Somehow, it has been 5 weeks since I left the US. The time that seemed so long has absolutely FLOWN by, and if it wasn’t for Steve waiting at the other end, I would be tempted to stay longer to enjoy more time with friends and family as a “normal person” rather than hyper-focused-on-my-running-person.
BUT, today I head home, and I am very excited to jump into the arms of the man who I dedicate this race recap to. I dedicate this entire race to.
A marathon is a dark and lonely place, yet he supported me through it. He could not be there in person, and I knew that broke his heart, but he really was there, in my heart and in my mind.
Okay, so before I go off on a tangent. Let me share the entire race experience with you. I shared the stats on Monday, now here are the details.
This race was completely the opposite of last year, and it is hard to believe they are even the same race as I just approached it so differently, not even realizing it until I was in the race itself, but looking back, it was.
My goals at last year’s London marathon were to enjoy it and to cross the finish line with a smile. I felt like I ran it to have fun, soaking in every moment of this dream come true, smiling at my friends, and almost (looking back) on some kind of celebratory tour.
Of course there were dark moments.
Of course it hurt like hell.
But I crossed the finish line knowing I had a lot more in there, and as much as I enjoyed the race itself, the after race celebrations I did not enjoy.
I was disappointed.
This year, although I did go into it saying that I wanted to enjoy it, I wanted to reverse the order. I wanted to cross that finish line knowing I did my best, and walk towards my family and friends with a big smile. Especially after I felt like I held back in the World Half Championships.
I did not want to finish wondering what if.
Okay, that’s not entirely possible.
I think we are always going to feel like we could shave off a little more, maybe if I did this, or maybe if I pushed a little more there. There are always going to be seconds you can shave, but at the end of the day, if you can look back on the race and think in that moment, I was giving my absolute best, well, that’s all you can really ask for.
You know I am not a time goals person, and as much as it frustrates people in the 48 hours before the race, it is true.
I do not run by my watch. I run by how I feel. It works for me (and could work for you too if you really commit to giving it a try!), and as my splits showed, I am very consistent.
That being said, Steve and I had agreed 2:35 was the best case scenario, my “A goal” if you will, and 2:39 was the “C goal” for the day. A PR would still force me to celebrate, but I knew I would be disappointed with that.
There had been a few runs over the last few weeks where I had come back almost on the edge of tears.
Happy tears. But I knew I was ready to run fast. I had that fear that I just had to not screw up the taper and I would be ready.
As I mentioned, last year was kind of fun, exciting, soak it all in race.
This year, almost every person who came to watch me has used the same word to describe me; focused.
Last year, I smiled and waved at every person before 20 miles.
This year, the only people I looked at in the eye was my dad and sister; once.
That wasn’t for lack of trying.
I was constantly scanning the crowds, looking for those I knew and loved. Yet somehow I couldn’t see them or I just couldn’t get to the point where I could take in the energy of the crowd like I wanted to.
Not that it was a bad thing at all, this time I had a job to do, and I knew that I did not want to look back on this race knowing I had not done what I could.
You only have one first time at a new race, and I think there is something special about that. When you return to a race, you can still enjoy it, but it just does not have that same magical superpower to fuel you on often.
Actually, that is why I think so many people have such a wonderful Boston marathon experience, as you just soak it in; letting go (for the most part) of time goals, and focusing on the once in a lifetime experience.
Okay, enough rambles for one day. How was the race?
Once again, I was lucky enough to stay in the Tower Hotel for a few days before, and here was my view out the window;
Yep, not exactly something you see every day, and what a reminder to me in the few days before of just how lucky I was to be back there, racing, and running across that famous bridge.
The morning of the race, they take all the elites, coaches, and “celebrities” from the running world over to the start area on double decker buses. I am not technically supposed to be on board as I was not running in the elite field, but thankfully, the elite athlete coordinator is kind enough to let me on as well.
Although we were on the bus for over an hour total, it is good to remove the stress of getting there, and I was at the starting area by around 8am, which gave me plenty of time to relax in the Championship section tent and talk to Steve (who woke up at 3am to talk to me!!!).
