Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down. If you’ve got a few minutes I’ll tell you how I became a runner in a town called Crowthorne…
I feel that my report is better used to show that anyone can run a marathon – no matter what life throws at you, and however high the hurdles are you have to jump. I’ve not had it easy, and it’s known by all, that I’m quite possibly the unluckiest person alive. So here’s a little bit about where my attempt at running started, and how I managed to make it to the finish line. I’ll leave the scenic details to another fabulous jogger!
Just over a year ago I was involved in a car crash (ironically an ambulance hit me!). I had to stop all my sports, and went into a minor state of depression (sports have been my life from a very young age!). I suffered very badly with back and shoulder injuries and nerve damage running through my arms which often means I can’t feel from my fingers to my elbows. I thought it might be a quick fix, so entered the London ballot in May but unfortunately didn’t get a place. I was feeling pretty deflated that 7 months on from my accident I was still unable to do any sports, and my recovery wasn’t getting anywhere. However, I wasn’t going to let the careless driver ruin my health and mental wellbeing, so having missed out in the ballot for the 3rd consecutive year I decided to hunt for a charity place.
I found the fantastic charity Save the Rhino. I’d never really watched a marathon before, but I knew of the Rhino suits. I’m really big on sustainability and conservation, so this was a charity I felt I could really set my heart on. I set my personal target at £2,000 and there was no turning back!
I tried a few weeks of training on my own, but having only ever done the very rare run with my dog, and only about 2-3miles which I was very proud of (pre-accident!), I didn’t really know where to start. I was spending days on end looking up training plans, but there wasn’t much out there for a couch to marathon runner! This is where I decided to join Sandhurst Joggers! I loved the fact there was a run going on almost every day of the week, so I could pick, choose and work around my very busy life! Every single one of you, whether you’ve run with me, shared advise or asked for advice I’ve also needed – you are all the reason I was able to do this! I’d also just like to apologise for my very active posting on the facebook page!
I spent 6 months ‘learning to run’, with some pretty major complications along the way. Before even starting, I was still in rehab for my crash injuries, then I had Achilles problems, I also had the flu (which I swear is still lingering!), many a foot problem, and finally my broken nose, just 1 month out from the big day.
I was really worried that I wouldn’t make it to the start line due to not actually being able to breathe through my nose, but also that I hadn’t done enough training. I missed out on my last long run before my taper, which I felt I really needed.
I had no expectations going into the Milton Keynes 20 mile, but on reflection it didn’t go all that well, I wanted to get in one more 20 miler to prove to myself I could do it. But this was taken away from me. The lack of ability to breathe, and my surgery meant that my taper runs also pretty much went out of the window, in the month leading up to the marathon I didn’t do more than 1 run per week. I was very lucky that one of my surgeons was a runner, she was doing the Brighton Marathon, so she was very understanding of my situation, and confirmed that at long as I wrote on my number that I had recently had surgery and that I couldn’t breathe through my nose, I was good to go!
The lack of tapering runs wasn’t ideal. I struggled a lot with my feet along my 6 months of training. I started out with some ASICS Kayanos, which were great until I started upping my miles. I found my feet were aching, cramping and I was getting horrendous blisters. I swapped to some Adidas Ultra boost, which didn’t have enough support, so my foot was slipping and causing blisters on the end of my toes. I found some fantastic reviews of Fit Stuff in Guildford, so went to them for some advice (If you need anything sporty I seriously recommend them!). With only a month to go (just before my nose break) I was recommended the Brooks Ghost 9’s. They had a wider toe so should stop my blistering, and were neutral, as apparently it was the additional support in the ASICS digging into my foot which caused the aching and cramping. Obviously just after buying them I broke my nose, which was not ideal for breaking them in! I did all my runs (which were short anyway) and I also took them to Dublin last weekend and walked 45 miles, so although stiff, at least my feet were used to them!
3 pairs of trainers, some physio sessions, a LOT of vitamin C, some failed surgery later I managed to convince myself to go to the start line. In the week running up to the marathon I found some comfort in the very large disruptions to my training, and stopped thinking about what my target time was, or what pace I would run at, all I ever wanted to do was to complete it. My goal when signing up was to get back into sport, to get myself fit, and to prove to the man that crashed into me, he was no longer in control of my life. Running has probably been the most effective form of rehabilitation throughout my year (and still going) of physio sessions. So this is what I was going to do – I was going to finish the marathon, no matter what it took.
So the run itself. I made the naughty decision to make a last minute change to my fuelling. I was previously using Tailwind, but the water – powder ratio would mean either carrying water or over hydrating. I hadn’t run with gels before, and due to the lack of running in the last few weeks all I could do was test various brands at home and see what happened – with a toilet close by! The only one that I didn’t have a problem with was High5, so I decided to risk it and use it on the big day. It’s safe to say – I didn’t need the toilet once, and had no sick feeling or stomach cramps!!
I never thought I would say that I enjoyed running, even standing in the start pen I was saying to someone that I would never put the words running and enjoyment in the same sentence, but here I am – I love every minute of the marathon! I walked a few times after mile 17, but every time I did, I walked with purpose (power walking) and only to the count of 25 to either catch my breath, or to stretch my back. I think I only walked about 4 times in total – I actually found running more comfortable than walking! Along the way I found several Rhino runners, who I dragged along with me, or slowed down to keep them company. I saw my family twice which was a huge confidence boost, and really kept me going.
In all the articles on ’10 things I wish I knew before my first marathon’ the common thread through them all said, if you don’t get cramp, and you don’t hit the wall – you’ve trained correctly. I had neither of these, so I guess all the training I missed, really wasn’t a worry anyway! I had this hideous image of hitting the wall, on all of my runs, I battle with my head which keeps telling me I’m stupid for running, and wouldn’t I just like to walk? I was getting nightmares about what it would be like and how would I get over it etc. But I genuinely think that it was the gels that kept me fuelled, and the atmosphere which kept me running that powered me through.
For anyone that was at this month’s handicap – you’ll all know the sudden burst of energy that comes along when my ‘homing beacon’ turns on. I was astounded that when I saw the 200m sign this happened again, having just run 26 miles, I managed to sprint finish the final 200m of the London marathon, finishing in 4 hours 50 minutes and 35 seconds. I’m not sure how many people can say that!
I’d just like to one again, thank every single Sandhurst Jogger that’s helped me through this journey, and to the start line! I honestly couldn’t have done it without all of your support!
And lastly – Dave, you’ll be pleased to know that I kept off my watch for most of the run!!