No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn
The 2019 TCS New York City Marathon had 53,627 finishers. I was one of them.
In what will likely be my most memorable ever running experience, I ran 26.2 miles through the five boroughs of the greatest city on the planet - and while everything didn't quite go as I'd planned, it is certainly an experience I'll never forget.
I applied for the 2019 NYC Marathon ballot on January 17th, without ever thinking I would actually get in. 41 days later, on February 27th, I received an email with the subject "Greg, Get Ready to Run the Streets of New York City!" Wait...what?! Fast forward a few hours later that day, and flights were booked (thanks Kerry!) We were actually going back to New York. I really was going to run the New York City Marathon!
As well as giving a race report of the run itself, I'll also use this post to talk about the marathon expo too, because it's a huge part of the overall race experience and really adds to the excitement of it all.
I spent the weeks and months in the run up to the race reading other peoples blogs, and watching vlogs all about the run, so I'm super excited to share this post with you all, and I hope that maybe in preparation for future NYC Marathons, someone somewhere will find this useful.
The Marathon Expo
The first thing I had to do was get along to the marathon expo and pick up my race number and shirt, so we headed to Manhattan on Friday morning and got along to stand in line before it opened at 10am. The expo takes place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (it is HUGE), which is in the Hudson Yards area of the city, so it's pretty easy to get to. We got there at around 9.30am and I'm so glad we did because the line just kept getting bigger by the minute.
When the doors eventually opened there was a huge cheer from the crowds and the volunteers and we (the runners) were clapped into the exhibition hall by the volunteers, which I thought was a real nice touch. We were quite near the front, so there was almost no line at all to pick up my number and shirt which was a relief as I'd read beforehand that the queues can get pretty crazy! With my number collected, we then had a wander around the rest of the convention and the first part you get to is the official New Balance marathon store that is absolutely huge, and filled with all sorts of official marathon gear. There is so much cool stuff in there and it would be easy to spend a fortune - but I knew what I wanted (new shorts) so we didn't spend too much time in there.
Once I'd paid for the shorts, we were then through into what could be described as the main expo hall - I guess if you're used to running these big marathons then you'd be used to this sort of stuff, but the only thing I could really relate it to is the Offshore Europe expo that happens here in Aberdeen every other year. There were a ton of different exhibitors each offering all sorts of different thing - you could literally come here and pick up your entire running kit; headphones, watch, sunglasses, underwear and shoes! Just as with the NB store, it would be so easy to spend so much money. So we had a wander round, stopped at a few different stalls and bought a few different bits and pieces as will as grabbing a bunch of samples. I'd definitely recommend picking up some Biofreeze samples - those little sachets can be invaluable when you're in a tough spot during a race!
One of the cool things about the marathon expo is the name wall. It's a huge wall displaying the names of the five boroughs of New York and also displays the name of every runner. It's all sorted alphabetically by surname, and it's easy enough to find your name, so it's a pretty cool photo to get! It really does make you realise the enormity of the whole thing, when you see all those other names surrounding yours. It was quite a humbling moment for me.
Another cool photo opportunity (you are running the NYC Marathon after all - you are entitled to millions of photos!) is getting your picture in front of the giant medal, whilst holding your race number. There was a short line here, but it was worth the wait because it is a really cool photo and absolutely one for your Instagram!
And with that, we were done and it was time to explore Manhattan. We made our way out of the expo hall and to our amazement, there was still a line of people waiting to get in! I really can't state how important it is to get there early to avoid these queues!
The one thing I have always been pretty nervous about with the NYC marathon is race morning. Everything I'd read made it seem like such a journey to get yourself on the starting line. I already knew that I had to get an Uber, to get on a ferry, to then get on a bus - it all seemed pretty overwhelming, coupled with the fact my alarm was set for 04.45!
However, by the time I'd made it to the ferry terminal, I definitely began to feel a lot less nervous. There were so many people there! I had around 40mins to kill before my ferry, so I grabbed some water, and took a seat to wait it out.
We then boarded the ferry and I grabbed a seat, and took in the incredible sunrise views of Manhattan as we made our way to Staten Island. The ferry only took around 25mins, and we were there in no time. From there, it was off the ferry, and a short 10min walk to make our way to queue for the busses. By the time I eventually got on a bus, there was no seats left, so I had so stand for the journey to the start village at Fort Wadsworth. I think the journey took around 30mins, but it felt like forever because I was standing, and it was super hot on the bus too!
