It came and went faster than a blink of an eye. Doesn’t everything fun seem to zoom past us like it never happened? Now, if you asked me 2.5 months ago whether or not training was going fast, I might have had a different answer for you.
Last winter I signed up to run the London Marathon to raise money and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Society. This charity hits home as my grandmother has suffered with this disease for over 11 years. Not knowing whether COVID would be affecting our everyday life I decided to sign up anyways. It was a way to keep me accountable for working out. COVID has changed everybody’s life and behavior in one way or another. For me it gave me an easy pass on workouts because there was nothing to train for. Knowing how many people this charity could benefit and knowing my gram would appreciate the efforts, I was able to get up and out every morning to train for the unknown.
Training this year was unlike past years. I trained smarter, not harder. I incorporated trail runs to get George out every morning, I switched up the surfaces I ran on to help with muscle confusion, I strength trained with body weight and bands versus heavy weight, and I controlled my pacing for all runs appropriately. Training never goes according to plan for most, and this season had its share of setbacks including a rolled ankle and a fall on the 4th of July. This set me back 2 weeks with little to no running. Because of that it cost me 4 weeks to get back to where I was pre-injury. These frustrations happen and need to be taken in stride. As a PT I’ve seen everybody’s injuries and mental anguish associated with them.Luckily, I quickly acknowledged this too would be ok and I couldn’t dwell on things out of my control. I could only progress forward with healing and return to training.
As I approached the end of the training program, 3-4 weeks pre-race, I started to notice how strong my body was. Normally I am counting down to the taper and need time to heal and recover before race day. This time I was running quality sessions and long runs at marathon pace and recovering within a couple days. My nutrition, sleep, pacing, and stress management were all factors in this speedy recovery. Usually, a 3-week taper is needed in preparation for the big day, where this time I had about a week and a half.
Race week was HERE and the excitement of travel was becoming real. With the COVID precautions and international travel there were a few hurdles to jump through to enable the safety of all participants. A COVID test before departure, a test upon getting to the hotel, a 2-day pre-ordered test for the UK, a test to get into the expo, and a test for race day were all planned and required for all participants. This process added a bit of stress, but also made me more comfortable knowing that everyone on the course that day had to have multiple negative tests to participate.
With a day and a half to normalize to a 5-hour time zone difference I forced myself to push forward with a normal day once we landed.5:30am UK time, first things first, COFFEE. We then took a taxi to drop our bags at the hotel where we proceeded to take a proctored COVID test. Without a room to check in to and take a nap (which is a good thing!) we hopped on the tube to the expo about 45 minutes away. I quickly found myself falling asleep sitting up as it was now closer to 10am or what my body felt 5am back at home. The expo was well put together with a handful of vendors and gear for the marathon. We dropped our gear bag and collected our bib numbers and went exploring into the vendor area. For those who have never experienced an expo before, it is essentially a runner version of Christmas morning. There is wall to wall runner gear stretching the length of the conference center. Even though the excitement in the expo is high and everyone’s adrenaline is pumping I tend to need some space about an hour in to these things. We jumped back on the tube to see if our hotel had our room ready. We checked in at St. Ermin’s Hotel (which I highly recommend!!!), I tried my best not to nap, but 3 hours later I woke around 6pm ready for dinner.
Saturday was a day to relax and do a shakeout run to prep the legs for race day. 3-4 miles was the recommended amount at a slow pace. We ventured up to Buckingham Palace about a mile away and did the touristy thing with pictures. We took a jog around St. James’ Park, up to Horse Guards Road, and then back by Parliament towards the hotel. Not wanting to be on my feet for too long the day before a big race, we decided to hang out locally for most of the day. Pre-race dinner consisted of GF pasta at Zizzi. It was so good that we went again post-race!
The morning of race day has arrived! GAHHHH! My race kit was ready to go with the most important piece being my Alzheimer’s Society racing shirt. Gram was on my mind all morning after putting that shirt on. Breakfast was a cinnamon raison GF bagel, a banana and a salted caramel Gu. I was ready!
We grabbed an Uber for fear the tube would be packed full of people. We took the 40 minute drive out to Greenwich Park where all the runners would start their journey into the city. I was in the red corral, number 2.This year they did a rolling start with three different colored bibs starting at various points within the park, all at different times. This reduced the amount of people you were directly next to within the first few miles. By mile3 everyone started to converge on the same course with people spread out more than they would be at the start. I crossed the starting line at 9:37am with about 1000 people by my side.
My goal was to split the marathon into 3 sections with the first 13-16 miles at an 8-8:10 min per mile average. With the energy on the course starting slow can be a challenging task. If you don’t hold yourself back, the miles later in the race become a major issue due to fatigue. Unfortunately,I crossed the first mile at a sub 8 pace and kept telling myself to slow down.Mile 2, I was still sub 8 but feeling good. I had to make the decision to continue at my current pace or to slow down. Attempting to slow down I just kept hitting the same pace around 7:45. My new focus was on keeping the pace but not getting faster until the end. Surprisingly I felt good doing this until mile 20-21. I knew there was no way I could maintain this for the entirety. The beginning of the marathon had a few hills but I managed to do well. It wasn’t until the end of the race where I felt the downhills bothering my quads. I felt like someone was tearing my quads at every step somewhere within that 21-22mile range. Knowing the difference between good and bad pain I realized that this was due to the hills early on and I just needed to keep pushing ahead.
My pacing started to slow due to my legs, but my focus was on moving forward and not stopping. As long as I was running, I wouldn’t lose too much ground. I plucked off the next few miles and finally hit the 25 mile marker. Only 1.2 miles left! Anyone can do 1.2 miles, right? Well, at least that’s what I told myself every step. I was so focused on the blue tangent line and finishing that I missed the London eye that took up the shoreline all the way through mile 25. Before I knew it the 600m left sign was in front of me as I ran towards Buckingham Palace. I turned the corner at the palace and ran up the famous Mall with 200m left and gave it all I had. I raced through the finish line at 3 hours 27 minutes 29 seconds. A 6 minute personal record, and aBoston qualifier time! I crushed my goal of beating 3 hours and 30 minutes and basked in the glory of my training.
I slipped into clean warm clothes and started my stretching routine. As everyone around me was resting on the ground I knew the PT in me wouldn’t let slip into rest mode until I got my stretching in. Who wants to be sore for a full week? Not me! I finished up and slowly make my way back to the hotel. Slowly, meaning a few wrong turns and 2 miles later I finally arrived. A hot shower and forced nap were just what I needed for recovery before dinner and some light walking.
The London Marathon was an amazing experience to be part of. I am still living in excitement over how well the day went and how much fun it was to be in a new city with fellow runners. But most of all, I am proud to have been chosen to wear the Alzheimer’s Society’s racing shirt.
My grandmother may not be able to thank you directly, but I can. I want to thank everyone who donated to the Alzheimer’s Society. It is never an easy thing to fundraise but I take on the challenge to help with something that I feel is bigger than all of us, research and funding for diseases that need more insight. I appreciate each one of you for supporting not only me, but my grandmother and all of the other patients/families out there suffering with this disease. It means the world to me.
More pictures from London to enjoy: