Tuesday, 24 April 2012


After a really restless night in what I can only describe as the hotel broom cupboard, I got up at 6am and reluctantly got in the shower. All I wanted to do was get back into bed and hide, or work out a way to escape! Every day since December all I have thought about was this day, everything I have done has been focussed on this moment. I have eaten, slept, dreamt, lived and not shut up about this day, I have missed friends birthdays, stayed in every weekend, fallen asleep during family dinners, banned anyone from phoning/visiting on Sundays, basically been a pretty shit friend/sister/daughter and have become really selfish. I'm lucky that my family and friends have been very patient and have understood what I have been trying to achieve, and even better, they have come along for the ride!

So after all the training that I have done, it all comes down to today. I got all my kit laid out before I went to bed and checked and double checked it before I threw it all on and then sat staring at myself in the mirror, what was I getting myself into??? Before I knew it I had been downstairs and forced my breakfast down and then it was time to go. 

I left the hotel after an emotional goodbye from my Mom and with Helen and James, walked towards Heron Quays to get on the DLR to Lewisham. The train wasn't too busy which was good and I started to relax a little bit. That was a little different though when we got to Lewisham to change towards Blackheath, the train was rammed, but I managed to get on the first carriage after a big hug from Helen and immediately got talking to a girl called Maudie. She seemed equally as nervous and it was also her first marathon, after entering the ballot first time, just like me. We also figured that we were in the same zone and that we would be running at the same pace. As we got off the train it was just a case of following the masses to the start area where we stopped and had a bite to eat, organised our bag and got them safely in the trucks , then queued for the loo. I'll save you the details of the trip to the loo, but you can just follow this link to discover my horror!

The atmosphere was amazing and we were soon soaking it all in. We walked down toward pen 9 and then waited for the crowd to start moving forward. I think it took about 20 minutes to walk forward and get through to the start line, where we both started our watches and started our first steps towards the 26.2miles ahead of us. There were so many people lining the streets and cheers us all on, it was easy to get carried away but Maudie was really good at checking pace and slowing us down when needed. We passed mile one and the atmosphere was incredible! Children were holding out there hands and we gave them high-5's as we ran past and the crowd were cheering our names, I can't describe how amazing it was!

As we approached 3 miles we joined the runners from the red start, and there were cheers from both sides along with some playful boos and hisses as we start running together! I texted Helen to let her know that I was a t mile 3 then much of the next few miles were a blur but we stayed pretty well paced and I looked forward to seeing my family around the Cutty Sark. Seeing them was incredible, I had promised that I would stop and get a hug every time I saw them but at this point I was having such a great time that I ran past waving like a loony!! We ran on and at 7.5 miles Maudie saw her family so we were ready to go! It was still really crowded where we were running and it wasn't long before Maudie and I lost each other in the crowd, I looked around for her but to be honest I don't know if I ran ahead or if she did, I really hope that she finished well and had a good run, and am kicking myself for not getting her number before we started, as she made my day so much more bearable and enjoyable.

I found miles 9 and 10 quite tough, but I was keeping focussed on a guy called Dave, he was running with a huge metal contraption attempting to break a record for the tallest structure to finish the marathon and was having to navigate bridges and telephone wires, and doing an amazing job! 

I kind of got lost on where I was and just as I started to panic, I turned a corner and saw Tower Bridge. A huge smile beamed across my face as I realised I was nearly halfway, the crowd was huge and cheering so loud, how I managed to hear Tina shouting me I don't know but I turned to my left and saw her waving frantically at me. I ran over to her and nearly knocked her clean over! I really needed that as I was starting to doubt myself. I checked my watch and I had run 12.5miles in 2h32 and I was more than pleased with that. I had always had something to eat during training at this point so I ate a Nak'd bar as I excitedly told Tina and her cousin Andrew about my run so far. I set off again over the bridge which was amazing, crossing the river is a huge boost and as I did I looked to my right and saw Denise Lewis having a break from her TV duties. I shouted over to her and waved my arms around and she saw me and belted out 'Go Laura Go!' which sent me over the bridge and round to the right towards the Isle of Dogs, and through the halfway point.

