How I Ran Sub-4 Hour in my First Marathon

My London Marathon Training header

This time last year I was in full panic mode at how on earth I was going to run 26.2 miles around London in a time I was proud of. I don’t just ‘try’ things. If I start something I’m getting it done properly. London Marathon 2019 was no different.

By the title of my blog it’s pretty obvious I’m not a runner, so it was my first marathon as well as never having actually done a running event before. From so much cycling you’d maybe think I’d find swapping my bike for running shoes a breeze, but I quickly found out it was a whole different type of fitness. A good 3-4 hours on my bike could match a 2 hour run effort-wise. It was a steep learning curve that’s for sure. That steep learning curve also means this isn’t a blog post for seasoned club runners, just those who jumped in the deep end like me feeling like a rabbit in headlights.

I owe a lot of my training inspiration to Rachel Ann Cullen, who is the author of ‘Running for my Life’. Her story was amazing to read as a lot of my previous reading was from athletes like the Brownlee Brothers. My head was full of speed sets when in reality I just needed to get miles in my legs. Rachel’s gone on to do London multiple times now, so she’s certainly moved to the seasoned runner category!

So how did I accomplish a sub-4 hour London Marathon simply?

From the start of October when the ‘Congratulations’ magazine dropped through the letterbox I only had 7 months to go from cyclist to runner. After reading Rachel’s book I streamlined my training plan drastically and here’s a little example of how it went.

LM Blog

So rather than having weeks broken down into a strict training plan, I had simple milestones to reach before the big day. For me it was a training plan that was realistic with a job where I’m on my feet all day. I had injuries along the way, but I think if I’d tackled London with any more training I would have had a DNF or even a DNS.

After running the Half Marathon in 1:51 I had a rough idea of what I could run London in, which was under 4 hours. From then on it was just a case of continuing to up the miles and try and stick to around 8 and a half minute miling.

Lucys Marathon

For the 20 miler I clocked a time of 2:52.

Then smashed London in 3:57.

The point I’m trying to put across is that tackling London Marathon doesn’t need to be complicated. If you have a coach, then fab listen to them. If you still feel like a rabbit in headlights, then I have a few little rules to follow:

My LM Rules

Got your own tips and tricks for training for a marathon? Feel free to drop them below in a comment!

Want to read more about my London Marathon 2019 training? Then hear’s my training in blog posts:

Spa Six Hours 2019

Spa Six Hours 2019

There was a plan for this blog post to be how amazing Belgium is for cycling, but Belgium weather scuppered those plans a little bit. Especially weather around the Spa-Francochamps motorsport circuit. Weather can change at the click of your fingers. You can leave the paddock in a t-shirt, but get to the other side of the circuit needing a thick winter jacket and hood. Clouds just roll in and out like waves in the sea.

Spa-Francochamps

Off what people told me prior to my trip, my image of Belgium cycling was long roads that were fairly flat. Yet I don’t think that exactly goes for the part of Belgium I was in. Travelling through Belgium the wide expanse of crop fields quickly turned to rolling hills covered in trees. The track itself is known for being technical to drive. It’s certainly the most hilly motorsport circuit I’ve ever been to.

Spa Six Hours 2019

I’d love to be sat here saying that I got the chance to ride around it, but I was there to watch the Spa Six Hours race. One of the biggest races in the historic motor racing calendar, teams race for 6 hours requiring driver changes and two fuel stops. The best part about it I guess is going back to the roots of motorsport. There’s minimal fancy equipment. The cars have to be original. Feeling the vibrations through your feet as they come flying down the pit straight is sometimes enough to kick the old adrenaline into play. It’s all systems go in the pits for 6 hours providing drivers with lap times and directing them when to pit. There’s no radios here.

Spa Six Hours 2019

Whilst the 6-hour race was the main event, the weekend was packed with other races too. The alarm clock for each day would be a car engine warming up. And I’m not talking about sitting there early in the morning waiting for the ice to melt off your car, I’m talking full on jump out of your skin wake up call.

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One of the most memorable races for me was the Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends Race, which was full of LMP1 and LMP2 cars. Essentially old Le Mans cars up until around the year 2012. Engines that echo through the forests surrounding the circuit and headlights that light up the sky like fireworks. After my brother and I had made our way up to one of the infamous corners, Pouhon, we could here the cars leaving the pits. It felt like we had the best seats in the house as we looked down on the pit straight and paddock area at the other end of the valley. We watched their headlights come around the circuit with the echoes getting louder as they came along the Kemmel straight. Suddenly they were in view, but quick enough it was back to watching they’re headlights break through the trees. It’s a spectacle I’m struggling to put into words if I’m honest, so hopefully I’ve done these amazing cars justice.

