04:56:43

Amazing, exhilarating, painful, wonderful day.  Delighted to achieve my sub-5 hour target on a very warm day.  Full race report to follow later.

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Dedication

One of Martin Yelling’s tips for the marathon is to dedicate each of the last few miles to a particular person, preferably someone who has helped or inspired you along your marathon journey.  The idea is that thinking of these people will act as a motivational tool in those painful last stages as you won’t want to stop in “their” mile.  I think that’s a really lovely idea, and plan to adopt it.  So here are my mile dedications:

Mile 20:  Gordon Booth, aka Boothy, aka Old Running Fox.  A gentleman I have never even met, but who still manages to inspire and encourage me every day, on The Running Bug, Facebook, his blog and mine.  Now the “wrong” side of 75, Boothy still regularly runs long races over the kind of mountainous terrain that would totally defeat me, more than 45 years his junior.  And wins silverware for them too.  The definition of inspiration.

Miles 21 and 22:  My grandparents.  I consider myself unbelievably fortunate to have reached the ripe old age of 30 with all four grandparents still with me – in fact, I don’t know anyone else close to my age who can boast the same.  Holding a joint celebration for my 30th and Grandpa Griffin’s 90th was one of the highlights during my marathon training.  They may not quite be running fell half marathons like Boothy (well, they do have ten years on him) but Cuddly Nanna and Grandpa Griffin, and Little Nanna and Grandpa Loader, are all just as inspiring in their own ways.  So these two miles are dedicated to knowing just how lucky I am to have them (and particularly lucky to have their extraordinarily good genes!)

Mile 23:  Michael Jackson.  Not the late controversial king of pop, but my uncle, who was diagnosed with as-yet-unidentified cancer earlier this week.  By mile 22, my battle will be nearly over, but his is still to come.  So this one is for him.  No way am I giving in here.

Mile 24:  Rachel Antony-Roberts, who has been the most wonderful flatmate a person training for a marathon could ever wish for.  Rachel ran London herself a couple of years ago, and as I have previously mentioned in this blog has been free with advice, unwavering in support and unbelievably generous with the cakes!  She is even giving up her bed this weekend so my parents can stay over on Saturday night.  I couldn’t have done it without her, so mile 23 is just for Rach.  I’ll reward her properly when we hit the beach in Cuba on 25 April.

Mile 25:  My Mum.  Who has taken to running like a duck to water and is brilliantly inspiring, proving just like Boothy that it’s perfectly possible to take up the sport in your 50s and get an enormous amount out of it.  She can take some of the blame for me tackling this marathon at all – I had to step up the distance in order to avoid being left behind, since she left me for dust at the last 10K we did together.  I have a feeling she may be lining up for her own marathon one day in the not so distant future.

Mile 26:  Having thought about this one, I’ve decided that the last 1.2 miles are going to be just for me.  By then I’ll be well on to home turf and with the finish line in sight.  I plan to enjoy mile 26.  And after all, who else am I really doing this for?

48 hours to go!

The countdown is in hours, not days, now, and many of the pre-race preparations are being ticked off.  On Wednesday evening Sue Bell and I escaped the office early to go and register at the Expo.  Glad we went then – it was nice and quiet and registration was super-fast and slick.  We called into the Oxfam stand, picked up a few free goodies (although skipped the London Pride!) and then got out of there – it’s quite a trek back to West London from the Excel centre. 

The last couple of days have been the start of carb-loading, and to my surprise I’m not enjoying it as much as I expected!  Being a big fan of pasta and bread and rice and potatoes I didn’t really see this stage of the training as a problem at all, but actually it is a bit of an effort to make myself each such a high proportion of starchy food.  I feel heavy and bloaty. A bit of a change tonight as I’m going to a friend’s for an evening of cheese – but even then, since I’m not drinking, I will be bringing my own baguette in lieu of a bottle of Bordeaux’s finest!

