“I Had To Dig Deep To Keep Running Through the Final Miles Of My Marathon”

Big Marathon Challenge team member, Caroline talks digging deep, remembering her training and making it across her first marathon finish line at the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon!

Final race time 4hrs 6mins 38secs

Firstly, tell us about your marathon experience.

I loved it. The atmosphere was amazing and it was incredible to see so many supporters lining the streets and cheering us all on. I found the whole experience very emotional. I felt really choked up at about mile six as it suddenly dawned on me that I was running a marathon, and I took a bit of time to reflect. I expected tears at the finish line but I was so elated to have made it and so happy to see everyone, I was just full of smiles!

What were the best parts of the race?

There was so much support and the other runners were so friendly. I loved running in company and chatting to people. The course was flat which was great, as most of my training has been up and down the hills where we live.

What were the challenging parts?

Miles 18-22 were very tough! My legs were getting tired and my quads started to get tight. I had to dig deep to keep running and not walk any of it, but I used all the advice I’d had from Richard and that got me through. Once I’d hit mile 22, I knew I could make it.

What race tactics did you use?

Just to enjoy it! Although I’d set myself the challenge of completing the marathon in four hours, I realised early in the training that I wanted my first marathon to be about enjoying the experience. There will be more marathons and lots of opportunities to chase a time. I was absolutely over the moon to finish in just over four hours.

What advice did Richard give you that you found particularly helpful?

To relax! It’s easy to get caught up during the tapering weeks with all the advice of other runners and I can find that really overwhelming, so I tried to zone out a little and not overthink it.

What was your nutrition strategy and how well did it work for you?

I’d practised my nutrition a lot with Ruth, the ASICS nutritionist, before the race, so I was relaxed about that. During the race, I was fuelling with Jelly Babies and Clif Bloks. It gave me something to focus on, to break the distance up into stages.

What did you say to yourself to stay motivated and positive when things started to get tough?

I focused on reminding myself why I’d entered the competition and what it meant to me. What my husband and I have been through with our fertility issues has been incredibly difficult, both physically and emotionally, so there was no way I was going to let a marathon beat me!

Did the race live up to your expectations?

Absolutely. I really loved it. Now it’s all over I feel sad! It’s been such an amazing experience and I’ve been lucky to work with such a brilliant team.

Did you feel as good as you hoped you’d feel during the race?

I’d never run further than 20 miles so I didn’t know what to expect beyond that distance. I felt great until mile 18 when my legs began getting tired and, by the last few miles, I was just on autopilot. I had a brief thought at one point that, if I pushed on, I might make it in under four hours but, when I suggested that to my legs, they completely ignored me and I literally couldn’t move them any faster.

What were your favourite bits of the course?

There were some great sections where the crowds were deep and hearing all the cheers and encouragement helped me to push on. It was great that the course looped back on itself, too, as it meant I had chance to see and cheer for my other teammates.

What are your future running plans?

I definitely have the marathon running bug. My husband was at the finish line and he found it really inspiring and has decided that he’d love to run a marathon, too. We might be back at Manchester together next year!

How do you feel about running now?

I need a break for a week or so but I know that, by then, I’ll be ready to get back into it. I can’t imagine having any longer away from running, though I’ll be taking it easy for a little while! I’ve already spoken to Richard about continuing to work with him when I have another goal in the pipeline.

What advice would you have for anyone else doing a marathon for the first time?

If it’s your first marathon, make your goal to enjoy it and not put pressure on yourself to chase a time. You’ll only ever run your first marathon once, so soak it all up and make the most you can of it.

The coach’s view

Richard says: Caroline is so enthusiastic about marathon running and has already emailed me about doing her next marathon. Her husband now has the running bug and they are looking at doing a marathon together. On the day, Caroline ran extremely well, and was very strong in training. I know she wanted to run in four hours but we were looking at around 4hrs 15mins. I said to her if she didn’t run in four hours this time, she’d do it next time. She’s got an enormous amount of potential for the future.

Written by Women's Running Magazine | 1526 articles | View profile

Please comment on this article below