Spa Six Hours 2019

Spa Six Hours 2019

If you take anything away from this blog post, and you are a motorsport fan, I’d recommend going to the Spa 6 Hours endurance event. When the majority only watch the Spa 6 Hours, I’d really recommend heading out to watch the Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends too. That spectacle topped Bonfire Night fireworks.

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So I started this post talking about cycling didn’t I? Yet I’ve spent a most of it talking about cars…oops.

Not thinking the wet weather would pass anytime soon; I managed to get out on my bike on our first day in Belgium. The cars were out testing, so I thought it would be a good time to get out. I had no clue what the route had in store for me, but I forced myself to go out. It was probably quite stupid going out in such horrific weather on my own in a foreign county, but you’ve got to push the boundaries sometimes I guess.

Cycling in Belgium

I committed the cardinal sin of road by going out with a small rucksack, but it put me at ease that nothing could fall out of my pocket. I definitely wasn’t finding anything again if it did!

After some cyclocross-esque fire road riding, my route eventually turned to roads and landed me in the centre of Malmedy. After nearly turning back when the road became gravel, I’m glad I pushed myself on to get to Malmedy. Tall townhouses, a cobbled bridge bustling with flowers along it and a church steeple all came into view. I breathed a sigh of relief that I could hopefully complete the ride I set out to do now I was off the gravel roads.

Malmedy, Belgium

Climbing out of Malmedy I was soon on a climb that I later found out was 9 miles long. Granted it was not as steep as Sa Calobra, but enough to get the old legs burning. The road just kept meandering up and up.

Eventually I’m on a road that seems to never end. I look ahead and I can just see a pin straight road lined by trees that will probably get felled at some point. Winds blowing at me. Rain is somehow coming at me from the left. Then there’s the small drama of my Garmin going to sleep. I knew roughly where I was going, but I hadn’t seen a road sign for a really long time…

Eventually a junction came into view with a village I recognised. I was starting to think I was riding into the abyss.

I didn’t think I could have beaten the mental capacity to get round Welsh Champs when everything seemed to be against me that day. But somehow a 28 mile day came close to 50. I’d followed the route, but there was an 8-mile ride to the start point and back because of the paddock we were in. There was no cafe stop, just a Clif Bar. (Ok there was an insta photo to take in Malmedy obviously). Sitting writing this I still don’t know where it came from. I haven’t trained for months. But I’ve never been so glad to hear the rumble of engines as I got close to the circuit again.

Spa-Francochamps

I had to ring my kit to get rid of the excess water. There were puddles in the bottom of my shoes. There were points where I didn’t think I enjoyed it, but looking back it puts a smile on my face. I saw more of Belgium than I would have if I hadn’t taken my bike. There wasn’t much chance to take photos, just grey sky. It was just a day I dug deeper than I thought I could.

It was a random weekend, so I guess that makes for a bit of a random blog post. If you’re still reading this rather lengthy post, thanks for sticking with me. My first trip to Belgium has been and gone. Who knows if I’ll head back.

 

Paths Less Trodden

Walking

Often when I’m out on my bike I’ll come across public footpaths that look interesting, but my road tyres mean I have to leave exploring them for another day. You only have to open an Ordnance Survey map to see where all of these footpaths are. The amount of people that use these footpaths is probably very little, depending on where they are obviously.

With a new addition to the family, and by new addition I mean the sort with four paws and a waggy tail, I’m starting to venture out a little bit more. Although I think I’m going to invest in some more Ordnance Survey maps because one of this week’s walk didn’t exactly go to plan!

I suppose the thing that is easy to forget is because they’re not regularly used some way-marked routes might be a little over-grown…so when you approach said stile in shorts and t-shirt. I don’t think there’s much chance of you getting past thanks to a large amount of nettles!

The local people were pleasant. I didn’t expect such a happy reception from a farmer when I was stood there trying to figure out where to go next. Maybe it was the fact he’d already seen me close a gate behind me, but he pointed me in the right direction and off we went.