Finally, we made to Fort Wadsworth, and after a quick security check, we were finally in the start village, which was already absolutely packed with people. I was assigned Orange Wave 2, with a 10.10 start time, so I made my way to the orange area in search of some hot coffee, something to eat, and a seat. Thankfully, in the start village, there is plenty going on; Dunkin' Donuts are there providing coffee, bagels (and hats - make sure to grab one as they are super warm!), Honey Stinger were handing out crackers, you could also get bananas water & Gatorade.
With coffee and a bagel firmly in my grasp, I took a seat on the ground and took some time to relax - it was still around 1.5 hours away from start time. I got chatting to some of the people around me, which definitely helped not only pass the time, but it was good to talk to someone who had some experience of this race. There was still so much time to kill, but that was easily sorted by standing in line to use the toilet. There was hundreds of them, but the lines were still so long! I’ve come to accept that it seems to be pretty standard at every race on the planet now…
Eventually, the time came to make my way to the starting corrals. After so long waiting around in the cold, it was good to get up and around and get the legs moving! It was a short 10min walk over a field where it splits everyone up by their assigned coral. There was also another opportunity to grab a cool photo, so of course, I took it.
I arrived at the corral, and after waiting around for another 10mins or so, it was soon time to walk to the starting line. There was music playing over the speakers, the sun was shining, everyone was buzzing – the atmosphere was electric! After a short walk, here we were at the start line on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge - after months of excitement, I was finally here! I was BUZZING!
There was a DJ getting everyone pumped up, playing tunes to get us in the mood, before it was then time for the national anthem. The American runners all joined in with the singing, whilst I just looked around and took it all in. The girl who sang the anthem was also due to take part in the race itself, starting in a later wave, which I thought was pretty cool.
Then the countdown started...10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
BOOM! The cannon fired, and we were off. I hit play on my headphones and that ever familiar drum solo that kicks off Born To Run by The Boss, Bruce Springsteen filled my ears, with his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey only a stone throw away.
"...In the day, we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream..."
I knew it was going to be a long, slow climb at the start as we made our way over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which was around 2 miles, so I tried my best to take my time. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't get caught up in it all - the atmosphere was electric, and it was hard not to get a little boost from the energy of it all. I couldn't stop smiling. I'd only been running for about 2mins and already couldn't believe how amazing it was!
For it being a steady incline over around 2 miles, I really didn’t notice it at all, and before I knew it, we had arrived in Brooklyn – and the crowds started to appear. As we made our way into the area of Bay Ridge, and 4th Avenue, which would be our home for the next 5 miles or so – the noise from the crowds became electric.
These crowds were unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a run before. For the first couple of miles, it was just incredible; people lining every single inch of both sides of the street, bands playing loud on every other street corner, and people holding up some of the most hilarious, and inspiring signs I’ve ever seen! For this stretch of the run, I really didn't need my music, so I had it turned down pretty low, only ever turning it back up when one of those songs would come on. These crowds would continue to be as crazy right through until around mile 10, where we entered the more traditional Jewish area of South Williamsburg, where it got a little quieter for a couple miles.
I was still feeling good at this point too - my legs were feeling strong, I was making good pace, and I wasn't getting too tired either. I'd be lying if I said the crowd didn't have some sort of effect on me though, it really did make those 10 miles fly by. There is also an abundance of water stations on the route, with water & Gatorade available near enough every mile. Honestly, this race had everything - during this stretch of the run, I punched an inflatable Donald Trump, rattled a tambourine, hit a Super Mario mushroom power up, all on top of countless high fives. The was even a guy with "Springsteen" on the back of his shirt, so naturally, I gave him a "BRRUUUUUCCCCEEEEE" as I ran past.
Somewhere between miles 11 & 12, I managed to spot Kerry, who had been waiting for me at the side of the street. It was a much needed boost for me at this time in the run, as my legs had actually began to tire, and I had started to feel some pain in my feet. So I grabbed a quick hug, and I was on my way again, heading for the halfway mark.
Here's where the problems started...
Much like the Cyprus Marathon earlier this year, as I approached the half way mark, my feet began to hurt like hell. The soles of my feet were seriously sore, and it started slowing me down significantly. I went from running between 8/9 min miles over the first 12 miles to somewhere between 10/12 min miles - which was not ideal, but it couldn't be helped as every step was pretty much hurting. I trained for a sub-4 hour marathon, I set off with a sub-4 hour finish in mind, but now I knew that was out the window. It was incredibly frustrating as nothing like this had happened over the course of my training, but I just tried to put it out my mind and push myself on, albeit at a much slower pace.
