Tag Archives: marathon training

Photo of Race Angels

Angels with Sweaty Faces

It all started with an innocuous message on Messenger. “Hiya! What’s your diary like 8th April?”  A quick check of the family calendar on the wall revealed that it was currently clear but it was in the middle of the kids’ Easter holidays so there was always the possibility that we would go to Scotland.

So I replied: “Intriguing…should I clear my diary?” Well, came the reply, I’m looking for a Race Angel to help out at Manchester Marathon that day…

Now let’s rewind and explain a bit more before we go on. I had seen the Race Angels at races before. I had even been offered some help from a lovely lady in their trademark orange T shirts during the Wirral half marathon (yes, the one I did in 2 hours and 4 seconds – still gutted about those 5 seconds!) I saw them more recently at Conwy Half Marathon but thankfully didn’t need their help.

Race Angels is the brainchild of Adrienne Hall. She did her first marathon at Chester in 2013 and was a couple of miles from the end, finding the going a bit tough when she asked a spectator how far she had to go. Despite not being in running clothes or shoes, he ran with Adrienne for a little bit and told her she didn’t have far to go. Adrienne then repaid the favour at the Dublin Rock and Roll half marathon by encouraging someone to finish. He told her she was his angel and the concept was born.

I decided that it was too good an opportunity to turn down and the diary now had a very important event in it. Arrangements were made to share a lift with Peter (another Race Angel virgin!) and Julie (her second outing as a Race Angel). As we discussed after, because we hadn’t met before, it was like a weird blind date, but with it being the running community, we all got on famously and a big thanks to Julie for doing all the driving with an extra early start.

I joked beforehand that I would get all the race atmosphere without any of the performance nerves. However I still got the night before nerves that I would miss my alarm and kept waking up during the night. When the alarm went off at 5.15 am, I was very bleary eyed.

Race Angels in Warrington

The T shirt handing over ceremony!

We met up with Adrienne and Geoff in Liverpool and travelled in convoy to Warrington to meet Darren, Clare and Stephen, making up the entire team of 8 for the day. Race Angel T shirts were handed over in the car park of a Warrington hotel and then we were on our way to Manchester.

We set up shop at around mile 24. There was a water station opposite a pub where we stationed ourselves. We ran to the start to see the runners go off and lend our support.

A much needed coffee on our way back to our position at mile 24 and we were ready to put our halos on and spring into action. It felt quite privileged to see the front runners, not something I normally see in a race. It was astonishing to watch them running at a pace I would be hard pushed to sustain during a parkrun.

Photo of Race Angels

We always wanted to be on the stage!

Peter would not forgive me if I didn’t mention this: among the front runners, there were so many men with bleeding nipples, it was unbelievable. I grimaced every time I saw one and Peter thought this was hilarious so I started to laugh too. But honestly there were so many. Have they not heard of Vaseline? The pain must have been unreal.

Finally I was summoned to help. A lady in a Knowsley Harriers vest (I think) asked me to run with her as she was trying to get Good For Age qualification. Luckily I was on fresh legs so I managed to pull out my best 10K pace and saw her to mile 25 when she ran on, hopefully a bit revitalised, although I don’t know how she managed that pace at that point in the race.

From there on in, I barely stopped for the next 4 hours. I lost count of the number of people I helped but I remember that I ran with 7 people who were very emotional. Much like myself at Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon last year, the whole experience can be a bit overwhelming and I think that it’s the body’s way of releasing that tension and allowing you to get on with the job. I used that experience and tried to make them feel that it was not silly to be emotional at this point, that loads of us had got emotional during a marathon and, more importantly, they were now at mile 25 and only just over a mile to go. Other people were not so emotional but were perhaps tired and if their race had not gone to plan, maybe a bit disappointed so hopefully a friendly chat and a walk alongside them would be a pick me up.

#Visorclub rules!

I really enjoyed seeing a lot of my Twitter buddies. It was like a who’s who of the UKrunchat group! Colin and Keith Johnstone, Helen Bly, Anthony Hughes, Michele Taylor, Paul Addicott and Phil Jeffries doing their sterling work as pacers, and Michele Whiffen, and who took this great pic of us. Others waved as they went past, too many of you to mention.

All the Race Angels were working equally hard and I barely saw any of them until I stopped around 3pm. When I checked my Garmin, including the run to the start and back, I had covered nearly 16 miles! No wonder I felt tired. Nothing that a late lunch wouldn’t sort though as we watched the (rather luxurious!) sweeper bus come through.

When I said yes to Adrienne’s message, hand on heart, I didn’t really think it through. I like running, and I like meeting people so it seemed a good fit for me. So the icing on the cake came when, that evening, my social media went into overdrive with lovely comments from runners who we had helped. It felt very rewarding to hear that we had made a difference to someone’s race experience.

Hats off to Adrienne for creating a wonderful concept; proof that the running community is stuffed full of amazing people. I’ll be back at Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon proudly wearing my orange T shirt. Check out the Race Angels page on Facebook and on Twitter @RaceAngels to see if they will be at your next race!

Book review- Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running by Julie Creffield

Book cover

You all know already that I love running. Most of you will know that I love reading books. Books about running combine two of my passions and are my favourite thing! So when I was kindly offered a pre-print copy of Julie Creffield’s book – Fat Girls Guide to Marathon Running for review, I was one of the first in the queue.