I may not have got very far, but I guess I still saw a part of the world I’d not seen before. I came away with a nettle sting or two, but I’d given the route a go. A field full of cattle was what eventually turned me around to re-trace my steps. All I could picture was me running through a field clutching a puppy trying to outrun grumpy heifers. I’d rather not thanks…

So my wander out might not have been the most successful, but I didn’t get lost at least. I have a tired pup with fluffy ears after a bath, so all is good I think. Maybe I’ll stick to exploring the forests next time rather than cow fields!

Bringing Back Your Childhood Memories

Bringing Back Your Childhood MemoriesLike cycling, swimming is one of those things you do as a child. Whether that was jumping in a river in the summer, or having it forced upon you in P.E. at school. (How cool would it be if cycling was part of the curriculum at school though?).

You may not do either seriously, they’re purely a recreational activity. Yet both can open up door to adventures that haven’t been accessible to you before. With cycling you can cover that little bit of extra distance. With swimming you can enjoy the sea on holiday and see things from a different perspective. Some of my strongest memories as a child are water or cycling related. Long jump into the pool on holiday. Bobbing up and down in the sea resting on a bodyboard in the sea at Pwllheli. Looking up at my neighbour after I’d landing head first in his hedge after a race around our street went slightly wrong…

Combine the two sports and you get a whole host of new adventures available to you. Ride up a mountain, then jump in the lake at the top. Go bike-packing in a foreign country experiencing new cultures, then cool off in the sea after covering so many miles.

Both offer the opportunity to escape. Pushing off the side of a swimming pool wall, like the pressure of the water on your shoulders taking all of the stress away. The adrenaline rush following a downhill section on a mountain bike, where there’s no time to think about anything but the trail ahead.

Mountain Biking

Sometimes it feels like the rush of cold water over your body is required to relax. Other times it requires hammering the pedals on a trail ride. To completely switch off I don’t think there will ever be one solution. The variety has a greater impact and puts a smile on your face. You’ve just got to go wherever your mind takes you.

Open Water Swimming

Some might find comfort in repetition of only ever doing one sport, but honestly? I find everything so much more exciting having a go at whatever comes to mind. Yet cycling and swimming will always be something I come back to. They take me back to my childhood and both are invigorating in their own ways. And living in Wales it means I can do both in so many different places. You’ve just got to know where to look.

My C.R.Y. Heart Screening

My Free CRY Screening

Back when I was training for the London Marathon I said I’d booked onto a heart screening run by Cardiac Risk in the Young. Practice what you preach and all that. There was no symptoms suggesting I needed a heart scan, but Ryan wasn’t showing any symptoms either.

With the free heart screenings booking up so quickly I was lucky to get onto one in the Marches School, Oswestry. The closer the scan got the more it played on my mind. Being active became difficult because I wasn’t sure what results I’d be walking away their with.

Getting to the school with the C.R.Y. flags outside, I signed a few forms then waited to be called though. I’d be getting an E.C.G, but to keep it all simple what you get is essentially a heart scan checking your ticker is all ok. They noted down my height, weight and age and put these onto the forms I’d filled out previously. These forms asked things like if I’d experienced anything like chest pains and other medical history information.

All that was required for the heart scan was for me to lie on a bed with some sticky pads attached to me while the machine did its thing. Honestly, it lasted less than 5 minutes. The nurse takes the scan results away, which are then looked over by a Doctor. Another anxious wait then I was called in by the Doctor.

After asking me if I’d had a heart scan before and if I show any symptoms, to both of which I responded no, he said my results were clear.

It was definitely a ‘and breath’ moment, so everything is good and I can carry on as normal.

The screening I went to saw nearly 100 people and only one showed signs of something abnormal. So if you’re nervous (like I was) about booking on to a C.R.Y. screening, the chances are you’ll be absolutely fine, but even if the results do pick anything up C.R.Y. send all of the details to your G.P. so you can be referred for further tests. Testing runs for those between the ages of 14 and 35 years old.

SIGN UP TO A FREE HEART SCREENING HERE

Now the money to run these heart screenings has to come from somewhere, so to help C.R.Y. carry on their amazing work, Ryan and I are organising a day of Crit racing at Marsh Tracks in August. It would be great if you can come along and join in the fun. The more riders that race the more money will be raised! There’s even big points on offer in the National B E123 Men’s race! Racing and raising money for charity, what a great combo!?! What a perfect event to have a go at racing too. First time racers can enter the 4th Cat only race, and women can  have a go in the E1234 race!

Crit Races for C.R.Y

Have you been to a C.R.Y. heart screening? Share your experience below to encourage others to do the same!

Reflecting on London Marathon 2019

London Marathon 2019

Well I’m still getting use to the idea it’s all done and dusted to be honest. My legs well and truly know the big event has been and gone, but when I don’t have a run to do each day I just don’t know what to do with myself. I know some of you might be thinking ‘get out on your bike!’, but I know my body needs a good rest before I get back into training. So this week, whether I do some sort of sport or not, it will purely be for fun. No number chasing, just moving and taking the world in as I do it.

London Marathon 2019

The closer London got the more difficult it got to concentrate on anything but something running related. What did I need to pack? Would we get down there ok? Would the hotel have anything I liked for breakfast?

A million questions going through my head constantly.

Someone wanted to test me before race day after a long list of things didn’t exactly go to plan. Trains not leaving stations, trains being cancelled, hotel rooms getting trashed so we couldn’t use them. It was just one thing after another.

London Marathon 2019

After working out the maze that is the London Underground, it wasn’t until I had my number in my hand that I relaxed just a little. I was still nervous, but not flapping if I was going to get to the Expo in time or not. That’s one thing I will say about the many emails you get before the marathon, they like to be a little overly cautious. Apparently getting to the Expo at 12 the latest was needed if you were going to get your number by 5pm. Granted getting there the earlier the better, we got there past 12 and were out by 2.

That was something that shocked me to be honest. I went in with the agenda of getting my number and some marathon merchandise. After picking up my number and some New Balance kit, I found the whole thing a little overwhelming. I suppose that’s the competitor in me. I needed my own headspace before race day. I was also conscious at how long I had been on my feet. Although Ryan had already scheduled in our busy day into my taper week.

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Back at the hotel after figuring out how to get to our pre-booked table at a local Italian by Bus, I was praying I’d be able to get some sleep. It’s rather stressful sitting on a bus in London having no idea where you are and having no idea where the bus is going. It felt like the crazy bus off Harry Potter…just not as fast but could turn a corner in the completely wrong direction at any second!

I quite like the night before race day, if I manage to keep the faffing down to a minimum that is. Laying my kit out checking everything is sorted. Pinning my race number on. It helps me get into the right head space. I did put off going to sleep quite a few times, but eventually I forced myself to sleep.

It wasn’t a completely undisrupted sleep thanks to the sirens and cars that come hand in hand with staying in London, but I woke up with the mindset of getting race ready. Food, plaits and kit. Ryan managed to push me out of the room on time and we got downstairs for a proper breakfast that I had to force down me. Race nerves and a big appetite aren’t things that tend to pair up with me. I’d picked up a reserve porridge pot in case I wasn’t a fan of breakfast at the hotel, so I managed that, a banana and then egg on toast.

Along with another runner nervous about relying on another runner’s taxi to get to the start line, we opted for the train which wasn’t too far from the hotel. We also played the system by getting on the train one or two stops before it got rammed. Following the sea of runners it wasn’t hard to work out where the start was.

London Marathon 2019

Walking up the street Greenwich Park opened up in front of us. The bag trucks making up part of the barrier between spectators and the Blue Start Zone, it took me a while to walk in. This was it. Ryan would head off to mile 21 to be part of the Cardiac Risk in the Young support crew and I would soon be making my way around London. Emotions were high. I’ve always been the same. Would I achieve my sub-4 hour goal? Something I found to be quite ambitious for someone’s first marathon. Would I get around at all? I have been riddled with injuries all through training. Could I get round without walking? All of this going through my head making it impossible to go under the blue arch. It felt like the first day of high school all over again. Luckily, like back at the first day of Year 7 when my brother came to see how my first day was going, walking under the blue arch went better than I thought. Everyone was on a high and the general topic of conversation being on deciding whether we actually needed a wee or if it was just nerves.

London Marathon 2019

I wandered round managing to find my bag drop trying not to get drawn into the amount of static stretching going on. Dynamic stretches are always the way to go. I made my way over to the right zone in some of Ryan’s Mum’s old kit over the top of my race kit to keep warm. Packed into the zone like penguins you could feel the buzz and anxiety floating around the group of god knows how many people. By chance I bumped into a cyclist who agreed with me that trying to cycle whilst marathon training didn’t really go hand in hand. I looked at the pacers dotted around, but could only find a 4 hour pacer. Thanks to Ryan’s advice I’d picked up a 3:55 pacing band from the Expo. His opinion was if I had a wobble on the way round I had 5 minutes spare to still get under 4 hours. The cyclist who I’d bumped into also said about not knowing how the pacers get you to the four hours. If it was go slow and speed up at the end…I would have been buggered.

