Tuesday, April 28, 2015

3 marathons in 4 days part iii)

Here we go again, up before the lark and off into Londonium to run another marathon. In 2005 I ran my first London marathon to raise money for ARUK and I never dreamt I'd still be running marathons 10 years later! Yet here I was about to embark on my 3rd marathon in 4 days, my 46th marathon.

I was feeling rather emotional. I wasn't sure how my body would hold up, if indeed it would, but I felt really good and the important thing was that I believed I could do it - in marathon running it's not just the physical training that's important, your mindset has a huge bearing on how you get on.

When I first started running marathons someone gave me this mantra:

If you believe you can do it then you will do it, but if you think you can't then you probably won't.

I've always remembered that as it struck a chord with me.

This is what the camera did when Mike tried to take a photo of me on the way into London:

But guess what, after much shaking and muttering we finally got it to work for a short while. It was as if it had heard me saying that I thought this might be my last London marathon. Yes, Mike did roll his eyes and say "yeah, right!" but it's so difficult to get a place (unless you're a speedy runner or you get a club place).

I've only managed to get a guaranteed place once when they promised you a place after 5 rejections, which they don't any more, and this time I got in via what's known as the 'extra ballot' where you are given another chance to get one of 1000 places if you pledge your entrance fee to charity (which I always do but never got in that way before!). The other 8 times have been via a Gold Bond place from ARUK which is where you pledge to raise a specific amount for the charity offering you one of their precious places. I've always raised much more than was required but afer 10 years I suspect all my friends are heartily fed up of me pestering them year after year!

When I first started out, ARUK struggled to find anyone to take up their places but now they are a much bigger charity with many more supporters and people desperate to run the marathon for them so I think perhaps newer runners should get a chance. I'd like to think that ARUK will continue to offer me a GB place if I need one though.

When we left home the weather was dull but calm. This changed to pouring with rain, cold and blowing a gale by the time we'd arrived in London. I'd chosen to wear shorts as the temperature was forecast to rise later but I'd taken the precaution of wearing a long-sleeved top under my running vest and I was really glad that I had.

The next few photos, before the camera packed in for the rest of the day, serve as a reminder of what our routine has been for the last 10 years, with the exception of one year when Mike was away on business and I had to go on my own.

We come out of Blackheath station and give a cheery wave to the marshsalls who are just starting to arrive and are still in good spirits

Barriers are unloaded from wagons. They go all along the roads to keep pedestrians off.

We go to the same cafe first thing as they are the only one open when we arrive there. Sometimes we go to another one nearer the Heath later on, especially if it's a cold and wet day as it was on Sunday.

I have a chocolate croissant and a large Americano to start with and Mike has a coffee and something hot - this time it was a sausage butty

It's a small, family-run, cafe with tables crammed together. We noticed they'd added some tables and chairs along the alley outside this year but as it was cold, windy and raining we stayed inside. I'm sure they must do a roaring trade as they have an excellent menu with loads of vegetarian options and lovely looking cakes.

For the first time ever, the lady behind the counter was very chatty. I soon realised why; her father has recently been diagnosed with dementia and she'd spotted my vest. We chatted about how difficult it is to juggle a job and keep the person in their own home.  Although he has carers who come and see him each day I was saddened to hear that they are only alloted 12 minutes a day with him. That is completely unacceptable! Thankfully they have a large enough family to be able to pop in and see him throughout the day but, as Mike and I know only too well, this was beginning to take its toll.

As it was still wet and horrid outside we decided to stay in the same cafe a while longer. I then stunned Mike by saying I fancied poached egg on toast. This was most unusual on 2 counts; I am not a great fan of eggs anyway (except in cake of course!) and try to avoid them because of my high cholesterol, plus I never eat a big breakfast before a run of any sort, not even a marathon. But I knew I wanted an egg so my body must have been telling me I needed the protein. So I polished off 2 eggs on toast and a mug of green tea and felt replete and raring to go.

