Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Rule your mind or it will rule you

"The world is a looking glass. It gives back to every man a true reflection of his own thoughts.  Rule your mind or it will rule you." ~Buddha

Never was this more true than during the marathon. However I am getting ahead of myself. The first thing you want to know is time.....everybody seems to be that you are "judged" on it, even if the person asking has no idea what is good or what is slow. That's not meant to be slating those who ask, it is just that as a rule that is always the first question. As a slower runner I always wince when people do. I know there are people at the running club who can run sub 3 hours for the marathon or near to it, so it makes my time seem incredibly slow by comparison. This year I completed the course in 6hours, 38minutes and 31seconds. 6.38.31. My previous time of 5.44.24 unlikely to have been bettered with my lack of training and my weight management issues, so to be fair, getting round was indeed the challenge, and this was the challenge I suspect for most of the charity runners, and slower runners who, like me, were hobbling along exhausted towards the end with all energy reserves used up, but that dogged determination to finish.
The day was long, we left home on the coach at 5.45am, arriving at Blackheath just after 8am. Time to head to the Blue start and the loo queues before putting our kit bags onto the many lorries to be ferried to the finish. The start seemed to come all too soon. 9.45 we were off, well we were moving towards the start line and 15 minutes later the start time mats were crossed.
Pace bands pre-printed to help me make it round between 6.15 and 6.30 (as all my race predictions were 6.20) were firmly stuck around my wrist and I avidly scanned at every mile to see how I was doing. Ahead of the pace for the first few miles, I knew I would fade later, and feeling comfortable just stuck with it. Each 5k mat crossed, each mile marker noted by my lap counter on my garmin, each step getting me closer to the finish line, but a long way to go yet.
A man alongside me shouting that he "was going too fast to make his expected pace" I wanted to tell him to make the most of it while he still could, I suspect he, like me, would be fading towards the end. After mile 1 we headed through the Olympic shooting event, nicely sealed off from the road we heard it but were not motivated to move any quicker to get away from it, my hope for speed thwarted. Passed a girl hobbling along and asked if she was OK, apparently had broken her leg last year doing the marathon so was back to try again. Poor girl 26 miles of hobbling would be crippling, I wonder if she made it.
Jog/walking along approaching Cutty Sark at 6 1/2 miles, I knew I would see first sight of some of the running club group who had come up to support and was on them almost before they noticed. Was feeling quite good at this point. A deliberate Run/Walk strategy meant that the walk times started to become longer as i tried to save my energy for later. Tower Bridge at the 20k mark was walked up to and run down the other side. So many people lining the bridge and all the streets so far, the support was deafening in places.
Heading for the half marathon point I veered to the centre of the road to see if I could see anyone heading back along the road working their way to the finish, and spotted another Totton runner, she was looking good and finished in 4hours 4 mins, I knew I still had a long way to go, making half way in 3 hours and 3 mins. Still good time, and still feeling fine. Got overtaken by "Big Ben, The Gherkin and St Paul's" not a great feeling, but I did manage to get past the Blackpool tower. So many people wearing costumes which in the heat would have been almost unbearable and in the wet getting so heavy.
Carb gels taken on board and Lucozade sport being drunk to keep energy levels up I started to flag at around 17 miles. The legs suddenly became heavy and I could start to feel the energy drain away. Reading lots of other runner posts on one of the forums afterwards, I discovered that mile 17 seems to have been a problem for a lot of people, even the faster runners, maybe the area we are running through at that point, but anyway mile 18 approached and the running club crew were there again in support, which really lifted me, but now I had resorted to a fast walk with minimal jogging. The head started to feel a little light, I knew my energy levels were dropping, all I could think was, "might be better to stop" and "will I hit the wall", that nasty nagging voice trying to get me to give in. Hah!, that little voice doesn't know me well then. I took another gel and spurred myself on again, then flagging again I got to mile 21 and there unexpectedly were the running group again shouting and screaming for me, and also the charity support group shouting for me. Never have I been so grateful to have myself boosted, and immediately I started saying to myself, "OK time to pull yourself together and get to it, no getting light headed here thanks we are on for the finish, only 5 more miles we can do this" immediately my head seemed to clear, I was positive and moving forward and I was going to finish, I had no doubt about that. I decided that if I had to walk then I would and that was it. Still checking the timings, I knew I wouldn't be too far off the 6 1/2 hours, so set to completing and see what happened. Striding out, the heavens opened and gale force winds it seemed like started whipping all the discarded rubbish around, along with the rain which was now falling steadily. I managed to get my prepared bin bag out of my waist pack and put it on, must have looked pretty funny as my arms were trapped in side, but was see through so that my name for motivation purposes was still visible.
The determination grew stronger as I strode to the finish, completely unaware at this time that someone had lost their life on Birdcage walk earlier on, (RIP Claire Squires), and as I approached there was a feeling of emotion welling up, I knew there was less than a mile to go as I headed towards Big Ben (the real one) and turned the corner. Ahead the 800 metres to go sign and I am wondering if I have anything left to give to manage a trot to the finish. Someone tried to cross the road in front of me and just laughed when I said "please don't" no way I could have taken a stop at this point or a diversion to avoid them. I removed bin bag to make sure I could get a decent finish photo and kept walking.
The announcers at the finish suddenly stating they were going off the air soon so I needed to check out my sprint finish. Turning the corner at Buck House (and I did look to see why I had missed it last time, but it is set back and not directly visible) and tried to wind my legs up for a trot, amazingly they worked and I immediately thought, "why didn't I try them before and get there a lot quicker?". Still, the finish line approached, I was prepared for the emotional hit, but think I must have been through all that already. Crossed the line and stopped to have the tag removed from my shoe, collect my medal and go for a finish photo, before collecting goodie bag and hobbling the long line of lorries looking for my race number section to get my own bag back. The legs had given up, the feet would no longer move me forward, I was now hobbling and shuffling. Amazing how I had been capable of moving fairly reasonably before the finish, but suddenly, no movement possible without pain. Adrenaline is definitely something useful there.
Post race reception for the charity was nearby, I hobbled up the steps to get to the Royal Society, and was welcomed through the door with a round of applause like a hero, made me feel very proud. Another photo taken, a congratulatory chat with Amanda Mealing the actress who played in Holby and a ticket received for a massage, along with a goodie bag of food.
The massage was welcome if a little painful and removing my socks revealed blisters all across the back of my heels, running shoes are not made for walking in obviously. Now wish I had brought sandals with me instead of my walking boots. But, blisters dealt with and patched up ready to make the journey home.
A long slow hobble to Waterloo station to get a train home, with a lovely comfy seat for over an hour, then home, at last.
Another marathon done, yes I was relieved to have finished, but I knew I would. The ballot for 2013 opens on 30th April; I am tempted to enter. I have a PB to obtain for my time from 6 years ago, and I know that this time I will be training more consistently and much better (famous last words).
So what next?
Well this blog may continue, but will have to change the name a bit, maybe a new blog to follow any future race progress, but also I have accepted a role helping at this year's Paralympics, and may yet get one for the Olympics, so looking forward to the training and support for that. In the mean time I go with my heading and say how very true..

"The world is a looking glass. It gives back to every man a true reflection of his own thoughts.  Rule your mind or it will rule you." ~Buddha

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