Having the pacing band actually helped a lot more than I thought it would. Each mile I was chasing time for the next one, not the full 26.2 miles. It broke it up into doable chunks. Being a very numbers orientated person it just worked for me in that sense too. If I have something to follow I’m quite good at being able to dig deep and find the strength from somewhere.

Old clothes dropped in the clothing recycling bin, it was time for us to head under the big red arch that marked the start of my 26.2 miles. I knew round London it would be crazy and there would be people watching on the TV all around the UK hoping to spot their friends and family. But from this point to the finish line would be my experience of the London Marathon.

I was nervous about getting to the first mile and seeing how fast I’d started. At the various races I’d done in the run up to the big event I got into the habit of doing sub-8 minute miling for the first mile or two. When you’ve got 26.2 miles ahead and not a club runner, this isn’t something I wanted to be doing. Somehow it was like my body knew what it needed to do. It just kept ticking away whilst I ticked of the miles ahead of my pacing band. Meanwhile I was waiting for the Tower Bridge to come into view as I knew that would signal somewhere near half way. Right from the start we were running through a tunnel of people cheering their friends and family. I started giving high fives to all the little ones who had been dragged out to cheer, but soon realised I needed to focus on the task in hand.

I kept track of when I needed to take on board some sort of nutrition and looking out for the first Buxton water station. In term of nutrition I stuck to my tried and tested Clif Block and Clif Bar method. I saw people with belts full of SiS gels, but I knew my body would reject them after my experience of one in Majorca

I thought when I was running around London I would be able to take myself somewhere else. Running down the lanes at home. Running with Jenson my chocolate lab. Swimming in Cadair Idris, but it was purely a numbers game that kept me moving. There’s so much going on around you there is a lot to take in. Like looking ahead to see where the course is going so you can find the shortest line round the corner. Looking out for bottles so you don’t end up in A&E with a broken ankle thanks to the many dropped bottles. Whilst I had to drop bottles I was making sure I finished one before getting another. I don’t see the point in picking one up taking a swig and dropping it. It’s just a waste. For your average runner anyway. The club runners sort of have a reason when they’re running sub-6 minute miles (probably quicker).

Sooner or later Tower Bridge came into view, but the finish line still felt like it was a long way away. I think it was mainly the uncertainty of if I could keep my pace up. After 6 months of training I desperately wanted to run sub-4. I naturally seemed to run at 8:30 to 9 minute miling, so I knew it was possible. It’s just if I was mentally strong enough to carry it off.

I say I could naturally run at that pace, way back in October 2 miles was a struggle for me. It wasn’t until Ryan bought me some Endura compression socks that I managed to up my distance and pace. It took me a while to get into my Marathon training, possibly down to the fact I didn’t know what I was capable of when it came to running. I was quite happy remaining in the unknown. Eventually 2 miles lead to 3, 3 to 6 etc. It wasn’t until I booked a 10km, half marathon and 20 mile race that I really got into it when I had milestones to hit.

Those first few runs around the village seem so long ago now.

If you asked me where I actually ran in London, I don’t think I’d be able to tell you. I don’t even remember running past Big Ben because of all the people. You only notice the Tower Bridge because of how vast it is. It was all about putting one foot in front of the other and ticking the miles off on my pacing band.

I guess it’s time to bring up how my reason for running the marathon changed. You’d think the only thing that happened over the past 6 months would have been completely running related, but life has to carry on I guess. Whether that’s positive or negative. Carrying the Cardiac Risk in the Young vest round London was certainly an emotional thing to do. It signified what had happened over the past 6 months. Ryan had come to terms with his Mum being diagnosed with a heart condition, only for him to find out he had one too at the start of 2019 after a free CRY screening. The cycling stopped for him and I turned to running to come to terms with it all. Something that hit me like a ton of bricks. I may have turned to running, but I still carried the guilt of still being able to exercise. So now I won’t be taking that privilege for granted.