As I was running through mile 14, I started to find it really hard. Runners were were coming in the other direction and were themselves running through mile 22 and all I could think was geez, I still have that all to do! I pushed on to mile 15 where I did what I really didn't want to and I stopped and walked for a few minutes. I was so cross with myself, but I was able to again soak in the atmosphere. I then saw a familiar twitter name @jbeccx on the back of another runners shirt and shouted out to Becca and introduced myself, after a quick hug we chatted for a little while and it seemed she was using a run/walk strategy too. I left her to it as she was seeing lots of people that she knew and pushing though miles 16 and 17, continuing with my run walk and really enjoying myself.

As I approached mile 18 I saw my Mom and Andy, I needed a hug here as my feet were in some pain and I was feeling sorry for myself, I grabbed a drink and a couple of wine gums and Mom told me that there were lots of people around the next couple of miles. I was worried about Dad as I hadn't seen him but Mom assured me that he was at 20 miles waiting. Off I ran and sure enough at mile 19 I saw my Aunt and Uncle and stopped for a hug, started off again and ran only 20yards and saw the guys from Regency Runners! 

Again I was so excited I tried to tell them all about it in 30 seconds, had lots of hugs and some photos and then I was off, I wanted so badly to see my Dad and Lesley and as I headed around the corner, passed the steel band (which was amazing!) I could see him waving, and even better, he was with my sister. I again waved like a loony and had more hugs. At this point I knew it would be the last chance to stop and talk to someone whilst I had something to eat so again had a Nak'd bar and a drink, plus Dad wouldn't be able to wait at the end for me so I really wanted to stay with him for a while, I felt awful that I had missed him at Cutty Sark. I carried on and continued with my run walk strategy, I was having so much fun I couldn't believe it but by this point, my feet felt like they were shredded.

At mile 23 the heavens opened and the drizzle that I had pre ordered had been mistaken for torrential rain and I got drenched! The head wind was even worse so I had to keep my head down, I tried to run but with the wind I was wasting energy so decided to walk until it had calmed down. I came out from under a bridge and checked my watch, I had exactly 3 miles left to run. I didn't care how much my feet hurt I just wanted to go! I turned on my iPod as by this point the rain had driven a lot of supporters back home or to the pub and got suprised a mile down the road by my Aunt and Uncle again who had been joined by my cousin Tom, it was Tom who ran last year which gave me the stupid idea to try it out myself, grrr!

I could see the London Eye and Big Ben and it was the most glorious sight I had ever seen! I was so close and I wasn't stopping now. It felt like I was running at 5k pace but I was actually running much slower! I turned into Birdcage Walk and kept running, saw the 26 mile marker in the distance and turned up the volume. The crowds were all still out cheering and calling my name, pushing me to keep going for the last half a mile. At this point I heard my name being chanted and turned to see my Mom with a crowd of people around her punching the air and chanting LAURA LAURA LAURA! God knows how she had managed that! I waved and called out to her 'I'm bloody doing this! Yes!' and kept going down Birdcage Walk and turned right to see Buckingham Palace. I couldn't believe that I had made it this far! I only had this last stretch up The Mall and I was done so I tried to finish strong (errr or I just shuffled I can't remember!) 

I crossed the line in floods of tears, they had started back at 26 miles when Helen called to say she was trying to get to the end, I told her not to worry, I was elated, I was more than fine and I was finishing my marathon, my journey. Those last 385 yards were all mine, and as I ran up to the finish I could be proud of myself with what I had achieved, the journey that I had come on, and the one that will continue. I finished in 6h15m2s, not bad for a fatty!! (I'm also complaining....over distance!!)

I don't think I quite worked out what was going on around me for a few seconds. A medal was put around my neck and I was ushered up to have my tag removed, the marshalls were so lovely and were congratulating me and the other finishers as we all tried to take in what had just happened over the last 6 hours! I got my goody bag and walked up to get my bag off the trucks then rang my sister. I told her I had finished and she burst into tears, I walked straight past her and when I saw her we both hugged and cried. Helen is what you call a proper runner, she didn't get a place in the ballot and not long afterwards discovered she was pregnant, so this journey had also been for her. One day I'll be running like her, chasing sub50 10kms! But that's the next challenge!

