By late September my knee had recovered, and I was back on it running, cycling, and the swimming carried on. I got a phone call from the ever competitive brother, who wanted to know if I fancied doing the Devizes Half Marathon in October, and I agreed, not realizing the Leicester Half was the following week, which I kind of promised I would do anyway. So there was born my crazy 7 day half marathon challenge, and all for MacMillan Cancer Support. I knew that I could do 10k no problem but 13 miles? Anything is possible.
I trolled cyber space and found plenty of advice for training for a Half Marathon, with lots of just running programmes, but I wanted to maintain my swim and bike until at least a week or so before, so I ended up keeping Mondays as rest days, Tuesdays 3mile run to the pool, 1 to 1.5km swim, Wednesday 6-7mile run, Thursday 1.6-1.8km swim, Friday 50mile bike, Saturday rest, Sunday Long Slow Distance runs building up to doing 13.1miles or more. Through September and early October I pestered everyone for donations, wrote blogs as to why it was so important to me, even a poem. It was working the pennies were rolling in and the running was getting easier. I did a slow half Marathon distance in September at 2hrs 13mins but it was a first, the second training run in October 2hrs 6mins. The following week would be the Devizes Half.
October the 19th loomed and as my brother lives near Devizes we would spend the night before at his with the family. He wound me up saying his foot was hurting him, and he thought his trainers had, had it. I couldn’t sleep a wink. I was awake nearly every hour. I struggled with my race day breakfast of Porridge, Banana, Erdinger and beetroot juice. I was feeling seriously stressed because I knew what it meant to me. I just wanted to register, get our numbers and get on with it.
As we lined up together I got the “yeah I am going to take it easy to start with”, “will see how I go”, but that was all game talk. Our partners and kids made it to the start point to cheer us of, just in time. The gun went and we were off. I waved my mad bunch goodbye to cheers of “go on Daddy/Marc”. A few minutes later Chris said “see ya at the finish”, and was gone. I decided to hang on to the 2hr pace guy for as long as possible, with the plan to breeze past him after mile 10. Nice plan, until the hill on Mile 2.
I knew it was going to be long and hard, and there would be a few more smaller hills, but after every up hill is downhill. I dug deep, and remembered my training, smaller more frequent steps to maintain my cadence. I did it, and opened up on the downhill to stretch out the legs. It worked. I was enjoying it, and every water/fluid station was a welcome shower. Especially as the gloomy grey morning was turning into a Sunny windy day. It was almost as if those up above were smiling. I even managed a conversation with complete strangers, which was a good indicator I wasn’t pushing too hard.
By Mile 6 I could feel the fatigue start to creep in, I was 2 SiS gels in, 2 to go, and half way through my Viper Active Orange drink, I reeled in a lady called Kit, and she stuck with me for the rest of the race, helping me keep at a sensible, I will finish pace. She was trying for 1hr 45mins region and I for 2hrs, but all that went out of the window after the first killer hill. We pushed each other on, and after a few miles gathered quiet a group around us, well until mile 11, when the course changed from nice firm road to wet, muddy stoney gravel and a very steep hill. Nice!! I probably could have walked faster, but I was adamant I wasn’t going to stop running. Kit was still 15 meters behind, but as we crested the hill she caught up. With 400mtrs to go, we approached Devizes green and the finish home loop, and we gave it everything. I saw my kids running alongside cheering, my brother cheering and at the finish my partner and our little girl. As I crossed the finish line the flood gates opened. I had completed the first step, on near as damn it my old back yard, and I knew Mum would be smiling. My time was 2hrs 7minutes. I was more than happy. Oh and my ever competitive brother 1hr 45minutes. We both wore our finisher’s medal with pride as we walked into the Moonrakers for a celebratory pint and to swap battle stories.
2 hours later I would drive the 3hour drive home feeling blessed, relaying the story of the race to the kids and my partner. Monday morning loomed and walking down the stairs was a challenge, especially carrying a 14mth old, but no pain no gain right? I knew that Leicester wasn’t far away, and to stand any chance of surviving that half marathon, I knew I needed to get my muscles sorted, my aches gone, and glycogen stores replenished. Que taking out shares in ibuprofen gel, deep heat, ice baths, and eating pasta like Mussolini’s third cousin, and omelette’s until I was about ready to lay eggs myself. Midweek I knew I needed to get out and run to keep my legs working, so I did an easy 10k around Watermead Park and Birstall. The rest of the week was going to be just rest.
Race day on the 26th October for the Leicester Half and full marathons arrived. The Madness of trying to park up, before the race and walk with kids and pushchair to the start was annoying but once I saw a few familiar faces, and got the nervous loo break out of the way, I was good and clock watching for the start. The plan, go out to about half way nice an easy and then speed up for the inbound leg. As the gun went we all walked towards the start and slowly started running towards London Road. Once I got onto London Road, I felt good, and let my legs go at what I felt comfortable with, by mile one I had done an 8min 15sec mile, too fast. Mile 2 – 8:21, still too fast, I was feeling good, my legs seemed happy with the pace, so I kept on it. By mile 5 my bladder decided it really couldn’t hang on, and I stopped and found a bush, then got going again, but now everything felt harder, strange almost. I had lost any rhythm, and was now feeling gut rot. By Mile 6 my knees were starting to ache. I knew once I hit Watermead Park and King Lear Lake, I would be on familiar ground, and close to seeing my partner Catherine and the kids on Wiles Lane. As I got to the hill on Wiles Lane I could hear her, the kids, and friends who had come out in the village to cheer me on I got a massive buzz of emotion. I was in agony, but I knew now was not the time to quit, just one foot in front of the other, just keep moving. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, but all I had to do was get to the finish, no matter the pain. After all my pain would go but those suffering from Cancer would maybe never be pain free again. I owed it to them to man the hell up, and even shouted “shut up legs” which gave me a psychological push.
As I got close to New Walk I saw a familiar face of an ex college, and the two of us spurred each other on up the gentle hill, as I got to the top, I could see and hear my Sister in Law cheering and I knew the finish wasn’t far away, but I couldn’t see my Partner anywhere in the crowds. I pushed and gave it everything for the finish, and felt completely drained and beat. I checked around and then saw my partner crying because she had missed me finishing. I hugged her and reassured her, that it didn’t matter, seeing her in my home village with my friends was more important. I checked my tracker 2hours 4 minutes, get in there new PB on tired achy legs. I then discovered it wasn’t the only PB. I was happy. I had completed what I set out to do, run two half marathons 7 days apart, and raise as much as I could for MacMillan.
The following day the pain would hit hard, but good old ibuprofen, deep heat and ice took the edge off it nicely. The messages of congratulations flooding through social media and text messages were amazing.
The donations on JustGiving.com and to me personally with messages were moving, and I sat down and read them all again. It had been worth all the hours of training, all the pain, and above all the sacrifices.
I looked back over my training this year, and I realised if I can get from a 118kg sofa troll to 85kg double half marathon runner in one year, from here on in I can work to do an Ironman!
Bring on Outlaw 2015 – I will complete it.