Before I say anything about my race I want to put in a huge disclaimer that Valencia marathon is incredible. It’s a beautiful route, extremely well organised and full of some of the best support. I would recommend it to anyone. I also love running and love Marathoning, I will continue to race and I would encourage everyone to do it. But I have to be honest with what went on, that’s all I ever can do. Even if it makes me look ugly.
I rocked up to the start line of Valencia marathon having already had one hell of a journey. You see I missed my flight, yep that happened, and then I spent 20+ hours in various airports and Spanish cities that were in fact not Valencia. I ended up in a taxi from Alicante to our air bnb at 1am whilst a house full of people I’d never really met waited to see if I was actually a real person. I was shattered, stressed and a little embarrassed to say the least. It was not my finest hour.
Luckily turning up to a run-venture with loads of other runners is amazing and they made me feel welcome and less like a total idiot from the off. Valencia expo was great and simple enough, goody bags, tech tees and the normal photo ops. The group waited for me to weave in and out and get my race essentials. I managed to do the whole thing in about 25 minutes which shows how well organised it was.
Race day felt big. I’ve felt so good recently running, smashed out a huge 10 mile PB, found Beachy easy, and I was riding the high of some big successes this year. My drama was over and I was so happy to be on that start line. My plan was to run sub 3:45, a big goal, but realistic based on the year I’d had and where I was at. Being able to do that would either make or break my next year of training. It would set me on a clear path to a big goal that I really really wanted to go for. Not getting it, well not the end of the world, but would definitely confuse my mind a little about what the best direction of travel would be for 2018 race planning.
It was hectic at the beginning. The start pens were tightly packed and people started breaking down the fences to get in to them. It felt a bit riot-ish, but we were soon in and on our way to the line. Martha and I started together both aiming for 3:45. We set off and something wasn’t right, my heart rate was really high and I felt weird. I figured maybe it was nerves and the spectacle of it all, and just tried to maintain a steady pace as we weaved through crowds. The next 6 miles with Martha I was really not feeling great, she checked in on me regularly and I kept telling her I’d be ok and to go, I knew something wasn’t right, and i didn’t want to be responsible for her missing the target.
At about mile 8, Katie ran past us looking like a beautiful gazelle and I told Martha to go with her and leave me. I knew Katie was on for sub4 and I knew Martha would be on for a really great time if she didn’t feel like she had to counsel me through what was shaping up to be not a great day. I was in a bad way, I felt really panicked not knowing what was going on with my body, an easy pace for me felt like a massive struggle. My body felt uncomfortable, my breathing was off.
I started to mess around with my pace, to see if I could settle my heart rate and my breathing. I couldn’t. Whatever I tried to do it wasn’t making any difference. I was really emotional. I wasn’t hitting a wall, I wasn’t injured, I wasn’t ill, but I couldn’t get control of myself. The crowds were cheering and the atmosphere was electric and honestly all of that stuff that you normally long for in a marathon, i just wanted it all to disappear. I felt so fraudulent, I couldn’t stop tearing up and every time I did my breathing and heart rate spiralled, I felt like I was ever so close to having a panic attack. I know it sounds melodramatic but when you’re surrounded by the buzz of a marathon and you’re having a bad day you can feel totally alone. Which i did. I started to ask myself was it worth it, i was panicking and i needed a pep talk so i called home. What was said isn’t for here, its not really for anywhere, but it was what I needed to hear. It didn’t change how I was feeling and it didn’t allow me to settle, but I knew what I had to do. I couldn’t quit, I just had to keep going. No matter how painful that was going to be.
Every step felt like a punch. My body and mind were so totally bruised. Nothing was wrong. Not a thing, but everything was different in the worst way. I started to run walk between water stations. Every time I looked up and tried to distract myself with the beauty of this epic city I’d panic and tear up. I honestly couldn’t look at anyone or anything I just had to be head down in order to move forward. I’d check in on all our runners on my walk breaks and I knew everyone else was doing really well. This was both incredible and I was over the moon for them but also heart breaking for where I was at.
