I'm sitting on my sofa typing this in my recovery compression tights having just completed the longest run of my training for the London Marathon. There are now just 3 weeks to go before the big day and I'm now feeling ready and confident that I will make it around those 26.2 miles one way or another.
When I first looked at my training plan back in October this week was always the one that I stared at in disbelief and wondered how on earth I'd be able to do it. But 15 weeks of training and it's done. To be fair I've not done all the runs that were scheduled this week as I thought it was more important to rest my legs for today but what's 5 miles these days between friends?
This week has been all about building up to the 20 miler. I have run all my long runs so far on my own and at times it's been pretty difficult. So when of of the girls that I've met via Boutique Sport mentioned the 16 mile Kingston Breakfast Run to me I thought it would be a good way to run the majority of my longest run with other people around me. My parents live a convenient 4 miles away from Kingston so my plan was to run the 16 mile race and then run back to their house.
So Saturday evening saw me waving goodbye to Mr J and heading to Surbiton to spend a sober Saturday night at my parent's house. The alarm was set for 6am so I could get up and have my porridge and banana in time for it to have digested before the race which was due to start at 8.35am. It's been really warm all week but had cooled dow quite a lot on Saturday so I had packed both long and short sleeved options to decide between on Sunday morning.
I woke up bright and early, made breakfast and tried to decide what to wear. It was frosty but the sun was coming up and the sky looked pretty clear. I decided while I might be a bit cold to begin with that short sleeves were probably the best way to go. I'd rather be a bit chilly than too warm when I'm running.
My Mum and Dad were also up early so that my Dad could drive me into Kingston in plenty of time for the start of the race. It was strange being at the start of a race on my own. Previously Mr J has come with me and I've been meeting other people before the start but this time it was just me on my own. Runners are a friendly lot though and it wasn't long before I was chatting to a fellow marathon trainee about gels, the weather (it was much colder than I'd expected) and training the general.
The 8 mile race went off at 8am followed by the 16 mile sub 2hr women, then the 16 mile men and then finally me with the rest of the 16 mile women at 8.35. As I was continuing running after the race I had decided to run with my Nathan hydration rucksack so I had plenty of water and somewhere to put my bits and pieces while I ran.
There were two cut off times for the race, one at halfway of 1hr 40mins and 3.5hrs for the whole distance. I knew that I could make the halfway cut off in time but wanted to give myself a bit of breathing space by putting in a fast first few miles. Which is exactly what I did. By 4 miles in I knew that I had done enough to get around within the cut off comfortably.
The course was lovely, running along the side of the Thames on a bright and chilly morning, perfect running weather. On the first lap I felt pretty comfortable, I was averaging sub 12 minute miles and it felt good. I knew that at some point I would pay for it though as I can't keep up that pace over longer distances. I was prepared for having to slow down later in the race.
At around about 6 miles I was passed by the first of the fast men who were on their second lap and on their way to the finish line. It was amazing to watch them run past at a speed I can only dream of. Before long I was approaching the end of the first lap and was pleased to see that I'd made the time cut off with 5 mins to spare.
I slowed my pace straight away for the second lap. I knew that I needed to or my legs would want to give up on me later on. By this time the field had thinned out a lot. I knew that I'd be among the slower runners and was a bit concerned that I'd be last, but that wasn't the case. By the time I got to 10 miles I was feeling quite tired and was walking for more of each mile. Thankfully I'd put in enough faster miles that I knew I'd still make it around in plenty of time.
I eventually crossed the finish line in around 3hrs and 15 minutes - I was delighted with the time given that I was running on my own. I had my mp3 player on the whole way around and that definitely kept me moving at times when it felt tough. I collected my mug - there are no medals for this race and then a well stocked goody bag. I stopped for a couple of minutes to re-arrange the contents of my rucksack and make room for everything and then headed off for my parents.
Stopping turned out to be a bad idea. My hamstrings siezed up and felt really tight. I stopped to stretch them out which helped a bit but I found it very difficult to get running again. So I walked for most of miles 16-18. Then, after a few jellybeans and with my hamstrings warmed up again I found enough energy to run for some of mile 19 and 20. Those last 4 miles were really tough physically and I knew I was paying the price for my early pace.
I arrived back at my parent's house feeling exhausted and ready to collapse. When I did my 19 mile run two weeks ago, which had been far more evenly paced, I felt as if I could have continued. Not today. It was a really good lesson in pacing and something I need to be very careful about on April 22nd. Had I needed to complete another 6.2 miles today I would have done so but they would have been very tough. Much better to get to mile 20 feeling like I have something left in the tank for the last push.
So that's it - the longest run of my training done and I must admit I'm quite relieved. I now enter the hallowed taper where the mileage decreases to give my body time to rest and prepare for the big day.
Just 3 weeks away now! I know I've trained well and I'm ready which is a great confidence boost heading into the final 3 weeks of training, Bring it on!