The next few miles were pretty challenging, as I made my way towards the 14/15 mile mark, and the dreaded Queensborough Bridge - a section of the race that I knew was already going to be tough. My legs were already incredibly heavy, and a long, slow climb was the last thing I needed - but alas, you just have to get on with it, and of course, what goes up, must come down! I can't tell you how relieved I was when I reached the peak of that bridge, and was on my way downhill, and touch down in Manhattan.
For the next 4 miles I'd be running up First Avenue, towards The Bronx, and another incredibly challenging section of the course. Again, it was another slow, gradual climb, but mentally, it was just a case of taking it mile by mile and water stop by water stop - and I knew I'd get through it. It wasn't just my feet that were hurting now either, pretty much every muscle in my legs were taking it in turns to hurt! It was manageable though, and the crowds absolutely buzzing again, which was a welcome relief, after a rather eery, silent spell on the bridge. Honestly, the energy and support from the crowds really can dig you out from some dark places and get you going again - I swear, at the right moment, a high five from a little kid can be as effective as a week in the hospital!
First Avenue came to an end, and it was then time for two bridges in quick succession. First up was the Willis Avenue Bridge, before being followed by the Madison Avenue Bridge, which took us over mile 20 & 21 and into Harlem. Thankfully, neither of these bridges were anywhere near as challenging as the last and just as I touched down in Harlem, and the Biofreeze relief zone was in sight! I took the opportunity to get my quads, thighs and calves absolutely lathered in Biofreeze for the final 5 mile stretch. The cooling sensation was an unbelievable relief!
I was now on Fifth Avenue, and well and truly on the home straight! It wasn't long before I was running parallel to central park, and the excitement and relief were both starting to ramp up. I was basically running on empty over these last few miles, and if not for the crowds, I really think it would have been much, much, more of a struggle.
Mile 24 took us into Central Park itself, and at this point I got a second wind - I forgot about the pain in my legs, and just tried my best to enjoy the crowds, and run these last couple of miles with a smile on my face... plus, I was running downhill again! To make things even better, I spotted Kerry again just after the mile 25 marker! I was delighted to know that she's made it from Brooklyn to Central Park. With one mile to go, this was exactly what I needed.
The end was in sight, and it was time for one last push. It must have been a combination of the adrenaline and the buzz from the crowd, but over the final mile, I actually recorded my fastest split since mile 11! I passed through the grandstand area, and gave one final push to get myself across the finish line - I DID IT! There was such a mixture of emotions when I crossed the like - sheer joy, utter relief and pure amazement... I'd just completed the New York City Marathon! I stepped over the finish line with a time of 04:30:22 - not quite what I was hoping for, but it was a new PB by 22 seconds, and at the end of the day, a PB is a PB.
After running 26.2 miles, you'd think it would be nice to be able to, you know, grab a seat, and rest for a minute... but that wasn't to be the case! Once we crossed the finish like, we had to walk a bit further to pick up our medal, then we had to walk a bit more to get our heat sheet, then walk just a bit more to get our recovery bags, at that point the line split into two depending on the finishing option you selected, where I then had to walk even further to pick up my post race poncho. All in all, we probably had to walk over a mile after finishing the race, which wasn't very fun - I found it a little ridiculous and probably was my only gripe with the whole experience. One thing I would say about the post race is experience is that almost everyone is super friendly - just about every single person I walked past would congratulate me in some sort of way, which is awesome, and really helped hit home what I'd just achieved.
The post race poncho is a pretty cool souvenir, and it does a great job of keeping you warm. I would definitely recommend going for this option if you don't really need a bag of stuff at the end. Eventually, probably around 30mins after finishing, I was finally able to meet up with Kerry and get a much needed hug! I know it's probably needed for security, etc in these big races, but waiting so long to see someone you actually know after you finish can be quite draining! It was then time to make our way back to Brooklyn, which was a whole adventure in itself - the last thing you need after finishing a marathon is to wander around from subway stop to subway stop because the one you need is closed!
After arriving back at the hotel, and collapsing in a heap on the bed, I quickly came to the realisation that I was in no fit state to go anywhere that evening. So it was time for takeaway from Joe's Pizza and a much needed beer!
