On Monday I shared my feelings about how I felt as 3rd Brit and 49th at the world championships.
Those instant, overall feelings about the race, and although there was a little undertone of sadness, which I guess is pretty normal for this kind of situation; It is just so much emotion, so much time, effort, love, heart, spirit poured into 13 years of a dream, that of course you are going to have lots of different highs and lows.
Of course an experience this big is never going to be all good all the time, but it is the same with our lives. It doesn’t always go to plan, it doesn’t happen the way you expect, but as long as you have faith that these things happen for a reason, and that they are going to shape your future and make you a better person, that you just have to ride those rollercoaster moments.
Now, today is not another reflective one.
I may have one more of those coming next week, but for now I want to share the details of the race itself. Almost everything I can possibly remember about the experience of running for Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a world championship, so here goes!
Oh, but before I do, let’s just share a quick pic of a selfie taken by someone you may recognize 😉
Yeah, that is double Olympic Champion, Mo Farah. He was our team captain. He is so incredible; chilled and just a genuine guy. More on that another time!
I don’t want to go too much into it, but the pre-race experience was probably a post in itself, and maybe I will share, but I think the day of the race is what we are most interested in, I know it is what I am thinking the most about, after all, the race itself, the running itself, is what truly matters in this.
When you remove the fluff, remove all those little extras, the reason we run is to see what we can do, to challenge ourselves, so that is what I will share.
As the race day came close, it became apparent that the weather was not playing in our favor. I tried to scratch my brain for a race where I had run well in the wind, where we had been presented with really bad conditions, and I had run well.
For the most part in my marathons and half marathons, I had escaped relatively unscathed. Other then the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll half last year where it was raining and windy, most of my road racing life (well the ones that matter) I had lucked out.
I was however able to think back to some college races where conditions were less than ideal; my first national championship when it was well below freezing, the day it was 85 degrees and I decided to try to break 16:00 in the 5k, ignoring Steve’s plea to just let it go (I ended up running 16:16 I think, which was pretty impressive I must say), or my final cross-country race for Ferris where it was a snowstorm in Spokane, Washington.
I also had plenty of cross-country races from my days in England to reflect on. Not so much bad weather conditions, but just knowing that I was tough in adverse conditions. That when the worst was brought on, rather than letting it psyche me out, I had a bring it on attitude.
In the build up to the race, I wasnt sure how I felt about it.
The other women I talked to seem to have a “oh, it won’t be that bad” attitude. I on the other hand kept checking the weather, hoping that it would turn around, and mostly having a dreaded feeling knowing that this was going to HURT.
Sometimes when you are going into a race, you can almost trick yourself into believing that it won’t be that bad, that it will be fun the first few miles, then you can crank down the pace those last few miles and push through the pain, when it matters
But this was like preparing for battle. Knowing that you were not going to come out unscathed (if at all), but you knew that when it came down to that moment, you would be ready to fight, but it was just the anticipation of it coming that I was not particularly enjoying.
However, as I stood on the start line. Looking out into the course, hands on my hips (remember, confidence pose!), I felt strong. I did not feel the cold. As it started to pour with rain, I thought bring it on! The worse the weather got, the stronger I knew I would be.
I know I am tough, I know I have grit, and I knew that I am good at reading the tactics within a racing situation.
So with the helicopter hovering above us, with many of the best women in the world standing in front of me, and knowing that it was live on BBC one, I stood there.
Ready for this.
I HAD earned this and I was going to make the most of it.
This sounds silly saying it, as it is totally logical, but I was surprised by how fast the race started. I felt like I was sprinting, yet somehow I was at the back, the very back. Looking at the aerial view afterwards on the TV broadcast, out of the 91 women, I was probably in 80th place for that first mile, but I tried to stay calm.
I knew that many of these women would be out of their element. Many of them would come back to me, and I had to stick to my instincts, trust MY race plan to get me there when I needed to be.
That being said I also knew that those first 5 miles were into the 20mph sustained winds, and during the race, it was going to increase to about 26mph, so the more I could tuck in and use others as wind blocks, the better.
There was a HUGE pack of runners around me. I would say probably about 25 of us at one point, including two of the other GB runners (Rachel and Jenny). I sat near the back of it, making sure to get as surrounded as possible, without putting myself at risk of tripping.
I had no care for tangents…..not that I am usually very good at them, but the pack was so compact, and everyone was fighting for position….obviously no one wanted to be taking the wind! But I did very well keeping tucked in, and for how windy it was, I saved my energy pretty well.
I stayed very attentive to changes in the group, had to do a few bursts of speed to catch up to the group when breaks happened, which is not ideal, and always takes something out of your legs, but thankfully I am good at reading those, so knew which ones I had to cover.
The miles clicked by, and I was feeling good. I noticed a lot of the girls around me were breathing very hard, and I felt smooth, strong and powerful. I could tell that we were running probably a little faster than I would have been comfortable with, especially those first few miles, but it was better to do that than risk running alone and taking the wind for myself.
After around 6 miles, the race really started to spread out. By this point, we had the wind mostly behind us, and I used it to my advantage as much as I could. I started to keep my eyes ahead, and chase down as many girls as I could.
