Monday, 24 May 2010

A marathon report

Warning - long post ahead...

At the start of this year, I was toying with the idea of doing a marathon before my 40th birthday (December 2012). In February, I heard about someone who had a place at Edinburgh but couldn't run and wanted to transfer it. I realised that if I didn't take the chance, I might never do it. So I signed up.

I only had 14 weeks to train, but before I could launch myself into a training plan I got an injury, which limited my mileage for 3 weeks. After that, I got through some good long runs and a taper, before finding myself at the start line yesterday.

I had put my predicted time at 4h50m, and I definitely wanted to get under 5 hours, and preferably run the whole thing. As far as strategy goes, I wanted to pace myself and not go off too fast, and get to 20 miles in about 3h30m. Then I had no idea what might happen. So I lined up at 10am in the purple group (the group at the back!), and waited for the off. The people around me started jogging before the start line, so I did too, although I was thinking 'this bit doesn't even count!'

The first couple of miles were downhill, and I realised I was going a bit fast. I tried to slow myself down a few times with minimal success - the first 3 miles were all well under 10min/mile pace.

The weather forecast had been confused - some predictions were for heavy rain or showers, but in fact there was not a drop of rain. It was scorching! The route along the seafront was quite pleasant, and there were quite a lot of supporters cheering us on. At about 6 miles, a man called out 'Come on Liz!', which was the first time someone had read my name off my t-shirt!

Miles 5-12 were at a fairly good pace of around 10.30m/m, and I was feeling comfortable. Just before 13 miles, I saw Mum, Dad, Pete and the kids, which gave me a big lift. Mum said afterwards that they couldn't believe how happy I looked after 2 hours of running! I was feeling ok at that point.

I kept taking sips of lucozade and water, and had a few jelly babies. I felt thirsty the whole time, so tried to drink more water, but then that would give me a stitch.

Around 14-15 miles, we saw the leaders coming back towards the finish. They ran past us and they all looked hot and sweaty! There was a great atmosphere as we slow-coaches cheered them on.

As we headed out of Edinburgh, we got to a turning where we had to run up a road, round a cone and back down it. I found this bit really hard as I thought it should have been much shorter! Halfway up there though, I saw my support team again, which was great. They seemed to be enjoying the sun - unlike us runners. After the turn I came back and saw them again. Just after that, I turned a corner and started to walk for the first time.

This was not my plan! I had run 20 miles 3 times in training, so I was determined to run at least that far. But I had never run in this sort of heat, and I just felt so dehydrated. I started to worry about sunstroke, and resolved to drink more water, but I couldn't remember where any of the drinks stations would be, so I just had to wait for each one.

Picked myself up and jogged slowly to the end of the outward route, and started to head back towards the finish. It was tough to keep running, as almost everyone around me seemed to be walking. Got to 19 miles and saw my family for the last time on the route. High fived the kids, and tried to look fresh although I was far from it! Pete jogged with me for a minute, and I told him I was struggling. He said I looked great - haha!

From then on it got harder and harder. I was already disappointed that I had been walking before the 20-mile mark, and I was getting fed up that my Garmin was always ahead of the mile markers, which were about 0.1 of a mile late. I remembered hearing that you shouldn't just walk aimlessly, but have a plan to get going again, so at that point, I decided to walk the first 0.3 of each mile, then run the rest. I did that for the next 6 miles.

I saw my friend Amanda around 21 miles - luckily I was running (-ish) when I saw her! It was great to see another supportive face before heading to the final miles. That last stretch was scalding hot and there was absolutely no shade. Thank God for all the kind spectators who sprayed their hoses on us - you were invaluable! Every time I walked my body felt more painful, but when I was running, I just wanted to stop. Then my Garmin read 26 miles - I looked ahead and the 26 mile marker was way ahead in the distance. This moment almost killed me! I stopped running and almost sobbed 'I've run 26 miles already, why is this happening?!' It was hard to take.

Eventually, I saw the finish. I started to jog, and gradually got faster and faster as I approached (or so I imagine). I knew I was very close to 5 hours, and just wanted to beat it if I could. As I crossed the line, the Garmin read 4h59, and I later got a confirmed chip time of 4h59m25s - made it!!

I staggered out and wandered round until I met up with my family, and finally collapsed in a sweaty, sunburnt heap on the grass. I was just so glad to have stopped!

So, final thoughts:

Not so good

I am a bit disappointed with my time. I'd have preferred 4h45m.

I wanted to run the whole thing. I'm cross that I walked so early.

I probably could have been tougher in those last 6 miles. My mental state let me down there!


I finished a marathon and can still walk afterwards!

I have a time to beat next year.

I know I can do better in cooler weather.

Overall, I really enjoyed the experience, and will enjoy it more with better training.

Now I'm taking a week off to recover!


  1. There are some things that you just can't control when it comes to races and the temperature is one of them. Sounds like the conditions were quite hideous for marathon running so you did a great job.

  2. You did amazing, no need to beat yourself up about anything. It was proper roasting, that definately added a good 15 minutes to your total time. Says the non-runner. xx

  3. Congratulations on your first marathon! The heat sounds pretty bad. When it gets hot like that, I always make a mental not that my time will suffer - it has nothing to do with my training, that's just what the heat does. Great job fighting through.

    And about the walking: during my marathons, I use every mile-marker (or every other if I'm feeling great) as a 30-second walking break. I feel so much stronger at the end. Walking is running's best friend. :)

    You are an marathoner!