I'm gonna finish this post here - I apologise for the length of this post, but I had a lot to cover! Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. Before I go, I'd like to finish this post with some important thank you's:
*note; this is how I've been training for a marathon, I'm not exactly a pro - I just get out and run.
I'm writing this post following two weeks of pretty unsuccessful training, as part of my preparations for the 2019 New York Marathon (I still can't believe I'm running it). Over these past two weeks, so much has gone through my mind with regards to my training, that I decided I wanted to take the time to write about marathon training as a whole - as whilst I'm incredibly excited for the marathon itself, the training, in my opinion, is not so fun.
The New York Marathon will be my second marathon to date, following my first in Cyprus earlier this year. Now, I had an absolutely amazing experience at the Cyprus Marathon for the most part, but just like my training for NYC, I found the training to be extremely challenging both physically and mentally.
A marathon is hundreds of miles. The finish is the last 26.2.
For my training, I gave myself a 16 week schedule, of running three times a week - Monday, Wednesday & Saturday. With some general core exercises on off days in between. During my training for Cyprus, I began following a plan that would see me running four times a week, but that didn't last very long. I hold my hands up and admit that I just couldn't handle or, or more specifically, my legs couldn't. It didn't take long for injuries to creep up on me, and I didn't want to make that mistake again in my training for NYC - so I decided to drop it to three runs a week.
For the Monday run, I figured I would run between 6-8 miles each week, trying to run at what would be my marathon pace. On Wednesdays, I would run 3 miles (5k), trying to run that at a much faster pace, and on Saturdays I would run longer distances, 10+ miles, at marathon pace. For the first few weeks that schedule was working pretty well for me; I was enjoying my runs, and I was holding a good pace (for me anyway) - the 5k runs were pretty damn speedy, and the long runs were roughly where I wanted them to be.
As the runs got longer, the more my legs would hurt - now, I'm not sure if that is a simple equation or not, but that's the results I was getting. Take my latest long run for example - I was planning a long run, longer than the 13 miles I'd ran the previous Saturday. However, three miles into the run and my legs were having none of it; they were both sore, it was frustrating me and I was getting super annoyed. I pushed on for a few more miles and nothing changed and I was contemplating throwing in the towel, but I kept going. I knew I was coming up to a long downhill section, so I decided to hold out and see if things got better, and they did. Sure, the pain never went away, but I didn't hate every second anymore - I just gritted my teeth and pushed through it, and I ran 15 miles.
Now, you would think after reading that last paragraph that I should be happy - I just ran 15 miles right?! But that wasn't to be at all. The week following that run (last week, at the time of writing), I REALLY struggled with my running. I gave myself a little longer to recover, skipping the Monday run, and aiming for a 6+ mile run on the Wednesday. Then Wednesday came around, I set out on my run, and I hated every second of it. I ended up running 5 miles, however, my pace was way off, my legs were heavy, and I pretty much hated every second of it. But I got through it, I didn't give up, and I guess I should be happy about that. I didn't get my long run that week on the Saturday, but that's more due to alcohol consumption and epic hangovers...but I'm pretty sure I would have struggled, and the extra rest would do me good.
Then take this week, all started well with a 10k run on Monday and I was feeling pretty good; I kept a decent pace throughout, and my legs weren't sore, albeit some slight pain on the uphill sections, but it was manageable. I was feeling pretty miserable in general that day (I thought it was just after effects of my hangover that weekend and a lack of sleep), but as the week went on, I started to feel worse and worse. By the time it got to Wednesday, there was no way I was going to be able to run - I was so choked up, I was coughing & spluttering and my head was killing me. Two days off work followed, and I'm unsure if I'm gonna be able to do my long run tomorrow or not - but I am hoping to hell that I feel better, at least good enough to do some sort of run.
This all may seem like I'm just moaning about running, and I guess I kind of am. But it all takes its toll mentally too, and there are times where I think, "why am I putting myself through this?!". And it's hard not to have these thoughts when you are literally dragging yourself, and your body through runs because you feel that you have to. But in the end, you just get through it, because it is all gonna be worth it, and all we have to do is just have to drag our asses to the starting line.
Now a HUGE part of training for any run, never mind a marathon, is recovery. One of my major failings in my training for Cyprus was not managing my recovery properly and I definitely suffered for it. I would find myself coming in from a run, grabbing some water, jumping in the shower and then I'd be making dinner or lazing on the sofa. I wouldn't stretch, or I wouldn't work on my muscles with the foam roller - unless I was really feeling something, and by that point, it was probably too late. I was determined to change this for NYC training and I have been trying to keep on top of it...but not as much as I should be, unfortunately. The thing is...using a foam roller sucks and it hurts like hell!
