At the start of May after weeks of training it was time to take on my first marathon.
The week leading up to it had filled me with dread after yet another heat wave heading our way. We hadn’t trained in these conditions. We’ve had every weather condition going accept heat waves… or any kind of hot weather apart from one weekend in April which we did not enjoy.
I am an over worrier and I never try to pretend otherwise. Even when I have a rational answer for my own worries I do sometimes let it manifest. Fortunately I have a great support network who always manage to make me see sense and although the worries are still there I can control them enough to not let them bother me as much. For the first time pre race I actually worried I may not finish this one. It was not a feeling I welcomed. Not finishing would have been devastating.
I surprisingly managed to sleep which actually is unusual for me before a big race. I have put this down to the fact that all the pressure I had felt to run a good race based on time and pace was no longer there as it had been completely taken out of our control. We could not do anything to change the weather. It would be what it chose to be and we would adapt to cope with this.
I had arranged to travel to the event with my running friends who were also running. It was the best decision. Having Jo and Katie with me really helped to settle the nerves. We all got to say our worries out loud and get some valuable advice from Jo who had ran the London Marathon the few weeks before. I felt nervous but I felt ok.
After smothering ourselves in suncream and dropping our bags off at the drop we made our way outside to get to our zones. The heat hit us immediately.
Katie and I were in a different colour zone to Jo as she is on another league to us and would be at the very front racing for a place in the half marathon. We all said our goodbyes and good lucks and joked with Jo that she would be with the leading lady pace bikes….
Once in our zone we got into the spirit of things with a warm up and absorbed the atmosphere. We had always planned to pace ourselves using the pacers but we didn’t find the ones we wanted to stick with… its a good job all that went out the window once we heard the weather forecast!
Nothing could have prepared us for that heat. I literally did not think it could actually be as tough as it was. We knew the half marathon route of this course so we were prepared for what was ahead and knew the first few miles were very hilly. Well I wouldn’t exactly call them hills but they are long inclines that feel like they go on and on. Not helped by the fact the views are buildings as it takes you through the centre of MK.
When I sit here and think back to the day and compare to other years I am not sure if it is just because I was zoned out to it but the noise and atmosphere did not feel the same as it has done previously. You could see on everyones faces the concentration that was going in to the run. So much more effort was needed.
The first water station was a welcomed site. After 3 miles of sipping tailwind I really needed something refreshing and I just wanted to soak myself with it. I knew before we had even reached this stop that it was going to be a lot harder to complete than I had ever dreamed but I mentally knew I was strong enough to get through it if I just remained positive.
The spectators and local residents were absolutely amazing. I am not sure many of us would have finished with out their help to supply us with water relief hosing us down and supplying oranges and ice pops. I have never enjoyed an ice pop more than I did this one….
I began breaking the distance down into manageable chunks. After the first 10k I worked it backwards that we now had a distance we had ran in training and the extra 6.2 miles was done…
The hills were too difficult to run. We decided quite soon into the run that walking them might be the only way we would finish as they were challenging trying to walk up them in the heat let alone run. Breathing felt a lot harder despite our pace being one we had comfortably ran all through our training.
The water stations were placed at 3 mile markers which if I am honest was just too far. With the hurdles of hills, heat and general mental will power to finish, not having water as often as we needed it was really tough. I’d stopped looking at my watch to see how long or fast we were running. I was now looking at it to see how long until we reached the next stop.
A welcome and very unexpected site was my amazing cheer squad who had managed to place themselves around the course. I really think with out them my spirits would have really dropped. I’m not sure how they managed to do it with all the road closures and traffic but they found a way.
The last 10k should have felt hard because of the distance we had covered. It was unknown territory. The sad reality was our legs felt fine. We had taken that many walk breaks we felt we had the miles still in our legs… the last 10k was hard because it felt like we were having hill after hill and the heat was really draining us. We couldn’t even celebrate that we had now run our furthest ever run as we were just desperate to finish.
Once we reached the last 2 miles the distance now felt achievable to grin and bare it. We knew the more we ran the sooner we would reach the stadium.
Once we had the stadium in our sights the reality hit that we would soon be finished. It felt very emotional. I couldn’t imagine finishing that race with out Katie next to me. It’s definitely how it should have been.
We could hear everyone who had come to see us finish chanting our names. It was a little surreal. The stadium finish is definitely the best thing about Milton Keynes marathon.
As we ran up the last stretch I grabbed Katie’s hand and we crossed that finish line together! It was definitely not the race we had trained for or a time we expected we would complete it in but we finished our first marathon and it actually fills me with more pride that we made it to that finish line under those conditions.
Our friend Jo as we had hoped placed first female in the Half marathon and had waited to see us finish. During our race there is a section where you see the faster runners coming back on themselves and we had seen Jo with the bike pacer as we had joked before the start.
Waiting to see if she had placed was so exciting. We knew she would do well and of course she did just that.
This has to be the hardest medal I have earn’t in my collection. I said I would never run Milton Keynes marathon again but I feel like I have some unfinished business with this event and definitely with the distance.
I plan to run a marathon in the autumn when it hopefully should be a little cooler. I want to run a marathon that I actually enjoy. With a new training plan written I’m ready to get back to the training.