Post-DNF

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…

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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).
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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

Week 5 – marathon training

Monday – I wore my new shoes again for a double commute (to and from work). There’s nothing worse than putting on sweaty clothes to run home and I dragged my heels leaving the office at the end of the day. 9.3km.

Tuesday – no running, went to the theatre to see Caitlin Moran for International Women’s Day.

Wednesday – went along to a local club for a training session, and was shown a map of routes and asked which I’d like to do. I pointed to the shortest (6km) as I didn’t want to do a long run with people I don’t know and the awkwardness it could entail. Someone was assigned to me and she said “oh for fuck’s sake, this is my worst nightmare” and during the run proceeded to tell me how they all hate having beginners come along as they have to take it in turns to run with them. She was a bit snooty about how many London Marathon’s she’d run, and although she did apologise for being rude at the end, I didn’t feel super welcome. We ended up doing another mini-loop of the run to make a total of 7.7km but I don’t think I’ll go back (edit: emailed the club to explain and they apologised, which was nice – but I still don’t think it’s for me).

Thursday – no running.

Friday – no running

Saturday – woke up in time for parkrun but went back to bed instead and didn’t run at all.

Sunday – did the Wimbledon Common Half Marathon.
Total: 38.1km

Cambridge Half Marathon race report

I signed up for the Cambridge Half Marathon when I lived in Cambridge, thinking that walking to the start line made up for the expensive race entry. Then I moved to London and had to get the train and book an Airbnb! Oops!

I’m not a huge fan of “big city” races, I don’t like crowds and I find I really feel the pressure. In the days before the race I felt really nervous, and knowing that I’d have friends and family watching made me feel even more nervous. I feel like I’ve done quite a bit of running over winter and even though it hasn’t been half marathon specific, I was secretly hoping for a new PB. Pressure!

The day before, I got the train to Cambridge and had a lovely lazy lunch with friends. Afterwards I met up with Mum, and later we (joined by Matt) went for dinner at an upmarket pub in Trumpington. In retrospect, this was a mistake, the food was too rich and I had stomach cramp and slept badly. Pizza Express would have been more sensible pre-race food.

I eventually got up before my alarm went off. I pottered about getting ready and then walked up to Midsummer Common, where the start of the race was. It definitely hit home here that this was a different sort of race to the ones I’m used to: bag drop was a military operation and there were start zones organised by colour. I’m used to a small baggage tent and then self-seeding start lines!

Once in the starting pen I started freaking out about being too slow for my pen, and tried to edge backwards but couldn’t. Once we set off I let people pass me, trying to stay at a steady 5:45min/km. At first the course was nice and wide but after 1.5km there was a pinch point turning onto Elizabeth Way bridge and I got annoyed at people insisting on running three abreast even though it was congested.

I saw a friend at 2.5km and started doing my normal silly maths calculations (only another 8 of these! I can do this!). I didn’t feel that great, I felt tired and I just didn’t feel I could get enough oxygen in. We passed through town, through the market and past King’s College. I nearly ran into a bollard despite knowing it was there.

As we headed down Trumpington Street I looked out for Matt, and luckily for me he was wearing a bright orange coat! I was really warm so gave him my buff, and accidentally knocked my hat off at the same time. A man behind me caught it and gave it to Matt, then came up and told me – thank you so much to that guy! It was the hat I crocheted for a race last year and I like wearing it over my thermal hat as it’s bright.

Down Trumpington Road and I was really feeling tired, not great when you’re less than one third in. At the water stop I took a bottle of water and walked for a little bit to drink, hoping water and a gel would perk me up. At this point the 2 hour pacer passed me (easily) and I felt gloomy.

The road through Grantchester is always longer than I think it is. We crossed a timing mat at around 10km and a man near me cheerfully exclaimed that we were halfway there, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him he was wrong. I didn’t feel like running another 10km-and-a-bit.

I told myself I’d only walk at the water stations but I lost motivation and kept having little walks. Once on Barton Road and heading back into Cambridge (another road that’s much longer than I think it is!) I felt dizzy and took myself off to the side. I felt quite sick too, my stomach wasn’t happy and although I wanted to have another gel I didn’t think I’d hold it down.

By now I was being passed by lots of people, most of whom looked like they weren’t serious runners. I know, of course, that I’m not a great runner but it’s still disheartening when someone a lot older and heavier passes by.

A friend of mine lives at the end of Barton Road, and as I got closer to her house I thought I could see someone standing outside. I was so pleased to see a friendly face, especially as she’d brought her baby out to cheer too! He was all wrapped up in a snow suit and it really cheered me up.

The route wound its way back into town, along Fen Causeway (why so hilly?) and then past the Fitzwilliam Museum again. I thought Matt might be there so I tried to look good. He wasn’t, and he wasn’t on Silver Street either, where I thought he might have gone, and I felt grumpy and sick and tired so I had a little walk again.

We went over Garret Hostel Bridge, which is a steep old thing, then we were through town and heading back over Magdalen Bridge once again. There was another water stop here so I walked for a bit and finished off my gel and drank a bit. A girl cycled past saying “well done, 11 miles! Only 3 more! Hmm… a few more! Run!”

Running along Chesterton Road, I wanted to bin my water bottle but didn’t want to throw it on the floor, so I jumped up on a kerb to put it in a bin – and fell off the kerb. I went flying, my arms windmilling, but didn’t hit the ground. My right leg was quite sore where I’d twisted it and I was annoyed that two guys standing next to the bin hadn’t said anything to me (though what do you say to someone who’s fallen over?). I hobbled along for a bit and a nice chap came up to me and asked if I was okay, which made me feel a bit better, as did seeing another friend shortly afterwards.