So after getting changed in a portaloo (they wanted to take the changing rooms down, grrr) I met up with family and friends and had some photos taken before my lips started to go blue and I was told to get home! 

Oh, and I suppose you want to see the medal? Well, I do only do it for the stuff!!

 I don't feel like I can go before I talk about the tragic events that took place today. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, Claire Squires died today whilst running at mile 25 on Birdcage Walk. She was just 30 years old. This makes finishing all the more precious. If you haven't already, click the link and donate on her justgiving page. Thank you. x

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Leamington Regency 10k

When I entered this race (one week before London Marathon) I didn't think that I would be nervous about the race for one moment, after all this was just another training run. I barely slept Saturday night thinking about the race, and also, imagining falling over and injuring myself, yes, taper madness continues into this post!! I woke up and sorted my kit out, then sat to eat my breakfast. It took me 15 minutes to eat 2 weetabix - ridiculous! What on earth am I going to be like next week??? Grr

Regency Runners have now been a running group for a whole year, and with over 100 members there were many of the ladies running today, 42 in total. We had arranged to meet at the Pump Rooms at 8.30am and then walk up to the start ready for the 9am start. The blue shirts were really out in force!!

I've never been a fan of 10k's, my last 10k at Kingsbury was an absolute nightmare and I hated it. I had never run in the Leamington Regency 10k before but many people had said that it was a great run, the only thing I needed to get over was the hill on the golf course! I decided that I was going to go for it and enjoy myself, no pressure, just a training run.

A couple of the faster runners at group, Tabby and Meagan, had asked if I wanted to run with them as they didn't feel that they had done the training for the distance, I was so welcome of the company so jumped at the chance, we were also joined by Martha who was running her first race, exciting!

We started off together with Jo and Sharon, however they were both chasing PB's so they soon shot off ahead and the four of us settled into a nice rhythm and ran up towards the dreaded golf course. I tried to be careful around here as it is quite uneven under foot but we kept to a nice chatty pace and within no time we were at the top of the hill and it was all downhill from here. I didn't feel that I could completely let my legs go down the hill as again, very uneven under foot and also a very steep area which I almost walked down to save the ankles!!

As we came off the golf course it was all road so I could relax that there was less chance that I was going to fall over! There were a few potholes but big enough to see in plenty of time. We carried on back towards Leamington and found that we were having a great run, all four of us were smiling and there was no pressure to get a good time (like that would happen for me anyway!!) round Vicky Park and back through towards the Pump Rooms. As we got onto Vicky Park we only had 1 1/2 miles to go, my legs were ready to go, I wanted to run as fast as I could to the finish but I knew that would be a bad idea so close to the Marathon, plus I wasn't doing this for time, it was a leg losener training run with my mates! We upped the pace slightly but kept to a pace that Martha was comfortable at, as far as we were concerned this was her race, her first race and thats a big deal, and we were there to get her round. Tabby is one of the Regency Runner leaders so she was able to talk to Martha about the best strategy for the last mile and where we were going to up the pace.

We ran past the Pumps Rooms and here at less than a mile to go Tabby upped the pace but let Martha take the lead through Jepherson Gardens. I found myself runing ahead with Meagan but we slowed so we could all run the final straight into Mill Gardens together, where my sister Helen was cheering us on with the already finished Regency Runners. We finished in 1:09:22, hooray for us and a great morning run with friends! And in time to get cake made by Helen before it had all gone!

When I finished I realised that the pain on my inner thigh that I felt with a mile to go was because a hole had developed in my running capris, rubbish!! I had been wearing my marathon kit for a few weeks now on runs so this was really disappointing, and also, as I am writing this two days later, chaffing bloody hurts and it doesnt seem to be getting any better! I thought about taking a photo but realised that that would be weird! Hmmmm, so I now have new capris to buy, grrr (I do have more, they just arent right for running a marathon, I'm picky!!)

