Barts Follow-Up

I said I would report back after my visit to Barts for the follow up tests. We were told when we signed up to take part in the Research Project that we would receive a letter explaining the results of our MRI scans. However, I was told at my visit on 6th May (after the Marathon) that unless abnormalities were found, we would not be hearing any further from the Research Team. This is somewhat disappointing as I would have been interested to know if any changes to my body had taken place due to the training I had done. I will therefore not be reporting further on this unless I hear that my tests showed some abnormalities.

Time to Reflect

So now the marathon is over, what have I learnt about running and myself?

I’ll start with running.

Running is a natural activity for humans. It’s just a faster form of walking, more or less. What I hadn’t realised is that there are good and bad ways to run. When I started, 11 months ago, I thought I was running correctly. However, I soon developed something called “shin splints” and picked up a calf injury. After speaking with my grandson, Ben, who previously had problems with shin splints, he advised me to check out RIF-REV, (Running Injury Free Revolution) on You Tube. This changed everything – no more shin splints and no more injuries, so I was able to follow my training schedule right up to the marathon.

I did learn another lesson about getting information from You Tube, this time not a positive experience. I thought I would try to strengthen my core muscles and followed an exercise shown on You Tube. It was a disaster for me because I was obviously doing it incorrectly and I put my back out which kept me off training for 2 weeks.

Cross-training was a new one for me too. Apparently on non-running days the advice was to do some cross-training, such as swimming, static bike, yoga, pilates, etc. I tried using a stationary bike but it didn’t work for me because I couldn’t get a comfortable position on the seat and ended up with a very sore bum. In the event, I did not do any cross-training but I think it probably would have been a good idea to have done something on my “rest” days.

That’s another thing, “rest” and “recovery” days. I absolutely took this to heart as, being of advanced years, I thought I would need to recover more than the younger runners after exercise. This is why I chose a 3 day per week training plan, leaving me 4 days to recover. It worked for me, especially as I had golf most Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, which meant I trained on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

You can run on your own or with others. My preference was on my own as I was free to run when I wanted to without any constraints. That is the great thing about running, all you need to do is to get out there and …… run!

You need good running shoes but other than that, you can wear what you want, anything that’s comfortable. I was given very good advice early on that it was absolutely essential to get proper running shoes and to have a gait analysis test to make sure the shoes are the correct ones for you and your style of running. I would say this was the most important thing I learnt about taking up running – I was just going to use my ordinary trainers, but am pleased now that I didn’t. Every magazine, book, article I’ve read has stressed that this is the most important thing to get right.

You need very little equipment/accessories but I love gadgets and having the right kit. I list below all the things that I bought/used and which I knew nothing about before I started on my running journey.

Heart rate monitor (one you wear round your chest), which I stopped using when I got my GPS Watch as that had a built-in heart rate monitor

Running leggings and tops – I now have a great selection!

Specialist running socks to prevent blisters – I bought Marathon Socks, which cost a fortune!

A GPS Running Watch with heart rate monitor – I did find this very useful

A running app for my phone – I used Runkeeper, brilliant for statistics, etc.

A foam roller – forget about foam, it’s an instrument of torture and is as soft as a lump of lead!

A bum bag to keep all my bits and pieces in, such as keys, sweets, gels, money

Gels – probably essential when doing a long run as they top up your glycogen supply. I think they taste foul but I did find that SiS Go Isotonic Energy Orange Flavoured ones were OK. Apparently jelly babies are good too and energy bars. The gels are good because they deliver energy fast. The idea is that you take these gels before you’ve depleted your glycogen store and therefore it helps to prevent you from “hitting the wall”.

Recovery Drinks, such as “For Goodness Shakes”, to take straight after a long run to help repair muscle and tissue damage. I love the taste of the Chocolate flavoured one. Also energy drinks, such as Lucozade Sport. I didn’t even know that these existed but now I just love Lucozade Sport and have ditched 7-Up (my previous favourite soft drink). It is an isotonic drink which is great for hydrating and providing carbohydrates and electrolytes, essential during endurance sport.

Vaseline – for chafing and to help prevent blisters. I’ve never used Vaseline for anything before so this one was new for me.

