13 Mar 2017

The Marathon Diaries #4: 6 weeks to go...

I keep thinking I’m going to run out of things to say in these posts, but no, I ALWAYS HAVE A LOT TO SAY. Grab a cuppa, or large glass of wine, and settle in. God, I miss alcohol… 

Six weeks to go. A month and a half. The marathon is NEXT MONTH, LOL. However, six weeks for the school summer holidays always sounded like a lifetime so I’m just going to channel that, tbh. 

Rather than being terrified of the training, I’m now starting to think about the actual marathon day. Timings, trains, bags, meeting points and, most importantly…


I’ve always just thrown it up in a ponytail, but a lot of runners have plaits. Shall I learn how to do plaits? One plait or two? Fishtail or French? Can I somehow persuade a friend to do it for me at 5am… 

I can’t feel my arms 

Maybe I won’t even be able to fiddle with plaits. I expected not being able to feel my legs after long runs but no, seriously, I can’t feel my arms. They go floppy, dead, numb. All this running really does do weird things to your body. Don’t get me start on my bowels. 

Shorts or leggings? 

Most London Marathons, if not sunny, have been warm and I’m going to be running for between five and six hours. I’ve always worn leggings but thought maybe I should wear shorts to give myself some air and freedom (and I naively thought I maybe won’t look like a sausage in clingfilm anymore), so I ordered some. Obviously. Where else has my money gone lately apart from on feckin’ running shit. These shorts even had a zipped pocket at the back though, so I was pretty chuffed. I was also pretty chafed. The shorts kept trying to escape right up my vagina and started to chafe on my thighs so NOPE, leggings it is. But at least I tried. 

Speaking of warm, IT’S WARM

I honestly cannot tell you how nice it is to not have to drag myself out in sleet and snow anymore, to not have tears streaming down my face with the icy wind slapping my eyeballs, and to not have bright red skin that doesn’t know what the merry fuck is happening as I sweat and shiver simultaneously. SPRING IS LOVELY.

There has been so much baking

We’ve hit the month where we’re really pushing the fundraising side of this marathon so our flat has constantly smelt of baking. Lemon cake, rum and raisin, courgette and lime, cheese scones, black forest gateau…

Well, we attempted a black forest gateau… Don’t ask…  

More successfully, Ryan raised £181 through work with a bake sale, and we’re doing a bigger event in Portsmouth, his hometown, this weekend full of games, drinking, and yes, more baking. Seriously, SO MUCH BAKING. It’s great. No sitting in bathtubs of baked beans here, thanks. 

Music to podcasts to music to podcasts 

It takes a lot for me to be well-distracted during long runs so I don’t drift into thinking what would happen if I just dropped dead of a heart attack or wondering if I could fit a tiny kitten in my running belt if I found one abandoned or, quite simply, how utterly horrific marathon training is. Creating a top notch running playlist was a great step into keeping me focused, but now I’m listening to the same songs again and again and I’m bored. So I started listening to podcasts. I found out last year that I can’t actually concentrate on podcasts, but the mere noise of background chat is enough for me to not be totally overcome with awry thoughts, the sound of my breathing, muscles screaming, and feet creaking. Hearing the guys laugh on No Such Things As A Fish shifts me up a positive gear too, which is handy, and my pace has slowed right down which is VERY GOOD. Keeping me slow and steady.

(I wrote this before the Dartford Half, so... plot twist towards the end of this post...)  

Epsom salts

We’re finally on this bandwagon. I thought Epsom salts would be super expensive but I bought a 1kg bag from Boots for a fiver. How long the bag will last, I don’t know, but it’ll do for now. My legs tend to be in a permanent state of some sort of groaning ache at this point, so I need to up the ante with recovery aids. Foam rolling, Epsom salt baths AND STRETCHING, DAMN IT, LOUISE. STRETCH.

Marathon training is pretty lonely 

Yeah, sorry to sound pathetic, but it kinda is. The communities I’ve found myself in on Instagram, Strava, and Facebook are wonderful, having Ryan training too (though not with me, because he’s a SPEEDY MOTHERFUCKER) is great, and having people ask how I’m doing ensures I don’t feel forgotten, but all those lone, long runs are boring and always missing out on social stuff is boring as well. I can’t wait to have this time back… but I can bet you I’ll miss it too. 

Dartford Half 

I was dreading this race yesterday, partly because it was just that - a race. I needed to make it a training run and nothing more, but I was going to be surrounded by proper athletic, super fast runners and had an overwhelming feeling I’d be trailing at the back. I’d naturally want to push it and fake it. Plus it was meant to rain. Plus earphones were banned. PLUS I’d been warned of the ‘infamous’ hill on the ‘undulating’ course which we all know means ‘UTTERLY HORRENDOUS YOU WILL WANT TO DIE’. 

Basically, I was shitting it.

But, the rain held off. Good start. The race began and I forced myself to go SLOW. So slow. Mega slow. And for the first three miles I was having a beauty of a time! It was bright, chill, the runners around me were fun and not the super fast professionals I’d imagined, and I was actually enjoying not relying on music or podcasts. WHO KNEW? (Although I do imagine long runs on my own will still require something... races are different...)

The race toughened up with the hills, but I kept running up them all bar the infamous mile 10 beast. Literally fuck that one, I power walked it. But aside from the hills, the mostly country-lane-filled route was bloody lovely. And so were the people running. Not wearing earphones meant I was more aware of others around me, and we chatted and laughed together the whole way. Runners might be strangers, but you’re family when you stare up a hill together.

I took my Bloks as planned and took advantage of the water stations on route, sometimes coupled with jaffa cakes and jelly babies. I’d do the race again just for those gems. The last mile or so was hard on my legs… but I still managed my sprint finish. What was that, not a race? Whoops.

I finished the Dartford Half in 02:36:03. Just over 12 minutes off my PB from the Royal Parks Half last October. And my pacing was the best it has ever been (follow me on Strava to see!). It was solid. *I* was solid. SMASHED IT, PAL, DIDN’T I. Even now, 24 hours later, I feel as fresh as a daisy, my friends. A complete change to the Royal Parks aftermath. I am beaming. 

What was that about feeling lonely, not being able to run without earphones? *shrugs*

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