Sunday, April 28, 2013

Holly's Marathon Mental Battle

6am: “What the hell is that noise? Oh it’s my alarm. Oh no. It’s Sunday. Oh no. Feel sick. Yep today is the day. This is really happening. It’s not a dream. Oh crap. Get up. Maybe I’ll just stay in bed and pretend I slept through the alarm. No stop being stupid. Get up”

Get dressed. Number on. Socks on. Shoes on. Easy. Now what? Oh yes go and run.

Breakfast time. Toast please breakfast man. 3 slices. Yes lots of jam. Oh and a yogurt. Oh and maybe a banana. Oh and some tea please. Other marathoners talking about their excitement. How are they all so cheerful? It’s not fair. My feeling is currently of impending doom. Working hard not to bring my toast back up. That would not be pleasant for anyone in this room. Right enough of this. Time to go. Text from Dad, brief respite from the nerves.  Horrible realisation that it’s still happening. Grab the bags. Cram into the lift. Out of the lift. Join the group of cheery runners at the reception desk. Feel a bit angry that they are smiling, happy and chatting. Why do I feel so sick. Right time to go. Charing Cross bound.

Outside. Fresh air. Already warm. Phone call from Rich. The walk to Charing Cross passes quickly with chat and laughs. Not thinking about the task ahead. Even managed to crack a smile. Phone call ends with “Good luck, it’s just a jog. What’s the worst that can happen?” begin to think he’s right and it’ll all be fine. That feeling lasts for approximately 3.4 seconds before I feel sick again. Text from my brother, Jeff. Words of positivity as always. “Good Luck. I don’t have time to attend a funeral this week so if you could finish that would be great”. Oh hell fire. “Mum can we go home now please I don’t want to do this” She thinks I’m joking. I’m not.

On the train. Really do feel sick. Can’t deal with people talking about their past experiences. Headphones in. Hood up. 20 minutes of silence in my own little world. Everyone must think I’m really unsociable. Oh well. I think they’d prefer this than if I threw up on them.

Arrive at Blackheath. Follow the masses. Try and encourage mum to run for me. She’s not having any of it. There it is. The blue start. Oh no. It’s happening. An hour and a half before the gun goes. What am I going to do. Stand in the toilet queue for over half an hour. Great. Only an hour to go. So many people. Some look as nervous as me. That’s a good sign. It’s not just me.  Have another banana. 3 bites and it’s passed to mum. Still feel sick. Pre race photos are taken. Mum has made a banner. “HOLLY CARPE DIEM”. Not a clue what that means. Too nervous to care right now. Time to get myself into the blue start. Good luck and hugs from mum and she quickly disappears into the crowds. All alone. Oh crap.

Find my baggage bus. Mill around with others wasting more time before putting the bag on the bus. Ring dad for some more reassurance. “You’ll be fine. You’ll enjoy it” I believe him because he’s dad and he’s always right. Apart from that time he said those cows wouldn’t chase us. He was definitely wrong then. And the time he claimed dark chocolate was nicer than milk chocolate. What a weirdo. More good lucks from dad. He’ll be tracking me online and trying to spot me on the TV. Right. Bag on bus. 40 minutes to go. Stand in another toilet queue. 15 minutes to go. Time to get in my start zone. About 3 miles from the actual line. More time passes. People are beginning to look nervous. A man behind is talking about his knee injury. He’s making excuses early. People start moving forward. Is this it? I’ve not heard a starting gun. Oh yes. This is it. Oh no. Toward the start line we go.

Oh I can see it. A man next to me starts running 100m before the line. Fool. You’ll regret that later on. Here it is. Over the line. Garmin started. Let’s go.

Start slow. Get slower. Yeh I’ll do that. Dodge around people. 1 mile down. That was quick. Glance at the watch. Oh no that wasn’t quick. Need to speed up. Joined by the masses from the Green start. Dodge some more people. Keep moving. Slow down. Don’t get excited you still have a long way to go.

Mile 2. Starting to feel warm. A woman is walking. Oh dear. Manoeuvre round more people. Running alongside the people from the red start now. The jeers have begun. Makes me think of the Poly vs Posh chants back at Uni. Not appropriate to start shouting “Your dad works for my dad” here though. I’ll just keep quiet. Downhill now. Stretch out the legs. Don’t get carried away.

Mile 3. 26.40. Not bad. On track. Keep moving.

Mile 4. Lucozade being handed out. No thanks. Feet sticking to the floor. Lovely.

Mile 7. Way past Cutty Sark before I have even seen it. How did I miss that? One of the big points on the course and I ran round it without realising. What an idiot. Oh well. No time to dwell. Onward.

Mile 9. Towards the docks. Gel wrestled out of its holder round my waist. Tastes horrific. Always does. Force it down. Yes a water station. That’ll wash it down. Little and often that’s what dad said. He knows best.

Mile 10. Why is it so hot? This is stupid. There has to be some shade soon. Going to burn. Should have worn suncream. Why did I not think of that? I wonder where mum is? I wonder if I’ve been on tv yet? I’m so hot. Why am I doing this? Can I go home yet? That woman in front is wearing some awful shoes. Shut up brain. Just run.