You might think that the book is not all that relevant to me as I am not overweight. I have been at the top end of my healthy BMI on occasion but could never be described as a plus size runner. However, regardless of your size, you will find that we are all runners here and a lot of the advice is true for all runners. Having done my first marathon this year, I was curious to see if there was anything in there that I would have liked to have known before I raced (the answer is yes, how does it really feel after mile 20?)

Running a marathon is not easy as we all know. If you are plus sized, it seems to be even more of a difficult task due to the comments that such runners have to put up with. Thankfully I have never been subjected to any of that (other than the usual: isn’t it bad for your knees? *eye roll*). Such a revelation that people can be so blinkered and prejudicial. Wouldn’t we be better using that energy to applaud anyone who gets off the sofa and decides to do something about their health?

So let’s talk a bit more about the book itself. Julie’s refreshing honesty is what makes this book special. It’s a bit like sitting down and having a chat with a good friend or a wise sage from your running club. Someone who has been there and done that and got the race T shirt to prove it.

Julie covers things to think about before signing up to the marathon – discovering why you want to run this marathon and discusses some of the logistics of actually signing up. She talks candidly about the training that will be required. Then you need to “sign up or shut up” to the marathon. Give yourself plenty of time to train, especially if you are starting from scratch.

Training and creating your own running plan is also covered and, if you are new to running, a guide to running terms is very handy. What on earth is a Yasso 800? Julie covers it.

I found it interesting to have a view from the back of the race, dealing with the dreaded sweeper bus. Most marathons have a cut-off point to allow the roads to be re-opened. Julie provides some very sensible advice about planning your pacing to make sure you aren’t caught by the sweeper bus. There is no sugar coating it: you will need to run a fair proportion of the race to ensure that you are not scooped up by the bus.

If you are expecting detailed marathon training plans, this is not the book for you. It is probably best for beginner runners or for those making the transition up to marathons. Where this book exels is covering the kind of detail that no-one else does, what does a race day actually feel like, what goes on your head while running, how to deal with others and their reactions to your running.

It seems to me to be a great motivator to be the best runner you can be, to help you adopt an athlete mindset and to help you ignore the naysayers, regardless of the size of your body.  Make 2018 the year you finally take the plunge towards fulfilling any long held marathon dreams.

 

I blame my sister for all this. If she hadn’t done the Glasgow marathon in the early 1980’s when I was an impressionable teenager, I may not be in this situation.  I remember running some of the last few miles with her. Heck, I even remember her Hi Tec Silver Shadow trainers! For years, I have looked at her finisher’s photo sitting in her hall and said to myself, I’m going to do a marathon one day. I’m not sure why I waited until the ripe old age of 47 to do it other than it is a VERY HARD THING TO DO. Only 1% of the population has done a marathon.

As you read this post, I’ll ask you to bear in mind that I have been lucky in the last 3 years and have been relatively injury free. The problem seems to stem from the fact that Asics have changed their Cumulus 18 (my preferred trainer) slightly. The toe box is much narrower which caused me problems at the beginning of the marathon training plan.  A cold on week 1 of the plan didn’t help. Neither did blisters at Wrexham Half marathon (did you know I got blisters at that race??)  A calf tear at around week 4 of the plan and I began to despair that I would ever get started on the training “proper.”

I wasn’t feeling the marathon love and wondered if I had taken on too much. It didn’t help that I was extremely busy at work. I didn’t actually realise how much I wanted to do the marathon until that point. I thought that it was just something for my bucket list, to tick off the endurance athlete’s list. But my sister’s photo was always there at the back of my mind and it slowly began to dawn on me that I wanted to do the marathon very badly. I find that, when you want to do something badly, the fear of failing at it can be strong. I had never grown up wanting to do a triathlon so never really thought too much about it! I resolved to “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Photo of Garmin 920 XT

Longest ever run (until the following week when I managed 32 km!)

Finally the calf tear healed and I was able to start building up the mileage towards the end of March. Into April and three consecutive weeks of following the plan and building up the long runs through 16 miles (26 km), then 18 (29 km) and finally the hallowed grail of a 20 mile (32km) training run, the last one done on my own in 3 hours 28 minutes. Woo hoo! The roller coaster was in the ascendant.

I had been very careful about my recovery from the long runs too. Stretching as soon as I got in; eating within 30 minutes; a nice hot shower; compression leggings on after and even some afternoon naps! I really thought I was on course to complete the training without further problems.

I had reverted to my old trainers for long runs, using my new ones for Short Runs during the week. This week I succumbed to buying a new pair of Asics Dinaflyte, not for wearing in the marathon, but for the shorter runs. I was absolutely gutted in their first outing that I suffered calf pain.

Photo of Asics Dynaflyte

New kicks – in Mersey tri colours!

Another trip to the sports massage therapist told me that I had strained my tibilas posterior muscle. i don’t have much pain in normal everyday life but it hurts a lot when I try to run. Cycling and swimming are fine. I will have to go back for more treatment this week and to have it strapped up.

I am calm at the moment as I still have 3 weeks and 6 days to go to the Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon. On the other hand, I am able to say, I am doing my first marathon this month! I am due to do one more 20 mile run before the race but it’s unclear if I will get that in.

Like life itself, in marathon training, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Patience is needed in abundance (a muscle of mine that needs more exercise!) And you just have to hope for the best otherwise what’s the point? Hopefully I will be able to display my finisher’s photo in the hall at the end of May…Wish me luck!

Any advice from seasoned marathoners? How is everyone else’s training going?