. After all, I wasn’t out of time to move my race to 2020 so there was no harm in waiting a bit longer.

I decided that if I could manage to make it through the next 3/4 weeks and run all my sessions, and get some high mileage runs done, then I still had a good chance for running London and doing relatively okay. I managed to do them, and got an 18, 15 and 10 mile long run in. Things at the house calmed down and suddenly I felt like i’d surfaced, and actually this situation wasn’t as impossible as i’d thought.

I kept the decision to myself until I was off to pick up my number on the Saturday. A few people didn’t realise i’d even planned on deferring, and some were really shocked that I was going through with it – but I think also excited for me, which was really fun. I’d been gagging to join in the London build up the week before, and seeing everyone going to the expo was killing me! I just wanted to tell everyone! I kept it quiet because I still wasn’t sure how it would go, and I felt like there would be more time for pressure to build up on expectations for the race – and I didn’t want that, especially as I wasn’t sure how it would go or how i’d even approach the race, until the morning of.