Edinburgh Marathon Race Report

So here we are 6 days on!! I can honestly say that running the marathon was unlike anything else I’ve ever done, and that’s taking into account half marathons, 10 mile races, 10k races and everything in between. Here is my take on the whole experience: beware, it’s a bit of a marathon in itself……

 

SB and I arrived in Edinburgh the day before the event. I had worked in London the week before, and since I arrived home on the Thursday and began my carb-crazy preparation, I had become really nervous.  I hadn’t yet run the full distance – and this distance has so many variables that you really need the stars to align to have a good race.

 

We ate an early dinner at an Italian place called Contini – we had to eat early as the place was fully booked with other marathoners! Spotting the runners vs the normal Saturday night crew was easy: the runners looked underdressed, they ordered diet coke or water, and they looked very pensive!

 

The next day, I walked the short distance to the starting line feeling really nervous. I had my priorities in order: my nails were painted the same colour as my shirt (it’s pleasing to look down mid-run and see the colour match).

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All ready to go…

 

The marathon started on two different roads, which meant that there were fewer crowds congregating in each starting pen. That made me feel a lot better, as there was space to stretch and prepare. The weather had been really rainy that morning, so I was wearing a bin liner. That is a secret runners way to keep warm pre-race, but to everyone else it must look ridiculous.

 

My pen was the second from the starting line  – which surprised me as I’ve never been that close, but was also good because I crossed the first timing mats within 10 minutes of the race starting. In my mind I had broken the race into three segments: 9 miles til we pass the end, 9 miles running one way, 8 miles running the other way.

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Misty Sunday in Edinburgh

I tackled miles 2 and 3 pace of 8:51 and 8:53, and needed to step up the pace if I wanted to make my Plan A goal. So miles 4-10 ranged from 7:59-8:20 pace. I felt strong and light on my feet, but I found the pacing really hard: how do you know how fast to run at mile 6, knowing you have 20 miles to go???

 

At 5 miles, the route goes along the coast, and it was magic to run so close to the seaside, with the salt breeze and the crashing waves not 20 metres from us. By this time the sun was shining too – a change from 60 minutes ago!

 

From there, my pace was kind of consistent, with miles 11-20 falling between 8:32-8:43 minutes. By mile 16 I was very aware that I wasn’t able to control the pace much: I had fallen into a rhythm where all efforts were directed towards was maintaining that rhythm. I even chanted ‘main-tain, main-tain’ when I struggled. Mile 14 definitely felt like it lasted an hour: I was over half way, but still so far from finishing! I must have checked my Garmin about 20 times during that mile.

 

Miles 14-20 are on a country road and through the grounds of an 18th Century house called Gosford House. Visually it was stunning, with views of the sea, blue skies, green trees and golden rocks.

 

At mile 18, the course turns back on itself and you head back towards the finish line – and there was a crowd of people applauding as you ran around the witches hat to the other side of the road. I am always so appreciative of people who take time out of their day to clap, cheer, applaud, provide jelly babies/oranges/water!

 

By mile 20, I knew there was a reasonable chance of me hitting my Plan A goal if nothing went wrong. The weirdest thing was that I still had to be so present in the moment that it didn’t mean much! Marathon running takes so much energy to concentrate on what’s happening right now (ignoring aches, measuring your thirst, maintaining speed, being aware of other runners). However, I stepped it up a bit, and miles 21-23 were all under 8:30.

 

And then my Garmin died.

 

Finishing the race without knowing the pace, or how far into each mile I was, was surprisingly disconcerting. On every single long run I play mind games: counting down the miles, measuring the time left vs the time to go, and even telling myself that I only had less than 30 minutes to go didn’t help: it’s actually still quite  a long time!

 

The out-and-back route actually helped, because once I started to pass familiar landmarks, I knew the end was near. The path narrowed at mile 25, and there were lots of people cheering. After 25 miles of running in my own head, it was quite overwhelming, and I found myself really fighting to stop the tears.

 

One thing did make me smile though: my vest showed the name of my running club (Elvet Striders), and people would shout ‘Come on Elvet!!’ thinking it was my name. Close I guess..