I bumped in to Tom around mile 18 which was just the most emotional moment. Turns out he was not doing so well, and although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone I was so glad to feel a little less alone in the torture of a bad day. Tom had heat stroke and was pretty dehydrated, I was unsure what was going on but felt mostly sick and a bit shaken up by it all. We opted to walk whenever we were in direct sun light, drink plenty of water and run in the shade. I use run loosely because it was more of a shuffle. A struggle shuffle or a struggle jog, strog, as we nicknamed it. We found ways to laugh and took it in turns to fall apart, and distract the other from how harsh falling apart felt; And there you were thinking a marathon isn’t a team sport.
4 hour pacers went by as did 415s and I knew I was a million miles away from where I should be. At this point it didn’t matter though, I just needed to get to the end and get Tom to the end and that’s all that mattered. I’m pretty certain he’d say the same thing.
Nearing the last mile Louise caught us and we were once again given the boost of a familiar face. It was amazing to have her cross the line with us. It was her first marathon and despite her own setbacks she’d totally nailed It!
As we got to the incredible finish line, cue running across the most incredible blue backdrop, I sprinted and tried my best to hold back the tears. I didn’t cheer or celebrate it didn’t feel appropriate. I ran to the line and came to a pretty abrupt halt just before crossing it. Two months ago you see i’d beat Tom on a sprint finish in the new forest in kind of a funny but also kind of a dick way. This time I wanted to make sure Tom was there with me on that line. I reached back and grabbed his hand and we crossed the line together, because honestly I don’t think I would have made it without his selflessness and amazing friendship. I broke down immediately for so many reasons but mostly because it was over and I hadn’t thrown in the towel.
As I walked out to get my medal I couldn’t stop myself from crying and asking questions I knew were dangerous to ask. I didn’t feel proud. I felt numb from it all.
I knew what everyone would say, I knew what I would say if someone else was in this situation but none of that matters. It’s such a personal experience in that sense. For me I couldn’t find a way through to enjoy it. And without sounding like a spoilt brat after a year of achievements this felt like such a bitter pill to swallow. I didn’t miss a time I wanted, I ran my worst marathon to date in all ways. This wasn’t just a bad race. It was a bad race away from home, with none of my family around me. It was a bad race with no explanation. It was a bad race that was supposed to be the race that cleared up my mind as to what 2018 was all about and what 2017 had all been about. It was a big deal and I needed to feel it. I still need to feel it.
I tried my best to explain what had gone on but every time I tried/try I’d well up. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s day or make them feel like they couldn’t celebrate their victories in the wake of my set backs. I’m not sure I achieved it too well in the end, it was raw and I did what I could. At the end of the day I was immensely proud of the group of amazing runners I’d met and spent the weekend with, I just felt inadequate. I mainly want to say here how incredibly they all did. From first times to personal bests and fighting through injuries or finding form they thought they lost. They’re individually inspirational and display perfectly exactly why I love the marathon.
So what happens now. I honestly don’t know. As I said I’ve been scared to delve in to it and when I try and talk about it to anyone I still just bubble over. I have one more marathon this year and that’s going to be a hard one to start but hopefully an easier one to finish. The plan is to allow that to be a pure celebration of running with no other motive.
Next year I honestly don’t know where to put my heart/head. I was asked recently if I was ready to put all my eggs in one basket, and if I was ready for the pain that comes with most likely failing at the impossible dream… I said yes to that question at the time. All I can say right now is that feels like the scariest thing in the world to me.
When I first started training for marathons, I would turn up to races not knowing anyone, feeling completely out of place, I was amazed by how everyone knew each other, the buzz and chatter was electrifying. I was (and still am) constantly inspired by the people I saw on social media and at these events doing amazing things, a little intimidated to say hello. The crazy thing is I know them now, and I get to hug them and be surrounded by their awesome. Turning up at Beachy Head Marathon really felt like all my friends from near and far had shown up for me (I know they’d really shown up for themselves, but ya know what I mean). It was my 10th (11th) marathon this year as part of the 12in12 challenge and it was also my birthday. The big Three-O.
