On Sunday 22nd April 2018 I completed my first marathon. It happened to be the hottest London marathon on record and so it was set to be a challenge for me in more ways than one. Here, I write about my preparation in the week leading up to the race, raceday itself and how I recovered in the two weeks following the marathon.
Week leading up to the marathon:
Monday – led RTW runners group in the evening
Tuesday – final session with Tonbridge AC before marathon. Session of 6 x 1km off of 3min recoveries.
Wednesday & Thursday – complete rest
Friday – half day at work. Travelled up to London in afternoon to visit the London Marathon Expo at the ExCeL in order to collect race pack.
Saturday – volunteer at parkrun in the morning, rest in the afternoon & evening.
Sunday (race day) – Up at 5.30am, finished off packing race bag; 6.20am – porridge with raisins, pumpkin seeds, honey & topped with banana. Left house at 6.40am in order to catch 7:13am train.
Arrived at London Bridge soon after 8am – very busy and decided to use the toilets there. Caught very busy train to Blackheath station soon after 8.30am and arrived at Greenwich Park with over an hour before race start.
I found some shade where I applied suntan lotion and took on my last bit of hydration before dropping my bag at 9.15am. I then performed some dynamic stretches before entering the start pen at around 9.30am – unfortunately in direct sunlight until just after a 10am start.
I set off at a comfortable pace, with the plan to run at 7:30 per mile (approx. 15-20 seconds slower than the mile pace that I had run at the Lydd 20 mile race in March).
Race nutrition – organic dried apricots dipped in sea salt and honey. I managed to pin a bag to the inside of my short pocket and all 10 apricots fit in – just! My plan was to hydrate every 3 miles and take on fuel at mile 8 and every 4 miles thereafter.
The support around the course was amazing and really kept me going. I managed to stick to my goal pace for 15 miles, though dropped off this pace for the next 4 miles, before taking a short walking break at mile 20 to compose myself and rehydrate. I found the final 6 miles a real challenge, both mentally and physically but knew that I was on target for around a 3:30 finish.
The race highlights for me were running across Tower Bridge – the level and noise of support was immense. Soon after turning off of Tower Bridge I was lucky enough to see the leaders of the elite men’s race go past along with Mo Farah. Another excellent support point on the course was where the “Run dem crew” were stationed – they had uplifting dance music playing, an MC and had marked the road with fluorescent messages. Though the best feeling of all came once I crossed the finish line, knowing that I had completed my first marathon!
The bag collection process was seamless and within just a couple of minutes of finishing I had my bag and was drinking the chocolate milk that I had prepared that morning. My legs felt like jelly and although I didn’t feel like eating straight away, I decided to consume the tuna pasta that I had prepared. Afterwards I wandered around London for the best part of an hour – first to London Victoria station and then back to a small café where I picked up a small vanilla ice cream (something which my body was craving for some reason). I then made my way to Embankment before taking a train home where I had a 20 minute walk home.
Recovery that evening involved a warm bath with magnesium flakes followed by a meal at Pizza Express.
Post marathon – a warm bath the following morning before a half day at work (1.30-5.30pm) and then leading my running group at 7pm that evening. Tuesday was an early start so I had an early night to bed before travelling to Canterbury for work. Wednesday/Thursday in the office and then off for a week’s holiday on Friday morning.
Holiday activities – went for my first (post-marathon) run on Saturday morning, an easy pace in beautiful surroundings – just shy of 6 miles; Sunday 3.5 miles easy pace; Monday 6 miles, including 3 miles at tempo pace; Tuesday 3 miles easy. Wednesday 24 miles cycling along the Camel trail; Thursday 9 miles coastal, hilly run at a comfortable pace; Friday, drive home.
I wasn’t at all sure how I would feel, both mentally & physically following the marathon and my initial plan was to do plenty of walking on holiday (which I also did), but it was to my surprise that I was to run a total of 28 miles over the course of the 6 days.
Having now completed my first marathon I have learnt a lot and I look forward to tackling another. I would like to enter just one marathon per year as it takes a lot out of you and not just the race itself, but also the training, preparationg and recovery. There are things that I would change and I am very grateful to my club for having been given the chance to participate in such an amazing race!
My next race is on Sunday 20th May in Plymouth – Britain’s Ocean City Half Marathon. This is a race that I have participated in once before and for which I wrote a blog post in the Spring of 2017, so if you haven’t already, please check that out. My next blog post will therefore concentrate on my experience of this race and what plans I have for the rest of 2018. So until then, keep on running.