 

Then after the 26 mile marker, I heard one very familiar voice shouting at me, and I saw SB’s smiley face. I knew then that the finish must be close, and sprinted to the end! As I stopped, I was doing the cry-deep breath thing that you get sometimes (do people get it? Or is it just me?), and doing my best not to be sick. Then I got my medal, which immediately cheered me up, and had the all-important post race photo (which costs £19.99 to download!! Isn’t that crazy?).

 

Finish line just around the corner!!

Finish line just around the corner!!

I finished in 3:43:31. My goal was 3:45, so I am over the moon. And it gives me a good-for-age entry to the London marathon too.

 

Here is what I learned during the whole thing:

  • You experience every emotion along those 26.2 miles. Happiness, excitement, depression, determination, sadness, pain, anger and then elation. It’s a proper rollercoaster.
  • Being short means people don’t see you when they spit to the side, or when they put their hands on their hips. I almost had both phlegm and an elbow in my face during the race. Pleasant!
  • A lot of the race is trying to calibrate your stride so you can run with ease, pretending you don’t have aches and pains. I can see now why marathoners need good core stability.
  • There are two sides of you during the run – the adult, and the child. The adult talks to the child to keep you going: ‘just wait 2 more miles until mile 20, and if your foot still hurts then, we’ll stop to adjust your sock’.
  • At the end I was as mentally tired as I was physically: I kind of turned into a zombie until about 45 minutes after I stopped running.
  • Being in a running club kicks ass: At mile 13, someone who was spectating from my club spotted me, and gave me a high 5. And I saw a fellow Strider on the course as well (who had a sub-3 finish!!!). That community feeling is great!

 

At the end I wasn’t sure if I would do another one. The time, the commitment, the physical and mental toll…. But then we went back to the hotel, watched Jurassic Park 2, and went out for a fab dinner. And now I’m looking forward to London!!

 

Best post-marathon meal

Best post-marathon meal

 

Ellie B

10 things to remember when you line up for a marathon.

 

So I’m not sure if you know, but my best pal Ellie B is running her first marathon tomorrow!! To say I am excited and proud of her is an understatement! Deciding you are going to run a marathon takes balls. It’s a big bold challenge, something most people would never do. Then you have to commit to a program and stick with it. 16 weeks of running 5-6 times a week, regardless of the weather, your mood, work commitments and everlasting tiredness. It also takes a very patient and loving partner – kudos SB. Getting to the start line in one piece is an achievement in itself and everyone who lines up tomorrow has accomplished something most people wouldn’t even begin to entertain.

So tomorrow Ellie, when you feel sick and nervous and jittery and have no idea what is coming next I think you should remember the following.

  1. Marathon training is harder than running the race. Tomorrow you get to realise all your hard work with fresh legs.
  2. You are an experienced runner……you have done loads of races and are speedy as. Tomorrow is just another long run.
  3. Oprah ran a marathon. In 4.29.20. You can beat Oprah. List of celebs who have run marathoners
  4. You are strong as an ox – all your pole classes and strength work will pay off dividends in the last 10km.
  5. You will join a very elite group tomorrow – only .5% of people have completed a marathon.
  6. You will burn, approx., over 2,880 calories tomorrow. I look forward to seeing your post-race meal pictures. (Book somewhere amazing now if you haven’t already – you don’t want to waste that meal on Nando’s.)
  7. Runners high? Wait till you feel marathon high!
  8. Ibuprofen can help with your blister pain.
  9. You are guaranteed a PR tomorrow!
  10. And last but not least………have fun! Yes it’s a race. But I’m goinging out on a limb here and guessing you won’t win. So no stress. Just think of it as a really long fun run! When you’re struggling at the end……and everyone struggles regardless……remember how awesome you are and how a little pain now is a lot of smiles later. J

Have an amazing race (we should totally enter the amazing race!!) and cannot wait to hear all about it! You got this.

Gill xxxx

 

 


That’s why they are hurting! J

This Marathon Is For….

I was never a sporty kid. I’d oscillate between hyperactive, bouncing everywhere and seeking attention, to being in my imagination on my own, but I was never the driven, disciplined, team sports girl.

