Wednesday, 16 April 2014

10 lessons I learned on marathon day

While I ponder my full race report - brace yourselves for that one, it could be epic - let me highlight the top 10 things I learned on marathon day: 

1. Be prepared 
Sunglasses = happiness
Given my intense need to have a full and comprehensive understanding of how I will get anywhere, travel was never going to be a personal problem; however, it amazed me the number of people asking on twitter etc. about how to get to the start site THE NIGHT BEFORE! If you're laid back enough to just rock up to a marathon start line 'somehow' making it on time and go with no nerves then I salute you. In fact, I defy that you even exist! In my opinion, if there is anything that you can do to reduce the pre-marathon nerves and worries then do it - including knowing how the hell you're getting there at least 24h before the start. 

My preparation for travel is not reflected in my preparation of kit, however, and realised that I forgot my sunglasses while on the train to the start. It was scheduled to be a scorcher too. Uhoh. Fortunately, having runner friends who will be on the sidelines comes in useful and a quick tweet to Charlie and logistical planning for a meet-up en route meant having glasses from the 6 mile point. Bonus lesson: if you can't be prepared, then have lovely friends who can be prepared for you. 

 2. Arriving early = no toilet queues. 
OK, so perhaps my '2 hours before the start' arrival was a little eager. Fortunately it was a lovely morning and I could sit on the grass in the sun, watching the weird an wonderful marathon peeople go by, while sipping my Nuun and eating a crunchy peanut butter Clif bar. But seriously - there was not a portaloo queue in sight. I went three times in the space of an hour just because I could! After 9am (1 hour before start), however, the giant snake loo-queues began to emerge. I'll admit it - I was smug. And, importantly, - but perhaps oversharingly - empty. 

3. Marathon supporters are awesome 
Yes, AWESOME. Having my name on my vest, I felt that everyone was there cheering for lil' ol' me. "You can do it, Katy!", "Great running, Katy!", "You're amazing, Katy!" - now, I'm normally fairly rubbish at taking compliments, but on this occassion I lapped it up and I have to say, I felt pretty awesome too (well, for the first half at least, but that's for another time...). I also had a huge grin on my face after spending the first 10 miles high-fiving every child who thrust their tiny hand my way and even some who didn't... 

After one runner robbed me of a child high-five I demanded that he provide me with said high five personally, despite the fact he was carrying a water bottle and four gels. It was messy, required some reorganisation, and almost resulted in a face-first fall, but I got my high five dammit! Yeah!

 4. Balloons are the answer 
Having friends and family in the crowd is great and I'd have been devastated to miss them, so set about planning how to spot them in the throngs of supporters. Answer: a massive yellow balloon, otherwise known as 'Bob'. A quick check of my phone told me my family and the boy were around the 12 mile marker; all I needed to do was keep my eyes above the crowd and BINGO! - there was Bob. Further down the line, another text: Mile 23. Hey presto: there was Bob. I doubt I would've seen them if it hadn't been for the genius of Bob (or myself, for having the idea of Bob, but we'll give him the credit this time...)

5. It's not just a training run 
It had been suggested to think of the marathon as 'just another training run'. I get why that can help, and that's what I tried to think. The reality was, however, that this was not another training run: this was it - everything I'd been working towards since October. During training I never experienced the highs and lows like I did in the marathon - I don't think anything can prepare you for that if it's your first time. It's also further than my longest training run of 20 miles, and while 6 miles doesn't seem that much further, trust me: it is. I hurt a lot in the last 10k and seriously doubted if I could keep going at points. As my mum said afterwards 'I think that's how you're supposed to feel: it's a marathon, not a walk in the park!' So I guess now, in hindsight, she's right. If it didn't feel that hard it wouldn't be a marathon, it'd be just another training run. 

