After spending the last 13 weeks training for a marathon that I didn’t complete, I feel a bit empty.

Apparently it’s quite normal to feel a bit flat after a marathon. But I’m pretty sure this is when you’ve actually finished it, and all your hard work has paid off and you don’t have a goal to aim for any more.

So, what happens if you DNF? I ran 18.4km on Sunday (which is 43% of a full marathon, stats fans). As a result, my legs haven’t really felt tired all week, and although my ankle has been sore, I – for obvious reasons – don’t feel like I ran a marathon. I don’t feel like I trained enough (partly due to injury, but also because I didn’t quite make the long runs) but I still feel like I trained and that the training has somewhat gone to waste.

The first day or so after Halstead, I looked up upcoming marathons and wanted to book something as soon as possible. I thought about doing a half marathon this coming weekend but I think I realised (deep down, at least) that this was a silly idea.

By Tuesday or Wednesday I’d decided that while I do want to have something to train for, it might be sensible to recover fully first and try and enjoy myself a bit before launching straight into another marathon.

I’ve decided that my plans for the next few months are as follows:

  • Let my ankle get better
  • Start eating better instead of snacking so much
  • Ride my bike more – I’ve barely ridden this year and I miss it
  • Focus on shorter distances until the end of summer, like:
    • Parkruns
    • Some 10k races
    • Maybe a half marathon, depending on dates
  • Triathlon! An olympic in June/July and a middle in August
  • An autumn marathon

It seems silly to say that I put a lot of pressure on myself as my times don’t really back that up. But I’m not very kind to myself for not being fast enough. I would love to find a balance where I’m training enough that I’m okay with my times in races, rather than always feeling that I could have pushed harder and not been defeated so easily – if I just felt that I had done my best I think I’d be happier with my times, whatever they were. I’m not sure when this was last the case… The Kevin Henry 5k last summer, maybe, as I kept pushing the whole way round. Maybe the Regents Park 10k last winter, as although I was slow and plodded around, I kept going instead of thinking about stopping or slowing down. I took a random day off work early last year and ran around in Regents Park and surprised myself by not doing any of my normal silly mind games. I need more runs like that… instead of always feeling such a let down…

Halstead & Essex Marathon 2016 – DNF

After I ran the London Marathon two years ago, I was disappointed with my time, and I vowed that I would beat it at this race. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t – I’d trained a lot more and was a better runner. I felt quietly confident.

Two weeks before the race I tripped and sprained my ankle. It swelled up and was very sore to walk on, with a big black bruise below the ligament. For the first couple of days I had to take a lot of painkillers and ibuprofen gel, but gentle walking as soon as possible made it a bit better. I managed four runs before the marathon, none of which were very satisfactory. My confidence dropped away a little.

On the Friday before the race I had my first ever migraine and had to go home from work as I couldn’t see anything, couldn’t remember any of my colleagues names and thought I might throw up everywhere. I wasn’t sure what the word “confidence” meant any more.

I decided to do the marathon anyway, and headed to Halstead in Essex on Saturday afternoon. We stayed in a pub, in a wonky-floored room with big wooden beams. The room had two beds so one was commandeered for all my kit. I had some visual problems again on Saturday night but slept well anyway.

On Sunday morning I woke up, showered and got myself together. I ate a banana and a bagel with almond butter, and downed a coffee. I covered myself in sunblock and walked over to Halstead Leisure Centre, race HQ. I got my number, had a final toilet stop and queued up with the other runners. There were about 500 of us and the sun was beating down.

“I’m not supposed to say this”, said Matt. “But it’s going to be really hot!!”

He wished me luck and I listened to the final countdown with trepidation. We began the start-line shuffle and soon we were off. The course went out the leisure centre car park (where I tried to wave nonchalantly at Matt but got cut up by another runner) and turned left, down a hill and out of the village.