 

The first time I ever thought that I might be sporty was when I read this sentence in one of my school reports when I was 14: ‘Ellie can be a good cross country runner when she wants to be’. Until then I had only ever considered running to be something that you used to get somewhere quickly. When I read that, I thought that there might well be a sports person in me yet…

 

Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t immediately lead to a successful national youth cross country career. This isn’t that story. But I did think that perhaps I  could be one of those rosy cheeked, high-ponytailed sporty types who munched on english muffins after a gruelling outdoor sports session.

 

Sadly, there are no pics of me in sports gear as a teen as I wasn’t sporty. But here’s a pic of me in my best 90s dungarees at my 15th birthday sleepover.

 

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Did you ever see someone in braces look so thrilled?

I think everyone has at least one teacher who stands out among the crowd once they reach adulthood. For me, there are three:

  • A Maths teacher who worked so patiently and tirelessly to help me scrape a good grade in my Maths exams (basically he was Mr Steer from Educating Yorkshire)
  • An English teacher who taught me the beauty of literature and the joy of learning for its own sake
  • This Sports teacher who wrote that in my report. As well as encouraging my late sporting abilities, this sports teacher also gave pastoral support too (Mrs Marsden from Educating Yorkshire if you will)

 

She was the epitome of the sporty type: always seriously tanned (sailing in Summer, skiing in Winter), always outside, and always wearing a rugby top. Or a body warmer. Or something that basically said ‘I am dressing for comfort not for fashion because I have important sports to do’.

 

Sadly, she died last year of a brain tumour. I reckon she must have been in her late 40s. I had always thought it would be nice to get in touch and see how she is, but now there’ll never be that chance. Whether or not I’d have started running without that school report is impossible to say. However I distinctly remember that being the moment when sports became something I could engage with rather than watching from the outside, treating all PE lessons as a chance to muck about and show off at how spectacularly I could miss the tennis ball/lacross goal/netball hoop.

 

So: my first marathon is dedicated to her, and I have made a donation to Brain Tumour UK.

 

Also, whilst we’re on this sentimental path, I’d also like to thank Gilly for encouraging me to actually enter a marathon (not just talk about it), for always being there to answer any of my many questions, and for basically being a bad-ass best friend. And SB for supporting me when I’ve literally planned the last 4 months of our lives around when I can go running for 3 hours at a time, and for creating what I know will be an amazing support banner for the day. I’m sure he’s got something spectacular up his sleeve…..

banner

 

That’s the last sentimental, self-indulgent posts about this event, I promise! If you haven’t tried running ‘for’ someone, it’s definitely worth considering. Even in the harder training sessions, thinking about someone/something important gave an additional burst of energy and motivation to carry on.

 

And now: onwards to Sunday, and we’ll see how the final showdown goes. I have A, B and C goals (C is basically to carry on without crying), and brand new socks. It’s going to be a blast!

 

Have a great weekend!

 

Ellie B

 

 

 

T minus 6 days

And here we are: the countdown. I feel like I’ve been thinking about this for a thousand years, and to be honest at the moment I have very mixed feelings about the whole thing.

 

On the weekend I did a 12 mile run as per my trusty plan, and by the end my feet were in shreds. Throughout this whole thing I 100% didn’t expect blisters to be my biggest concern.

 

Actually, they’re more like mutant blisters, like I’m trying to grow an extra foot on each side, but I promise no more details. Let’s just say that right now, the biggest reason for not hitting my goals will be because of my skin’s inability to play it cool. Literally.

 

Other than that, I thought it might be time for a check in on ‘What I have Learned throughout this Process’. I know thousands of people do marathons every week, but I’m sure they’ll all tell you that the first is a watershed moment. Half way through I did a similar summary, so it’s only fitting to do one now…..

  • Long runs are a mindset more than a fitness test. Boom. Is your mind blown? Again, this is something that every marathon-er will tell you. However, when you experience it first hand, you feel like you’ve tapped into The Secret, and want to jump on Oprah’s couch sharing your gem. My first long run (which I count as 18 miles) was beset by mental challenges. I’m so tired already at 6 miles, how will I feel in 10 miles time…???!?!? :( :( That kind of thing. Then the next time, I worked hard to change my mindset, and since then it’s been ok.

mind over matter

 

  • My body has changed in these last 8 weeks. At the half-way check in, I noted that my  body hasn’t changed shape. But now, my chest is smaller, and my calves and glutes are bigger. I have fallen into the trap of eating whatever I like because I’m training-for-a-marathon-dont-you-know, and also because my whole family has been to visit over the last 6 weeks. And we’ve been on holiday. No picture: I don’t think you’re ready for that jelly.

