It’s been a long road, it’s not been easy but I did it, I finished my first marathon. Thank god that’s over.
The build up
The trouble with this marathon lark is that the training period is so long and you’ve invested so much time and effort that it becomes quite a big deal. I’ve been really quite concerned over the last week, almost convincing myself that I’d not done enough training and that it would end in ignominious defeat. When I saw the weather forecast for sunny and hot I got even more worried, not only wouldn’t I finish, but I might die.
My family and I got the train up to Edinburgh the day before the race, booked into a very decent b&b and of course I settled down to a big plate of pasta and a galleon of water. That night I could hardly sleep and woke up tired at six for my breakfast of cereal. I covered myself in generous amounts of Vaseline and not quite enough sun block, strapped on my energy gels and I was ready.
Got to the start in plenty of time, but as usual there were enormous queues for the loos. 9500 runners and about 40 toilets or so it seemed.
Due to my optimistic predicted time I was in the 3rd out of 6 starting groups which at least meant that it wasn’t long for me to get over the start line. The sun was shining and the views were good, firstly through town and then beside Arthur’s seat before heading over to the firth near portobello.
Apart from the nice views my main thought was not to go too fast, the one piece of advice everyone seemed to agree on. I therefore concsiously reigned myself in and fought against running my natural pace. As it turned out I think this really worked for me.
I sailed through the 13 mile marker having run for 2 hours thinking to myself ‘I’m feeling pretty fresh, I might be able to do it after all’. At 16 miles Deborah and Rose were there for my first bit of family support. It was great to see them and it helped spur me on. At around 17 miles I distinctly remember starting to feel a bit tired and I could also identify the start of some blisters. Nothing major, but I could feel them. At 18 miles the route down the coast did an about face and we now headed back the way we had come. I really felt from this point that I was definitely going to do it.
At 19 miles I passed the family again, grabbed a quick kiss from wife and daughter and feeling confident now.
It more or less struck me at the 20 mile marker that my legs were now shot and that it had suddenly got significantly tougher. I’d been told beforehand that 20 miles is the real half-way point and having got through it I think that’s pretty true. From here on in it was just about metronomically keeping my legs going.
I’d kept to my nutrition plan which was to have an energy gel every 5 miles, drink 100ml or so of water at each water station and the odd lucazade. As temperatures were so warm I also poured a bottle of water over myself at each station which was a great relief.
At 23 miles I was dead on my feet and would have happily sat down but kept grinding out each step. It was about this time that I made my only mistake in the race. I took and ate a couple of jelly beans being handed out by a friendly bystander. For some reason they made me feel quite nauseous and I really wish I hadn’t.
The last three miles seemed to take forever and I’m sure there was a point between 24 and 25 when I thought ‘maybe I’ll just walk for a bit’. There were a lot of walkers by now, but I’m glad I didn’t join them.
They tease you with a mile marker at 26, which it’s tempting to think is the finish, but of course there is still another 200 yards which felt like another mile.
Four hours, twelve minutes and forty seconds. Not bad, in fact it was much better than I’d hoped for and was spookily bang on the estimator time from the runners world website (based on my long run time). Of the 8,257 finishers I came a respectable 3367th.
I gamely tried to look happy at the finish line and raised my arms, but if I’m honest, I just wanted to collapse. Somehow I managed to stumble through to get a medal, water, banana, t-shirt and goody bag. I then picked up my rucksack from the truck and sat down. My legs were just awfully painful and I was feeling quite ill. I wish I could have stayed there for a while, but I needed to find my folks.
Deborah was fantastic, getting several trains to various bits of the route and then to the finish. I couldn’t wait to meet them.
There I was, I’d done it, yet I felt strangely free from elation (and still do as I write this the day after). I feel like I’ve been through some kind of trialalthough I think I passed. I’m actually really pleased with the time and feel that I’ve made a good account of myself. It seems you can do a marathon with no more than three training runs a week. It was also pleasing that my race plan really worked.
As things stand at the moment, I don’t feel the need to do another one.
I have to give a special thanks to Deborah who has had to put up with my training, my moaning, my worrying and occasionally my tetchiness. I couldn’t have done it without her.