Ice “cups” – I saw these on You Tube and started making them for use after runs in case I had any muscle aches or niggles. Basically I filled up plastic cups with water, then put them in the freezer and, when required, cut the plastic away to produce a great cup shaped piece of ice which I applied to problem areas. So rather than a bag of frozen peas, or whatever, I was able to ice specific areas and it worked really well.

I found out about stretching exercises from a personal trainer, Dennis Conroy. Not my favourite activity but absolutely necessary after running. Generally all I wanted to do after a run was to sit down but no, first the stretching exercises.

I was advised early on to keep a training diary/log. I’m glad I heeded this advice because I found it very useful and interesting. When things weren’t going so well, I found it helped to remind myself how far I had come, what I had achieved and the good runs I had enjoyed.

Because I had a goal, i.e. The London Marathon, I definitely had to have a Training Plan or Schedule. It took me ages to choose one as there are so many out there on the internet, but I chose one that would fit in with my life and which I felt was achievable. As I knew absolutely nothing about running a marathon, this was my most important guide and, as it happens, prepared me to achieve my goal – to complete the marathon. The one I used was “First-Time Finisher 16-Week Marathon Schedule” put together by Martin Yelling, especially for London Marathon runners.

What did I find out about myself?

Firstly, I found out that I have a lot of determination and, probably, a very stubborn streak. Once I had decided that I was going to run a marathon, I wasn’t going to give up no matter what. I surprised myself though when I religiously followed my training plan, never once wimping out because of bad weather. I thought I might occasionally find an excuse to skip a training run but that didn’t happen. I only missed training when I was injured (a total of 4 weeks in 11 months) and when I was on holiday in Russia for 1 week.

Another thing I learned was I needed great patience. The fact that I was running for the first time at the age of 66 meant that I had to take things steadily and build up my stamina and muscles. It would have been easy to try to rush things and increase my mileage too quickly. I remember that when I started in May 2016, I couldn’t run 50 yards, but I knew I had 11 months to prepare my body and my mind. I think this is one of the reasons why I was virtually injury free throughout my training.

I also found that I was never unhappy or bored running on my own, except for the last 2 long runs of 18 and 20 miles. The rest of the time I was happy just to be running. I didn’t need the motivation of running with someone.

I also spent a lot of time reading and watching videos about running and, specifically, marathon running. I could spend hours, quite happily, absorbing information and hints to help me on my marathon journey. Other people join running clubs or have coaches but I was happy to research everything on my own and to apply what I’d learned to my particular situation. I wanted to make sure I would know what to expect and the pitfalls I might encounter so I did prepare pretty meticulously. I can’t say this was the correct way to do things but it worked for me. Maybe I’m a bit of a nerd in that respect, so I’ll add that to what I’ve learned about myself!

At the end of the whole process, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to run another marathon. I have not become addicted to running marathons although I do like running. Therefore I may well continue running for pleasure but am more likely to concentrate on shorter distances such as 5K, 10K or even half marathons (unlikely). I am quite competitive so if I continue running, I will be trying to improve my times – that will be my motivation.

The whole experience has been a great deal of hard work and dedication but oh so worthwhile. How else could I have raised over £4800 for Prostate Cancer UK and achieved my dream of running a marathon?

I do, of course, have to thank everyone who supported me. A massive THANK YOU – I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement I received throughout my training. There was no way I could let everyone down so I had to do it. And …….

I DID IT – I RAN A MARATHON!

 

Gallery

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Crossing Tower Bridge
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Just about half way
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About 25 miles
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Down the home straight
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Nearly there

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Just about on the finish line

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Finished!
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Very happy
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Finished! And the medal!
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The family

The Amazing Human Body

It’s 5 days post marathon and it’s hard to believe that I ran 26.2 miles on Sunday. My legs are pain free (they were fully recovered by Wednesday, i.e. 3 days after the marathon) and I just can’t fathom how the body repairs itself so well.

Immediately after the marathon it was quite difficult to walk. After the finish line there was the long walk down The Mall to meet the family. That wasn’t too bad but then we had to make our way to Charing Cross Underground Station. There were thousands of people doing the same thing so the nearest entrance was closed – more walking required!  When we finally reached an entrance we could use, I had to walk down the stairs. Now that was very difficult and with thousands of people crowding round and in a hurry, the best I could do was walk down sideways – I probably looked like a crab! My right knee ached and my thighs complained like mad. I had taken my running shoes off soon after I crossed the finish line and was now wearing flip flops because the blister on my toe was very painful.