I spent Sunday night putting together a pace band generator where I have dedicated each mile to people that have helped me, supported me and ran with me during my training over the last few months. I have to admit it was quite an emothional thing to do but I'm really pleased that I have done it as I now feel like I have somebody running with me for the whole distance.

Monday was my appointment with my physio Cathy, who gave me a final sports massage before the big day. Cathy pre warned me that she would be going quite deep and it would be a real workout for my legs, so rest and NO RUNNING for at least 24 hours, ok I can do that, can't I? Taper madness setting in again!! Generally Cathy was happy with how my legs were, although my shins were really tight so she showed me some stretches to help and recommended ice packs. I could tell by the pain how tight they were, I nearly shot through the roof and poor Cathy nearly got a foot in the face (accidently of course!!) She gave me some final advice, reminded me to keep my back straight, use my core and relax my shoulders. I have added Cathy to my pace band at mile 21, which I felt was a mile that I might find tough so will remind me to sort myself out!

So tomorrow, I'm off down to London to the Expo to get my number and chip, and have a general nose around. Lina is coming with me to keep me sane! Unfortunately we won't be able to stay down there too long because of the ridiculous cost of train travel, but as long as I have my number, I'm good!

Taper madness

WHO INVENTED TAPER???? The last two weeks have been so weird, I was warned about this by many people and was confident that if I could get to 22 miles then I would be confident going into the marathon; makes sense right?? I mean, how hard could not running very much be? Well, I have learnt that not running very much is just the start of it!

So, after my last long run which was 22 miles, I was told that all I needed to do now was to keep my legs ticking over. I was so pleased that I didn't have another long run to do - apart from the marathon of course! As far as I was concerned putting my feet up and eating a bit of pasta sounded great!! Well it bloody well isn't!

The first few days were great, I had a couple of days recovery, then a couple of short 3 milers that weeks just to remind my legs what they were supposed to be doing. I have also kept on with my glut and core work twice a day and also some shoulder circuits to help with my posture.

Last weekend I was in the gym and got bored on the bike, so I decided that I was going to get on the treadmill and do some hill sprints. What an idiotic idea! I don't run on treadmills for a number of reasons:
1) It's boring
2) The gym is too hot
3) I have a habit of falling off them (twice so far, I have no balance, and yes it hurts!)
4) It hurts my legs
So as running on a treadmill hurts my legs, why on earth would I want to do hill sprints on it?? Double pain!! I set the incline at 7 and did runs at 11kpm (a bloody sprint for me!) for one minute then one minute slow walk. I needed to do 8, but only got to 6 and then decided that was enough. I was annoyed with myself for not finishing but the pains in my shins over the next few days was proof that I shouldn't have attempted them in the first place! I also don't think that the interval training with Regency Runners on Easter Sunday helped with the pain but it was a great morning and I won some Easter Eggs! Hooray! It was also great to have a session that was lead by my sister Helen again, as now she is expecting she's not running, and as it was intervals she only had to stand and shout with a stopwatch and 'test' the Easter Eggs while we ran around the park like mad women!! Helen also told me that she was amazed at my improvement over the last few months, with my speed (still slow but at least I look like I'm running now, not shuffling...I think!) and also with my running style. It's great to hear her say that she is proud of me and that I am impressing her, as a running leader, she is really encouraging and she doesn't half make you work!!

This taper has turned me into a right loon! I spent the last few days convinced that I had broken my legs! I decided that I would rest for the next few days and that if I continued with my glut, core and shoulder work then I would be fine.
It appears that I'm not the only one going through this taper madness. I've found so many people on Twitter that are going through the same thing, all convinced that they aren't ready, that something will go wrong, that they have injured themselves or will do. The main concern seems to be loss of fitness, I hadn't even thought about that!! So, what if I haven't the fitness? OR what if I have forgotten how to do the longer runs??? These doubts go on and on, and even though I don't like to wish bad things on people, I'm so pleased that it's not just me!!

