Post-Marathon Post

Just to tie-up the last details...

Immediately post-marathon I limped my way to the Diabetes UK ‘cool down’ party (not more than 500m from the finish line) and met up with my supporters. I rehydrated, had some food, had a massage and then got taken home. I sat for a while with frozen peas on The Knee in an attempt to start the recovery, had a bath and then rolled into bed.

The next day I surprised myself by being able to walk around my flat without agony. Making old-person groans and grunts when I got up or sat down or moved too fast, yes. In a measure of pain, yes; but not agony. Intent on keeping the muscles moving a little, I ventured out to the corner shop. That was a bad plan, because the five minute walk there was more than enough exercise for the muscles, and then coming back was downhill. Which was very, very painful on the knees.

I was then ill for a week. I thought at first it was my body reacting to the nonsense of the marathon, but given that it knocked me out for the rest of the week I think it might just have been my immune system surrendering to the first bug that came along post-race. I spent several days curled up on the sofa, dozing under a blanket. With occasional old-person groans.

I have fully recovered now and normality is settling back in. Already it’s starting to feel slightly surreal that I ran a marathon.

I went back to the gym last week. I didn't go on the treadmill, didn't take my knee support, didn't even tape my toenails up. I spent ten minutes on the exercise bike; it felt good to break a sweat. The Knee felt a touch tender/achey for a day or so after, but not as if I’ve done any permanent damage. Running will begin again sometime in the near future, but not immediately; I probably need a new pair of running shoes, after all.
Including the 3-5k treadmill runs that I stopped recording on this graph, I've racked up nearly 300 miles.


Marathon Report

Run: 26.2 miles (42.16 km) in 5:52:30.

21/04/13. Marathon achieved.

I’ve had some time to digest the M-Day experience before writing this, and regaled more than a few people with some of the details, so I’ve been able to reach the conclusion that it was a great experience. I am very proud of completing the marathon. I will treasure the medal, and every second that it took me to get to the finish line, for the rest of my life. 

The TEAM!...
After an early start from Luton I met up with several TEAM! members at the pre-start gathering point, where we all shared our nerves and last-minute coping strategies. With different estimated finish times we were assigned to different starting pens, so we said our good lucks and split up. I think my nerves might have got the better of me at that point if I hadn’t been in the same pen as several TEAMsters, lining up for the whistle with Alex, Katie, Anna and James. Being in the final pen of the mass start it took us a full half hour to get to the start line (at which point the timing chip on your shoe kicks off your personal time). Finally, we were off.

It was a beautiful day for a marathon – maybe the perfect day for it. The sun was shining but the air was still fresh when we started, and the good weather brought out the crowds. Some of the early pubs we passed were playing music for us, and a surprising number of people had rigged/dragged speakers outside their home to play tunes for the hordes of runners streaming past their doorstep. Alex, Katie and I stayed together and we got a lot of supporting shouts when people spotted us in our matching Diabetes UK tops and purple TEAM! hats. 

The day warmed up as we did, and I was glad of the showers at certain points along the route that send a chill mist across the road. M-Day was the warmest weather I’d run in for at least seven months, and probably only about the third time I’d run outside in shorts this year. (After all, I did complete a reasonable portion of my training in sub-zero temperatures.)
...the smiles...
My supporters were brilliant. I had a whole gang from Luton who managed to cheer from a crazy seven points along the course (if you’ve ever tube-hopped around London to support someone during the marathon you’ll realise what an effort that was), shouting mostly* supportive words as I ran past, and even waving signs. I also had my parents to look out for, and Katie’s and Alex’s supporters, too. The lift it gave me to see anyone I knew was amazing – I was grinning massively after every batch of cheers. Well, up until the point where the grin became a permanent grimace of pain.

Through to the half-way point we were doing well 
 ever so slightly off a 5-hour pace, but going strong. It was after then that things became difficult. I could already feel The Knee by 12 miles and it became progressively more painful. I pushed myself a bit further, but at around 16.5 miles Katie and I dropped into a walk for the first time.

My running pace suffered from then on. Katie pulled me forward for a bit longer, repeatedly encouraging me back into a run and keeping me at that run longer than I would have managed on my own, but eventually I slowed so much that she pulled away.