I was pretty much milking my birthday for all that it was worth and a marathon on the actual day seemed too good to pass up. It was so much better because a whole bunch of above mentioned awesome people. The start line felt perfect as we chatted and laughed and made friendships that will now last a lifetime. I’m always surprised how amazing it is to meet these incredible people you only know through a selection of insta squares in real life. You can feel like you know so much and so little about them, but within those first moments friendships, real proper friendships are formed and it’s one the most beautiful parts about social media and the running community.
It was a cold morning but I knew the climbs would make it feel warm, and although we shivered on start lines, we’d soon be covered in a nice layer of salty sweat. The start line is at the bottom of a rather steep looking hill. It’s intimidating and exciting all at once, anyone who ran up it is an instant hero. We ran up to it, and then quickly stopped in the mass of people realising this was not going to be an easy day.
Our marathon group of Katie, Jon, Kirsty and Jess, started a bit too far back, which meant for the first 4 miles we were in heavy stop start congestion with some of the walkers, as we tried to make our way to the right pace group. I’d been told over and over again to not push it on the early hills as this race is hard right till the end, if you go too hard too soon, you’ll regret it. We stuck with the walk any big hills, jog any small ones, and run on the flats and downs approach. It is ever so tempting though when you’re fresh in the legs to just go. I also didn’t want to do any damage, I want to race in Valencia in 3 weeks and more importantly I wanted to have the best day out. I didn’t want to panic about pace and time, or put any pressure on myself.
The route takes you up and over the downs and sisters, through local villages and farm land. Some of the toughest climbs are saved for last. It’s unrelenting and unforgiving. If you underestimate it I’m almost certain you’ll pay in one way or another. The clarity at the top of the climbs is truly sensational though, you can see for miles and it’s a reward that just keeps on coming.
At the aid stations we’d stop and re group, taking on some fuel and in some views. The marshals were the best, and the food options were endless. This is the most insanely beautiful run. I fell in love with Sussex a lot throughout this race. The views were stupid, the sky was clear and the sun was beaming down on us. Mother Nature had been kind and delivered just about the perfect conditions for this race.
Be warned though this is not an easy race, the terrain is hard as you move from mud to rutted ground, rocky paths and slippery leaves. I’m used to this so it didn’t feel too bad but I’d hate to downplay it, and on a different day it could have been a lot worse. You’re up and down and up and down and up and down and up for some 4000ft. There are about 300 steps to climb, a wall to jump, gates and stiles, and everything you’d expect from trails. We saw cows and sheep and horses and dogs. And headwind you can never discount the headwind.
As you make your climb up to the sisters the truly spectacular view is hidden from you right until the very top. There was something so poetic about the struggle you had to go through to get those stunning views. We’d raced it right though and when we got to the sisters we had energy to run on them, up and down them. I can’t claim to have had quite as much energy as Jon and Katie who I think ran all of them pretty much, but I ran more than I thought I would. The downhills here being as hard as the up with the steep gradients dropping off to cliff edges and crashing waves. It was dramatic in all the right ways.
I’d opted for the subtle approach as I didn’t want to make a big deal out of my birthday and covered myself in shiny birthday badges. As I ran the runners sang to me and cheered me on and it was like having your own little cheer squad follow you for the better part of 6 hours. My favourite birthday sing along came at around mile 24 when my legs had stopped working all that well and I was on the last climb. Thank you kind man, your voice powered me up and over.
I talk about flow a lot when people ask how you keep going in a marathon. It’s that moment where everything melts away and you just move forward, it feels effortless (although tiring), it’s the most beautiful space to be in, it’s why I love to run, and I was in it for almost all 26 miles. This was just one of those perfect race days when it all comes together. There was no pressure, no sub whatever to beat, just good people and good vibes. The whole way round I kept saying to myself I must purposefully schedule in races like this, races for the love of running and just stick to that. I can’t tell you how good it made me feel, and it reminded me of so many things I think we forget about as runners chasing down dreams.