Mile 12. Right time to look out for the support crew. On to the bridge. Eden Runners vest on a stick they said. Move over to the left of the road. Keep looking. There it is. Sticking out onto the bridge flying high. See Jeff. Spot a banner “Go Hollers”. Classic Jeff. Cheers mate. Anna and Louie. Screaming. “GO HOLLY GO”. This is great. Massive smile. High 5’s all round. I’ll see them at the finish. Overwhelmed. Feel the need to cry. Get a grip woman. You’re nearly at half way. Come on. Get moving.

Mile 13.1. Half way. The countdown has begun. Just another 13.1 to go. Easy. Simple. Feeling good. The fast men are coming back on the other side of the road. I wish I was up to that point. They are running really fast. I am not. Oh well. Keep moving.

Mile 14. Oh no. I need a wee. This is not good. I drank little and often. Dad said that would work. This was not in the plan. Oh good some toilets. Cut some people up and get across to them. Big queue. Not hanging around. Bladder will have to wait. Just forget about it. Oh look we’re heading towards the docklands. Yes lets have another gel. Feel a bit tired. This will help.

Mile 16. More toilets. Yes no queue. Jump in. 30 seconds lost. Don’t panic. Still 10 miles to go. Don’t get excited. Calm down.

Mile 18. Only 8 to go. Towards Canary Wharf. Twisty streets. Slowing down. Bit of shade. I’m definitely burning. I’m going to have so many freckles. Oh just too hot. Slow down a bit more. Take on more water. Don’t listen to the legs screaming.

Mile 20. 6 to go. Everything hurts. Just walk a bit. No get running. Maybe this is the wall? I think it is. Oh god. Everything really does hurt. My knee hurts. But so does everything else. COME ON. Get moving. It’s 6 miles that’s easy. Remember what Jeff said last time “Only 10k to go, like a walk in the park”. Exactly only 6 miles. Come on. Move. Yes I can do this.

Mile 20.5. I can’t do this. It hurts. It’s too far. I’m too slow. Maybe i’ll just walk. I can do it under 5 hours if I walk the rest of the way. NO get running. Come on its not that bad.

Mile 22. Keep plodding. Come on 4 left. Oh there’s Iwan Thomas off of the TV. He’s walking. I’m running. He was really fast once and I’ve overtaken him. I’m amazing.

Mile 23. Lots of music here. A man shouts from a party truck that i’ve only got 3 miles left. He may be right but it still hurts. HELP. 3 miles. Come on. That’s easy. Have another gel that’s a good idea. That’ll help. Gel in mouth. This one is tasty. Spot an Eden Runners vest on a stick. What? I must be dreaming? Am I genuinely going delirious from the heat? Oh no wait that’s Anna and Jeff. I’m not dreaming. Quick. Shouts of “HOLLY! KEEP GOING!”. “Help me i’m really dying”. Reassuring words from Anna “No you’re not you’re fine. 3 miles to go”. Quick hug. And i’m off. I’m amazing. Keep running. Speed up 3 miles to go.

Mile 24. No don’t do that. That was an error. Slow down again. More Lucozade. Need more energy. Through the tunnel. Eminem is blasting out of speakers. “You’ve only got one shot do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime” Cheers Eminem mate I needed that boost.

Mile 25. 1 mile to go. Come on you can do this. Not far now. 10 minutes of running left max. Thousands of people screaming. That’s big Ben. Finally managed to locate a landmark after missing all the rest. Come on keep going. Nearly there.

800m to go. Come on this is easy now. That’s only twice round the track on a Monday night. Simple. Power on.

600m to go. Erm what? I’ve ran further than 200m since the last sign. That must be at least a mile.

400m to go. These signs are crap. I have ran about 3 miles since the 800m sign. Can see the palace. It’s getting closer. Come on keep moving. Can’t walk now there are thousands of people watching. Why am I not there yet? HURRY UP.

200m to go. Turn this last corner. Yes there it is. The finish. I’m nearly there. Come on lets sprint. Funny Joke. Just get to the line without crawling. Come on.

That’s it. It’s over. I’ve done it. I’ve really done it. Why am I crying? I have no idea why i’m crying. So is the woman next to me. It’s okay i’m not a complete weirdo. I’ve done it. All that training and pain is over. I’ve just ran a marathon. I am the most amazing person in the world. Keep walking. Don’t sit down you’ll never get back up. Goody bag. Too knackered to look in it. Grab a bottle of lucozade out of it. Carry on shuffling forward. Baggage bus. Naturally about 700 miles away from where I am now. Keep shuffling.

Can I have my bag please Mr bag bus man. Thanks. Right find mum. Pull my phone out the bag. Message from Dad. He’s the proudest man in the world. “You make me so proud whatever time you finish”. More tears. Everyone here is smiling. I’ve got tears running down my face. What is wrong with me. Text from Rich. Cue more tears. Overwhelmed by happiness and dare I say sadness that it’s all over. No don’t be silly I’m glad it’s over.