6. Finishing is a mixed emotion 
First: thank christ that's over. Second: exhaustion. Third: where's my medal? Fourth: overwhelming emotion and tears. Fifth: exhaustion. Sixth: exhaustion. Seventh: MEDAL PLEASE! And water. Lots of water please... 

In my mind, this moment would play out in slow motion - the Union Jack flags billowing in the wind down the Mall, the cheers a dull roar in the background, the finish-line colours bright in the sunlight and me galloping over the line to Chariots of Fire. In reality, I was faint for the last 2 miles and felt very dizzy up the finishing straight, struggling to focus on where I was and could only think of reaching that big red sign so I could stop. It wasn't until I went across the finish, gathered myself, got my medal and turned to look back down the Mall that the emotion overcame me - I'd just run the London marathon! Then I stumbled onwards and everything was a blur. But I had my medal, so all was ok with the world again. 

7. Running in warm weather makes you crusty 
Apparently it's the dried out salt from your sweat or something. 4.5 hours of sweat = crusty like a piece of crispy seaweed. Lovely. Bring wipes. 

8. Cold, hard concrete is my friend 
Hobbling up stairs and down a ramp to get to the changing area (I mean seriously?! Event organisers take note for next year: this was just plain cruel!) I was confronted with an empty, shaded underground parking lot with a curtain up. Never before have I been so happy to be cool! I lay face down on the concrete floor, ecstatic at the cold against my skin, and stayed there until another woman arrived and asked if she needed to call an ambulance.

9. A pint will never taste so good. 
Nor will a G&T, a champagne cocktail, a glass of red, or a whisky. I do not, however, advise having all of these things, one after another, directly after a marathon - yes, that is from experience. 

10. Never say never 
Never again is exactly what went through my mind at mile 23. I was at the bottom of the emotion rollercoaster and declared that I will never put myself through this again! But. Well. See. The thing is... Now that it's done, and now that I know what to expect, maybe the next one won't be just quite as bad?! Only one way to find out... Athens Marathon in November it is then!

What did you learn on marathon day?

Katy | City Girl Fit


  1. OOOO Athens! Have you signed up? I've heard great things my sports massage lady loved it and did it in fancy dress. Loving this post, can't wait to read your report. I had a conversation with a guy in the last 10km about how tired his legs were, I said "I'm getting a bit tired now too" and then this thought popped up: "I guess we are running a marathon, we are supposed to be tired" so I completely agree with your Mum! x

    1. yes, signed up for Athens - eek!! Should be awesome :)

  2. Great post! I love that you balanced enjoyment and effort through the marathon. I heard a great quote yesterday that "effort isn't pain" and I think your marathon was a perfect example of that! You worked hard and did it!

    Ohhhh Athens! I was deciding between that and Dublin, Dublin won this year so guess I'll be reading your race report for my 2015 race :)

    1. great quote! Dublin will be fantastic - maybe we can trade autumn marathons next year :)

  3. Athens! Amazing!! Congratulations again lady, when Lissy & I saw you at mile 21 you definitely looked like you were in the game! And I 100% believe balloons are the answer! My parents brought heart balloons ... Bob definitely wins!!! xxx

  4. Well done!!!!! I'm so inspired by all your Spring marathons!

  5. Bob the balloon sounds like a great idea! My brother didn't get to see my Mum & Dad as they were hidden in the crowds, so a balloon would have been a good idea (maybe for next time)!
    Well done and congratulations!

  6. well done!! I love the idea of Bob, I should have done that - stood at mile 7 from elites to sweepers and totally missed the runners I was supporting (well the specific ones, my love was for everyone really!)!

  7. I cant wait to give you a big congratulations hug!! One thing that worked for me was saying "the training is the hard part, today is the PAR-TAY!" - it kept a smile on my face even when I was hurting and dizzy and overwhelmed and omg-make-it-end. I love the idea of lying face first on concrete too - I would have dearly loved that feeling of cool on my skin!!

    YAY Marathoner lady!! You rocked it! xx