My first marathon

Running my first marathon was a huge bucket list tick for me. I love running, but this was not just any run. Physically, mentally and emotionally gruelling – it’s much harder than you might think, and certainly harder than I ever imagined!

It was really tough, and I don’t think I really understood how tough it was going to be. It didn’t help that I had to run against a really strong wind for the last 8 miles, something that I think drastically changed my overall experience. It also didn’t help that I had been injured in the lead up to the race. But, despite toying with the idea of giving up towards then end, I proved to myself that when I really put my mind to it and work hard at it, I can do almost anything! (within reason of course)

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Will I do it again? I did wonder during the race, and shortly afterwards, whether it was something I’d do again, or if half marathons were a better suited distance for me, but yes absolutely I will do it again.

It’s hard to describe the full range of emotions that I went through on the day, and hard to capture all the thoughts that went through my head throughout the whole experience, but they definitely ranged from sheer enjoyment to extreme pain.

For the first 16-17 miles, I enjoyed it. I set off gingerly, keenly aware of my knees and their weaknesses, and conscious that my fitness may not have been quite up to scratch.

It started to hurt around 14 miles, not the knee/s, I just felt the run at around then, felt the strain in my legs, the ache in my shoulders and started to feel fatigued, but I was still enjoying it.

Up until this point I took the time to think, to look around, getting to see parts of Scotland that I probably wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. From about mile 5 we were running along the coast, and it really made me feel comfortable and happy seeing all that water. I love the smell of the salty air by the sea or the ocean. Despite what the name suggests, the Edinburgh marathon isn’t through/around Edinburgh city. We ran along the coastal road past Musselburgh through a number of small seaside towns, and turned around and came back up to finish in Musselburgh.

I found myself watching other runners, writing their stories in my head, wonder why they were doing it, was it their first time? I saw people who I thought ‘I’m definitely fitter than them, I will make this’ and others who made me feel sick at how easy they made the race look.

There was a girl who was running in front of me, who looked like she had literally just started the race. Happily bounding along, no visible signs of pain or sweat. She was running with her friend, and she made it look effortless. For the next 5 miles we kept passing each other, them first, then me, then them, and so on.

I spent a lot of the run thinking about H & K and little N, thinking the pain I was going through was nothing in comparison and feeling grateful to all those who had shown their support.

I planned my water and nutrition breaks, and mentally calculated my expected finish time with each beep of my Garmin, indicating I’d completed another mile. I had completed the half marathon in about 1hr 50mins, which I was pretty confident about, slower than my PB half marathon pace, but a good pace to finish sub 4hours. I was consistently running about 8.5 minute miles up until about mile 17 or so, at which point I hit a 9.08min mile, and then a 9.14min mile despite being absolutely sure I was going faster than the previous one. I thought, ‘ok maybe I should just accept that I’m doing more like 9 – 9.5min miles the rest of the way, I’ll still make sub 4hrs.’

We passed a lot of spectators who were standing outside their houses, some blaring music which spurred us all on, some giving out sweets for energy, some passing people water. All of them full of encouragement.

About 19miles in I’d turned around completely and hit the wind – it wasn’t as windy on the way up, the wind having picked up in the last 30mins or so. It was strong, and it was irritating, and it was horrible. I kept thinking surely we’d turn some kind of corner and the wind wouldn’t be quite so bad, but such a corner never came. So, for 7 whole sodding miles I was running against the wind. And this wind was really messing with mind.

At 20 miles, I wondered what would happen if I just stopped. Just literally stopped. I was thinking ‘Why on earth did I sign up to this? I think I’ll pull out of the one in July. I am hating this. I am hating this. I am hating this. Why am I putting myself through it?‘ Then I thought, ‘Ok Fi snap out of it, you will hate yourself if you give up. If you start walking now you won’t be able to start running again. Only 5 miles to go, 5 miles is nothing! You haven’t come this far only to stop!‘ And so, I pushed on. This was the longest distance I had previously run. I was mentally calculating what my time would be. I was doing mileage under 10mins, and I was 2hrs 57mins in. I figured, worst case, if I ran 10min miles, I would still make it!