As I came to the very steep hill we had climbed up first thing that morning, Jon said ‘go on birthday girl it’s all yours’ he was the stronger runner by far but let me have my moment like the totally selfless gent he is. I ran down, which may have actually been harder than running up, to my family and friends screaming happy birthday. I felt like an actual super hero; I may be a way off that wonder woman bod, but hey super heros come in all different shapes and sizes. Over the finish line and straight in to a hug from Charlie, a hug that seriously made me know she will just be one of those people I have to make sure is in my life for a long time. Flowers and champagne at the ready, my favourites new and old, we did a cheers and headed to pub.
This could quite easily be my favourite marathon, and most definitely my favourite day. Thank you insanely to every single person who was a part of it.
I’ve always wondered how people go back and run the same marathon year after year, but I now know this one will be firmly on my race calendar.
And yes I’ve teared up a lot writing this, because once upon a time I was very very lost, and although it’s taken me 30 years, I am so certain that now I’m found.
##clareruns12in12 charity #10
Sport has transformed my life; running has given me a sense of being, a confidence, a purpose, a new lease of life, and the best friends in the world. It’s hard for girls growing up to understand what their place is in an often male dominated society, and this is even more present in sport and especially in team sports. Is running a team sport? well heck yeah it is when you get to run with incredible people spurring you on, your coaches who work with you to unlock your potential, your club who train with you and run with you, and your supporters who follow you round the country/world on race days.
If what I say or do can get one person out doing something active, then job done, but there are proper charities doing great things to make this so much easier and less intimidating for girls and women up and down the country, and it is needed. Women in sport say “Sport has the potential to transform the lives of women and girls for the better, yet the opportunities are not always there for them. We need your help to create a future where everyone can benefit from sport – regardless of gender.” I couldn’t agree with them more, so my donation this month goes to them and you can find out how to donate, or support them by visiting their website.
I’ve written this thing out what feels like a thousand times and haven’t quite found the words to do it justice, to do me justice.
I rocked up at the start line feeling more nervous than I had in a long time. The feeling I used to get at the start of a marathon, the feeling of not knowing if I’d actually finish this thing. I’ve gotten comfortable knowing that even on my worst days of marathoning I’d get to the end, and trust me I’ve had some pretty epic lows.
This was different, I honestly did not know if I would finish this thing. I wanted to, I’d trained to, but I didn’t know it and I couldn’t feel it.
We decided to camp for the New Forest Marathon, not because it’s particularly far away, but because I had to get up early to fit in the extra miles, and well camping is fun. The weather was pretty shocking the night before with thunderstorms and heavy rain, sleep was evasive at best. We’d later hear that people had been abandoning their soggy tents to sleep in cars, but heyho we survived it.
When I first sent that message to my dear friend asking her if she thought I could run a marathon and she came back saying 100% yes, I didn’t believe her. I went through 20 weeks of training with highs and lows and injuries. I found myself on that start line still not believing her. Still wondering, questioning would I? Could I? If im being honest even after I did it it I still didn’t believe i could do it for a good while.That was less than 18 months ago. I’m about to pack my bags and fly to Iceland to run marathon number 10!
And on the simplest level that’s why I started Marathon in a Day. As you have probably seen me plugging it like mad on social media, you’ll know a bit about it by now, but you won’t know why we started it.
A virtual marathon, well who on earth would be crazy enough to do that? Well I would and Kev would and quite frankly almost everyone we spoke to in the lead up to launch would! That’s because on the face of it 26.2 feels incredibly terrifying, but when you break it down and strip out those pesky rules, it becomes a little bit more achieveable in our brains!
I personally wanted to open up the door for people just like me, who think to themselves there is no way I’m capable of doing that! I was that girl, and trust me if I can then anyone can. Now you ask me if I want to run a race of any distance from 1 mile to 100miles and I will most likely drop what I’m doing and come meet you at the start line.