We turned onto a small road and up the first hill, towards the fields. It wasn’t steep, definitely undulating rather than killer. Coming down the hill was a classic car, although they were at a standstill as the narrow lane wasn’t wide enough for a few hundred runners plus a car. There were a surprising number of classic cars out – more than one would have been a surprise in itself I suppose, but there were five or six.

It was very, very warm and just before 5km there was the first water station. I necked a cup of water and carried on through the village of Pebmarsh. There were lots of people cheering who’d driven out there (clearly friends/family) but also locals out cheering. A farmer had driven out to the edge of his field and was watching from a good vantage point, relaxing in the sunshine.


The scenery was stunning, and I genuinely enjoyed looking at the yellow fields of oilseed rape, the rolling hills and occasional animals. We went past a llama farm and there were also horses and cows, and birds circling lazily in the air. It was also quite fun to watch the snake of people ahead – every time there was any shade on the road, all the runners would head to that side of the road, and luckily the cars were few and far between.

By the 10km water station my right foot was cramping really badly, I guess because my ankle felt weak and my foot was trying to protect it. The strapping around my foot didn’t help. I started making bargains with myself to keep myself going but by about 15km I was yelping a bit when I ran and also when I walked, and I really didn’t think I could go on. I spoke to a man who was walking, who said he was going to drop out. “What’s the point in doing yourself a long term injury?” he said. I knew he was right but I also knew I’d feel like a total failure for giving in.

The marshals were all friendly and supportive. “Looking great!” said one, with a slightly sceptical look on his face. “At least you’re not sat on the sofa at home, anyway.”

Matt had said he’d be cheering at about 17km, but when I didn’t see him immediately I was upset and may have sworn a bit under my breath (okay, maybe a lot). For the last few kilometres I’d been thinking how if I *was* going to drop out then this would be the place to do it as at least we’d be together. My foot was really hurting a lot and I didn’t want to keep going as it would just get worse. And now I couldn’t see him – I didn’t know what to do. But there he was, on the other side of a water station, trying to take a picture of me.

I stopped and told him I was quitting. I took my shoe, sock, bandaging off and let my swollen foot out. I couldn’t move my toes, even staring at them. I drank some water and let Matt eat the last of my energy chews (he’d already started on the jelly beans I’d been saving for later in the race). It felt quite surreal.

My mum showed up and we jumped in the car and drove back to the leisure centre. We came up behind the first place runner and I wound the window down so I could lean out and cheer him. He didn’t seem to appreciate it but I like to think he gained some extra speed to get away from the hecklers in the car.

I had a shower, returned my timing chip, ate an ice cream and limped around. Matt went to the football and mum and I hung around in Braintree, eating scones in the sunshine and laughing at just how Essex it all was.

I am trying hard to think of the positives but it’s a struggle.

  • It’s weird not feeling at all tired post-marathon when I expected to.
  • It’s odd to leave a race without a medal.
  • It’s horrible feeling that you’ve let yourself/other people down.
  • It’s really strange thinking how I still haven’t run a marathon since London, and does this mean I was a better runner then than now?

(Will I ever run another marathon?)

Marathon training – week 12

Monday: went for a swim as I still can’t run. Turns out that I do remember how to swim, but I haven’t improved in either speed or style. Bruising is looking pretty grim.

Tuesday: I slept without having my ankle strapped up and regretted it as it swelled up again. On went another bandage!

Wednesday: I decided to see what running was like and went for a jog before work. Having strapping on my ankle helps but I can definitely feel the sprain. 2.1km.

Thursday: no running, no nothing.

Friday: I thought my ankle might be feeling a lot better but I wrenched it getting out of bed. It’s not better. Bought some gels in preparation for next week’s marathon though, MEGALOLS.