The last third of the route was hard. I estimate that I walked between three and five miles of the total marathon distance. Some of the running over the last seven miles or so was pretty slow, but I knew that every step I ran was another step I didn’t have to walk, so I kept pushing myself back into it. By then I had my music on and I was playing a game where I walked for one song and then ran for the next. And repeat.
...the pain...

At each mile marker past mile 18 I was calculating how long it would take me if I had to walk to the end from that point. But there was never any doubt in my mind that I would finish.

The pain was definitely showing on my face, which garnered me a lot of support from random strangers yelling my name (“Head up, Riz!”) – and every single shout helped. Every one gave me a little push onwards.

By mile 24, as I limped past my parents (for the second time), every single step was painful: my bad knee on my left side and most of my leg on my right side, probably due to me unintentionally favouring my bad knee. My lower back was aching (as the pain in my legs increased I ended up running a lot more with my arms and upper body) and my feet were beginning to hurt. I ran-walk-limped on.

I managed to run (really run) the last few corners and the final straight and to lift my arms as I crossed the line. I got my medal, got my tag clipped from my shoe, and got rather emotional - flooded with relief that it was over, with a lot of physical pain, and with a lot of thoughts about Em.

This was my first and last marathon. I can see why people get hooked, because the pain does fade and the experience is unique. If it had been my fitness that held me back, I could even see being tempted to try and better my time. But it was injury that slowed me down and I'll still be carrying that injury in the future. This was just the once, just for Em.

...the reward.
I was the last of TEAM! to limp across the line. You can see the rest of the TEAMsters’ results here.

Favourite bit of the course: Tower Bridge. Lots of supporters and a great London landmark to run across.
Favourite London landmark: Big Ben, because it was right near the end.
Best supporter sign: a tie between the man holding up “Finishing is the only f___ing option” at 7 miles, and the supporter in an elephant costume waving a “Come on, random stranger” sign at 24 miles.
Most enthusiastic supporter: my dad. At the point when I was walking he cheered me past, then ran ahead to wave at me again. And then did it again. And again. (And by then I managed to run again and left him behind.)
Best through-the-pain running tune: the Thundercats theme tune. I limp-sprinted to that. 

*After shouting "only eleven miles to go" at the (painful) 15 mile mark, Rob is no longer allowed to pick his own cheers.


Marathon Time

Marathon completed in 5:52:30.
And a lot of pain.

Report to follow.

£2,211.30 raised for Diabetes UK (so far). 



Can't put it better myself: http://www.teamemandme.org/


This Week I Shall Be Mostly Eating Pasta

Final run: 6 miles / 9.66 km in 1:05:22.
Injury check: Minor niggles.
Support crew: Ian, on bike.

My final 'long' run was on Saturday, and it was only 6 miles. From now on I might just do a couple of ten-minute jogs to keep my legs moving, but there won't be any more serious training runs. I might not even do that: my bad knee has been twinging a bit in the last week or so, and I'm inclined to rest it up in preparation for the big day.

Saturday was a good run: good pace, good route with a very little bit of gradient but nothing bad, in a new town so it had novelty, with a different training partner (who obviously didn't break any more of a sweat than my previous bike-riding partners) - and pretty nice weather for running. There was even blue sky and sunshine at the start. Again, something like that for M-Day would be good. 

In other news: I have reached - and passed - my fundraising target! I will write more on that later, but for now I would just like to say THANK YOU to everyone who has been so generous in sponsoring me. 

And yes, this week, I will be mostly eating pasta. Carbo-loading for Sunday. As well as making many lists in an effort to distract myself from The Fear of The Marathon...

1. Make list.
2. Run marathon.
3. And relax.



It's a little over a week to go until I run the London Marathon. 

That is a very scary thought.

A better thought is that I am suddenly so close to reaching my fundraising target! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I could never have raised so much money if I didn't know so many kind, generous people. Each and every person who has sponsored me has given me a push towards the finish line.

Besides which, I wouldn't be able to actually run the marathon if it weren't for the rest of the team doing it with me - and for the same cause. It's been a help, all the times I had to go out running, knowing I wasn't the only one going through it all.