Running a marathon not only opened up my eyes and my mind to how incredibly strong and capable I was, but it gave me the biggest confidence boost in the world. When I first started training I was scared to show up at a run club, and now I help lead it. When I first started training I would go out wearing all the layers to cover up parts of my body I hated. Now you’ll see me running around town repping the #sportsbrasquad because this body is so powerful, how could I ever be ashamed of it! Running a marathon taught me everything I now know about myself, it gave me the opportunity to escape the demons of my past and rebuild myself in to the strongest version of me, a me I was truly and am truly proud of.
It gave me strength, confidence, belief, resilience, grit and it introduced me to a whole host of the most amazing people I now get to call friends.
I can honestly say crossing that finish line changed my life in the best way.
I’m not guaranteeing it can or will change yours, but it will give you the opportunity to do something you never thought was possible. That might be running 26.2 miles or it might be grabbing a group of friends and finishing a mile, a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon or anything in between. Whatever that ‘I could never do that’ distance is for you then guess what this is your time to do it. Take breaks, make it fun, and smash your dreams wide open!
And it doesn’t stop there if you’re like me and 26.2 is just something you love/have to do then guess what you still have an ‘I could never do that’ be it run sub 5, sub4, sub 3, heck lets join Nike and even go Sub 2! This is your chance. There are no* rules, you just have to run!
Once you do that thing, that impossible thing that you never ever were capable of doing, then guess what! You realise you’re capable of doing anything, and that’s where the real fun begins…
I’m only one of two behind this idea and these are just my reasons, Kev has his own, and there are a million more to get involved.
Come run with us this September!
*We do have a few very limited rules because of you know, the Law! You can check them out on our website!
Running a marathon at night gave a whole new feel to the pre-marathon set up. My normal nervous morning routine of force feeding myself porridge and downing a coffee would now be a full day of waiting around for the clock to strike 8pm. I ate my biggest meal at lunch time, my normal pre-race meal an hour before I left, and it all felt a bit odd. I was pretty anxious leading up to it, the weather forecast didn’t look great, I felt tired and was imaging all the aches and pains. I know it sounds silly but in my 12 in 12 challenge this was the only time I would have a ‘proper’ break, it had been a full 8 weeks since the Sub4 Mega Babe, and I felt a little out of the game.
Let’s start form the beginning. I turned up to the start line of Edinburgh marathon on tired legs, I had run a tricky off road marathon just 2 weeks prior and I had told my self over and over again that any chance at sub4 here was unrealistic at best. It had been insanely hot in Edinburgh in the lead up, just the day before we’d been down on the beach swimming in the sea.
At the start line I was lucky enough to bump in to Steve and Mel of instagram, who I chatted to, hugged and got the insta pictures sorted. It helped to be standing there with people and distracting my mind from the questions of what was possible. They are both great runners and it’s always a joy to meet people from this community I often feel I’m an imposter in.
It’s pretty obvious now that I love running locally, the South Downs is the Queen of running routes, and although I spend an awful lot of time running around some of the same bits, it never gets old!
Arun River Marathon is the 2nd race in the annual Sussex Trail Events river series, and for me it was my third of the series, with just the Lunar-Tic left to complete. Rocking up at the start line was a little different this time as I’d convinced Emma to join me. She is a super runner, much better than me, but hasn’t done much in the way of off-road and well I convinced her it’d be a great idea to mix up her road marathons this year.
I sat in a different seat on Sunday, one where I got to scream and shout all day long at incredible people doing this incredible thing, called the London Marathon. It’s been a while since I’ve been on that side of the fence and last time I was I had no appreciation for what these incredible humans were doing. Now I knew! I knew that some of them were running for reasons you can’t even comprehend, some are fighting for times, some are raising the funds, some are proving something to themselves, some are proving something to everyone else and some are just running for the love of being on two feet. Although I could never 100% know what each person was going through (every race for every person is different), I still knew the looks, the tears, the hugs, the pains and I knew that if that was me I would need the crowd to rally and bring me home. So I set up shop and made sure I was the loudest and probably most obnoxious spectator, but hey I think it helped a few people out!