The post marathon week; I thought those final miles along Brighton seafront were a tough test last Sunday, but this week has proved just as challenging in its own way. I admit as the days have gone on I have struggled both mentally and physically with the state I seem to have got my body into running this particular 26.2 miles, and added to this, those post marathon blues have also crept in.
Starting looking at the physical, my legs have been trashed by the Brighton Marathon; that is my new favourite word to describe them, as they honestly have been feeling horrendous. I think it was only Thursday that I was able to walk normally again and the pain in my quads from merely touching them had subsided. My quads have been the biggest issue; there are DOMs and then there is the pain I currently have. It feels like something is wrapped tightly around my muscles which means they are tight, the range of movement is compromised. and they just really hurt. My feet also seem to have taken a battering and my blistered toes have also caused issues when walking and trying to apply any form of pressure. Basically, I have done nothing to promote running a marathon to any of my non-running friends this week as they have watched me hobble around, attempt to lift myself in and out of chairs, or as the case was on Monday when I was coaching football – attempt to try bend down to tie children’s shoelaces!
Mentally as the week has gone on, I have got increasingly frustrated with how slow my body seems to be recovering. I am not unrealistic and expecting to be back racing around a few days after running a marathon, but usually the pain has gone and I can resume no pressure, easy running by this point. This week has also emphasised to me once again what a role running has in my life. I have been lost at times, waking up early and then remembering I can’t run yet, and lying in bed almost clueless as to what I should be doing. Getting home from work and not being able to go to any of my usual classes and having a void of an evening to suddenly fill – with what? This bank holiday weekend has also not been timed well for me. A few weeks ago, I was excited about the prospect of being able to enjoy a bank holiday after having the marathon already under my belt. Instead the sunny weather has made me want to run more than I have been able to and emphasised those voids in my life where miles would normally be.
I wrote before Brighton that across the past 16 weeks I had felt stronger as a person, able to focus my mind on training well, looking after myself better and generally being happier. I feel like in the space of a few days without my training focus this has already begun to unravel a little. I have obviously had to manage the week after a marathon many times before - it just feels a little different this time, maybe because the training and the focus beforehand meant a little bit more.
Amidst the challenges, this week has seen some running…
MONDAY – THURSDAY: Rest Days. There was actually no way I could have run – my Wednesday morning running friend text me on Tuesday seeing if I was up for an easy run, and heavy heartedly I had to admit that I still could not even walk to be able to join him.
FRIDAY: with Bank Holiday giving me a whole day off work I felt like I wanted to try some form of run. I decided to run to the gym for a Body Pump class and then home again after. The 2.5 miles I ran to the gym were horrid; the pain in my quads actually made me feel sick. I arrived at the gym feeling truly deflated at how useless my limbs were still, and when I stopped running it was almost like they had gone back to square one in terms of my quads being virtually immobile. A despondent Alice made it through Body Pump with squats that resembled nothing like what a squat should look like, and then shuffled 2 miles home after.
SATURDAY: I really didn’t know if my legs were up to parkrun, but the thought of missing it made me feel even more miserable. I went, but with absolutely no expectations of running well and just hoped it would be more enjoyable than yesterday. Thankfully Lincoln parkrun cheered me up, and I ran the 3 loops with a fellow member of my Strength and Conditioning for Runners class who had also ran Brighton Marathon. We chatted all the way round and the conversation took my mind off my quads – which did still hurt – finishing in around 24 or so minutes. It is amazing what some company and support can do to boost my spirits, as did the Easter chocolate I was given from a friend (Malteser bunnies of course!)
SUNDAY: should I have been running again today? Not sure really. But it was sunny, beautiful and I was also feeling very lost without having a Sunday long run to do. I actually am not sure what Sundays are supposed to be for anymore other than running! I told myself to try a 10k run, no more, and that I could always loop home if I needed to. At the start my legs hurt - needless to say by legs I mean quads. Without company or conversation to distract me this time, it wasn’t the most enjoyable opening few miles. I got used to the sensation in my legs after a while though and managed my 6.2 miles in a 8.42 min/mile average pace.
So not the easiest of weeks, but I know things can get better. By acknowledging and recognising the challenges I face it helps me personally (even writing it down gets it out my head!) but may also help others. After running the Berlin Marathon back in 2016 I felt so down and lost, but I kept it all to myself for weeks because I was not sure I should be feeling like that after something so great had happened, and 'only' about running. I realise now 'post marathon blues' can be quite common and I accept it is something I have to deal with. Dealing with my pesky quads is another matter, one hopefully that will be addressed next week!
2018 can probably be summarised as a year of things happening that I probably never expected would – both good and bad! Needless to say, running has given me the ‘good’ unexpected outcomes of the year, and looking back at the races, experiences and PBs I have set across the last 12 months I am proud of where my hard work and dedication has taken me. Perhaps the standout of 2018 has to be my marathon PB in Sydney, the trip of a lifetime culminating in a finish time I am not sure I quite believed would ever be possible. Personally, the year has thrown some unexpected challenges; if you were to tell me at the start of 2018 that there would be a change in one of my closest friendships and the deep impact this would have on me, I would probably have not believed you. However, having gone through the past months, I now know that the loss of a friendship you value dearly can indeed cause a great deal of hurt and heartbreak. Throughout the hard times this year, running has been my constant, and alongside my family and friends, the running community of Lincoln has often been my reason to keep smiling and has offered me the support and encouragement to keep believing in myself. Although my legs do the miles, running is not a solo sport for me, and 2018 has shown me that more than ever.
