My mind has been a big jumble of post marathon thoughts. The morning after the Manchester Marathon I had to get up early, drive 3 and a half hours to give two afternoon and one evening presentations and then get up and drive back the next morning. Not ideal marathon recovery and If I’m honest, I think I’m still on a high and living off adrenalin. I’m waiting for it all to hit me big time!
I thought I’d use questions that friends and family have asked me to tell you how it went. So, it’s kind of interviewing myself which is a bit weird but here we go…
How did it go?
It went brilliantly, better than I could have ever imagined. Better than it looks from the finish line photo! I finished one minute short of my PB which you might think I’d be disappointed about but I’m honestly thrilled. I didn’t dream I could even get close to my PB, set (in Manchester) in 2018, when my running was really on form. It was hands down the best race I have ever run from a personal performance point of view.
Did you hit a wall?
Kind of. I’d trained to 20 miles and of course those last 6.2 are always going to be tough. At around mile 22 and then again during mile 23 I had what I think was a mild panic attack. My chest started tightening and I felt really scared. I was afraid about how hard it felt and whether I could manage to keep going. I couldn’t get my breath. I had been practising my inner conversations so much because in previous marathons I have always crumbled at 22 and 23. On those occasions the negative voices have won, my pace has dropped and I’ve finished feeling disappointed that I didn’t do my best. I did not want that to happen. I had a very stern word with myself, reassured myself and told myself to start counting. The feeling eased. So, no wall with cramp or exhaustion, more of a mental wall which I overcame.
How did you fuel your race?
For once, I had actually practised my fuelling properly on my 18 and 20 mile long runs and knew exactly what the plan was. I realised that one of the reasons those had gone so well was because I was taking fuelling seriously, not just having a bit when I felt I needed it and was also consuming way more than I normally would. When I was at the National Running Show, Protein Rebel gave me a couple of their maple syrup gels to try. I really liked them because they’re small in quantity, taste great ( I love maple syrup) and aren’t sickly sweet. Those were gifted but I then went and bought a great big box of them. I fuelled on time rather than distance. I had one at 60 minutes and then one every half an hour after that. I had a few swigs of water from the bottles most of the hydration stations after 10K. I did carry a bottle of energy drink too (my favourite 33 Fuel) and I had a few sips in those last few miles. I definitely think my fuelling strategy made all the difference to my ability to keep going when I’ve previously not been able to.
What did you wear?
I stuck with tried and tested favourite clothes that I’d worn for all my long training runs. Not gifted, not ads, these are all my own purchases. These were:
- Years old M and S knickers!
- ZaaZee Alicia sports bra – rarely wear anything else
- 261 Fearless Coach’s t-shirt
- Sweaty Betty Power leggings – got in a sale last year
- Balega Ultra-light running socks – hands down the best running socks for me. Zero blisters!
- adidas adizero adios pro 2 running shoes
- 261 Fearless bracelet – to remind me to be fearless
- Ultimate Direction hydration vest – I adore this, I don’t even know I’m wearing it. Even though I wasn’t carrying a water bladder it’s such a convenient way to carry what I needed and I’d worn it on all my training runs.
A note on the trainers. My son encouraged me to try some carbon plate technology shoes when he saw them reduced from £170 to £50 in TK Maxx. I was hesitant to swap shoes but my trainers were absolutely trashed so I thought I’d give them a go. When I tried them I realised they were a totally different running experience! I honestly felt I had springs in my feet! However, I knew they made me run differently and I was worried about that causing muscle cramps. I tried them out on a few runs and on my long 20 miler and knew I was going to be OK. I do think these shoes helped me to succeed. They aren’t for everyone and I think I will keep them for when I’m after speed. I bought a second pair when they reduced them to £39!
Did you listen to music?