In the excitement of completing the marathon and the photos, etc, I had forgotten to do my stretching exercises. As soon as we arrived back at the hotel I started stretching and had my sports recovery drink (which I should have had straight after the race). I like “For Goodness Shakes”, chocolate flavour – it is 3:1 Carb:Protein – which tastes delicious, especially when it’s nice and cold.

When we arrived back home on Monday, I went  to a Sports Therapist (Mathew Bennett) for a massage. It was somewhat painful but now I know it was absolutely necessary. He told me that I should drink plenty of water to get rid of all the toxins, which I did.

Anyway, because I hadn’t done my stretching and drunk my recovery drink, I was convinced that I would take a long time to recover from the marathon. But no, my body has behaved brilliantly. What an amazing thing the human body is!

Marathon Day – Sunday 23rd April 2017

It’s arrived! Marathon Day at last.

I had very little sleep on Saturday night but I expected that. I can honestly say that I was so nervous on Sunday morning that I could barely stop shaking. Maybe some of that was excitement too because I just wanted to get to Blackheath and start soaking up the atmosphere.

I got up at 6.00 am to have my breakfast – the dreaded porridge with a banana and a cup of tea. We were staying at a hotel in London and so I made my own breakfast in our room. I didn’t have a lot of time because I had to leave at 7.15 am in order to get to Blackheath by 8.30 am. Fortunately the night before I had laid out all my kit and everything I needed so it was just a matter of going through my check list (for the hundredth time) to make sure I had everything I needed. I took a full change of clothing in case I got cold after the race and I also packed my flip flops in case I couldn’t walk in my running shoes. I made sure I had smothered my feet in vaseline and placed blister plasters on my problem toes.

The journey to Blackheath was straightforward. The weather was absolutely perfect for a marathon, although a little cold at 8.30 am. It was due to get to 15 degrees with some sunshine and I thought how lucky I was to a) be running in the most iconic of marathons and b) have perfect running conditions. My cough had mysteriously disappeared and I felt absolutely fit with no niggles or injuries.

It was buzzing at Blackheath. The toilet queues were, as expected, extremely long so I queued up, went to the loo, then returned to the back of the queue for another visit so that I wouldn’t be late for the start of the race.

I suppose waiting around is the worst part but, to be fair, I actually enjoyed it as it was all part of the experience. Just before the start I peeled off my extra layers (i.e. jogging pants and a fleece top) and then, all of a sudden, we were off. It took me 15 minutes to reach the start line but it felt like only a couple of minutes.

My plan was to start off very modestly, which was quite easy because there were so many people around and it wasn’t really possible to do anything else. I went at my own pace and kept checking that I was on schedule by looking at my GPS running watch.

I had so much fun. I was determined to enjoy the day and I wanted to embrace everything about the marathon so that I wouldn’t feel at the end of the day I had missed out on something. I high-fived everyone I could (mostly children), thanked and waved to everyone who called out my name (and there were hundreds if not thousands) and smiled and took in my surroundings the whole way round. You can tell that I’m not a serious athlete – running well was important but not my primary aim.

I can’t over-emphasise how amazing the crowds were. You see it on television, you hear about it and read about it, but when you are running, they are truly awesome. When you hear your name called out, it seems as if you are the only person whose name is called and as if the person shouting it knows you personally.

My highlights on the route were the Cutty Sark, the approach to Tower Bridge, the Embankment, seeing Buckingham Palace ahead of me and, finally, The Mall. I have to admit that I didn’t see the Tower of London at all, nor did I see the London Eye (how could I have missed it?) which is a pity. I suppose the most boring bit for me was round Canary Wharf, but the crowds were good there. Of course it was sensational when I came upon my personal support group, my family, and you can see here how pleased I was to see them! This was at Mile 9.

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I was also delighted to see Albert (Captain of Mid-Herts) and Elaine Scurfield who were there to support their son and daughter-in-law. And the Prostate Cancer Support Team at Mile 22 was fantastic, encouraging everybody and taking masses of photos.