Saturday: went for a little run around the park, which was sloooooow and involved a lot of footcramp but thankfully not that much ankle pain. Woop! 7.3km

Sunday: we went for a walk in Kent, 15.6km from Borough Green to Sevenoaks, via Ightham Mote, the Greensand Way and Knole Park. The sun was out, we wore shorts, we stopped for cake twice – perfect day. When we got back, I jokingly asked Matt if he wanted to go for a run. He said yes and we quickly got changed before he changed his mind! We set off and for the first 400m he was cocky and wanted to run fast, before he asked if we could slow down. We got into the park and ran up the hill, Matt not feeling so good now. On the downhill he started sprinting and carried on along the flat. This lasted another minute or so before he ground to a halt at 2.5km and we had to walk the rest of the way home. I was still really proud of him though!

Total: 11.9km – pretty awful but could have been worse. I did a swim, which counts for miles, right?!

Marathon training – week 10

Monday: no running.

Tuesday: ran to work not feeling all that good. 4.6km.

Wednesday: my right calf started feeling tight yesterday and is no better today, but no worse. I set out for work feeling a bit tentative but it was fine and other than being very hot I enjoyed my commute much more than yesterday. 5km. The run home was less fun as I was pretty tired. 4.6km

Thursday: no running, and I ate a kebab. A KEBAB!!

Friday: no running.

Saturday: I was staying at my friend’s house in Berkhamsted, and went for a run before we headed out for a day walking. The fields behind the town were really muddy and at one point I surfed down a hill, to the amusement of a woman out walking her dog. I have no idea how I stayed upright! I was glad I’d packed my trail shoes as even when I went down to the canal tow path it was muddy. On the way back to the house I went along a street that had signs up saying that 14 cats had been killed by speeding motorists last year and I thought that it seemed like an unbelievably high number for a street of around 50 houses. Adjacent to the street is the west coast main line. I wonder if that has any impact… 7.8km (followed by another 7km walking).

Sunday: I meant to go out early but I didn’t feel good. Once I started feeling better I procrastinated for so long that it was 5pm by the time I went out. I did a few loops of the parks and my stomach wasn’t feeling great so I made use of the loos in Dulwich Park before heading up to Crystal Palace. I hadn’t eaten, apart from breakfast, so I felt absolutely awful and my hands were incredibly cold. I tried to eat some jelly beans but my right hand especially didn’t work at all. By the time I made it home I was a bit of a mess. It took 10 minutes to open the front door as my hands couldn’t do it. Once in, I lay on the floor and Matt had to feed me water and take my shoes off and run me a bath as I was white as a sheet and really cold. After the bath my stomach felt even worse and I spent a lot of time on the toilet. I ended up having to take the next day off work as my stomach was still so unsettled. Unhappy days and I’m now really worried about my lack of long runs in the run up to this marathon. 23.7km
Total: 45.7km

Marathon training – week 9

Monday – no running

Tuesday – ran to work, managing to take the skin off my arm again (from the friction burn from the race on Sunday). It’s now definitely shorts weather, which is nice (though maybe not for everyone who has to see my legs). 4.7km. After work I ran along the river to Tower Bridge, where there was a photography exhibition on at the Scoop. The exhibition was great (though I got a little chilly checking out the photos in just shorts and tshirt) but running along the southbank is a pain in the arse – so many tourists, some of whom were definitely getting in the way deliberately. 5.4km

Wednesday – no running.

Thursday – ran to work, nothing much to report except my good luck with the work shower has come to an end and I had to wait 10 mins to have a shower once I got to the office. 5.1km.

Friday – at a wedding in Lancashire, no running.

Saturday – managed to fit in a morning run in the Ribble Valley. I ran in one direction for 15 mins until I hit the main road, then realised that if I ran along the main road for a minute I could turn right and head back along Lovely Hall Lane, which sounded lovely indeed, so I did that. Lovely Hall Lane was actually quite steep and I only realised when I got to the top that there was a nice path just alongside the road, instead of running in the road. Oh well. Saw a Dalmatian and a man high fived me a couple of minutes from home. 5.4km.