At the top of the Elizabeth Way bridge there was a lady half-hanging out of the window, waving her birthday balloons (90!) and cheering. She’d been there at the start of the race, what a trooper! Everyone waved at her.

Although my watch told me that we were nearly there, it felt like the end was a long way off, and I trudged along, scanning the crowd for people I knew. As we turned onto Victoria Avenue – the final stretch – I spotted Matt’s orange coat and ducked around the person next to me to move nearer him. I pulled a face and sped off, overtaking people as the finish line inched closer. At the 13 mile marker there was a man on the ground being looked after by paramedics – it looked serious – and I learned later that he’d had a cardiac arrest and had to be airlifted to hospital. My parents and brother were watching at this exact spot but we missed each other!

CHM1

I carried on overtaking people up to the finish line, then ran on a little bit as there was another man on the ground – he’d also had a cardiac arrest and was also airlifted to hospital. I checked online today and both men are still in critical conditions. I really hope they’ll be alright.

CHM2

From the finish line it was a long old walk to be reunited with my bag, via a medal, a goodie bag, various additional drinks added to my goodie bag, assorted flyerings and a pint of Erdinger Alkoholfrei. The medal is enormous and very heavy, you can definitely see where the entry fee was spent.

I was happy to finish and pleased to meet up with Matt and find my parents and brother. But as the day wore on, I kept thinking about how I should have been faster.

Look how badly I faded!

CHM3

I’m not sure why it was such a struggle. Last year I did Wokingham Half in 2hrs 5 on the back of no long runs and was hoping I’d be able to do better here with a few long runs under my belt. Clearly not enough! I think I also didn’t eat well the day before the race, with rich food that gave me a stomach ache. I’ve had a cold for about 10 days which definitely left me feeling tired. But I wonder whether I’m doing something horribly wrong with my training. I’m thinking of joining a club to see whether I can get a bit better, and maybe then I won’t talk myself out of races halfway through.

I have another half marathon this month and although it’s lots hillier, I think I’ll enjoy it more as it’s a much smaller race (I didn’t like being around so many people), closer to home, interesting things to look at as you’re running in the woods (not that Cambridge isn’t nice to look at, but it’s tiring running on roads you’d only normally drive or cycle on). And you get flapjacks afterwards.

Time: 02:14:57

Place: 1605 out of 2359

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Marathon training – week 3

Monday – I woke up with no voice so decided not to run. A visit to a local hammam and its menthol steam room definitely helped, but I was still croaky and spluttery and unable to breathe. We were meant to fly home that evening but missed our flight thanks to crazy Istanbul traffic and stayed in a hotel by the airport for an early morning flight the next day – I thought about using the gym for a treadmill run but when I saw the gym was closed on Mondays I thought it must be a sign and ate crisps in bed instead…

Tuesday – the alarm went off at 2am UK time, and after a four hour flight, I went to work. I didn’t manage to get a run in, but then I didn’t fall asleep at work so I’m counting the day as a success.

Wednesday – I needed to go to Oxford Street after work, but I also needed to run, so I combined the two. Town was really busy, and around Victoria is a nightmare, but I enjoyed running through Hyde Park. 5.5km to the door of John Lewis.

Thursday – I felt really sluggish but took a slightly longer route to work (6.2km). My phone is playing up so I didn’t have anything to listen to other than the jangling of keys in my pocket. Oscillating wildly between being excited about the race on Sunday and feeling really nervous.

Friday – didn’t run.

Saturday – got the train to Cambridge and met friends (and their dogs!) for lunch. Later I met up with my mum, and Matt and I took her for dinner at a pub in Trumpington. I had pumpkin and ameretti ravioli, plus a treacle tart for dessert. Later I lay on the bed with stomach pains.

Sunday – ran the Cambridge Half Marathon. Full race report to follow.

Total: 32.8km

Total in training plan: 41.1km

Marathon training – week 2

Monday – woke up half an hour later than planned so ran directly to work instead of the long way round. I wore my new orange camo ski socks and they kept slipping down, which was very annoying, but halfway to work I remembered that I had bagels in the office and this distracted me. 5.2km and then a bagel with almond butter… maybe Mondays aren’t so bad.

Tuesday – cycled to work, got new shoes on the way home.

Wednesday – cycled in and then ran home in the pissing rain, along the Embankment and over Chelsea Bridge for 7.8km. When I got in my clothes were absolutely soaked and everything had to go straight in the washing machine.

Thursday – thanks to a drunk boyfriend stampeding about the flat at 1am (including toppling over and landing on my sleeping feet) as well as the various germs going round the office, I woke up feeling kind of crap. Luckily I had some good tunes on my ipod and for once, all the lights were in my favour, although there were no more bagels waiting for me at work. 5.2km

Friday – left for the airport at 7.30am and spent the day travelling to Istanbul, travelling across Istanbul and having a big nap on arrival at our Airbnb as neither of us felt very well.

Saturday – woke up feeling pretty awful, a heck of a cold and blocked ears. We spent the day wandering about Istanbul – the Blue Mosque was my favourite place, as it’s so tranquil and beautiful.

Sunday – my cold got even worse but I went for a run along the Bosphorus. It wasn’t particularly scenic but there were at least two or three other runners out (all foreign women) which made me feel less worried that I might be doing a really silly thing, running alone in Istanbul. I ran to the Bosphorus bridge and back (11km) and only tripped over one paving stone, landing against a shop window. Running in Istanbul is slightly better than running in Athens as at least there are wide pavements here, as long as you keep an eye open for unexpected massive holes. Later we took the boat to Asia, then later ate in the best restaurant ever.

Total: 29.2km

Total in training plan: 45km