There she is. Right where she said she would be. My mum. Possibly the greatest woman in the world. Lots of hugs. More tears. She’s telling me to smile. I still can’t stop crying. A few more hugs. It’s time to sit down before my legs give way. This kerb just here looks comfy. Let me sit down. Help me please mum. Stop taking photos. Yes I know I’m burnt. No i’m not hungry yet. Just let me sit and stop crying. Oh here’s Jeff and Anna. More congratulations. More hugs. They are eating. Mum I’m hungry now. Spotted the M&S bag in her hand. Massive bag of crisps. What a brilliant woman. What would I do without her. Let’s just sit here for a while and have a rest. Watch the world go by. Runners being reunited with their families around me. This is amazing. Everyone is so happy. I’m so happy. Hands down the best experience of my life. Right mum lets go. I need more food. Jeff pull me up. Oh my god what is this pain. Is this some kind of joke? I can’t walk. Still beaming from ear to ear. Clutching my medal. Let’s go home now mum. I’m exhausted. Happy. But exhausted. Best day of my life yet. It will take a lot to top this.

And now the aches and pains have disappeared I am ready for the next challenge.
What’s next? I don’t know. Life starts outside of your comfort zone.....
Until next time.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Day Trip to Blackpool

"Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.." although I’ve never been in Blackpool at 8.15 on a Sunday morning in my life! The first shock was the 6.30 alarm – if the weather had been anything other than sunny and still I may have rethought my little jaunt to the coast. The second shock was the extortionate car park fee which I was totally unprepared for. I managed to scrape together the £5 then found out the machine didn’t take £2 coins! A kindly soul in the queue whom I got chatting to helped me out with that little quandary thereby contributing to keeping me out of full flight panic mode.

A short jog to the football ground (a good warm-up) to collect my number, then a mad dash to the loo before that queue hit Disneyworld proportions and I was all ready with half an hour to spare. I spent it wisely. A few minutes stretching, but more time spent chatting to the couple that had a 9 month old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever… I know now I have to go to Norfolk if I want one… So the morning was educational as well as athletic..

I managed to get a "shout out" from the commentator with the microphone at the start for being an Eden Runner (see – doing my bit to promote the club!), then we were all set for the off. It’s the first time I’ve been to a race that had a 10 minute delay at the start due to a late running train.. One for the "experiences" list…

Down a couple of side streets where a few hardy souls had gotten up to cheer all the runners on (or were just getting back to their B+Bs from last night) and out onto the front. Two and a half miles along the road was the first U-turn, just prior to which I saw the welcome face of Mr Dave Peacock, just when I thought I was the only Eden Runner, so that made me feel less lonely! Past the North Pier and onto the Prom where the job of over-taking people began in earnest… (honest!)… The sea was flat calm and there was not much breeze to stir the still cool air. At about Mile 5 I fell in behind a "Portsmouth Jogger" although whether it was his posterior I was transfixed by or the sheer number of energy gel packets he had on his belt bouncing up and down I’m not too sure. Far too many for one man… he could have shared… The other energy gel bar packet of note was the one that the gentleman at Mile 6 stomped on in front of me – showering me with the stuff. I did ask if those gels worked by osmosis too and if I’d get any energy from that… who knows… Could be a whole new line of scientific research there.

I think the final u-turn was about Mile 8 which was a psychological relief, knowing that the countdown was on and that you were at least heading back in the right direction for the end. Going past the Marathon mile markers was a bit disconcerting though, thinking that half of the poor souls on the course would still have to do another loop. Seeing the string of people stretching out along the promenade and the road was impressive though and with about 3 miles to go and heading back into town the vocal support and the clapping members of the public began to increase, just when my resolve was starting to flag a little. Got past my bogey point of 11 ½ miles (The Dent Debacle) and oddly enough felt as though there were some reserves left to be had. My Portsmouth Jogger chaperone I think had peeled off to do the marathon route (so I’ll forgive him for his cornucopia of gel bars) and that almost gave me the incentive to push a bit harder. Why is it though, always the way, that when you think you’re approaching the finish you’re not?? You have that split second moment of thinking "I can see the start / finish line" before its replaced with the galling realisation that you’ve got another 600m to go in the other direction to suffer the humiliation of a "grandstand" finish behind the goalposts in front of an enthusiastic crowd? I resisted the temptation to wave at them… didn’t take much resisting… I think some of them had come to see the football in error…

I reached the table which was devoid of medals "There’s some more of the way!" said the slightly panicked marshall as the queue of folk waiting started to bunch up behind me – there was no way I was leaving that stadium without one – I needed the physical proof of my slog! The goodie bag was quite good too, containing choc-chip cookies, mini malt loaf AND a Mars bar, bottle of water and another plastic water bottle (to add to the growing collection!)

The bonus of the early start was getting home by 1pm to get showered and to get into the sunny back garden to write this. The weather was perfect for running, not too cold and not too hot – indeed it’s the first time this year any leg of mine above the knee has been exposed to the sunlight – the skin is that white I think the sunlight was just reflecting back off it! There was minimal breeze and minimal undulations in the route – I reckon I might even try that one again!

At the time of going to press the toenails are still with me….stubborn devils…

Race Review By Nicola Gaskell