That’s one thing that changed in me as a result of training for the Marathon. It taught me discipline. I dragged myself out the door in my running trainers whether I felt up to it or not. Some sort of run was better than no run at all. I eventually decided to raise money for Cardiac Risk in the Young as thanks to them I still have my partner in crime. And if people were willing to sponsor me, I wasn’t going to go into it without having given 100% commitment. If anyone who sponsored me is reading this, from the bottom of my heart I can’t thank you enough. It pushed me on when the going got tough. It helped me come to terms with what was going on, because I had something to focus on. The money raised could potentially save another young person’s life by not letting an underlying heart condition go unnoticed.

London Marathon 2019

When it got to around mile 16 or 17 I was running to Ryan at mile 21. When I ran past Ryan I was running to my Mum and brother at the finish. Despite being riddled with calf injuries throughout training, my legs held up rather well  up to mile 22. I was ticking off the pacing times well and it wasn’t until about mile 22 that my right quadricep started playing up. All I could think of in my head was ‘don’t  give up now’. People were dropping like flies with injuries, toilet stops or just slowing down to walk. I desperately wanted to run the whole thing. I’d got this far matching my pace band well, so I wasn’t going to give up now.

Getting near Big Ben (despite not actually seeing it) was where it got really tough. I was so close. I just needed my body to hold on until then. I was so lost in my own mindset getting to the end I didn’t hear my Mum and Brother shouting me down the Mall. I wanted to pick up the pace but had nothing left. My pace had started to drop, but luckily my legs carried me across the line in 3 hours 57 minutes. The last 6 months caught up with me and I burst into tears.

It was done.

My life had been consumed by running for 6 months. I was one of the lucky ones who got into the ballot on their first attempt, but honestly I couldn’t have been more grateful for getting the chance to do one of the biggest running races in the world. It carried me through a rough patch I don’t think cycling would have carried me through. Running took me away from everything I was use to. It gave me an escape without noticing a space beside me. Running the marathon made me take my body to a level of discipline I’ve never managed before. I had a goal and I wasn’t stopping until I got to that finish line.

I’ve been saying this whole thing was a running race. Granted I wasn’t racing for a finishing position, but I was still racing. I was racing myself. I was giving myself the confidence in what my body could achieve.

London Marathon 2019

I suppose this is where you expect me to say turn to exercise to find piece in yourself, but the reality is that it’s not possible for everyone. All I’m going to say is find something that makes you happy. If you’re blessed with a body that lets you do sport, do it for the enjoyment. If all you can do is a walk in the park, soak up those sunshine rays. The stresses we put on ourselves really aren’t worth it if we’re not happy. If you’ve got exam season coming up, don’t shut yourself away from the world and live in a book for the next few months. Get yourself out, even if its to the park for a picnic. Laugh more than you stress.

If you are a young athlete, for your parent’s piece of mind book onto a local CRY screening if you can find one. I’ve booked onto one in June and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it. If the worst happens as a result, there’s always something else you can turn your mind to. Even if it takes a little while to adjust.

So I’ve ticked the London Marathon off my bucket list in circumstances I didn’t expect. I got the gold medal with the red ribbon, which is a small consolation for never getting good enough at a sport to go to the Olympics, which I always secretly wanted to do. I did the ‘people’s race’. It won’t be something I forget and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity. Ryan’s always said everything happens for a reason and I really think me getting into the ballot did happen for a reason.

I need to finish with a million thank you’s to everyone who has helped me along the way. I couldn’t have got to the finish line without you!

This has possibly been one of my longest posts, so I hope you didn’t have to get up and make another brew to get through it all. My posts should be getting back to bikes now Ryan has found his new role as coach. My legs are screaming already…

Want to read about how I prepared for London?

Half Marathon

20 Miles and an Ice Bath

Running for CRY

20 Miles and an Ice Bath

Title Photo

I’m not going to lie…I could have had more enthusiasm when my alarm went off at 6.30am on a Sunday in aid of a running race. I was expecting to be running in rain and sleet, so it could have turned out to be an emotional day. However, waking up and being able to see the sun starting to rise, I was slightly pleased I wasn’t going to be battling Mother Nature at least. I still had a 20 mile run to tackle, but the improved weather was a small positive to hold on to.

It was a fairly early start in comparison to other running events I’ve been doing to prepare for London. 9am and the start buzzer was going off. I was running in a mix of people where some were doing marathon distance, half-marathon, or like me doing 20 miles. So I needed to keep telling myself to run my own race as I could end up following someone who’s running 7 miles less that me and go off too quick.

