Cross posted from my old blog.
Short version: I missed my pessimistic goal time by almost twenty minutes, did a lot of walking and failed to get a negative split.
But I not only completed a marathon, but one of the (if not the)
hardest and hilliest on "these Islands", with no hill training. Ow.
set myself two different goal times for the marathon; 1) the somewhat
arbitrarilly chosen, should be doable, time of 5 hours (11 minute 27
second miles) and 2) my BHAA
Standard, probably unrealistic, time of 4 hours 39 minutes and 13
seconds. My pace on my 20 mile training run was 11 minutes 45 second
miles and I had read that you should do your long training runs a minute
or a minute and a half per mile slower than your marathon pace, so I
thought it shouldn't be a problem to knock 16 seconds a mile off. I was
thinking that I'd do the first half as though I was going for the slower
goal and speed up in the second half if I felt up to it. But when I set
my goal (and did my training), I did not know about the hills.
The first I learned about the hills was when I went to pick up my chip and bib and saw TShirts for sale advertising the half marathon with the slogan 'are you tough
enough?' and a graph of the 750 foot climb and drop. I hoped that the
marathon route didn't follow the half marathon route. Or failing that,
at least that the second half of the full was flat. I was wrong on both
counts. I also should have seen the problem coming by the number of
people who told me I'd picked a hard one for my first. The second half
is flatter, but we're still talking a climb of over 100 meters. And not
in the reasonable 'we're still going up' kind of way that the first
half is. But rather in that 'really, that's not the top either', up a
lot, down a little, up a lot, way than any hiker or hill walker will be
familiar with. Over the course of the whole thing I went up over half a
first two miles flew by in a brief blur of pleasant conversations with
mostly foreign strangers (who were mostly doing the half marathon) and
thoughts of 'I'm running a freaken marathon!'. I managed to stop myself
going much faster than the 11 minute 27 second miles. Mile three was
where the first hill kicked in. One American I talked to later said that
she figured the cow theme was because that first hill you come to makes
you say 'holy cow'. I was quite proud of managing not to drop to a walk
on that first hill, which was most of miles three and four and the
start of mile five. I passed a lot of people who had done so. Just after
the four mile marker there was a water and aid station and a fantastic
drop with a beautiful lake view. I released my inner five year old,
shouted 'whee' and ran down the mountain, passing a bunch more people. I
say ran, it was more like controlled falling. A couple of times I had
to slow myself down because I actually felt in danger of falling over.
After that I ran for a bit with a guy called Fergus and a girl called
Eithne who told me they were very amused by my going 'whee' by them.
After a while I glanced at my watch and realised that I had now more
than made up for the time the hill had cost me and needed to slow down,
so I said goodbye.
I'm not sure when the first time I got
chatting to Eimhear was. She reminded me a lot of another Eimhear I know
in that 'bubbling with enthusiasm and confidence, crazy in a good way'
kind of way. She was running the full with her friend Colette. Most of
our conversations ended with her dropping back to let Colette catch up
with her. She sang a lot. She was the one who christened my fiance and
son my 'support car'.
My support car drove by me just before the
first water station. I saw them and wasn't sure if they'd seen me. My
fiance later told me that he had but was too busy trying to get the car
up the hill and not hit any runners to wave. Shortly after the water
station my car was there in a lay-by with an adorable little hand stuck
out the window looking for a high five. Which, of course, it got.
person I talked to a lot was an American woman that I kept catching up
with when she stopped to take photos. She had brought along the camera
mostly to make sure she took breaks. She was rewarded with some of the
most scenic views I've ever seen and has promised to email me the
photos. I've run a few races that have claimed to be picturesque. But
I've never felt any of them really pulled it off before. The views on
this one were stunning.
legs and hips started making themselves known to me at about mile
eight. Not that they were really complaining much, they just thought it
was important that I was aware of them.
My support car turned up
another once or twice in the first half. Always a delightfully welcome
sight. The stuff that motivation is made of.
At the halfway mark I
passed the finish line and lost most of my company as the half marathon
finished. After that point pretty much the only person I saw was a
woman who was alternating between running and walking, when her preset
watch told her to. At first she would catch up to me when she was
running, then fall behind me when she was walking. Then she would pass
me when she was running and I'd pass her when she was walking. Then I'd
catch up with her only when she was walking. Then she was a spec on the
top of a hill when I reached the bottom. I guess that strategy was
working for her :).
