Things You Learn on a 21 Mile Run

Olly Murs chafing

On Saturday I ran 21 miles. It’s the furthest I’ve ran so far, and I really wanted to break the ‘final 6 miles’ - loads of people have told me how tough that final 6 are, so now at least I know how one of them feels.


After the 18 miles, I was prepared for a challenge, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. On Friday I chatted with Gilly, who said that it will be hard, but that it will also prove that I could do it. I treated myself to a sleep in on Saturday because – thanks to jet lag – it felt like I had woken up at 3am every morning last week. And by 11am I was off.


Aw gorgeous bluebells on the run before I was by the road

Aw gorgeous bluebells on the run before I was by the road

In Aussie, 11am would be a ridiculous time to start a 21 mile run. Perhaps even in London. God bless the North East with it’s lack-lustre temperatures, making for flexible running.


Mentally I broke the run down into 5 mile chunks, as that’s when I had an isotonic gel. And it helped. I could run at a pace of 8:45-9min miles without feeling like I was pushing myself too much. In fact, when I was at mile 12 I started running 7:30-8min miles and had to make an effort to slow down for the last bit. So…. at around mile 15 I was feeling a lot more confident about this whole thing.


I finished in 3:05. That’s a long time running, and you don’t go through something like that without learning a thing or two:

  • Cola isotonic and caffeine gels aren’t a good choice. They taste like vodka and coke. No one wants to be reminded of those one-too-many-vodka-and-coke-student-nights when they are in mile 15 of a marathon.
  • Chafing!! I knew about chafing already thanks to my sports bra. But my bellybutton bar against my belly button? My arm against…. what? The shirt that I wear all the time???? Vaseline will be my new best friend for the next three weeks.
Olly Murs chafing

Even the biggest pop stars aren’t immune to chafing. Poor Olly Murs.

  • A running belt would be nice. Usually I stuff my gels down my sports bra (which might explain the point above), but it gets a bit ridiculous when you have 4 smashed in there, all vying for space. Plus, others might think I am a mutant am…. unusual.
  • My left foot is destroyed at the end. By the time I finished, I had two angry blood blisters (my little toe looked like one giant bruise), and a ginormous normal blister covering my big toe. After a night of dreaming they would burst in the bed and I’d wake up to a scene from a horror movie (or something a little less dramatic), I burst them this morning. It’s glamorous stuff, this marathon training!
  • I need a super play list to take me to the finish line. For the first 1:45 I had Beyonce for company, and then Mumford and Sons. But all my awesome running tunes were required for the last bit. So I’ll create a special playlist for the final hour on the day to kick my butt to the end.


The last 5 miles were tough. The blisters affected my tread, and I think I was getting pretty dehydrated (who goes out on a long run without liquids? Idiots, that’s who). But at the end, could I imagine going for another 45 mins? Yes. The Edinburgh route will also be much flatter than D-Town, so that will (hopefully) work in my favour.


Ellie B

3 thoughts on “Things You Learn on a 21 Mile Run

  1. Hi Ellie! I’m new to following you guys but love reading your journey. I’m about to start training for my first marathon in 5 months and was wondering what plan you use, or where you got information about marathons when you started? Can you recommend a training plan? Thanks :) Louise

    • Hi Louise! Thanks for reading :)

      When I started thinking about marathon training, I considered what would be a reasonable goal. Then I went to Runner’s World straight away – they have loads of different plans depending on what time you’re aiming for.

      You can also use Google to find a plan, but I like Runner’s World because you know the source is credible (not that there aren’t other sources, but I’m most familiar with that one!).

      Then I looked at the training schedules and found one which would work well with my routines.

      Good luck!! I hope you find one that works for you!! Let me know how you get on. :)


  2. That is awesome! 21miles is tough as nails! We are in Edinburgh the weekend before your marathon :-( Sorry won’t be there on big day. Hv you booked a hotel yet? The Scotsman is lush if you want to treat yourself xxx

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