The rest of TEAM! are doing so well, both in their training and their fundraising. Some of them will beat my goal time considerably, some of them are training much harder than me, some are much more stylish than me - but all of them are raising money for Diabetes UK, Em's chosen charity. 

It was a year ago that Emily died. I do hope that - wherever she is - she's getting some enjoyment out of watching us all slog our way to the marathon! 


On The Slow Down

Today's run: 10 miles / 16.09 km in 1:50:26.
Injury check: Knee pain.
Support crew: Robert, on bike.

Today was a good day. 10 miles at a good pace and I'm actually feeling pretty ok afterwards.

The spring weather undoubtedly helped: bright but not too sunny; mild rather than too cold (or too hot); with a light breeze on the air. 

If I could have today's weather on Marathon Day that would be pretty much perfect for me. I actually ran in only shorts and T-shirt. I couldn't even see my breath on the air! (The contrast with the last couple of weeks is just stunning.)

I'm on the taper down towards the marathon now: my long runs are shortening this week and next, hence only 10 miles today. Robert was with me on the bike today (as a last minute sub) and it was almost - almost - a fun activity. 

It wasn't all completely cool runnings: The Knee was feeling a bit tender before we started and I could feel it from early on. By about 4 miles it was twinging, but luckily it didn't get anywhere near as bad as last week. It was hurting more through the last couple of miles and Robert observed a certain lopsided-ness in my gait, despite the fact that I was trying to keep an even stride. 

Niggling pain aside, most of this run was pretty good. At the end I was tired but not exhausted. Almost as soon as I'd stopped running my knee stopped hurting - although I am icing it up now - and I didn't even need much TLC during my post-run recovery.

As you can see in today's photo, I ran in full race gear: Diabetes UK T-shirt and TEAM! cap. With the shirt tested (verdict: very comfy) I shall now add the iron-on letters to encourage people to cheer my name.

13 days to go...



Run: 17 miles / 27.36 km in 3:45:ish.
Injury check: The Knee struck early, followed by foot pain.
Training buddy: Dad, on bike*

Last weekend I ran my longest training run. It was not fun. My new most-hated weather is the bitter, biting wind. 

We ran along the river, following the Thames Path towards Kingston. It sounds like a lovely route, doesn't it? And it probably is - in summer. It was not lovely this fine Easter. 

The wind was against me on the way out and it made the first 8.5 miles very hard work. The return 8.5 miles was coldI've worn layers while running; I've taken top layers off as I've warmed up. I've never had to put layers on during a run. 

The pain was another problem. I've ached on long runs. I haven't hurt as much as this before. The most annoying thing was that the hurt wasn't actually caused by the extension in distance - the injuries made themselves felt far earlier than that. The Knee on the left, followed by the right instep, both within the first quarter of the run. I really wanted to get this distance down, however long it took, so I carried on. And (as you can see) it took a long time. The last couple of miles in particular were very slow, as I was run-walk-limping my way to the end. 
Grimace of pain outside Hampton Court, viewed from the river.
I think the looming storm clouds set it off nicely, don't you?
With 17 miles done, I'm now on the taper down towards the marathon. And one day, in the near future, I won't have to run any more. Oh, happy day...

*Who probably regretted his kind offer of company at least once during the route: he had to listen to me being grumpy most of the way around!


Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow

Today's run: 15.5(ish) miles in the snow. Oh, and in 3 hours 30 mins or so.
Injury check: Only standard aches.

I planned a lovely route out yesterday. It would take us along a riverside footpath that's also part of the national cycle network - therefore off-road but still ok for a bike - and would be a nice 7.5 miles out and back to complete my planned 15 miles.
The environment

Then the snow happened. 

Remember when I thought running in the snow was fun? Yeah, it's less fun when the marathon is only a month away and you really need to be racking up the miles regardless of the weather. Besides which, if I wasn't training I could be properly enjoying the snow by, say, making snowmen.

Anyway, I re-mapped my route and plotted out a 5.3 mile loop from my doorstep, with a plan to complete it three times. I picked a route that meant I'd never be more than about 1 mile (direct) from my flat, so if it all got too much I could cut the run short at any point and just make a break for home. 