I did my warm up (yep, we do warm up for this- a 15 minute jog), and packed into the starting corral like sardines. This is the part I do not like of this race, it just makes me very nervous as a lot of people go off like idiots and I did not want to fall!
But before I knew it, we were away, and I sat back as people flew by me, but as I saw the mile marker approaching me with 5:35 on it, I realized even though I was holding back, it was not enough, “eaaaassssssyyyyy, Tina, eaaaassssyyyy” I told myself.
As people blew by me in the downhill section of those first 3 miles. I felt like I was slowing way down, but each mile, I did not appear to be getting any closer to the paces Steve told me not to be faster than.
I found myself looking at the clock each mile, all the way up to about 8 miles. At 10k, I was at least 20 seconds under the lower end of the time Steve told me to be at (we had initially agreed I would look at the clock on miles 1, 3, and 10k).
I knew I needed to get out of the habit of that. I just told you, I am not a splits person, and I was already starting to panic that it was going to come back and bite me later, looking back, I had in fact settled into a rhythm, it was just that first 5k of 18:16 that had put me ahead of time.
I am going to talk in a future post about freakouts; both the physical and emotional ones. I think this was the biggest lesson I learned in the race, and I really want to share this with you as I think it will help, but let’s save that for another day.
At mile 11, I had my first major panic. I started to think about how far I had to go, how much it was going to hurt, and how I could blow up because I was out fast (see what happens when I obsess over pace!!!!).
During this time, Steve’s voice coaxed me through, told me I was doing great, and I just needed to relax and stay focused.
I also focused on just getting to my friends.
I knew a big group of my best friends from school were going to be somewhere within the next mile. I knew they would make me smile, and I knew they would get me through the tough patch and believing in myself again. Last year, seeing them was one of my favorite parts of the race. As was Tower Bridge, which was just a few miles away.
Ironically, I actually did not end up seeing my friends, but the reassurance of them was enough to help me calm back down.
As I turned onto tower bridge, my focus was switched to enjoying. Looking at the faces in the crowd, soaking in the moment, my favorite part of the race. This was the part to truly enjoy, and although i did not enjoy it quite as much as last year, I still ran across with a smile. This is pretty damn cool 🙂
As I turned the corner for the halfway mark, I promised myself that if I looked at the clock for halfway, that would be the last time. I would let it go, and focus ahead.
I did look at the clock, and I figured out I was on around 2:38 pace, but at the time, I was feeling a little tired so just agreed that it was good enough, even if I just maintained.
I think that helped, telling myself that it was okay if I just held it, I did not have to pick it up if I wasnt feeling great from the fast start, and besides, I had promised Steve I would not make any moves until 20.
The next few miles went by in a blur. By this point I was very focused. I was just channeling and controlling my thoughts as much as possible. Once again, hearing Steve’s voice in mine, what he would be saying to me as he cycled next to me.
As with the World Half Marathon Championships, I had again found “be your own best friend” to be particularly motivating for me thanks to Evie recommending it (ahhh can’t wait to tell you about Evie in full!), and my best friend was there with me.
By my side. Every time I struggled, he was there, reassuring me, calming me, and believing in me.
I knew I was working a lot harder than I was that time a year ago, but I was also passing people like they were standing still. I could not tell if I was just speeding up, or if everyone around me were slowing down. I knew a lot of people were slowing down, but I kind of felt like I was on the conveyor belt at the airport, and everyone else was walking alongside it.
This helped to give me confidence, and just focus on reeling in people, one at a time.
At 20 miles, I passed my long-term mentor, friend, and just all round amazing guy, Nick Anderson along with some runner friends I used to run with as a teenager and my lovely friend Tom Craggs. Nick in particular said something to me that really hit home and made me feel very confident that I could do this, and not just finish, but really kick this down.
