I have never been so prepared for anything in my life as I was when I ran the London Marathon last Sunday. The whole thing was one big preparation. From the moment Nat told me as a ‘by the way’ that she had signed me up to run it was all preparation.
Seeing I had not completed a marathon before I had no idea what to expect for times etc. So I set a goal that would take mental toughness and determination. My desired goal was to ‘finish without walking or stopping’. Once established I started telling friends and clients of my goal. There is a lot of power in not only setting a goal but telling others about your goals – it keeps you accountable. Lesson # 1 – set goals and tell others about them.
I was determined to follow the running plan that the organisers put out. I figured that someone else has done it before me so I would just trust the process. It was a 24 week plan which I started about 32 weeks out. I was hit with a nasty knee injury which set me back 9 weeks (and 15 physio sessions) so I started the program again – 17 weeks out. I also signed up with Pat Carroll’s (4 times Gold Coast marathon winner) online coaching program for strategy guidance. Lesson # 2 – someone else has done what you want to do, follow the leaders.
Every weekday morning at 5am I would meet with my personal trainer for a variety of running and cross training sessions. We would pound the pavement and the road, keeping track of times and distance and logging every run. Every Sunday I would run the longer run on my own as per the plan – they steadily got longer and longer and longer. The longest run I did before tee off was 33km’s. The whole exercise took a toll on the family. My sleep patterns had to change (in bed by 8:30pm most nights and up at 4:20am), my eating habits changed and my alcohol intake dropped significantly – evening functions were not much fun the past few months. Lesson # 3 – if you want something bad enough, often you have to sacrifice.
All of this preparation worked. Although I arrived partially jet lagged to the start line (only arrived into London the day before) and with a nagging thigh injury caused from the 33km run I still felt fresh and ready to go – although I do think it was the adrenalin kicking in. I stuck to my strategy of not going out too fast (which most people do) and kept an even(ish) pace over the entire distance. I had my iPod playlist working (although it went flat with 12km to go), my band aids suitable placed for past blisters / bleeding areas (bleeding nipples are not a good look) and my fancy running watch tracking my speed. I was extremely disciplined in my approach. Lesson # 4 – create a plan and stick to it.
It was an exciting atmosphere. The papers reported 700,000 people lining the streets shouting and cheering you on. I was convinced they were all out to see me! There were 80 pubs along the way and they all had something going on – live bands, motivational music blaring even a gospel choir. Because your name was on the front of your shirt people were cheering you on by name. Many of the supporters had pints of beer they were enjoying and there were even BBQ’s (what a great smell that was) cooking at a few points. It was like a festival. Along the way I was offered ‘gummy bear’ lollies, oranges and even beer – that was very tempting. I refused them all. I did however start dreaming about the first beer I would have at the after party – it was sweet. Lesson # 5 – avoid temptations that may derail you.
I had to get into a zone to see me through the last 10-15ks. It was rather surreal. It was like I was in another world – running in a trance Thanks to Nat’s pep talk she gave me I was talking to myself a bit saying things like “it’s only 2 more hours / 60 minutes etc of your life” and “your goal is to finish without walking or stopping” and “not long now before I see Nat” and “no one else seems to be stopping”. I kept my eye on the prize even though my feet were in agony and my knees felt like they had been hit with a hammer – hard. Lesson # 6 – if the dream is big enough the facts don’t count.
As previously mentioned I did achieve my primary goal of finishing without walking or stopping and I achieved my secondary goal of under 4hrs 30 minutes. The ‘race magic’ high lasted 2 more days after completing. It was weird, I could hardly walk for the next 2 days but I felt great.
On day 3 afterwards (Wednesday) the high ended and I hit the euphemistic ‘wall.’ My body came crashing down. It was like BOOM – it hit me. I had trained for months, travelled to the other side of the world to compete in my first marathon. I did it and I was exhausted.
Time to go home.