This is what remains on the last minute preparations list:
1.  Register at Expo.
2. Attach timing chip to shoes and race number to T-shirt.
3. Iron my name onto my shirt (I think I’ll save that one for my far more talented mother who arrives tomorrow)
4. Arrange logistics for getting to the start with Gemma and Adam (depart Brook Green at 7am to catch 7.54 train from Charing Cross to Greenwich).
5. Finalise my iPod playlist – not enough tunes on there yet.  I think I’ll add a few miles of Belle and Sebastian at the beginning to help me keep a gentle pace through that first section.
6. Keep eating carbs.
7. Go to my last spin and pilates classes to keep me ticking over and give everything a nice stretch (very gentle exercise only though).
8. Replenish post-spin with some more carbs. 
9. Pack my race-day bag.  I’ve got everything I need now – just need to bring it all together in one place.
10.  Confirm where all my supporters are going to be along the race route so I can keep an eye out.

I’m sure there’s plenty more I’ll be adding to that list over the next 2 days.

On Wednesday I did my very last run before the big one – 30 minutes on the treadmill, doing intervals of 4 minutes gentle, 1 minute fast.  It felt good. Whatever was wrong with my right quad has fixed itself during this long taper period, and my legs feel strong, despite my right knee being black and blue and yellow from Monday’s fall.  All I have to do now is take care of myself for just two more days…

Stats
Distance:  5.25km
Time:  30 minutes (6 x intervals of 4 mins gentle, 1 min fast)
Terrain:  treadmill
Time of day: 12.30pm
Notable features:  last one!!

Countdown: 6 days to go!

And so into the final week.  This time next week, I should be hobbling around the office basking in the self-satisfied knowledge that I am a London Marathon finisher.  That is, assuming nothing stupid happens between now and then.  I had a momentary panic this morning after going flying on some kind of kitchen grease spilled across the pavement on Fetter Lane.  I landed quite hard on one knee, which is now sporting a neat graze and a big bruise reminiscent of the school playground, but (fingers crossed) I don’t appear to have done any real damage.  Even my dented pride was restored when another chap also slid spectacularly to the ground just seconds after I did.  Well, misery does love company!

But back to the training.  As per my last post, I have been trying to get some hot weather runs in just in case the current summery spell continues into next weekend (although forecasts at the moment are more encouraging).  To that end, I headed out on Wednesday lunchtime for a quick jog along the last 2.5 miles of the actual marathon course (and back via Northumberland Avenue).  I made sure to really notice my surroundings and try and imagine how different they will look on Sunday lined with thousands of spectators.  I’m not sure my imagination really did it justice.  I did particularly notice one lady on Birdcage Walk though, who can’t have been much older than me but who was shuffling along very slowly with the help of a frame.  I told myself to remember her when I am in pain in those last few miles and remind myself again how lucky I am to be able to contemplate running the marathon at all.

The 2.5 miles to Buckingham Palace and the Mall took me about 22 minutes  (not being sure exactly where on the Mall the finish line will be I couldn’t be more precise).  It’ll be hugely interesting to see how long they take me on Sunday – safe to say that it’ll be longer than that!  It was a hot lunchtime to be out and about, and I did feel the heat slowing me a bit, but I was pleased to find that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

The same was true on Sunday morning when I went out for the last long run. 10 miles, Putney to Barnes.  Again baking hot, but with a perfect breeze that cooled but didn’t slow me down.  There were loads of obvious marathon runners out in their charity vests for a final dress rehearsal, and I made sure to give each of them a particularly encouraging smile.  Maybe my boring black vest and shorts didn’t inspire similar sentiments, because none of them smiled back except for one beaming grin from a blonde girl in a Breakthrough Breast Cancer vest.  I hope she does well on Sunday.

I was really pleased with the 10 miles.  The heat didn’t bother me at all (I slowed to have some water at every bridge, so roughly every 2.5 miles), I felt strong and comfortable and had to deliberately slow myself down at times to keep to a gentle 10.30 min pace, getting home on target in 1:44:49.  After the disappointing long runs of recent weeks it was a relief to feel back on form.  Even better to look back to where I started from and realise how much I’ve already achieved: I can now run 10 miles in 20 degree heat with ease, which would have been pretty unthinkable six months ago. 

All that’s left to do now is sort out logistics for Sunday morning, get to the Expo (hopefully on Wednesday evening) and stock up the fridge.  Oh, and actually run the marathon.  Bring it on!