It was still a bit early to go to the start but we decided to have a little stroll up the road to stretch our legs and for a change of scenery. That soon came to an abrupt end because it was just too cold to stand around so we headed into our second cafe and were lucky to grab the last 2 seats before people started to stream in from every direction to get out of the cold. We had a window seat so downed another coffee whilst people-watching.

Then it was time to head off to the start. Mike pinned my number on for me and I stuck my disposable plastic poncho over my jacket as it was still drizzly and horrid. The camera managed one last photo before we parted. 

Was this a sign that it would all go horribly wrong? Nah, it was just the camera going wrong, not me, I was completely chilled out!!!

Now I haven't mentioned it so far but I was feeling really good both mentally and physically. The only bit of me that was sore was my right shoulder and Mike had a good poke in there before we left which helped enormously.

In fact I was feeling fabulous. That sounds like the kiss of death doesn't it?! But I'm jumping ahead of myself.

Now I'll just share a teeny bit of what happened next but without too much detail because it was not pleasant. They've introduced something called female urinals at the start of the marathon and as I needed to go I decided to be brave and try them out. I picked up  one of the cardboard funnel things they provide then walked into the tent to a scene of bare bottoms, women perched in precarious positions, screeching & giggling amidst lots of grumbling about not being tall enough to get the angle right. I heard one lady scream "it's all going down my legs!" and another shouted "it's running into my bottom!" 

Oh my goodness, what a mess. I won't go into the details, suffice to say that I soon understood what those women meant! I then proceeded immediately to the portaloos where I availed myself of the wet wipes I'd had the foresight to load into my baggage. Never again!

Then there was an awful lot of hanging arround waiting for the start with nothing much to look at. I knew a few people who were starting in the same area but they weren't around. It was too cold to stand in one place for long but we had to put our bags onto the lorries about 40 minutes before the start so I had to take my jacket off but retained the plastic poncho. I'm so glad I did as that wind was wicked as the Heath is very exposed. At least being so cold took my mind off the running bit.

Finally we set off and I started my watch as soon as the race started rather than when I crossed the start line - there is a chip system which records from the time you cross the start line to when you cross the finish line. This is why you'll sometimes see 2 sets of times for - the time from the start of the race to your finish time (the actual time) and the time you crossed the start line to the time you cross the finish line (this is known as your chip time. You also run across timing mats at certain points throughout the race. This is important because in the past people have cheated and missed out sections to record a faster time.

I'd decided to just run how I felt without paying any attention to my pace and that's exactly what I did. It took me about 6 or 7 minutes to get to the start line. I felt fine. Nothing hurt to begin with although my shoulder started to ache after a while but I ignored it. It was only when I reached the 15k marker and I went past a 5 hour pacer (these are runners who lead groups around to attain a specific finishing time) that I looked at my watch and thought "OK, this is looking good!" I decided that I'd just carry on at my comfortable pace for as long as I could then slow down if I had to later on.

I reached the halfway point in 2:18. Although my half marathon race time is faster than that I've never done that before in a marathon. I wondered if I should slow down but dismissed that thought as I felt fine.

Next was Narrow Street where I had to look out for the ARUK support team who are always opposite the Grapes Pub. I always forget just how far down the road it is and just as I started to panic that I'd missed them I suddenly spotted Laura shouting at me, next to her was Robin and then Tim doing his usual David Bailey act. He gets some great photos of everyone (that is if you don't mind looking slightly deranged like this silly woman below):

Just after Mudchute, around mile 17, I was looking for the Runner's World cheering groups when a man in a mankini type thing came into view up ahead and it was not a pleasant view at all as it had ridden right up his bottom. Euuuuurrrrrggggh! I just had to get past him as I couldn't stand watching that for any longer and so I screeched to Laura who I'd spotted there and just carried on running without stopping for a hug.

I kept waiting for the tiredness to hit me but it didn't and then around the 18 mile mark I was alongside the 4:45 hours pacer and I had this silly idea that I might be able to do that. Then she went ahead and I dismissed it as a silly thought.