Ironically, I cannot remember what he said, but I remember I found it very motivating! Nick has given Steve and I suggestions to improve my training this time around, and clearly it worked, I have a lot to thank him for! If you are in the UK, and looking for a coach, I could not recommend anyone better! He also works for Saucony, all the best do 😉
At 21, I reluctantly took my last gel, if I had not jumped on board the caffeine train in this last segment, I think I would have considered not taking it, but I did, and then I told myself it was time to go, time to be BRAVE, which was my word of the day.
I had decided on Brave as it just seemed to be appearing everywhere. My friends just happened to mention that word in their good luck messages. Mentors said some form of it. Evie said it. And most importantly to me, it is in my token phrase; Be Brave. Be Strong. Be YOU! What I believe in, and what I am always telling others to believe. It just felt right.
I told that to myself over and over those last few miles. As the pressure in my legs mounted. As the miles seemed to take longer and longer, and when I felt fear of pushing too hard and blowing up.
I was holding my pace together, and I (well, Steve) reassured myself that I only had 20, minutes left, 15 minutes left, 12 minutes left.
This was the time I did try to take in the energy of the crowd, remember what I was telling Allie when I paced her through her half marathon, that they were cheering for ME. That I was almost there.
And then at 8ish minutes I hit the wall (or something!)….bad.
I am not sure if it was picking it up too fast when I saw the 2k to go sign, or if it just was the ultimate test of my physical and mental strength, but suddenly I could not breathe, all the strength went out of my legs, and as insane as this sounds; dropping out crossed my mind. I thought about walking it in, about how embarrassing that would be.
But thankfully, I was able to realize this was a physical meltdown, and I backed WAY off.
I have had physical meltdowns before, quite a few times actually. This is not just tiredness or fatigue, this is a you are going to pass out if you do not watch it, kinda meltdown.
Terrifying, but this time was different.
This time I reassured myself rather than allowing it to spiral out of control. I told myself that I would be okay. It would calm back down as I was smart, and I could do this, I was going to do this.
It took about 2 minutes of real 100% mental focus, more than I had needed the entire race, but I did stay calm, and I did start to feel normal……obviously a relative term…..I was still in a lot of pain, but manageable, and the kind of pain I can push through. I got back to my pace, and just tried to hold it together for the last part of the race.
Funny thing is, no one passed me during that time. I obviously just slowed down to the pace that most other people were running, but it was significant drop in my pace. For someone who had been sitting around 5:50-6:05 per mile for the last 25 miles, I was probably running 6:40 looking back.
Kind of frustrates me that it made that last 2k the slowest part of my race, but I am also grateful that my body made it all that way without blowing up, and most importantly, I was able to recognize it and control it both physically and emotionally, and that gives me confidence going forward.
I crossed the finish line exhausted, but knowing I had done my best, finally got the marathon right. Just like Goldilocks, the first two I tried too hard, the third one I didn’t try enough (but much-needed). This time I got the balance right; it was an all out effort, but without putting my long-term health at risk.
The instant I could, I called Steve. Smiling at the sound of his voice, and knowing that after all that has been thrown our way in this segment, we did it together, we overcame it together, and the results paid off.
I have had two good races within a month, two of the biggest races of my life in the last month, and I was just so happy that the changes I have made recently combined with the plugging away, slugging away, letting go of control (as best I could) has paid off.
I am now in my TWO WEEKS off running. I will be visiting this topic again on Monday, and I hope you will all consider taking AT LEAST one week off after future marathons, and AT LEAST 5 days after your other racing seasons.
As I said on Monday, I have been indulging, I will be gaining weight, and that is okay…..actually, it’s better than okay, it is GOOD for me. Good for YOU too, especially if you have leaned down to a race weight for your big one.
Thank you again for all your support, all your messages, all your love. I am truly so thankful, and I promise you, I have read every single comment, you warm my heart, and you bring a smile to my face.
I have so much to share with you from the last few months. I did not want to say until I knew it had worked, but now I can confidently say the changes have worked, and I think they could work for you too!
Stay tuned 🙂[bctt tweet=”Read about @tinamuir 2:37 PR in the #LondonMarathon. ” via=”no”]
What was your attitude towards your last race?