Sunday – by this point we were in Kendal, and I’d planned out a 30km run consisting of three loops from Kendal, up to Oxenholme, up to the Helm and over, down to Natland, back into Kendal and so on. The weather forecast was for wet, cold weather so I’d packed accordingly. Instead it was really warm and I was very uncomfortable in tights and long sleeves! On my first loop I popped into the sports centre to use the loo (fortuitous timing!) and on the second loop I managed to meet Matt in town to get the house key and some much needed water. Time was getting away from me (should have gone out earlier!) and I had no food or water so I called it a day after two loops. This was my biggest ever elevation on a run, though, at 246m, and I would have enjoyed doing more, if various factors had been different.
Total: 41km (first weekend without a race since mid February!)

Marathon training – week 8

Monday – after cutting short my Sunday run, I wanted to get in a nice long Bank Holiday run, but a bad night’s sleep and residual gusty winds from Storm Katie put paid to it. I really wasn’t in the mood, but ran up College Road listening to a podcast about the history of knitting, then along Crystal Palace Parade (where I gracefully side-stepped a discarded condom), then slowly did a few more hills and went home, not before being slapped on the leg by an empty coke can in a gust of wind. 12.2km.

Tuesday – no running.

Wednesday – no running, horrible headache

Thursday – no running as I had a friend to stay

Friday – woke up to a beautiful frosty morning and ran to work in the cold, fresh sunshine. Ah, spring! 5.1km.

Saturday – Dulwich parkrun with Neil, for the first time in ages! We’d arranged during the week that we’d run at 5 min/km and set off at about 5:10 min/km. The first km was fine and we were chatting a bit, the 2nd km I chatted less, by the 3rd I felt like I was hanging on, the 4th km I fell apart with my pace dropping to 5:41/km and on the final km I was just counting down the steps until we were done. It felt very hard and yet was almost 30 seconds slower than when I did this exact parkrun a few weeks ago, and I’m pretty disappointed about it. It was, however, great to hang out with Neil, and it was lovely and sunny, so I shouldn’t be too annoyed. 5km.

Sunday – another race, this time the Kingston Breakfast Run. I had a pretty upset stomach and as a result it was a challenging day! Race report here. 26km.

Total: 48.3km

Kingston Breakfast Run

The Kingston Breakfast Run had three race lengths to choose from: 8.2, 16.2 or 20.1 miles. I chose the middle one, as I’d dawdled booking and by the time I came to book, the 20.1 mile option was sold out. I’ll take that as a sign!

Getting to Kingston is surprisingly easy from my house, and although it was grey and misty when I left the house, it was sunny by the time I arrived. I immediately headed for the portaloos, a good call as the queues were long, before dropping off my bag (last minute debate over whether to wear long or short sleeve top – decided to stick with short and I’m 90% glad I did). I sucked down a gel waiting at the start, where we were set off in waves by pace. I opted for the front of the 10 min/mile group, as I wanted to run about 6 min/km and my maths suggested this was the place for me. This has the bonus of making the photos just after the start look like I’m leading the race!

0 – 6km

I found it hard to keep my pace down, with the first two km at 5:45/km. We did a loop through town and then over Kingston Bridge and along the towpath (in the opposite direction to the Palace Half Marathon a few weeks ago). I made sure to look out for Hampton Court Palace, and watched rowers on the Thames. At the end of the towpath we took a left over Hampton Bridge and then past the station and towards Esher. There were a lot of cycle clubs out and I was envious as it was a great day for a ride!


6 – 13km

The people doing the 20 mile course had set off half an hour before us, and their course rejoined ours at about 6km. I heard cheers behind me and a man dressed as a postbox ran past. Just up ahead was an actual postbox and he ran towards it and gave it a hug.

There was a water station at 8km and I ran straight through as I didn’t want too much water. There were two portaloos and I wondered, idly, if I should make a visit. This was obviously a premonition as within a kilometre my stomach was feeling bad. I kept an eye out for more portaloos, or public toilets when we got back to the river, but there weren’t any. I really wasn’t feeling great so as soon as we got back to Kingston town centre, I asked marshalls where there were toilets. The first marshall told me there were some ahead (lies!) and the second said there were only the two portaloos I’d seen and I’d be best going into a cafe and using theirs. I was right by Kingston Bridge by this point so I ran into the nearest cafe and the kind waiter let me use the loo. What a relief!!