Leicestershire Half Marathon - 1:39:15
My first race of 2018 set on a bitterly cold and blustery winter’s day. The conditions were harsh at times with icy rain, hail, and one mile in particular set against a brutally strong headwind. Despite the weather, I felt strong running and set a new PB, recording my first ever sub 1:40 half marathon.
Cambridge Half Marathon - 1:36:51
The build up to this race was filled with uncertainty thanks to the arrival of snowfall in the UK. I had been chained to a treadmill all week and was therefore exceptionally happy the race went ahead. Set loose on the streets of Cambridge, running on tarmac felt like heaven, and with my parents cheering me on, I felt unstoppable. I raced hard and beat my half marathon PB again.
Milton Keynes 20 Miler - 2:47:33
Or as it is otherwise known - the training run that turned into a race! I entered this as part of my training for the forthcoming London Marathon with every intention of keeping it steady. Swept up in the race environment, I ran a lot faster than planned and definitely paid for this in the latter miles. It was a great experience though, and an achievement that felt like completing a marathon.
London Marathon - 3:54:06
A race I will simply never forget and one of the hardest experiences of my entire life, not just in running. The hottest London Marathon on record, and with no acclimatisation to running in heat whatsoever, it was a battle from the start. How we all completed 26.2 miles I am not really sure, but I do know that when I hugged my friend at the finish I have never felt so much pride at what we had both achieved and also relief just to feel we were both ok. Hugging my parents as I ran over Tower Bridge is also a memory I will treasure forever. Whilst I did not run the time I had trained for or felt I was truly capable of, in the conditions the finish medal meant the world.
North Lincolnshire Half Marathon -1:41:28
Two weeks after the heat on the streets of London I put myself through nearly the same pain again – a hot half marathon. It was hard, as to be expected so soon after racing a tough 26.2 miles, let alone when running in heat again, but I really enjoyed the challenge. I think mentally the race was also what I needed to get back out there after the intense emotions of the London Marathon.
Liverpool Rock'n'Roll Marathon - 3:48:39
This was probably my biggest challenge of the year – a marathon just four weeks after my last. I was very scared at attempting this race, and to make matters worse in the build-up I suffered from a bad cold, whilst race day itself was very warm – again! It felt a little like things were conspiring against me. However, I treated the race like a long run, savoured the wonderful if not slightly hilly course, embraced the support from my sister and her boyfriend, and ran a mere 35 seconds away from my marathon PB. I went from being unbelievably scared to unbelievably proud across 26.2 miles.
Woodhall Spa 10k - 43:57
More heat and more illness, with suspected laryngitis meaning I literally had no voice and slightly troubled breathing, but with a stronger mind and boosted confidence, I raced hard. Tactically definitely not my best 10k performance, but in terms of refusal to give up, one of my best. I gritted my teeth to a new PB.
Round Sheffield Run - 1:41:32
This event is growing rapidly in popularity and having taken part since 2016 I can easily tell you why. It is a test like no other and a concept like none I have seen before with timed stages combined with the ability to run as a pair ticking numerous new boxes. My friend and I took 5 minutes off our previous course PB and enjoyed a wonderful day out; it remains one of my happiest memories of the year and one of my favourite events.
Lincoln 10k - 44:29
If I thought Woodhall Spa 10k was hot, this race was like running a 10k on the sun; somewhat comical considering this was the rearranged date after snow had postponed the event earlier in the year. I love Lincoln 10k day, my hometown event, and as my sister pointed out, I know so many people running it has a special community feel. This year was another one for the memory bank.
Newark Half Marathon - 1:38:23
A cooler day – hallelujah! – and after weeks of long solo training runs for my forthcoming marathon, the chance to race a half marathon distance excited me. I got into a real zone when running, I could feel the strength my training miles had given me, and I was really pleased to log another sub 1:40 finish time.
Sydney Marathon - 3:40:30
My fairytale marathon. The whole thing still seems surreal if I am honest. A massive new marathon PB, achieving my goal of running a Good For Age qualifying time for the London Marathon, running in Sydney, simply being in Australia… the list could go on. The emotion I felt at the finish line was so raw and so personal. Life had been tough before leaving for Australia and it seemed like I had earned this moment more than ever.
Hedgehog Half Marathon - 1:43:20
A new race for me and one I also completed with a new focus on what a ‘race’ actually meant. I approached this challenging course with no pressure to perform to any standard, pushing myself enough without caring what the clock read. A complete freedom run which I enjoyed immensely.
Doncaster 10k - 43:16
Another event in which I put no pressure on myself, but this time left with a shiny new PB. The strength of my performance and the consistency of my 10k pacing filled me with pride, as did seeing my friend’s mum complete her own 10k after struggling with injury niggles. I may have got a little competitive with a running ‘friend’ too which had spurred my running on even more!
Santa Fun Run, Lincoln
I won a race! Albeit a festive fun run, but it was a nice surprise to be crowned the speediest Mrs Claus in Lincoln and also share my love of running with work colleagues and friends.
parkrun has changed my life and I could probably write a book about the amazing experiences, memories and the people I have met through a weekly 5k. This year's standout moments have been new tourist experiences at Ipswich, Southwark and Normanby parkruns, as well as unforgettable international tourism ‘down under’ at Coffs Harbour and Lawson parkrun. The latter was where I ran my 100th parkrun, and I probably never thought I would achieve this milestone wearing a sparkly cape bearing the numbers ‘100’ whilst running trails in the Blue Mountains! I also have set a new 5k PB of 20:22 – which again I am not quite sure how I ever ran that quickly, but I am determined to try challenge the marker one day soon! Meanwhile my home Lincoln parkrun goes from strength to strength and most importantly remains my happy place.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...