Unfortunately my support crew couldn't join me today. Road bike + road tyres do not go well with 2 inches of snow! But I am (currently) a runner, therefore I must run. So, in the snow and the ice, and the sub-zero temperatures, I set out. Well wrapped up, of course:

The gear

1. Hat. Nice, neon-bright yellow running hat. Essential in these temperatures.
2. Neck warmer. Originally purchased for a snowboarding holiday, I never imagined I'd be re-purposing it for running in the snow.
3. Top layer: lightweight jacket, very useful in keeping the wind off. Under layer: long-sleeved running top. 
4. Phone holder. With a £10 note tucked inside, just in case I needed a ride home.
5. Gloves. Also great for taking the worst of the chill out of the biting wind. These are smart gloves, with clever tips in the index fingers so I can still use a smartphone screen when I'm wearing them.
6. Watch. For timekeeping.
7. Map. Don't judge me. I planned this route meticulously and a paper scribble wrapped around my forearm is much easier to look at than a phone screen strapped to my bicep.
8. Pace band. Fairly academic today, really. 
9. Belt to carry my energy gels in.
10. Jogging bottoms, over the top of my running tights. I usually don't run in trousers but layers was the key word of the day.

I was under no illusions that I'd be able to keep to a pace today - hence the achingly slow time. I ran on the roads where I could, and in the slightly deeper snow when it was there, but I was jogging fairly slowly over a large amount of the route, and walking some portions of it, just because the footing wasn't particularly good. I was more than willing to sacrifice a good time today in preference for not injuring myself, especially as I began to tire. I walked the final half mile of the last loop because the snow and slush underfoot was starting to get icy.

But, even though I had the option of cutting today short each time I returned to my flat, I covered the whole 15 miles. I am over the moon with that, especially as I actually feel ok right now. 

My body is definitely getting more used to putting in this amount of exercise without demanding that I suffer too much afterwards. To be fair, I'm also getting much more used to how I'll feel after this amount of exercise and what I should be doing to recover: in my case, this includes cold drinks, hot drinks, chocolate, crisps and then decent food.

I've also completely given up on the idea of cold/ice baths, because I just can't sit in one for more than a few minutes and I haven't seen that produce any benefits! A hot bath is calling me tonight. And I have totally earned it.


Reading Half Report

The run: 13.1 miles / 21.08 km in 2:22:06.
Injury check: Nothing prohibitive.
Running buddy: Katie.

Sunday, 17th March, 2013. My first (and last?) half marathon. There are no photos of the event*; the rain and the cold pre-empted any plans for photo opportunities, I'm afraid. 

Apart from the rain, this was a good run. It was a fairly interesting course, with twists and turns and variety in the roads; there was a bit of uphill but nothing too steep or too long; it's very nice to have people on hand offering you water and Lucozade; it finished in a football stadium with crowds watching and cheering. And I got an awesome time.

But the rain... oh, the rain was horrible. 

Also, I had to get up before 6am. On a Sunday. (Yes, 6am does exist on a Sunday morning - who knew?) I drove to Reading, ate a second breakfast in my car before scoping out the area and meeting up with Katie, and then popped back to the car to change. 

I then wore a bin-bag to the start line. With a hole cut out for my head. I know: so stylish. I'd actually been advised (by my dad) that many serious runners do this on wet runs. I was ambivalent about the idea, until I was actually out in the cold and the rain in my running gear, and having to bimble around in the 'race village' and behind the start line for some time before we could actually run enough to warm up. 

(As Katie remarked, seeing dozens of bin-bag-swaddled people bobbing on the spot to keep warm, in the rain, in the queues for the portaloos, really brought home the ridiculous nature of what we were about to embark upon.) 