If you’ve read my previous posts and social media you will know that I’ve gone from being someone who actively hated listening to anything on the run to finding it really helpful on long distances. I had nothing for the first 10 miles, just absorbed the crowd and the atmosphere. Then I stuck on a podcast (Steven Bartlett interviewing Marie Forleo). At 20 miles when I knew I’d struggle, I put on my carefully crafted playlist. No one else on earth would run to my tunes, a mix of songs from the musicals, hits from the 80s, a bit of Girl power and even some ballads. Just songs I love and that are personal to me. They reminded me of my kids, happy times with my husband, friends, my work and running mission. They made me smile and feel positive. This helped the endorphins to flow and not fully hearing my breathing helped me not to panic and to just keep going.
What are you most proud of?
Good question! I think I’m most proud of how fearless I was. I honestly didn’t know how this would go. I hadn’t even decided what pace I would run. You never know how you’ll feel on the day, especially in the perimenopause. I planned to just run on feel and then check in every mile and see what that pace was. I was amazed to find that comfortable pace was more than a mile a minute quicker than my training runs. After 10K it still felt comfortable. I knew I was playing a very risky game though! I would never recommend this strategy to any one else. How could I possibly run that fast, faster than I’d run for years, for the entire thing? At the half marathon point it was starting to feel tough and I was terrified I’d overcooked it which is so easy to do. I really didn’t know if I could sustain it for another half marathon and feared I’d fall apart later on. But, I didn’t give in. I tried to ‘stay in the mile’ and not feel overwhelmed by what was to come. Yes the pace slowed a bit after 20 miles but only a bit and I was still way quicker than my training runs. I’m proud that I had courage, that I overcame the negative voices and that at every point in the race I was doing my absolute best. Knowing you couldn’t have done any more is a wonderful way to feel when you cross the finish line. I’m proud I felt that.
How does Manchester compare to to other marathons you’ve run?
I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing marathons under my belt including Boston, London and Reykjavik. This is my third visit to the Manchester Marathon. I really like it. It has a really big marathon feel to it. The suburbs of the city all compete to give you the best cheering and music experience. The supporters are amazing – thank you! It’s a pretty flat course so it’s fast. The organisation is good. And it’s quite easy for me as it’s only an hour or so away. I always look forward to the Erdinger (non-alcoholic) beer at the end which is so refreshing. The medal is chunky. I didn’t take a t-shirt this year but they looked great. The only downside for me was the very long queues for the tram back to the Park and Ride. Standing still and queuing for so long didn’t help my muscle stiffness but, it was organised and everyone got a tram eventually.
Are you going to do another marathon?
Yes! I will but not this year. Doing so well has given me a real boost in my running. I completely amazed myself and I know there is more to come. But, that was honestly the absolute best I have to offer right now. The stars truly aligned for me. If I am to run faster then I have to do some speed training and build up speed endurance. I know marathons don’t have to be about speed, they can just be for the experience but I feel that I’ve been there and done that quite a lot of times (this was marathon number 11). Being on a start line for a marathon and being undertrained is really no fun at all. They’re hard, they take you to some dark places and for me they aren’t really about having a good time. You may disagree. The training is time consuming and uses a lot of physical and emotional energy, I have to really want to and be able to make time for that. I don’t do a lot of races, maybe only two or three a year. I plan to find a half marathon and train for that. I’ll work on my parkrun and 10K times and then see. I’ll probably aim for another one next spring. Let’s see!
I’ll write a separate post about what was different in my training and approach because I’m perimenopausal. I did make some changes to previous routines and I think they helped me. For now though I will say that when a friend was asking me, before the marathon, what time I was aiming for I said, “I don’t know, it’s 4 years since I ran a marathon and I’m not the woman I was.” Now, I can categorically say, “No, I’m not the woman I was. I’m stronger, more determined, more in tune with my body and a better version of her.” Take that perimenopause!
Thank you so much to everyone who sent me good luck and congratulations messages and to those that tracked me, your support was overwhelming! Good luck if you have a marathon coming up soon and if you’re thinking of doing one then get signed up, train properly and be fearless.
If you want to learn more about running in the perimenopause then sign up for my Run Through the Menopause Course.