Monday, June 2, 2014

More Happy Days

Saturday was a very happy day for many reasons; it was the last day of my running streak which forms part of my 2014 challenge for ARUK, it was marked by running my 36th marathon and I met lots of lovely running chums there, one of whom was Ruth and who finally got to meet Happy the Hippo.

I'd made sure that Happy was well educated before he went to his 'forever home'. From left to right:
  • Studying Chopin
  • Meeting the horses
  • Climbing a tree (most important for a young Hippo)
  • Riding, although he was more interested in Esther's feed bucket!
  • Tip-toeing through the tulips
  • Reading
  • Gin swilling
  • Rocking
  • Gardening
  • Swinging on a gate
  • Tea!

On marathon morning he said goodbye to Tilly, who'd he'd only known for a few days and then went to sit patiently whilst I gathered my things together.

I'd originally thought he was going to be for her 50th birthday but then I found out she'd run her 300th marathon and so he became a gift for that momentous occasion. I emailed Ian, the race director of tzruns and he very kindly produced a special running number for Happy with his name on too and put it in the envelope with my number at the registration desk. Thanks Ian!

The course was run along the cycle track at the Cyclopark in Gravesend and we had to run 17 laps. Although the race was chip-timed (by one of those nifty little devices you fasten onto your running shoe which registers all your details when you run across a mat at the start of each lap) and most people would have been using GPS devices to clock their mileage, they provided us with 16 wristbands with an instruction to take one of each time round and drop it into the bin provided and then run the last lap without a band.

I really liked this idea as peeling a bracelet off after each lap was a great psychological boost. I peeled off all the black ones first, then blue, white, green and ended with the pink ones.

As luck would have it Ruth arrived shortly after me and so Happy was soon united with his new owner, who was now onto 310+ marathons!

Ruth looking fab in her jazzy tights
I'd already met Kaz (just back from running 10 marathons in 10 days) in the car park, Carol-Anne at the registration desk and Tracey with her chums from Dagenham runners, so I wandered off to have a look at the course.

The start and finish 
Setting up the aid stations
I chatted with a few other people I know and then wandered off to the cafeteria for a cup of tea. For some reason I didn't feel very sociable at that point and I just wanted to have a chat with Mike so I headed back to sit in the car to phone him. That made me feel so much better. It might seem odd to still get nervous before a marathon but I invariably do, especially when the gremlins in my mind start shouting (you're too old/fat/slow etc etc)!

At 9am we were all lined up at the start and I headed for the back of the pack where I found all the usual suspects!  Ruth took this photo of me as I got myself into the zone.

Then we were off and it was just a case of pounding out the miles for a few hours. 

I should mention now that I've been recording the mileage during my running streak online (I usually just jot it down in my diary - yes, I know I'm a dinosaur!) and last week I noticed that I was not too far away from 900 miles. My inner geek really liked the idea of finishing on 900 miles rather than 800 and something, so rather than tapering (that means cutting back my mileage to save myself for the marathon) I increased it slightly. I did wonder if that was a wise decision but what the heck!

The weather had been cool and dreary all week but on Saturday the sun decided to come out with a vengeance and it was hot right from the start. As I really don't do well in the heat I knew that the best plan of action was to do the first half faster than the second to allow for me slowing down when I started to overheat. So that's exactly what I did.

Gravesend is often the hottest places in the UK and on 10th August 2003 recorded one of the highest temperatures in the UK since records began with a reading of 38.1 degrees Celsius. Thankfully it didn't get that hot for us! Having said that, there were a few casualties due to the heat with some runners  collapsing/cramping/sickness but they all recovered after treatment.

I was well hydrated beforehand but made sure that I took on water each time I passed the aid station. Each lap was about 1.5 miles and I'd soon got rid of several bracelets when I realised that I was feeling good. I got to 13 miles in about 2 hours 12 minutes which I knew would get me round in under 5 hours, which was my goal, even though I would be a lot slower in the next 1/2. 

The heat started to get to me after about 3 hours and so I just slowed right down.

The nice thing about laps is that you get to see the speedy runners whizzing past. Adam Holland, who finished first each day of Kaz's Bells & Whistles double marathon weekend, was soon leading the field. He always looks so relaxed as he speeds past! As if that wasn't enough I should mention that he's not long since finished running 10 marathons in 10 days, along with Kaz, where he became the fastest person to run one marathon in a series of 10 run over 10 consecutive days. You can read more about it here.

I chatted to lots of people en-route, many people asked the inevitable question "where's your knitting then?"! There's always lots of encouragement from fellow runners and there were some great people along the route who were very supportive. A special thank you to Mandy who lifted my spirits when I was getting overheated. There were lots of people who I'd seen at Kaz's marathons and a lot of people from the 100 marathon club too.

The marshals at the aid stations were lovely and each time we completed a lap the compere (I don't know what else to call him!) cheered us on or made a joke. I hi-fived lots of people on my last lap.

One person who deserves a special mention is Matthew Lane who ran the opposite way round the course to cheer everyone on. He called out "well done" to everyone he passed and he was out there for ages so must have run many more than the 17 laps we mere mortals ran. What an absolute star! Thank you Matt.

The route was not flat and there was one UPdulation that started to feel like a hill after about 12 circuits but I refused to walk up it until my 13th time round. When the going was getting tough I thought about some special people I know whose lives have been touched by dementia and I used a very powerful image of my mum, which is kept hidden deep in my memory as it's just too painful to remember ordinarily, to spur me on. It reminds me exactly why I'm doing this and never fails to keep me going if I'm feeling sorry for myself.

I finished in 4:55:03 and was very happy with that. There were 375 runners starting the race, 355 finished and I was 268th which is most unusual for me as I'm usually in the last few!

After I'd crossed the finish line I was presented with this gigantic and very heavy medal. Now that is serious bling - I love it!

When I was given this cardboard box I asked the marshall what was inside and he started by saying "shower gel" and when I rolled my eyes he added "and chocolate". Now you're talking! I'd eaten the Milky bar by the time I'd got back to the car but I managed to save the Snickers bar for Mike (although he did give me a big chunk of it, bless him).

There was also this ruler which made me chuckle. Medal size-o-meter, just brilliant! I've put my London marathon medal next to it for comparison. They say size doesn't matter but believe me it does and I like my bling to be substantial! I remember when I did the Draycote 35 mile ultra and I got a tee shirt instead of a medal - yes, really. It just wasn't the same.

Very well done to the team at tzruns for putting on such a fab event. There was a lovely atmosphere and I can't recommend it highly enough. A lot of people say they don't like the idea of running the same route so many times but there is virtue in it as you know exactly what's coming so I think it would be great for a first time marathoner. Even though I always enjoy the London marathon, as it's always the main focus of my fund-raising activities, I also love running in a smaller field as the camaraderie is fantastic.

They also give free photos from the day and they'll be sent out soon so I'll stick them on my blog when I get them - unless I look too awful!

So that's the end of my 5 month running streak. Total mileage? - 901 miles. What's next for this year? I've still got 2 more marathons to do in the autumn; Beachy Head is a definite and the other will most likely be the Kent Coastal in September. I'm going to make good use of all this mileage to try and do a decent time for a half marathon (I haven't cracked 2 hours yet as my pb is 2:00:59!) and possibly a 10k in the autumn.

I'm also starting to think about my strategy for 2015 and I rather like the idea of having a go at one of their ultra events of either 50k or 100k - the bling for those looked amazing too………………….

This is just for my running chums: I went for a short recovery run the next day and one of my neighbours asked me when I was going to "stop running marathons" as I'm going to damage my body and I'm not getting any younger (!!!). I told her that this was my 36th marathon and as I'll be 57 in a couple of weeks I'm now starting to think about perhaps aiming for 60 marathons by 60. I thought she was going to faint! 

The reasons I started running marathons (lack of funding for research into dementia/stigma of mental illness/lack of awareness about the disease/lack of education for health care professionals to spot the signs etc etc) still apply and so I have to keep on running as it gets lots of publicity for Alzheimer's Research UK.


DianaD said...

I can empathise with you about the thoughts of your mum to spur you on. Id it weren't for Isaac, I suspect I never would have started running, and there are memories of him which I allow myself if running is getting tough. Very well done on another tough challenge completed. XX

DianaD said...

I can empathise with you thinking of your mum when it gets so tough. I don't think I'd have started running were it not for Isaac, and there are some memories I allow myself when I'm struggling out there. Well done on another great achievement. XX

b-z said...

What a fabulous report. And thank you once again for Happy xx

Susie Hewer said...

You're most welcome Ruth xxx

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks Diana xxx

Harriet Simpson said...

Brill to see you out on the course! Sorry to bring up the knitting when I did see you, but I was just so shocked to recognise someone from another race (especially one as big as London!)You are fundraising and raising awareness for an amazing cause and one that is close to my heart as well and I take my hat off to you. I hope to still be able to run as far when I am 57!!

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks for popping by Harriet. Hope you enjoyed the day as much as I did. I never mind people mentioning the knitting as it's what gets the most publicity - people don't seem to think that running multiple marathons is a big thing!!!!