At around mile 22, a stranger called out ‘come on 14883, you can do it!‘ He must have seen the pained expression on my face. ‘You’ve come so far,‘ he yelled, ‘you can do it!!‘ I realised I mustn’t have looked happy, and probably had a pained expression on my face. I picked up the pace a bit (or so I thought) and soldiered on. (Mile time 10.33!)

At mile 23, I thought ‘Right, 3 more sodding miles to go. I am seriously hating this wind‘ Mile time: 11mins (roughly). ‘I just want to get there. I just want to see Colin and stop this. I just want it to stop‘. It was about this time I was actually whincing with every step, and nearly in tears from the pain in my legs. My muscles were all starting to protest, I felt weak and wondered if I had the strength to carry on.

When I hit the 24 mile marker, I thought ‘Oh my god, I have made it to 24miles, only 2 miles to go. Wow I can’t believe I managed to get this far. Ok 2miles come on!!‘ As we were getting closer to the town, (and the finish line) I could hear cheering and music and there were a few spectators along this stretch, which spurred me on. I managed to go a little faster and push ahead of some people I’d been running close to. It was near enough my last push of energy.

When I finally saw the 26 mile marker, I thought ‘Ok I’ve made it.‘  But I couldn’t see the finish line yet. There were more and more people on the side of the road, and I knew I was close. A marathon is 26.2 miles, and that last .2 miles felt like forever to me. You kind of feel like you’ve done it when you see the 26mile marker.

I had picked up the pace a bit towards the end of mile 25 and was still trying desperately to make the sub 4hr mark. Finally, I rounded a corner, and amongst the crowd I managed to spot C who was calling out to me. I was SO relieved to see him, and just as I passed him the finish line came into view. I pushed ahead, DESPERATELY trying to make it in under 4 hours. I willed my legs to just MOVE, to work harder than they ever had before. I was actually saying out loud (addressing the finish line) ‘come on you bastard, you bloody bastard‘, pushing myself as hard as I could to make it.

I finally passed the line, pressing the button on the garmin as I passed: 4.00.05. (Yes, I was gutted that I missed sub 4 by a matter of seconds).

As soon as I passed the line I broke down in tears. They were a combination of relief, pain, disappointment, joy, gratitude – I couldn’t quite work it out. I went through the finishing pens, picked up my water & medal and just collapsed on the ground, sobbing. I didn’t quite know what had come over me. I was so glad I’d done it, so glad that my knees held out, and so glad it was over!!

Running in this race meant the world to me. It was a big goal I had set myself a long time ago, it was something I was doing for me, and for some amazing friends of mine, for an incredible charity. I had put months of work into it, months of pressure on myself and I had finally done it. Finally become ‘a marathon runner’.

So what’s next?

As if one marathon weren’t enough and as if I hadn’t put myself through enough anxiety and pain, I am doing another one in just 6 weeks time. This time, up a mountain. I am not aiming for a PB on this one, and instead want to enjoy the climb as well. But I now know how tough it’s going to be. 26.2 miles is a bloody long way, 26.2 miles up hill will really challenge me. But it’s a challenge I am well and truly up for!

C is doing the run with me this time, and we are also doing a few other runs / events during the year. We are raising money for all our events this year to support the incredible charity, Sands. Sands is a charity that exists to support anyone affected by the death of a baby, to improve the bereavement care received by parents and families, and to promote research to reduce the number of babies dying.

It holds a very special place in our hearts, having helped some friends of ours through the worst thing that could happen to any parent. It’s not my place to tell their story here, as it’s not my story to tell, but what I can tell you is I know this charity was a shining light to our friends in what is a very dark time.

Not many people realise how common stillbirth and miscarriage still is. We need to raise awareness of it so that parents who lose their child, at any stage of the pregnancy, know they are not alone. It is unbelieveably common, but rarely spoken about. Rarely acknowledged.

None of the charity money is feeding our fitness or our sporting challenges, we’ve paid them all out of our own pockets, but we were compelled to help raise money for this charity when we heard what an incredible support they have been. If you can spare it, the link to donate is here. And thank you.

Right, better get back to training then!