My sister has been on the case of organising friends and family on the day. This has been so helpful as it is now something that I don't have to think about, and she likes being in charge of things! From what I can gather, I will have somebody at 8,13,17,21 and 25.5 miles, which I think is excellent. I plan to stop briefly at 13 and 21 miles to have a bite to eat (I can't eat and run, and I'm going to be going for a long time!!) and also at each stop to fill up my drinks bottle. I know they have water on route, but I hate water, and lucozade is too sickly and the sugar makes me sick, as I learnt throwing up at the top of the hill during Birmingham half! A good friend has told me about High 5 Zero which comes in tablet form, you just add to water and it really helps with dehydration and will replace all the stuff that you lose, and has no calories, bonus! I am aiming for 5h30minutes so we have all arranged to meet at 4pm on the green, I hope someone brings treats!!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Finally - Taper Time!!

This week has been the final tough week of training before taper time, something that I have been waiting for for weeks! I have been feeling pretty beat up over the last month or so and had started to resent running but after this week, I can honestly say I have fallen in love with it again. I have enjoyed every step this week, and now agree with my friend Jo who says, you can never regret a run. Training for this has been a physical test; I can't deny that, but more than anything it has been a test of my mental strength. Looking back at my journey thus far, I have run in snow, torrential rain, blistering heat (in March!!), when I have been ill and with an injured hip. I was told to lay off running in February due to the injury and I was so close to deferring. It has been anything but easy, but I can be a tough cookie when I want to be, and I wasn't giving up on this! In fact, the run in torrential rain have been my favourite so far, even if I was pooed on by a very big bird, but hey the rain soon washed that off anyway!

London Marathon is something that I had always watched on the TV in awe of the runners and I think secretly wishing that I could do day. I've not been running long, on and off for about 3 years and I'm more of a plodder than a runner so something like London Marathon isn't the sort of race you see yourself running. I remember just after I received my acceptance letter I went into a local independent sports shop for new running shoes and mentioned that I had got a place, through gritted teeth I was congratulated then had to listen to her moaning how she had been applying unsuccessfully for years and 'proper runners' didn't seem to get a chance, like I had cheated her out of her place, I think she might have been a little upset! It seemed I had a lot to prove to many!

So I have received my race day info, my race day number is 12817 and I'm a blue start. After a couple of minutes of panicking that I was in with the fasties and they had made a mistake, I read on to discover that numbers after 1100 were randomly selected, phew! I had visions of having to run in my knickers a la Paula. Not an attractive sight! I'm now sorting out all the practical stuff, the hotel is at Canary Wharf so I'm planning getting there for check in at 2pm and then hibernating in my room for the rest of the day, preferably wrapped in bubble wrap so I don't do myself any kind of injury! Breakfast is from 6:30am, which is perfect and then I plan on walking to the start, it's about an hour’s walk apparently but I think I will be grateful of the time on my own, I'm not good company when I'm nervous! My concern is what will happen at the end, I don't know if my legs could take having to fart around on the tube to get home, I don't like public transport as it is, private helicopter it is then, I'll get mom to put that on her ever growing list of things to do!

So, this week’s training didn't turn out to be the hardest week really. It started off on Monday with a 4.7 mile run. I don't usually run on Mondays as long run day is always on a Sunday, but as my 20 miler was Saturday I was itching to get out! My friend Tabby joined me and we had a nice natter around a hilly route. Tabby has also offered to run the Leamington Regency 10k with me to keep me company, this is the week before London and I don't want to run it at any kind of speed in case of risk of injury so the company will be great. Tuesday was Regency Runners usual meeting in Leamington, I ran in with Jo to get the extra miles in and tonight it was the 4 mile woodland run which was brilliant. I'm not usually a fan of running off road but to mix it up a bit it was great, really enjoyable, and hooray to me for again not being last! I also managed to get another of those sprint finishes in, seems I'm getting quite good at them!