The running itself wasn't actually too bad, once we'd got going and warmed up. Allow me to present a recap of the key points (I'm not promising they're all entirely in chronological order):
  • Mile 3 provided the only real gradient in the whole race - a bit of a slope but it wasn't a killer, and we were still relatively fresh at this point.
  • The church along the route into Reading centre that was playing pumping dance music was definitely a surprise. But a welcome one. If I was going to join a church, it would be one of the kind that plays pumping dance music to bedraggled half marathon runners. 
  • My parents were watching for us between the Mile 6 and Mile 7 markers. They'd printed (and laminated) a sign with our names on it, and were waving it proudly on a five-foot bamboo pole. (This was to help us pick them out from the expected crowds. Due to the unrelenting rain, the watching crowds were somewhat reduced...) I may never have smiled so much while running as I did when I saw that sign. 
  • Only slightly further down the road we passed Katie's family, although I was looking in the wrong direction at the time and more or less missed them entirely. Apologies and a belated 'hello' to them.
  • Throughout the course of this race I splashed myself in the ear with Lucozade. Twice. Note to self: re-cap drinks bottle properly when running. 
  • Mile 9: Katie leaves me behind. Up until now I'd kept up with her pace but at this point my bad knee was twinging and I needed to stop, fiddle with my knee support and walk for a few minutes to work out the niggle. I was a little afraid that this might mean my pace would start to slip - not actually because of The Knee, but because I no longer had Katie pacemaking for me! However,the splits (oh yes, Reading Half emails you the splits as well as your final time) don't show much of a drop off, which is brilliant - especially given that I was running a little faster than my usual pace up until this point. 
  • During Mile 10 I chatted briefly to a guy called Simon, encouraging him back up to a run from the walk he was at as I passed him (I was having an enthusiastic, let's-talk-to-a-stranger moment). We didn't really get into introductions, but I learnt he was called Simon when he got the random "Go on, [insert name here]!" cheers from some onlookers who spotted him approaching. He pulled away from me, then I passed him a bit later, then he passed me, then I passed him... Eventually I passed him when he was walking again and that was the last of that game. 
  • Musing: the number of people I saw with their name on the back of their shirt thoroughly confused me. If you've already passed someone before they can read your name then a) they are no longer looking at you to cheer you, and b) you're less likely to hear the cheers anyway. Put it on the front, guys. But also: I am absolutely having my name on my marathon shirt. Well, a version of my name that people can pronounce at a glance, anyway.
  • Mile 11 was a long, boring, straight section of A road. By this point I was just trudging through the metres, picking random people out ahead of me as either pacemakers or 'you're the person I'm going to pass next... and now you're the person I'm going to pass next... (and repeat)'.
  • Either side of the Mile 12 marker was a dogleg along the north edge of the stadium. This was my lowest point, and luckily it lasted a very short time: I got caught out of breath again and had to slow to a walk, breathing deeply. At which moment Katie - who was now a little ahead of me and already on the return section of the dogleg - spotted me and shouted some encouragement! I took a few more deep breaths and started running again...
  • And finally I entered the stadium. Finally, the end was in sight. I put on a sprint over the last few dozen metres, put on a grimace smile for the cameras, and gave a high five to one of the cheery volunteers as I crossed the finish line. And fantastically Katie had waited for me a few yards over the line, at which point we soggily celebrated our survival. 
2:22:06. I was hoping for around 2:30, so that's a fantastic time for me. All of the credit for that time goes to Katie, for dragging my pace incrementally upwards and taking us past the official 2:30 pacemaker - and then past the 2:25 pacemaker as well. 
13.1 miles - 2:22:06
After the run Katie went off to the kit tent to collect her bag and then to find her parents; I was so cold and wet through that all I could think about was getting back to my car. It was dry inside my car. And warm. Changing in a car is never graceful, but I did it, because I damn well wasn't getting back out into the rain again! (You know how your fingertips prune up when you've been in the water took long? By the time I took my trainers off my toes were like that.)

I sat in the car, ate some food and had a hot drink from my thermos flask while watching the rain continue outside. Eventually I drove home, had a hot bath, put an ice pack on my bad knee for a while and then rolled into bed. And thus ends my tale of the Reading Half. 

I'd like to send a final thought out into the ether thanking all those strangers who braved the rain to cheer on those of us slogging through it. The normal Reading Half crowds might not have been there, but those hardy souls who had made it to the kerb and huddled under umbrellas, shouting encouraging words at strangers, really did help. 

P.S. I have to add a word of praise for my Tune Belt arm-band phone holder: despite the neoprene and plastic being drenched for 2.5 hours, it transferred none of that to my phone, which emerged entirely unscathed - hooray!

*There are, of course, some photos of the event. But only my nearest and dearest are going to get to see them. Maybe.