On Sunday, I ran the London Marathon. This was my first attempt at running 26.2 miles, as I shared back in November 2011.
I’ve been training for 4 months and actually found myself enjoying the long runs, using them as an opportunity to explore local sights in a way I never have before.
How do I feel after the event?
I was disappointed not to break 5 hours. When I started training I based it around a sub-5 hour finish. I ran the Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon (my first attempt at this distance) in just under 2 hours in February and was hoping to finish in around 4 hours 45 minutes but definitely under 5 hours. However, it wasn’t to be on race day. Maybe I didn’t want it enough? Looking back, I know that I could have pushed on and kept running (albeit slowly) at times when I took a walk break.
However, once I reached the half way stage and I knew I was falling behind my 4h45m target I made a decision. Above all, I was going to do my best to enjoy the experience. How many people get to run the biggest marathon in the world?
The support from the crowds was absolutely phenomenal and really helped me get around the course. I thought rather than grimace my way to the finish line I’d push on but try to enjoy and remember the experience. I never doubted that I would finish the marathon but wanted to finish without being a gibbering wreck with a broken body. So I ran, walked, ran until the last mile. Once we hit Birdcage Walk and the finish was so close I had to run, run, run (but, again, not too fast).
When I crossed the finish line I felt relief and immense pride. I had achieved the goal I’d set myself years earlier and run a marathon. Fantastic. It was also very emotional and I broke down in tears of joy.
On my journey home from London and later in the evening I was struck by the incredible number of messages I received, particularly on Twitter. As I’ve embarked upon my journey to become a long distance runner I’ve found the running community on Twitter to be a source of help, reassurance and inspiration. Here are just some of the messages of support I received after news that I’d completed my first marathon broke:
So what have I learned?
As I said in November, I wanted to prove that anything is possible. As a school kid I was always the last to be picked for team games, wheezed my way around the athletics track and was generally lacking in sporting ability and aptitude. In my 30s I took up running and completed the 10 mile Great South Run. I ran my first half marathon age 40. Now, age 41, I am a marathon runner. That sounds wierd, but satisfying.
Will I do another marathon?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Before I’d run this one I knew that I would want to run another. When I did the first Great South Run I said “Never again” at the finish. Then signed up for the next one 2 weeks later and knocked 8 minutes off my time the following year.
While I am disappointed with my marathon time – still a Personal Best (PB) though! – I know that I can train smarter for the next one. That’s what makes these personal challenges so rewarding, learning from one experience and moving on to the next with a fresh perspective and ideas on how to improve. I’ve already noted some things I should change for the next marathon:
- Need to work on my core strength – I didn’t really do much to strengthen the core muscles in training this time
- Cross training is vital – despite advice received to include cross training in my marathon training plan I managed to do only one bike ride and 3 swims and I am sure more cycling and swimming would have helped with my endurance
- Pre-race breakfast and nutrition – I didn’t run out of energy during the race but think I need to try different breakfast foods and nutrition while running to get the right balance
A week of rest and recovery before running resumes next weekend.
I’ve already set myself some more running goals for this year:
- Longest Day Run – on 23 and 24 June I will be taking part in this initiative to encourage existing and new runners to run as far as they can in a 24 hour period. My goal is to run 15 miles on the Saturday afternoon and 15 miles on the Sunday morning. 30 miles in 24 hours should prove a new test of my running endurance and mental strength. Especially if June is a hot one…
- Great South Run – on 28 October I’l be lining up for my 8th consecutive Great South Run and hoping to beat my PB, set last year, of 1h29m28s
Well done Graham for finishing the race and thank you for sharing your story!