Wednesday and I had arranged a sports massage with my physio Cathy. I was a bit apprehensive but was told not to be nervous, yeah ok! I'm a mega wimp so I was just scared! I was right to be, it hurt but, it was well worth it. Cathy found a few niggles and ironed them out whilst I whimpered but I knew it was doing me good so I just had to suck it up. A good friend of mine is having some physio at the moment after injuring basically every part of his body, the treatment he is having sounds excruciating so I think I have the better deal!! I was told to rest the legs for 24 hours and keep hydrated and we booked another massage for a week before the big day. I couldn't drink enough that day! I was constantly thirsty! I didn't run as planned on Thursday as well; let’s just say the toxins left my body in a rather unexpected way Thursday morning. As it was really hot and I was still not hydrated I decided not to run and looked forward to the Regency Runners 1st Anniversary party that evening.

 So Saturday came and it was time for my longest run, 22 miles. Regency Runners had again come up trumps and had arranged for runners to be running with me all the way around. Rachel and I had sat and gone through my nutrition so I had got everything ready that I needed the night before, Rachel had also mapped the route for me. I set off and met Tanya at the Sainsburys Local and we set off, meeting Mel a mile in. We ran from Warwick towards Kenilworth, I'm sure that they could have walked faster than I was running but the company was great and they got me off to a great start and we arrived in Kenilworth at 4 miles on time to meet the next two kind runners, Sonia and Tina. I said quick goodbyes to Tanya and Mel and carried on through Kenilworth and around Abbey Fields. Now, I don’t know Kenilworth very well at all, but I don't quite know how confident I was of running around it after Tina said "has Rachel ever run around Abbey Fields?? It's a bit hilly" and then Sonias reply of "it's a bit gruesome!" Ok good. 

As it turned out, there was a couple of steep hills but along with the uphill’s come downhill’s so I was happy enough. As we ran out of Kenilworth Sonia looped back home and Tina said she wanted to carry on. This was music to my ears as I had a couple of miles before I met Sharon and this would have been the only part of the run that I would have been on my own. We met Sharon at 10 miles and I was running on time, I wanted to stretch off so decided to get to the top of Cubbington which would be 11 miles where I saw Jo and Michelle for a bit of well needed support, and where I had a bite to eat and a stretch before carrying on down the hill and towards Offchurch. Tina still wanted to carry on, I think she was testing how far she could go, although again it was a slower pace for her but looking back at my splits, she did a really good job of pacing me between miles 4 and 14.5 and kept me running at a constant speed of 12.27 minute miles which was great.

Just as we were running towards Offchurch I saw a car coming toward us with waving people, it turned out to be Ann and family who had bought me some sweets and drinks. I couldn't stop at this point but it was a lovely surprise, so carried on through Offchurch and onto Radford which was 14.5miles. I stopped here for another nutrition break and to fill up my drinks bottle, a quick photo and then started up again with Lina, Debbie and Sharon for the final 7.5 miles. Again I saw Ann who kindly took a couple of photos and Clair had come out with the cheering squad again!

Half a mile down the road Sharon left us and ran home and Debbie, Lina and I pressed on up Tatchbrook Road and around Warwick Gates. I was pleased that I had Lina with me on this leg of the run, she is so fantastic at motivating you and keeping you going and again she ran behind me every now and again to check on my form and that I was keeping upright and straight. Miles 17 through to 18 were a bit tough but I knew that after that it was flat, or downhill all the way back, hooray! We were also joined at 19 miles by Monica on her bike who stuck with us until the end. I hit 20 miles and I felt really strong, I had no aches or pains and I didn't feel that my core was failing as it usually does. At this point we saw Karen on her bike cheering us on, but was told not to stop and to keep going. The last mile was really enjoyable, I turned into St Nics Park to run home and saw Mel and Diane waiting for me, aces! I finished my run in 4hours 36minutes, hooray for me! 

I went straight home and had one of those horrible ice bath things then Debbie, Lina and I went back to the park to meet at the cafe and have some well-deserved cake, joined by Tanya, Mel, Diane, Monica, Tracey, Jo and Siobhan from Regency Runners, and a quick stop from my sister Helen on route to a wedding.

Apologises for the MASSIVE red face and kind of forced smiles but I was half elated and half in excruciating pain, both of which I know make you pull really weird faces! I don't usually look like such a weirdo!

So now it is taper time. Over the last week I have been so envious of people who hit their taper last week, knowing I still had a week left! It feels strange saying that next week I'm "only" going to be running 12 miles!