The route was very well marked. As promised,
whenever you had to turn the ground had a little white 'moo' and an
arrow. Everywhere else you just followed the road. That said, after a
long few minutes of not seeing any other runners, I started worrying
that I had interpreted where the road went differently to them at some
point. This happened repeatedly, but every time I eventually came across
another mile marker to tell me I was still on track.
became clear that I wasn't going to have any more company I started
playing my audio book, as I usually do when training.
seventeen and eighteen brought the first serious hill in the second half
of the marathon. And it was a serious hill. This time I conceded and
walked for most of it. I just didn't have the juice left to run it.
of juice, I brought along five energy gel packs, planning to have one
every fifty minutes. I'd used them once in training, on my 20 mile run,
and had found them very useful. I didn't feel the need for the first
until well after the first hour. The second and third were similarly
over an hour apart. So, when I wanted another about a half a hour later I
figured I could take it and still be behind schedule for taking them
all. And so I learned why you don't take them so close together. Lemon
bile, delightful. Thankfully I managed not to actually get sick, but it
was a close call once or twice. I never got around to the fifth gel,
Mile eighteen was also where I finally gave in to
my bladder and asked some nice strangers if I could use their toilet.
They let me, saying that I surely deserved it, given how far I'd come. I
noticed at some point later that I was reaching all the mile markers
about 0.08 miles after my watch said I was. I was confused by this but
just tried to recalculate based on it and carry on. It was only after I
finished the race that I realised those guys' toilet must be 0.04 miles
away from the road. I was very amused.
In mile twenty I was close
to tears in a good way, knowing I was going to finish and thinking that
I could catch back up with my goal time if the rest was mostly
downhill, which it surely had to be.
And I actually managed something resembling running in miles twenty, twenty one and twenty two. Though progressively less so.
think mile twenty three was possibly where I started running into to
wind for the first time. Before that I had noticed it at my back once or
twice and been grateful for it, particularly going up the hills, but I
hadn't really been aware of how strong or cold it was. Mile twenty three
was certainly where I hit the wall, realised I wasn't going to make my
goal time and lost most of my will to go on and some of my will to live.
I was so sore, so tired, so cold and so beaten that I was close to
tears. When I saw a water station coming up with my support car at it,
well, it helped a lot :).
From that water station I had to run
down a road, turn around, run back up that road (into the wind), run
down another road, loop around a church with another water station at it
and back to that first one again before heading for the finish. My
support car managed to be at that point each time and also at the
church, where they gave me a jumper that may have been the difference
between me finishing and not finishing.
One of the times I
approached the car I heard my son say 'run Mammy, run!'. Which I
dutifully did, for a few yards :). I later learned that he had said,
disgustedly 'I see Mammy, and she's not running!' just before that.
last few miles I was really upset at missing my goal time. I kept
telling myself that it was an arbitrarilly set limit, chosen without all
the information. But I wasn't listening, and I was distraught.
managed a little bit of running in mile twenty four, but mostly walked
it. Walked mile twenty five pretty much entirely. At that point I was just
determined to finish, even if I had to walk the whole way.
reached the twenty five mile marker I thought 'just 1.28 miles and I
get to see my fiance and son again'. Then I thought about how long it
would take to walk that and decided I couldn't wait that long and ran
the last stretch.
Just before the finish line my finance saw me
taking off the jumper, which didn't fit the black and white theme, and
ran over to grab it from me. I really didn't want to be wearing it in
the photo at the finish and it was great to not have to carry it either.
crossed the finish line and sat down, with a view to lying down, but my
son ran over and gave me the world's biggest hug, holding me in a
I recieved my ridiculous but precious full mooathon finisher's medal. It's a cow with flashing eyes.
went back to our hotel, with me munching on the peanut butter and
mashed banana baguette that had been prepared for me. I had a cold bath
that was not as useful as the last one I had (I suspect this one was not
cold enough). Then we walked to the main race hotel. It was further
than we thought and the walk was torture. I know it's a good idea to
keep moving afterwards. But ow.
We sat around chatting to other
people who'd done the race. They were mostly people who had done the
half marathon, were jealous of my medal and thought I was crazy.
and my son went in to the prize giving. I got called up for a photo for
being the fastest woman in my age category. With an over all time of
almost five hours and twenty minutes, I can only assume I was the only
woman in my age category. Or that all the others had been disqualified
from that prize by winning overall prizes. It was still nice though :).
My son was delighted.
Over all, I'm very glad I did it. I'm sorry
I had a goal time, because of how bad missing it made me feel. In fact,
I think I'd have run more at the end if I hadn't been so upset by that.
So I'd have actually finished faster. And I wish I'd known about and
trained for the hills. Or maybe started on an easier marathon. All the
same, I did this: