With it being mid April and well and truly ‘Marathon season’, I thought why not post a blog on my experiences and motivations.
Since seeing my Uncle complete the London marathon (I must of been around 6, 1996 ish), I always wanted to follow in his footsteps and complete one. It was an amazing family day and I remember being on Tower Bridge with my cousins and a banner which said ‘Run Tony Run’! The Marathon day atmosphere and sense of togetherness is something special and very inspiring……
I have now been lucky/unlucky enough (dependant on what way you look at it) to have completed 4 Marathons and a number of half’s. London 2011, Brighton 2013, Brighton 2016 and Bournemouth also in 2016, the Reigate half Marathon was also memorable for me in 2016. In this blog I will go through each of those experiences – why I did them and my motivations.
London 2011 was my first Marathon, ages 21. Having applied unsuccessfully through the ballot (I believe something like 1 in 20 people get in through the ballot), I decided to look around for potential charity places and came across ‘Tommy’s Babies charity’. Tommy’s is a charity with no particular relevance to me at the time but, having researched, decided to run for Tommy’s, £2,000 was the target. Tommy’s is a charity which provides research into pregnancy problems, helping to save babies lives.
The training was mentally tough – I think this is to do with going into the ‘unknown’, however, from what I remember, I got up to 18 miles which is the recommended training distance to get up to.
On the day, I had 2 of my close friends, James and Zane also running, which helped to build up the anticipation and excitement!
I always remember being told to hold off the pace and not fly out of the blocks. In the first half race, I felt really good, strong, as if I was pacing well, particularly over Tower Bridge (mile 12-13). It felt as if I was Usain, Bolting it over the river, the noise and atmosphere on the bridge was incredible. By 16 miles, this ‘comfortable half’ was starting to take it’s toll on me, I was starting to think ”There is still 10 miles left”, rather than ”Great, I have completed 16 miles”, the glass was half empty at this point!
Anyway, I plodded away and got to 23 miles – my comfortable jog was now turning into a mix of jogging, skipping, walking and repeating, I remember passing the Tommy’s charity who were fantastic and very noisy with support for me. Chafing was also making life tough, one thing I changed from training was that I wore a vest on the day and had not done that in training, resulting in chafing under my arms. This forced me to run a bit like the Hulk (arms sticking out kind of like a chicken I guess).
The final bit of the race at the Mall, I thought would be amazing, however it was very tough and painful, as I turned the corner to see the grand stand, I managed to pick my legs up a bit and cruised home. I completed it! My first marathon, in a time of 4.19, raising £2,500 for Tommy’s charity.
Marathon number 2 was Brighton in 2013, this marathon I had slightly different motivations, my Personal Training client Mark Lordan was my motivation – he had a life goal of completing a marathon so we decided to sign up together. Our training was going really well, however, I picked up a knee injury from Football which was giving me pain with the long distance runs and the constant, repetitive impact. 6 weeks prior to the Marathon, I told Mark that I was going to pull out. However, a couple of weeks later as my knee was feeling better (from the rest from running)!, Mark persuaded me to run with him. My goal on the day was now (A) get myself round and (B) if I could, help Mark to get round to complete the race.
From the 10th mile, my knee was starting to hurt, by mile 14, it had worsened and by 18, I was in a lot of pain – the paracetamol I had didn’t ease the pain. I was still with Mark, my strategy had however changed. I would run ahead (counting to 30 in my head), walk until Mark caught me and repeat, the pain was worse when I was just jogging away at one speed.
Somehow I managed to complete the race with Mark, I was so pleased and proud of him for completing the Marathon. The few days after, I used crutches, the pain eased and I then focussed on recovering and strengthening my Knee. Marathon 2 done!
Marathon number 3 and I was back to Brighton in 2016, this time my motivation was my Grandad Jack, who sadly passed away in 2014. Grandad was a family man – a kind, warm and generous man, who has built a strong family legacy. I sent a message out to the family and managed to get a few of us signed up – me, my brother Joe, cousin Max, Uncle Tony and brother in law to be Steve. We decided to raise money for St Catherines Hospice, which is a local charity who provided Grandad with outstanding comfort and care during difficult times. The charity is dedicated to providing care and comfort to patients with life shortening illnesses.
So April came around and unfortunately my Uncle had to pull out through injury – at the start line was me, Joe, Max, Steve. 24 hours prior to the race, we had raised £2600 – the messages were an inspiring read that evening.
The race was tough, however, I felt far better running than the previous Marathon and we all managed to complete the race with differing times. A lot of respect to Max and Steve – Max picked up an injury around the half way mark and Steve had damaged his ribs on a ‘light jog’ a week before the race, AKA got injured playing Football!
Brighton 2016 for My Grandad was done and we toasted a Whisky (Grandad’s favourite drink) afterwards. We went on to raise £3,500 for St Catherine’s hospice.
Following the Brighton Marathon, in June of last year, sadly my Nan passed away. My Nan was the most caring and loving lady and I will always remember her warm smile. So I decided to sign up for the Bournemouth Marathon which was a few months later, in October.
The training for Bournemouth was slightly different to Brighton and London, in that the event is in October, so you train through the summer months, lighter mornings and evenings etc. I also now had Richmond park to use which was a bonus with working close by. Having said this, for one reason or another, October came around and it was the least training I had done out of the 4 Marathon’s so I was anxious to see how I would get on….
October 2nd (the day of the race) was upon me, my brother and a friend Chris, who had both also signed up for Bournemouth went for breakfast and a light walk down the seafront. The day then started with a bit of a surprise, my brother (who got engaged in August of the same year), asked me and Chris to be best men for him at his wedding, good start!
So we made our way to the start line and Ben Smith ( http://www.the401challenge.co.uk/about-401-challenge) was starting the race on his 398th Marathon in 398 days! He finished the challenge on the Wednesday in Bristol. Unbelievable achievement, I remember bumping into him in Brighton, over 6 months before, to think he then ran a marathon every day since is beyond me!
I felt surprisingly strong throughout the race. A particular tough point mentally is mile 17, where you run through the finish line and up a big hill – knowing you have 9 miles left and are running away from the finish line is tough.
For the last few miles, I counted 1-100 and back down slowly, I find this is a good way to keep the mind occupied, often the mind gives up before the legs. This is a tip I got from listening to Paula Radcliffe on TV.
So I completed the Bournemouth Marathon with a personal best time, which I was not expecting, considering the lack of training. Why a PB? I am adamant that this was because I had a GPS watch which allowed me to pace the race correctly, all of my splits were similar and a watch was something I hadn’t had in any of the other races. I finished the day in the sea and stretched on the beach – which helped the legs.
Finally, a stand out event (not a full marathon) but a half – Reigate half 2016, which came before the Bournemouth Marathon. This stood out to me because I ran with my Mum and it was my Mum’s first ever half Marathon! A few years before, I remember my Mum falling whilst running which knocked her confidence – however, I know my Mum and know she has a good mindset, with regards to work rate and determination so me and my brother encouraged her to do the Reigate half Marathon. There were a few family members completing this one – a great day…
On the day, she did incredibly, I have fond memories of her thanking people who were cheering her on – I warned her after a couple of miles she would tire from this but she continued to thank the vast support she had! We completed the Reigate half together and I’m very proud of her, she was great!
To conclude, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the Marathon experiences and if you haven’t completed one, would certainly recommend, with enough prep, you won’t regret! One bit of advice would be to purchase a GPS watch!
Apologies for going on a bit, I didn’t expect to write so much – I hope you have perhaps gained a little inspiration from the read, if not, you certainly deserve a medal for getting to this point 😉