One of my favorite things about the whole day, was hearing all the “Go on GB”, “Come on Muir” that I heard all over the course. It was clear that this was a home crowd, and especially hearing the excitement in kids voices as they spotted a GB runner, and were amazed at seeing me. That was a special moment, every time it happened, and brought a huge smile to my face, fueled me forward knowing that I was realizing my dream.
There were many points along the course where the cheering was so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think. Thankfully my family and friends found places where they could be seen and heard away from those crowds.
I managed to take water at the 3 stations (5k, 10k, 15k), along with 2/3 of my gel, which is good. I usually abandon taking on fuel during a race when I am working hard, but that was great practice for the later stages of the London marathon.
Now, as I mentioned, I was feeling strong. I was working hard, but I felt confident. I was passing people, and I was enjoying it, BUT, I have to admit I was holding back.
I am not sure if it was still the fear of the panic attack, not wanting to take the risk of going over the edge as I started a little faster than I wanted to and ending up blowing up hard, or whether I still have a slight strain in my diaphragm from overdoing it on the breathing exercises (I haven’t actually told you guys about it……but yeah, definitely had to stop them in the build up as I had a real pain in my chest and could not do anything but shallow breathe for a few days….oops).
Whatever it was, I just had a feeling that i was on the edge of my breathing level, that I could have pushed a lot harder between miles 8-12, but I was running in fear of going over the edge, of blowing up and then going backwards FAST.
I decided to play it safe, especially as the last 2 miles were dead into the wind, and there were a few steep hills towards the finish.
But dont get me wrong, I still raced hard and gave it my best.
I still definitely had many moments where I doubted myself, where I wondered if I would finish, where I was struggling, but I reminded myself of what Evie had told me that morning, “be your own best friend”.
To imagine that I was running alongside myself, encouraging, and supporting. I thought about Steve, about what he would be saying to me if he was biking next to me, and I did cheer for myself, I did tell myself that I was doing great, that I looked strong and smooth, and it really helped!
I did not give my “eyeballs out” effort that I can do 1-2 times per year, and for that, I am a little disappointed in myself, but I do feel like I did myself proud, I justified that I did deserve to be there, and that I enjoyed the opportunity.
You only get one first time of running for your country, and I am sure the selection committee never expect a rookie to knock one out of the park.
I definitely did not have the race of my life, but as I turned the final corner and saw the finish line, I had a giant smile on my face the whole way down the final straightaway. I soaked in every second, and I am SO thankful Nicky Hayes took some photos of that moment, as I will cherish those forever.
Just to show you once again, that coming from the back works….at the 5k I was in 72nd place, at the 10k, I was in 62nd place, 15k I was 53rd, and I finished 49th.
Yes, I think I could have got a few more girls if I really went for broke, but in the moment I did the best I could with the situation, and I would have felt more frustrated had I pushed too far and blown up. My instincts told me to be careful, and I listened.
This is a good reminder that we need to figure something out with my breathing. If it is the fear of another panic attack, I need to let go of that, but I suspect I just need to figure out my breathing on a more physical level.
I am getting to the level of running where I cannot just ignore the fact that I do not breathe down into my belly and abdominals, I cannot just hyperventilate my way through a race. Todd, I am gonna need your help with this one!
This has given us things to work on these next few weeks and beyond, but slowly this time, and it is something I will have to continue to work on, probably for life now.
After the race, I did a 5 mile cool down to make it into a long run day. It was not an enjoyable run, my legs were tired and the weather was nasty, but thankfully there was a park I raced around when I was about 16 for me to run around, to at least not have to worry about crossing roads and bumping into people. I ran with my Great Britain outfit with pride, and reflected on the opportunity to race.
When I got back to the hotel, I was greeted by friends and family who had come to watch me, and it was so nice to see their loving faces. That always brings you back to reality, seeing those who love you no matter what. Whether I was a runner or not, they will always be there for me, and love me for who I am, and at the end of the day, that is what really matters in life.
The people around you. The people who love you and care for you, and I am so lucky to have so many great people in my life.
After I showered, mum, dad, Jess, Jenny and I went to Miller and Carter for burgers and steaks, which was delicious, and I definitely had lots of chocolate from my easter egg as I feel like I earned it 😉
We then drove back to Jennys late that night, and had a few days in the beautiful countryside, followed by a day at the spa.
Recovery is the priority this week. Only easy and slow runs, and a focus on rest.
I promise I will get back to your messages, and I want to thank each person who took time out of their day to watch me, or cheer me on, you guys are the best, and I am so lucky to be surrounded by so much love.
Thank you for all that you have done to fuel me in my dreams.
Now, you too, need to remember to be YOUR own best friend, in everything you do.
We are so hard on ourselves, I have proved it with these posts, achieved my lifelong dream, yet I want MORE. We are always expecting more of ourselves, holding our standards so high that we never take the time to reward ourselves or give ourselves the recognition.
Those loved ones I mentioned that we all have, they do support us, they make it clear just how proud they are and how much they love us, but do we give ourselves enough love?
No, usually we do not. So, my friends, I challenge you to be YOUR own best friend today. Be proud of who YOU are, and what YOU do. Even if it is not your absolute best, YOU are doing the best you can for this moment, and that is all we can ask of ourselves.
Are you your own best friend?