13 – 21km

Other than my stomach, the run had been going well up to this point. My legs felt fine and I didn’t feel tired. But once I got going again my stomach still didn’t feel right, plus I was hungry but didn’t want to have a gel in case that made my stomach worse, so instead I thought about cake, as that’s the best thing to do when you’re hungry. It was quite warm on the towpath and there was a woman just inside the palace grounds, who was either walking or on a horse, and I couldn’t work out which. My arm was starting to chafe. I told myself I’d walk for a minute and get my ipod out when I got to the end of the towpath.


At the end of the towpath I walked across Hampton Bridge but didn’t bother with my ipod as I remembered that there was a drinks station up ahead, and I realised that I was very thirsty. I do love when winter ends and it gets a bit warmer but it takes me a while to get used to it! At the drinks station a man in a rhino suit was having some help as he couldn’t get the cups of water to his mouth unaided. I can’t really remember the next bit as it was boring, just running alongside a main road.

21 – 26km

At 21km, I passed the drinks station with the portaloos and decided to stop. My stomach wasn’t feeling very happy and I spent considerable time in there. Luckily it was still quite clean – but it felt weird knowing that a couple of metres from my bare bum, cars were driving past. I imagined what would happen if a car spun off the road and hit the portaloo. What if I got trapped in there. Oh god.

I left the portaloo and told myself I had 5km to go and could do this. I got my ipod out and decided to risk having a gel. By now I was very hot and my arm was red and sore where it was rubbing on my top. I promised myself little walking breaks, having lost motivation after all the toilet stops. I’ll admit it, I was feeling sorry for myself and thought I should drop out of the marathon next month.

As the route came alongside the river again there were a few more supporters. Two little boys put out their hands for high fives and I decided to high five them as they looked so excited about it – and it actually made me feel great, it really boosted my mood. I felt a tingle down my spine and thought, hey, you got this, and I jogged at least another half a kilometre before the thought of “ah, fuck it” got too loud in my head again.

I headed onto the High Street and past the start line, trying to smile at the people who were cheering me, and decided to go for a sprint finish. My legs felt spritely (as well they might as I’d spent so much time sitting down!) and I dashed over the line to complete the 26km a few minutes under three hours.


Finish: 02:57:53

After picking up my goody bag, I collected my bag and did a bit of yoga in the gardens of the the Guildhall. I changed my shoes and went back to the cafe that had let me use the loo, and ordered a smoothie and some avocado on sourdough. I wolfed it down! Afterwards I set off into the sunshine and thought I’d leisurely wander home, but instead had to make another fairly panicked dash inside for the loo, this time into John Lewis. All the way home I felt pretty bad too and was pleased to get home where I spent yet more time in the bathroom.

16.2 miles is, obviously, ten miles less than marathon distance. Using the Jack Daniels calculator, and this race as a benchmark, I’d have a predicted marathon time of 04:51:30. If I ran it at Kingston pace, that would be 04:48:50… however there are hills… I don’t know whether to take heart or not from today.

What do I know?

  • I need to sort my diet out. I’ve been eating badly and you only get bad results from that. I could also do with losing a couple of kg. I need to figure out what I’m going to eat during the marathon, maybe it’s the gels disagreeing with me (or at least, making a bad situation worse).
  • This is my longest run since the last marathon! And yet my legs feel pretty much fine today – so I probably could have run further.
  • I need to apply bodyguard or other lubricant – I have a friction burn on my arm and another on my bum. Running in short sleeves is great but there’s way more chance of chafing.
  • Mental strength is everything – and I have none 😦

Oh, and I got this great goody bag! Thanks lidl!