It’s less than 1 month until race day, and things are starting to feel real.
Training for a gruelling event, such as a marathon, is challenging. It clashes heavily with day-to-day responsibilities such as full-time work, parenting, being a fiancée and completing home-based tasks. It is an event that at one point seemed a lifetime away. However, it is now quickly approaching and with it, all of the excitement and nerves you would expect.
The speculation from those that know me is that I am having a midlife crisis. In reality (or at least the reason I’m sticking with) running the London Marathon has been a long-term dream of mine, and has always been firmly on my bucket list. The London Marathon is one of the best and most popular marathons in the world, breaking its own world record by having over 414,000 applicants for 2019’s race. It is widely described as the best experience any runner can have. Completing the London Marathon is something I will always remember and will one day tell my grandchildren. To be given the opportunity to run for my favourite charity, The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, makes it all the more special.
Planning and running has now started to take over my life. I constantly think about my long run that usually takes place on a Saturday morning, as well as:
All of that is before I even think about the £6,000 that needs to be raised between myself, Ali and Charlotte. I can’t even begin to imagine how boring it is for all my colleagues and family members that have to listen to me talk about running all the time!
With 5 weeks to go, the weekly long run is exactly that… long! Back in January, week 1’s long run was around 6 miles. I usually covered this on a Sunday, however that distance can pretty much be run whenever you like. Fast forward a couple of months, and my training plan now has my long run at 18 miles, which will continue to increase by 2 miles each weekend, to finish with a final training run on the 6th April. Even now, running 22 miles feels daunting, let alone 26.2 miles on the 28th April.
Prior to starting this process, I had only participated in one half marathon in my 39 years of life. I am finding that it is not just the time and monotony of running that is causing issues. Each week, training now involves over 40 miles, in 6/7 hours, across 3 or 4 sessions of pounding the pavement. Unfortunately, the upping of training intensity has now caused considerable physical challenges at the worst possible time.
Last weekend, as I reached the end of my 18-mile run, I was in a considerable amount of pain. I spent the following 36 hours only able to move around by hopping or walking with one completely straight leg. The pain was down the side of my right leg, from my hip to my knee. Looking into my symptoms, it was clear that I had developed iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, one of the most common injuries from overuse in runners. The IT band helps to stabilise and move the knee joint. The recommended cure…rest. The trouble was, I couldn’t afford to miss out on training. In fact, the need to train was more important than ever; I had the Coventry Half Marathon booked in on Sunday 24th March. So, I made the decision to have 7 days off of running with the hope of recovering from my injury.
Sunday 24th March, the Coventry Half Marathon – an event I booked into my training plan to help me get used to the race environment, and another part of my fundraising activity. With it being 5 weeks before the London Marathon, it was all about my speed. I had only completed one half marathon before, and with no training, I finished with a highly unspectacular time of 2 hours 20 minutes. With the marathon fast approaching, I needed to make sure that I ran a decent paced race to achieve a desirable finish time. My only concern during the build-up were my tight hamstrings and injured knee.
On the day, I woke up at 6:45am to begin my pre-race routine. When I reached the start line, I was ready to go with a target pace of 8 minutes 45 seconds per mile, to ensure a finish time of under 2 hours.
As I reached mile 4, I was running at 8 minutes 15 seconds per mile, so ahead of my target pace and feeling good. I knew that this race had a hilly area in the middle, followed by a fast downhill final couple of miles, so starting well gave me a great chance to put reserve minutes in the bank. 4 miles of running uphill in the middle of the race upped the challenge, but despite the tight hamstrings, I was feeling good. However, with just under 3 miles to go, the pain upped several notches, with shooting pains every step between my knee and right hip. It was quite clear that my week of rest had not resolved my injury.
Now, with 2 miles to go, the pain was becoming so bad that I was having to walk for 30 seconds and then push myself to run on. The last mile became mind over matter, and with a sprint finish, I finished in 1 hour 53 minutes. I then hobbled off to collect my commemorative t-shirt and medal. For the rest of Sunday and all of Monday, I was unable to bend my right knee without pain. Not being able to run in the London Marathon then became a real concern. What will I do if my knee starts to become problematic again after 11 miles on marathon day? Will it be game over? I’m determined that this will not be the case. I’ve come this far and I want to not only complete the marathon but complete it in style, in under 4 hours.
Recovery is now the name of the game. Luckily, we have a trained Physiotherapist in our team. Beth Hollis is readily available for support and I need her expertise more than ever. Sports massages, race day taping, knee supports, a revised stretching programme, Ibuprofen and foam rollers are all on the agenda to get my knee where it needs to be to complete the London Marathon. With just over 4 weeks to go, wish me luck!
You can sponsor Mark, Charlotte and Ali to complete their London Marathon challenge here, https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/StrideResourcingforTeamStephen. They are raising much needed funds for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, who support young adults from minority groups to study and qualify as Architects and other Built Environment Professionals.