Well. That didn’t go to plan.
I think that it’s quite something to say “that didn’t go to plan” when the only plan was to have fun. I’ve never really enjoyed a marathon before, and given that sub-4 was off the menu I decided to take all the pressure off and just try and enjoy 26.2 for once. I haven’t managed to do all the training I wanted to do, but felt that I was in relatively good shape to cover the distance. I made the decision to take it slow, take in the sights, high five all the kids, and generally just enjoy running around Berlin.
The day before the marathon I realised that I needed a bit of a “no-plan plan”. I tend to get caught up in the excitement at the beginning of the race and run too fast (in all races, not just marathons!), and then struggle to keep running at the end of a marathon. To try and address this, I thought I’d see if I could tag on to a 4:30 pacer. I figured this was a manageable pace, which would let me enjoy the race and hopefully I’d have a gang of other runners to keep pace with!
As far as my other preparations, I felt they went pretty well. Dayve has been in Alaska for three months this summer and he got back to London last week, so it was lovely for us to go to Berlin together and spend some quality time together. We explored the city, with some walking but not too much walking, plenty of carbs and water, and lots of sleep. I joined the adidas runners London shake out run on Saturday, mooched around the adidas RunBase and had a generally lovely time in sunny Berlin. On the Saturday afternoon we went to cheer at the finish line of the inline marathon, and I felt so excited imagining myself crossing the finish line in the sun the next day.
Unfortunately, on the morning of the race, I couldn’t find a pacer. Anywhere. So I reassessed the plan while waiting to cross the start line. For the new plan, I settled on using my watch to run between a 10 and 10:30 minute mile. I’ve been running with shot bloks (little chewing gummy cubes made by Clif Bar, in case you haven’t seen them), but they’ve been a bit hit and miss, so to make sure I didn’t encounter any stomach issues I decided to walk through each water station, sip some water and take on one or two shot bloks. I wanted to take in all of the music being played (there are so many musicians around the course!) and thank all the marshals and generally have a good time. I started running, and I felt really good. I just felt like everything was coming together.
I continued feeling good up until 22km. Dayve had popped up quite a few times on the course, and I bounced over to see him at the 22km marker feeling really happy. The race plan had been going well! I felt like I’d been nailing my carbs and my water, walking through all the water stops as planned. It was hot, and I usually struggle to take on enough water, so I was happy this seemed to be working for me. My bad shoulder had been killing me, so I stopped off at this amazing massage station around 20km and had a shoulder massage! Because why not? I’d been trying to stick to 10 minute miles but often found my watch showing around 9:30 (even though it felt much slower than that) but it didn’t worry me too much given that I felt very comfortable and relaxed. So far, so happy.
As I carried on my way, I checked through the different stats on my watch as a sort of half way check in. This was when I realised that my watch had been leading me on a bit of a goose chase. It said that I’d run around 16 miles, whereas I knew I’d only run about 13 and a half. This meant that my minute per mile was going to be way off, and I was in fact running much slower than I’d realised and it had taken me over 2 and a half hours to cover the half marathon distance. It now made sense why a “9:30 minute mile” had felt so slow! I know I wasn’t running for time, but it did annoy me that my watch had been so inaccurate. I just felt thrown that I was so far off from where I thought I’d been.
I told myself that it didn’t matter, and that I wasn’t running for time, and that I should just be pleased that I felt relaxed and comfortable. I was still smiling.
Now, in every marathon I’ve ever run I’ve broken down somewhere between 17 and 19 miles. It’s like that’s my body’s limit, and after that it just gives me a big fat “nope” and stops co-operating. Maybe it’s a mental thing? Who knows? I’d hoped that, by running slower than my normal pace, I’d push this back to maybe 22/23 miles, or maybe (in my wildest dreams) it wouldn’t happen at all. Well, silly old me ey? I hit 29km and, like clockwork, I just crashed. All of a sudden, everything was just too much. It was too hot, my feet hurt too much, my shoulder was killing me. And just like that, my head wasn’t in the game anymore. Spell broken.
Those last 13km were so hard. It sucked so bad. I felt so upset and angry that I’d done everything “right” – gone slow, taken on my water and carbs, smiled – and I still crashed. It didn’t seem fair. I was still running between water stations but it was taking me longer and longer to get started after the water stations! By way of example, I walked through the 30km water station and, once I’d finished my little cup of water, started psyching myself up to start running again. Said psyching up lasted until I hit the 31km marker…! Everything hurt. I was just so sad and disappointed. I walked a lot.
I’d next planned to meet Dayve at 38km and, by the time I got there, he knew something was up because of how long it had taken me. When I saw him I just burst in to tears. It felt so unfair and I just wanted it to be over. As is tradition, he hopped the fence and started running (walking) next to me, trying to make me smile and encouraging me to keep going. He got kicked off the course around 400m from the finish line, leaving me to finish on my own.
I ran to the end. I wanted to walk so bad. I’d been out on the road for so long, my feet hurt, and I felt disappointed and dejected. I did run though. After I crossed the finish line I didn’t feel happy, or like I’d achieved anything, because I felt like I’d failed. I didn’t even want to wear the medal placed around my neck by a lovely smiling lady. I felt like the worst runner in the history of running. Ever. It was a personal worst time, and I had a horrible time running it.
It all sounds a bit melodramatic really, but I honestly felt so low. This is in no way meant to be a judgment on marathon finish times – times are relative to your own abilities, but compared to (a) my goal and (b) my previous marathon times, my time did feel very disappointing. Maybe even more so because I hadn’t had fun. I’d enjoyed it up until around 29km, which means that there was nothing fun about the marathon part. I’d have enjoyed a half. In future, I will stick to the half.
So, there we have it. Another disastrous marathon attempt! From now on, I will stick to admiring amazing endurance runners, rather than attempting to be one. I would like to say a huge thank you to all of the support I’ve received while training for the marathon; I have honestly been overwhelmed by all of the lovely supportive comments I’ve received, all for being a terrible runner! I feel like I don’t deserve it, but I appreciate it hugely nonetheless. And if you ever hear me consider signing up for another marathon in the future – please stop me ok?