Stats (Sunday)
Distance:  10.0 miles
Time: 01:44:49
Weather:  hot midday sunshine, 20 degrees
Route:  river, Putney to Barnes loop
Notable features:  ITV1 were filming the Britain’s Got Talent London auditions at the Hammersmith Apollo, so I got to run past TV cameras, guys in drag and tutus, and loads of very weird costumes.  So pretty much just like the marathon then!

Warmer weather

I didn’t quite recover my steely determination over the weekend as hoped, but things are obviously picking up again because despite another long run fail I am feeling more positive. 

On Saturday morning I dutifully headed out into the Warwickshire countryside, fuelled by a couple of rather tasty danish pastries.  (It wasn’t my first choice of breakfast but it was all my parents had apart from toast – which gives me stitch – but it turned out to be surprisingly effective as pre-run sustenance.  Ideally I’d have eaten them a tad earlier as they sat in my stomach a bit, but no stitch, and no running out of energy either.  Good to know, especially as I do love a danish pastry.)

I think its fair to say that after the long cold winter we’ve just had, everyone has noticed and revelled in the resurgence of good weather lately, but we runners are particularly atuned to the turning of the seasons.  Especially those of us foolhardy enough to battle through the winter training for a spring marathon; we have spent hours trudging through the snow and the ice and the wind and the rain, so even more than most we notice the little things that tell us that spring is definitely with us once more.  When I last did this run only six weeks ago, the world was still hibernating and the air was heavy with rain.  This time, birds were singing, lambs were gambolling, and daffodils lined every road.  Even after heavy rain in the early morning the pretty little villages I ran through just glistened in the sunshine.  I felt so pleased to be out and about and running.  Despite the grey-looking photo (turns out I still had the protective plastic over the lens of my new blackberry), I even got suntan lines during my two hours out on the road. 

It didn’t all go according to plan though – despite my joy at being alive and running in the countryside my mental strength was still a bit lacking.  I did well for the first five or six miles, and was strong through seven and eight, but the nasty stretch down the Straight Mile did for my willpower.  However nice a day it might be, it’s never fun trying to run down a single carriage A-road with no footpath (and no verge to jump onto) with cars whizzing past you at up to 70 miles per hour.  At the start of the mile I was already feeling fatigued and negative.  By the end of it the slightest of grumbles from my sometime dodgy knee was enough to convince me that the remaining 5 miles (most of which would have been downhill, a particular knee irritant) were just not worth the risk of it flaring up so close to race day.  So I did what any self-respecting 30 year old would do – I called my Mum to come and pick me up.

Despite a somewhat foolhardy night out in a nice bar followed by a not-at-all-nice Chelsea club, I managed to limit myself on the alcohol front that evening and made it to my Pilates class for the first time in ages on Sunday.  I have missed Pilates – just one session makes you feel instantly so much stronger and leaner.  (Plus my instructor commented on how trim I was looking which is always pleasing!)  And having spent an hour focusing on my posture and core, I realised that the limp on one side which I have been cultivating for weeks is starting to go now, so I feel justified in having taken it pretty easy these last couple of weeks.  

Physically, I’m now feeling in good shape and hope I still will be in 11 days time.  Mentally, I definitely need to work on the willpower and determination, although I’m told by everyone that the atmosphere and the crowds will be an immeasurable boost on the day.  I certainly hope so!

Only a couple of final hurdles to go now before the big day.  Tomorrow is forecast to be 21 degrees in London, which is both wonderful and worrying.  I’m all for the sun usually (can’t wait to hit that Cuban beach on the 25th!) but I simply can’t run in it – if temperatures are anything like that on the 17th I’ll really struggle, especially since all the training has been in cold cold weather to date.  I can’t do anything about the weather, but I can at least train, so tomorrow the plan is to head out into the midday sun for a jog taking in the last 2.5 miles of the marathon course.  It’ll only be 40 minutes instead of 4 hours and 40 minutes but at least it’ll give me a reminder of running in the heat, just in case.  In the meantime, I’d appreciate it if everyone could keep their fingers crossed/say some prayers/do a little dance for the 17th to be a nice sunny day with seasonal temperatures of around the 11 degree mark.  Thanks!

Stats
Distance:  about 10.5 miles
Time: 01:50:28
Route:  Warwickshire loop, with the end bit cut off
Weather:  spring
Notable features:  daffodils and tan lines