Here we are on the last day of February, the shortest month of the year and it certainly felt that way. Although the Big Marathon Challenge is gearing me up for the London Marathon on 23 April, this month I was focused on my goal of completing the inaugural Thorpe Park Half Marathon on 26 February. I signed up for the event as I hadn’t run a half-marathon previously and this race was exactly eight weeks before the full marathon.
Running races prior to my first marathon always seemed logical to me, even though I know plenty of people who have run a marathon on zero race experience. Races help you get used to many of the different aspects one will likely face on race day: the nerves, the lack of sleep the night before, the buzzing environment and, of course, the inevitable queues for the portaloos.
As the half-marathon was near the end of the month, I tried to treat February in the same way I plan to treat the month of April and there were some serious sacrifices to be made in order to get race ready. At our last BMC meet-up we received lots of advice from Raph at High5; one piece of advice was to cut out caffeine for two weeks before the marathon. This idea filled me with dread, as anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love my coffee (I usually have about four cups of black coffee per day). However, according to Raph, the High5 Energy Gel Plus (with caffeine) are more effective if the body is less used to the stimulating effects of drinking coffee on a daily basis.
As this month was a half-marathon, I thought I was justified in only cutting down by half the recommended amount (conveniently logical, for me, at least). I managed to go from four cups a day, to just three cups over the entire week leading up to the race – no small achievement.
I discussed my pacing plan with BMC coach Richard in the lead-up to the race and we agreed that I was going to aim for about nine-minute miles, which should get me a sub-two-hour result. I concentrated on achieving this pace during some of my long runs and, while I knew that it would be a lot of effort to keep it up for 13.1 miles, I was going to try.
On race day I felt ready. I had my bowl of pasta the night before, and felt fit, healthy and ready to run. The first 10K was really enjoyable, I was chatting a bit with other runners and felt comfortable, however at around mile eight my right calf started to tighten up. I was running with my boyfriend and told him I was struggling, however he encouraged me to keep going. I knew I was on track for a sub-two-hour finish and I was trying with all my heart to push through the cramping in my calf. Luckily my stubbornness saw me through and I crossed the finish line with an official chip time of 1hr 58mins 26secs.
My fellow BMC team member Leah was running the same race and we managed to have a catch up afterwards. In the event village there was a sports massage company offering post-race massages and I thought it would be a good chance to help sort out my calf: big mistake. A combination of my muscles being so tight from the race and the physio using so much pressure on me meant I ended up with bruising all over my legs. I talked with Richard afterwards and he advised me to wait a few days after future races before I have a sports massage; you live and learn. A few days later and my right leg is starting to feel better; I will not be neglecting my stretching at all in the future though.
Now I have completed my half-marathon, the full marathon feels very close. However I now know that I can commit to a race, aim for a pace and get across the line in one piece, even when my body is working against me on the day.