 

  • Work/life balance becomes Work/life/run balance. I found traveling with work and keeping to my running plan really hard. Work travel equals late nights, dinners out, and being in a strange place so you don’t know where/when you can get your 7 mile progression run in. Plus, when I was at home, every social activity was viewed through the lens of ‘when can I get my run in that day’. This in itself takes a lot of energy, and that’s before you even leave the house.

 

  • You hit new goals each week. I love hitting goals. There is nothing I enjoy more than crossing things off a list, and this experience has been one long list that I get to cross. My proudest moments during training are: fastest 10k (45:18), furthest distance (21 miles – also one of my favourite runs this training), and knowing I can comfortably do 7 miles in less than an hour. Now it’s just the Big Goal to go.

 

  • It can be lonely. I have hardly run with my running group on a Wednesday this year, because I wanted to focus on my Tuesday speed work and Thursday steady runs. So I’ve been on my own a lot this year – which has been great when I’ve had things to work through and consider (because my thoughts are very important) – but it can be lonely.

 

  • It is mostly awesome. I’ve been very lucky not to injure myself, and I’ve really enjoyed having a reason to get out and run, especially when I’ve seen new cities and sights. I have never finished a run regretting that time in the fresh air, with my music, and my garmin, and my goals. I have to remind myself of this if things don’t go to plan on Sunday!

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 Training views: Durham bluebells, NYC from Central Park, Durham Cathedral, Big Ben, Stockholm, Durham 

I’m not running this week to give myself the best chance for good feet this weekend. There’s also at least one more reflective post this week…. Sorry if I’ve become this:

Marathon

 

And finally – Happy Birthday Gilly!!! I hope you had a wonderful day, and I can’t wait to hear about it :)  xx

 

Elli B

Frivolous Friday Five

Good afternoon!! I hope that things are looking good where you are. Here in the UK, things are looking fiiiiine.

 

Since it’s  a Friday afternoon, and I’m in a really good mood, I wanted to write about stuff. Just stuff that’s happened this week, or things I’ve enjoyed recently. So, without further ado, here are my five Friday faves:

 

  • Summer is here! Well, for this weekend, anyway. And in this country, you have to grab it while it’s here and bask in all it’s short-lived glory. This is what I’m wearing today:

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Yes, SHORTS! And not even ironically. And this is where I’m writing my post today:

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Yes, OUTSIDE! I don’t think this Friday fave requires any further explanation.

 

  • Epsom Salts. On the recommendation of my step-mother, I have been soaking my feet in an epsom bath every second day. And, gosh darnit, if it hasn’t just gone and fixed my feet? I don’t know why I never tried this before, but Epsom Salt baths and I are now the bestest of friends. No picture for this one: nausea seems a bit unfair for all you lovely readers on such a nice day.

 

  • Hard hats.

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This week I’ve had family to stay: my dad & step-mum from Sydney, and my brother from Bristol. We went to one of those living museums where the year was 1902. And what should you know about when it comes to the history of the North-East of England? Mining. The museum had a mine you could go down, where there was only 4’6″ standing room. Most miners in this area worked in a mine that was only 2′ tall: incredible. And they only bathed once a week.

 

  •   This picture contains two of my favourites: Don Draper, and the iPhone. Never before has it been so obvious that Don Draper is the coolest of the cool if he had an iPhone in 1969.

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 14.25.12

  • This book is a great read if you’re looking for something which is gripping, accessible and not-taxing:

husbands secret

I read it on the plane from the U.S. and it was perfect. Plus it’s set on the North Shore of Sydney, so there’s an added nostalgia for me. But seriously: it’s a fun read.

And I’m heading back inside. I’ve sneezed three times while writing this post. It would be such a cruel twist of fate for me to get a cold a) the week before my race and b) on the warmest weekend of the year. Tomorrow is my last ‘long’ run at 14 miles – it’s so strange that 8 weeks ago, 14 miles was the furthest I’ve ran and now it’s something that can be done between dance teaching and supermarket shopping.

 

Happy Friday everyone!! Enjoy your ice creams!!

 

Ellie B