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Regardless of being conscious about not going off too quick, I was still around the 8 minute miling mark to begin with. A pace that gave me a slight boost in confidence that I was doing ok. Yet somehow it still felt like I was struggling 3 miles in. So if it’s not already obvious…my chimp was putting up quite a fight whilst I made my way around the course today!

It was odd running through the centre of the town where I’ve grown up. People were still looking at us like we were crazy but still ha!

If I’m completely honest, a lot of the course is a blur really. Apart from the times I may have had to try very hard not to get distracted by Shetland Ponies or Spring Lambs…

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One part of the course I will not forget is having to wade through thigh deep water thanks to Storm Gareth! I know ice baths are suppose to be good for athletes, but I’m not so sure it’s good in the middle of a run! Luckily it was just below my shorts, but it was definitely a good day to not wear leggings!

I did panic a little bit at having to run through the cold water. As a Raynaud’s sufferer it wasn’t ideal, but somehow it didn’t affect me all that much apart from being a little uncomfortable to run when we managed to get out of it. My legs felt like they did transitioning from bike to run in Chirk Triathlon! Character building I guess…!

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Surprisingly I seem to get through the first 10 miles quite strong. I sort of settled into things then. I was like ‘right I’m half way there’ and the next target was making sure I hit my half marathon PB of 1:51. If I hit that I knew my pace was good, especially as I wanted to do the 20 miles in under 3 hours. That’s the biggest thing about running for me is that it is a massive numbers game. I get times in my head to hit on the way round which gives me something to focus on.

15 miles in I was starting to suffer. My head started to go, but I’d done a 15.5 mile run last weekend, so I got past that by telling myself I’d not even hit unchartered territory yet.

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Despite getting to 17 miles and using the mental aid of it just being one Park Run distance to finish, it was the longest three miles I’ve ever done! Hills galore and my legs were suffering. I don’t know how I pushed on but I did.

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It was particularly tough near the end as the field had spread out a lot by then. I’m not sure whether most had done the half marathon, but I was running mainly alone trying to push on as hard as my legs would let me chasing that three hour mark. When it got really tough I thought back to all of the people who have helped me raise money for Cardiac Risk in the Young. I only had to look down at my vest top to remember that. Ryan can’t train or race anymore, so I need to make sure I put my all into it when I do.

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Crossing the finish line seeing my Mum and Ryan, a few tears started coming out. I’m not sure why, but it probably come from spending the last three hours wondering if I was going to be able to make it or not. Well 2:52 to be exact…

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I’m Running London Marathon for…

London Marathon

Things have been a little quiet on here lately…I didn’t even do an International Women’s Day post! Some will possibly know already, but we (me and Ryan) didn’t have the start to 2019 we’d hoped for. It started with laughing and memories thanks to our eventful trip up Snowdonia, but swiftly took a sharp turn when Ryan got diagnosed with a heart condition. All of a sudden he had to go from a life of sport to being told he couldn’t do anything more than a gentle game of golf.

He’s been diagnosed with ARVC, Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy.

To most it has been hard to get their head around when Ryan took the titles of RAF Road Champ and RAF TT Champ for 2018, on top of coming 26th in the British Cycling TT National Champs.

Now Ryan’s at home when I’m going out training for the London Marathon when he would have previously had been out on his bike for 3-4 hours.

Now we’re both trying to get to grips with golf again to cut a long story short, a heart screening run by Cardiac Risk in the Young has saved Ryan’s life. More commonly known as C.R.Y., they are a charity focussed on preventing sudden cardiac deaths in the young. They run free screenings across the country that help highlight any heart issues that may have gone unnoticed until it is too late.

Being surrounded by a lot of people with a passion for sport, I’m hoping I can raise awareness of heart conditions in young athletes, as well as encouraging them to attend a C.R.Y. screening. With a screening per person costing £85, I’m hoping money raised from doing the marathon can help C.R.Y. carry on the amazing work they do.

If you’d like to put any money towards this amazing charity, then I’ve set up this Virgin Money Giving page:

Click here to support Cardiac Risk in the Young

The marathon was originally something I was doing to tick off my bucket list, but when we found out the news the reason I was training has drastically changed. I’m training because I still can. So no matter how extreme your training regime is, #trainbecauseyoucan

Half Way There, Running On A Prayer…

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Either way I’m not entirely sure where today came from. A 1.51 Half Marathon.

