Sorry, I’ve not blogged about my exploits for a while! I believe I had done about 4 marathons since my last blog! My marathon times were gradually improving - not back to PB form - but I managed to get a 4:25:29 at the How Hard Can It Be, Guardians Marathon back in September, so they were heading in the right direction. I was happy with my training and I was feeling good.
Sadly, I was struck by injury! I work at a firm of solicitors dealing with personal injury claims and ironically, I twanged my right calf muscle going down the steps as I was leaving work - I must have been overly eager to get home! I've rested and iced it. I've even foam rollered it. I managed to get around the Hubble Bubble Marathon last month but I felt it niggle from about mile 6. The pain really kicked in from about mile 23 but I managed to hobble back and finish the race but afterwards I was in agony.
Since then, I've tried to rest my leg. I've been out for a run a couple of times but after a few miles, the niggles begin again. I have cross trained to try and maintain my fitness but I've started to get a tad frustrated and feel a bit sorry for myself. Me being unable to run is the equivalent to a bear with a sore head - miserable and grumpy and I have turned to food for comfort. As a result, I have put on more than a few pounds which makes me feel even more miserable!
I was really looking forward to the Wonderland Caucus Marathon. The event is organised by Saxons Vikings and Normans who are usually based on the South East coast of the country so their events are pretty hard for me to get too but they have started holding events further north. I have always wanted their Alice in Wonderland themed bling, so when I saw this event in Northampton, I entered straight away! It was at the same location to the Cakeathon and Chocothon which we did in April but the course had been slightly tweaked.
I was rather apprehensive about the race as I had not run and I was still carrying my injury. The route was just over 5 miles around a lake. You could do as many laps as you wanted within a 6 hour time limit. In order to do a marathon, you needed to do 5 laps, plus a little out and back bit around "the cone". On each lap, you had to have a little card punched so they knew how far you had run.
It was a beautiful but an extremely cold day and it was the first time this season that I had run in my winter kit (I actually kept my full winter kit on throughout the entire race, even my buff, which I usually strip off after about 5 miles). Some runners had turned up in fabulous fancy dress outfits - we had several Queen of Hearts and cheshire cats!
It was a nice, early start. 9 am and we were off.
On the first lap the field split - not due to speeds etc but as there was confusion about which way to go around the lake! Some runners headed left, others headed right. I turned right and followed my dad as I assumed he knew where he was going! Yep, we were wrong. We should have gone the other way. Fortunately, we were all running around the same lake so the distance was still the same. Well, I suppose you can't go to an Alice in Wonderland themed event and not expect a little chaos and confusion.
The first couple of laps went well but I felt that little niggle in my calf after just a couple of miles. The route was part path and part grass but there was one tricky section of really stoney path that was difficult to negotiate - I felt like a puppet that wasn't in control of its strings - I was lifting my knees high so my feet wouldn't trip over the stones but my legs were all over the place. Not particularly graceful.
On the third lap, I was in a lot of pain and was struggling by the time I had returned to the feed station. It's like a chain reaction - the pain starts in my calf, then heads up the back of my leg and into my butt cheek. After a little while, I alter my gait to deal with the pain which causes hip pain, which triggers IT band tension which then causes knee pain! Nice. At one point during this lap I was close to tears but I was determined not to give up.
You are probably wondering why I carried on and didn't just stop, give up and rest. Well, this was marathon number 48. My plan had been to get to marathon 50 by the end of the year. Basically, if I fail in this race, I don't achieve my goal. After a few failures over the last few years due to illness, I was not going to let calf pain stop me so I really dug deep and with gritted teeth I continued.
Luckily, I have quite a high pain threshold and if my will is strong enough, I have the ability to turn on and off my pain filter. I managed to switch off and just get on with the job and eventually the pain went further to the back of my mind and I focused on other things. The runners had spread out now so the faster runners were lapping the slower runners and there were plenty of people up and down the course. This helped as everyone was supporting each other as we passed. My dad was having a storming run and was about 2 miles ahead of me at this point and kept on spurring me on each time he passed me by.
A lovely runner approached me on lap 4. He said I was doing really well and that he had been keeping my pace for a while. He said that he would have normally stopped and walked by this point in the race but I had kept him going and he thanked me for keeping him motivated!
As I was approaching the end of lap 4, I spotted my husband and dogs on the course (they had had a lie in in the hotel and I wasn't expecting to see them until the end of the race so this was a great motivator).
I managed to get to the end of lap 4 and I saw my hubby, kids and dogs at the feed station. They gave me a bit of a pep talk - my girls were cold and basically told me to hurry up!
I headed off on my final lap. Yes, my speed had slowed but I was absolutely determined not to walk. I put my head down and pushed on. My dad passed me on the straight path section, he was heading to the finish and was about 3 miles ahead.
The long path stretch was a bit of a drag. I much preferred the grassy bit around the lake. It was a good course to split into little sections though and break the race down in my head - it makes the race much easier to get through (one last time on the stony bit, one last time over the bridge, one last time up that hill and one last time up the long, never ending path......)
The last stretch up the path was tough. There were fewer runners on the course now as many had stopped after doing fewer laps. There were some tough runners heading out to squeeze in an ultra.
I could see my family waiting for me by the finish. I headed straight by them, got my card punched and headed back out to "the cone". I was grateful that the last little bit was downhill and for the final time, I headed down past my family, towards the finish and rang the bell which showed that I had finished.
I absolutely love my medal and it is now my favourite one in my collection. The goody bag was amazing too - chocked full of goodies. As my dad is a diabetic, we (or I should say, my girls) got an extra few bars of chocolate. These are really well organised events with lovely, friendly marshals and fantastic medals and goody bags.
I am convinced now, more than ever, that marathon running is all in your head. Yes, you have to have a certain level of fitness in order to get round. If I wasn't so close to my end of year goal, I could have so easily just stopped and given up on any of the 5 laps on Sunday but I didn't - I switched off, gritted my teeth and just did it. I managed a time of 4:44:54, which is slower than my recent times, but it is still about 15 minutes quicker than my times on this course in this route in April, so that is a mini triumph.
My dad did a cracking time of 4:08:13. It's good to see that harmony has finally been restored and he is back to kicking my ass with ease at these events!
It is definitely going to be my mental fitness, rather than my physical fitness which is going to get me around the 10in10 in May. If your brain is full of self doubt and worry, then you are more likely to fail. It is so hard to push these negative thoughts out of your head, especially when you are in pain. I know the challenge ahead is going to be tough but I after Sunday's race, I think I am now better prepared to take it on.
I have 2 more marathons to get through before the end of the year - luckily, I have a few weeks before my next event which will hopefully let me shift this calf pain once and for all. Marathon number 48 done. Bring on 49!
I am notoriously bad at having race or post race photos taken! This is the pic taken by Sandra which didn't make it into her final cut of photos (I think she was being kind by not publicising it!) and here is the pic of my kind sister and dad taking the p**s! Thanks guys!