So what now to fill the void left by endless hours of marathon training? Since starting a training plan in late June / early July 2015, I have now run four marathons in the past 11 months; in the two years (and one day) since I had surgery on my knee I have tripled my total count of marathons.
Yesterday started much like any marathon morning; bleary-eyed following a distinct lack of sleep. The family awoke in stages and we readied ourselves for the quick trip along the M25 towards Gravesend and the cyclopark there which would be my viewpoint for the next few hours. Sadly, as we had already been warned by the organisers, the turnout of runners was pretty limited and the vibe around the start area certainly wasn’t buzzing so much as the Roadrunner in May. Ultimately, this proved to be the case throughout the race as the course was just never so full as it had been when running clockwise earlier in the year.
The race was exceptionally well organised though, and I distinctly remember thinking I felt less alone on this run than I had at points in London despite obviously being surrounded by less people; there was just a better sense of all being in it together.
I settled into my rough target pace quickly (an arbitrary 8 minute mile goal) and it was great to see Mum, Dad, Delilah, and Lyndsey all cheering me on from the sidelines – though they did spend a depressingly long time supping coffee and eating croissants. Which reminds me, Dad said he’d save me one!!!
I took the opportunity to make my own aid station for this race, having borrowed Delilah’s ladybird table, so I didn’t have to carry any gels, salt tablets or water. I was fueling well and, despite my initial concerns that going anti-clockwise would result in steeper hills, I felt good through to about 20 miles. Then I started slowing down. Then I got a bit slower. With four laps to go the climbs had gotten a little too much for my weary legs and I was reduced to striding up them.
Up until the last lap, when I finally ran all the way up. I rounded the bend at the top of the course, saw all the family cheering me, Delilah at the fence. I decided I wanted to cross the finish line with her, so I diverted off the course hoisted her over the fence and finished the race hand-in-hand with her. It was a lovely experience, and though not one she’s likely to remember forever, I know I’ll remember the first time I crossed the finish line with her.
We had our picture taken together at the end, when I realised that I had decided to disturb her from her lunch. Mucky pup!
What now? I don’t know. I have loved marathon training; for all that I enjoy off-road / trail running there is something wonderful about the hard work that it involves (even if I don’t always reach those high standards.) But I don’t have the time for the really long runs any more so I know I’ll be concentrating on shorter stuff – I would love to get my 5 and 10km times below 20 and 40 minutes. So, onwards and upwards to the next challenge.
What’s my official time you ask? 3:38 (the worst of the four) but I am still happy with that – and I’ll definitely take 26th place in any marathon! :-)