With the weeks leading up to said Half Marathon being less than ideal due to injuries…going into it there was the main aim of getting round at all with a slight hope for a sub 2 hour time. Sub 2 hours means a sub 4 hour London Marathon time could be in sight.

Getting ready for a local half marathon was rather odd. I needed my race number and trainers as a bare minimum. A lot less faff compared to going to a cycling race! Needless to say I was pretty calm because of this.

There was a dilemma of needing a wee with not long to go to the start. It wasn’t even a nervous wee. I genuinely needed to go! Yikes!

Having to find alternative means to the handful of porta loo’s for 5,000 runners…it was working out where I needed to place myself. I came across the 2 hour pacer, so I’d found my position ready for the start gun.

The gun went but it took me a while to get to the actual start line whilst all of the runners funnelled through it. I kept all of the eagerness at bay and stayed at the 2 hour pace to ease me into it all.

Considering my interrupted training plan, I was hesitant to pick up the pace, but as the miles ticked by and I felt ‘comfortable’ I knew I had room to pick up a little speed. Hovering around the 8.30 pace, my Clif Shot Blocks seemed to keep me fuelled and on target for sub 2 hours.

We couldn’t have had more of a perfect day for it. It didn’t feel like the middle of July obviously, but it was warm enough to run in shorts. A pair of Nike shorts I found in the sale that turned out to be the comfiest pair of shorts I’ve ever ran in! Paired with my compression socks (which have literally saved my marathon training) I was channeling Lucy Charles all the way round, plaits included…just maybe not her pace ha!

There was one point I slipped back into my comfort zone, but quickly snapped myself out of it. After some advice of Ryan’s friends on thinking ‘tummy muscles’ on the way round, I felt like my technique was quite strong for once. No slouching today!

Thanks to my training being fairly hilly and the race route being fairly flat, the hills on course were gladly not too much of an issue. I made sure to power up them. It was just one of those days where I had a kick butt attitude. None of this ooo I’ll play it safe, which was a lot different to how I normally approach things!

In my head I wanted to get to the 10 mile mark then pick up the pace. I only had a Park Run distance left then! And that’s what I did. Then with about a mile and a half to go I put all of my cards on the table. It was my final big push to make sure I got under the 2 hours mark. Managing quite a few minutes quicker than that, it was rather surreal crossing the finish line.

I suppose that’s one thing I like about endurance running. It’s all on me. No tactics or attacks to respond to. Just getting from A to B in a time I’m happy with. Granted if I took it more seriously it wouldn’t be like that, but still…

Thank you to all of the organisers of the Village Bakery Wrexham Half Marathon and all of the marshals cheering around the course. There was such a good vibe out on the course today, so I loved spending my Sunday getting a Welsh Dragon medal.

Having my family out on course pushed me on no end too. So hopefully all of this means marathon training is back on track.

Knowing When To Stop

I suppose I’ve never really done sport seriously enough for it to lead to things like injuries before, that or I’m just getting old!

Training for the London Marathon has opened my eyes a fair bit when it comes to looking after my body with it pushing my body on the endurance side of things. Cycling longs distances took some time, but it’s something I can push on with. Running however is something I have and will have to work on.

I can no longer miss that stretching session and carry on like my body is perfectly fine. I know a lot of stretches from my dancing days, but just because I have that knowledge doesn’t mean I always use it…

Post-Christmas my running was going surprisingly well. I was comfortably running 10 miles and was on target for a training plan I’ve put together. The past two weeks however haven’t been great. An ankle injury has put a stop to me going out for a run. I went out for the odd jog to see how strong it was, but it still didn’t feel right. I managed something low impact like swimming, but with a timer on my phone counting down the days to the marathon, I needed my ankle sorting out.

That is where Phoenix Sports Massage Therapy comes in. My legs were way past being able to be sorted by a foam rolling session, so it was over to Richard to get rid of all the tight spots in my legs.

All I can say is you will never know how many knots are hiding away in your legs until a sports masseuse gets hold of them. Cupping turned out not to be as painful as it looks, but my legs did feel odd getting up afterwards!

So there’s no big day out to share on my blog this week, just how I’m hopefully getting back to training.

If you’re looking for a sports masseuse in the area, then head over to Phoenix Sports Massage Therapy Over on Richard’s social media pages and give them a follow:

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If Chester Football Club trust Richard to keep their players in tip top condition, then I don’t think you can go far wrong really.