At no point during the race did I feel I wouldn’t finish. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. I always had the dread of “hitting the wall” but, fortunately, it didn’t happen. I had researched that it was absolutely essential to go into the race fully loaded with glycogen and fully hydrated. I must have done enough and I was very careful during the race to top up my glycogen with gels (I took one every hour), the odd jelly baby being handed out by the fantastic crowds, and I also made sure that I kept myself hydrated by taking water at every water station (not drinking the whole bottle though) and occasionally topping up with Lucozade Sport (which you can see me carrying). I also made sure that I ran through the showers to keep myself cool.

When I got to the Embankment, I knew that there was not much further to go so I tried to savour every single minute left. I can’t explain why I felt so good but I suppose the hours of training definitely helped. When I saw Buckingham Palace I became quite emotional and then when I turned the corner to see The Mall and the finish line, I just decided to sprint the last 200 metres. It was the most amazing feeling to cross the finish line and I started choking with emotion. To know that I had realised a dream and to have raised over £3,000 for Prostate Cancer UK was unbelievable. Everything went to plan, there were no bad surprises and I had the most amazing day of my life.

I was so proud when I was given the medal. My time of 5 hrs. 39 min. 17 sec. was not the most important thing for me. I am pleased with the time but I am unbelievably happy to have finished. So, at 67, it is still possible to train for and to run a marathon. And I came away without any significant injuries – I still have that pesky blister on my toe but it didn’t cause me any problems during the race, and I have a bruise on my foot but I don’t know how that happened. It also looks like I won’t lose any toenails – I understand black toenails is one of the most common injuries to befall a marathon runner.

I couldn’t have realised this dream without the help of Alan, who has had to put up with me constantly saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t play golf (or whatever) because I’ve got a long run to do”, or the housework being neglected. I also have to thank my family (pictured below after the marathon) for their support before and during the race. It was a pity Ben couldn’t have been with us but he did phone me from Australia (where he is working on a ranch) to wish me good luck.

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Also masses of thanks to all my friends and supporters and everyone who has sponsored me. It has been a real privilege for me to run in the London Marathon, and to be able to say I DID IT!

I will be posting a couple more blogs, certainly one after my visit to Barts Hospital on the 6th May when I will have follow-up tests to see how my body has changed (or not) after all the training and as a result of running a marathon.

 

 

A few statistics

Here are some statistics. Below are my splits. I was obviously getting slower towards the end of the race, but that is what I expected. I did manage to be fairly consistent throughout, so I’m really pleased with that.

Here you can see that my position was 12,315th out of 15,468 women runners. In my age group of 65 – 69, I came 57th out of 93 runners. Although I wasn’t going for a time, I am really pleased with this result. As you know, all I wanted to do was to finish but, in actual fact, my results were very respectable.

There were 39,349 runners in total. I came 34,175th!

Split Time Of Day Time Diff min/km km/h Place
5K 10:52:22 00:37:00 37:00 07:24 8.11
10K 11:30:03 01:14:41 37:41 07:33 7.96
15K 12:07:50 01:52:28 37:48 07:34 7.94
20K 12:46:23 02:31:01 38:34 07:43 7.78
Half 12:54:46 02:39:24 08:23 07:39 7.86
25K 13:25:41 03:10:19 30:56 07:56 7.57
30K 14:07:53 03:52:31 42:13 08:27 7.11
35K 14:50:43 04:35:21 42:50 08:34 7.00
40K 15:34:30 05:19:08 43:47 08:46 6.85
Finish 15:54:40 05:39:17 20:10 09:12 6.53 12315

The night before the marathon

12 hours to go! I am in bed but not asleep yet. Really, really nervous.

I have laid all my kit out, my breakfast is also laid out, so all I have to do is get some sleep, eat my breakfast (hopefully porridge for the last time!) and then make my way to the start. It will be an early start as I have just over an hour of traveling to get to my start at Blackheath, then a walk of about 30 minutes to the location of the Prostate Cancer UK photoshoot, and then about 20 minutes back to my start. I will probably have to queue at least twice for the toilet so I think I’ll be pretty busy.

I am feeling positive and very privileged to be able to run in the London Marathon and intend to enjoy it, embrace it fully and soak in the atmosphere, which I expect to be truly amazing.

Thanks to everybody who has sponsored me – I am very grateful to you all.