The spectators were magnificent as always and I had to get used to people shouting my real name rather than 'knitting lady' or 'Redhead'. It made a lovely change not to have any pressure and just to run for the enjoyment of it. My neck and shoulders thanked me too.

At the 35k mark, that's around 21 miles, the clock time was 3:53 and I had this mad thought that I was going to finish in under 5 hours. Then I wondered if I could perhaps equal my very first London marathon time of 4:55 back in 2005. I still felt fine and so I kept on pushing forwards and came up alongside the 4:45 pacer again.

I looked at my watch and something dawned on me; I was at the 40k marker in around 4:35 so I'd got a mile and a bit to go and it had taken me about 6 minutes to get over the start line……………oh my goodness………..my smile got bigger……….people kept shouting "go on Susie, you're looking fantastic"………..I felt fantastic………I pushed and I pushed……... and then I was on Birdcage walk and alongside Buckingham Palace and I could see the finish line and I was speeding up and I was crying and I was laughing and as I sprinted (yes, sprinted) towards the finish line I grabbed the hand of the lady to my left and we crossed the line together……………..handinhand (at the very first London marathon 35 years ago the two runners leading joined hands and crossed the finish line together and they'd asked all runners to do the same)………..and the clock said 4:50 something and I knew I'd broken the 4:45 barrier but I didn't know by exactly how much until we got home later.

I phoned Mike and he couldn't believe I was phoning him so early as I'd told him not to expect a call for quite some time. He was beside himself with pride and I couldn't wait to see him. I  must have had the biggest smile ever on my face as people kept hugging me and saying well done.

Oh my goodness. If that was indeed my last London marathon then what a way to go!

Here's my official finish time -


Can you tell I'm pleased?!

This was my 3rd marathon in 4 days and not only did I break the 4:45 barrier, which I never thought I'd manage, I was 13 minutes faster than the first time I ran it back in 2005! Over the years I've tried many times to break that barrier but something has always gone wrong (usually breathing problems) so I had really given up any hope of doing it.

I'm normally finishing an hour after this and it was a shock to see all the crowds. It's a good job Mike's tall so I could spot him at our meeting place. There was much proud hugging and looking at my watch and medal. 

Then we headed off to visit the ARUK after party which was nearby. I was delighted to see that it was packed with people which goes to show how far they've come over the years - they had a record number of runners this year.

Harriet had organised the event and she really did us proud. She'd asked advice on what runners would like to eat and I'd offered some suggestions and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Even better than the food, they'd produced special Team ARUK medals for everyone which was such a lovely idea.

We didn't stay very long because it was very busy and cramped and we needed to catch our train but we did manage to chat to a few people and have a couple more photos taken by Tim.

This London marathon was very special because it's 10 years since my mum died and also I wanted to dedicate it to Wendy who can't run any more so I wanted her to share in my London marathon adventure.

Here are my times for the 3 marathons in 4 days:

1 St. George's Day marathon 4:52:01 (marathon 44)
2 The Wonderland Caucus Race 5:43:19 (marathon 45)
3 London marathon 4:42:17 (marathon 46)

I decided to take photos of my running numbers and medals all together but somebody had other ideas:

She pounced on the numbers

Pulled out the ribbons (that was a great game!!!)

So in the end I just bundled them together quickly and took a shot

Not only are Traviss's medals fabulous, the ribbbons are too.  Here's a close-up of part of the Caucus ribbon.

On Monday I did catch-up interviews with BBC Radio Sussex and BBC Kent and was absolutely delighted when some kind people sponsored me as a result. Thank you so much.

So that's it for a few weeks. I just need my neck and shoulder to settle down a bit before I do too much crochet or knitting and I've got a massage booked for next week by which time I should have healed nicely (touch wood) for my next 2 marathons.

I'm off into London tomorrow to do take part in a discussion with people from the Academic Health Science Network at UCL about Join dementia research which sounds interesting.

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