Now, I still have another four full weeks of training left, one of which includes an epic 21 mile BrewDog Run, a week on Saturday. I'm hoping that run is going to be a real indicator of how I'll fare in New York, and after that I'll probably need to start thinking about tapering my runs and winding my training down. I really hope I get to run tomorrow, and I really want to make it a long one, but I guess I'll just need to see how things go. I really am determined to push through the rest of this training, to give myself the best shot at giving a good account of myself come marathon day.
I want to end this blog post with a bit of advice; if you are thinking about taking part in a run - do it. Sure, you will train for it, and you may hate it, but stick with it, and when you do that run, and you cross the finish line surrounded by people cheering you on - it will be one of the best decisions you ever make. The rush that you get from it is up there with the best feeling you'll ever experience.
Running a marathon is an incredible feat for any person, both physically and mentally. It is certainly my biggest achievement, and running those 26.2 miles through the greatest city in the world will be something I know that I'll never forget - and it will make all those painful training runs worth every step. I can't wait.
I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.
I RAN A MARATHON!
Did you know that only 1% of the world's population will run a marathon in their lifetime? Well, I can now proudly say that I have joined that 1%.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you will know that since October, I'd been trying my best to get in best possible shape to run my first ever marathon - the 21st Logicom Cyprus Marathon. Unfortunately, my training didn't quite go to plan, and during my second week of training I sustained an injury that caused me to miss five weeks of training. But I managed to recover, and cram as much training in to what time I had left as I possibly could.
Before I knew it, we were on the flight to Paphos - luckily I had a few days of relaxation ahead of me before the big day, which was exactly what I needed. Also, thanks to my in-laws having a car, I even got the chance to check out parts of the route beforehand, giving me some idea of what was in store.
Race day arrived and I was ready to take my place as one of the 3,500 running across all races in Paphos that day. The marathon was due to start at 7.30am, so that meant a particularly early start, and getting up at 5am! I started the day off with a bowl of oats, a banana and some peanut butter to get my energy levels up, as I had a feeling I was going to need it later. I also started getting plenty of water inside me, without overdoing it as I didn't want my bladder going out of control in the early stages of the race! And with that, I was showered, changed into my race kit and ready to go.
We hopped in the car, and my father in-law drove us out to the starting point at Aphrodite's Rock, which was around a 40min drive from our apartment. When we arrived, the starting area was already buzzing with excitement - there were people everywhere, warming up, taking photos and there was even a live DJ to get us in the mood. There was still around 40mins to the start of the race, so I used this opportunity to get in the already long queue for a final toilet break. This is probably where my only gripe with the organisation with the race comes in, and it's something that I see too often - there was maybe only around six portable toilets for all the runners, which was nowhere near enough in my opinion. I queued for around 30mins, and by the time I got to the front, they were in a pretty poor state, with no paper or hand wash left.
Anyway, enough of the negativity, and back to the buzzing starting area. I made the most of the final few minutes to take some photos, do some final stretches and receive my good luck wishes from my family. Then, before I knew it, I'd taken my place at the starting line, and we were off!
I had a 4-hour goal in mind, so I had a plan worked out in my head how I needed the first half of the run to go. I also decided not to take photos during this run, as this was my first marathon, and I wanted to try and achieve the best possible finishing time.
Things started quite well, and despite some hills early on, I managed to navigate my way through the first few miles at a reasonably brisk pace, whilst taking in the stunning scenery. The bright start continued, as we worked our way inland, further away from the coast on our approach to the 10km point. I was feeling good and averaging around 8:30/mile which was the required pace I needed to cover the first half of the run. I was also starting to take advantage of the many water stops that were on offer, with one every 3k, which was perfect as it was already starting to heat up.
The good start continued as we passed mile 8, and turned down the long three mile stretch of road towards the airport, where we would eventually double back on ourselves at the bottom. This was the part of the race I was least looking forward to, as I had learned from parts of my training that running back and forth along the same stretch of road is incredibly mentally draining. On the way down this road, we passed the half way point, which was on the other side of the road, where I also spotted the eventual winner on his way back up, way ahead of the pack. I'm not too sure if this was encouraging, or depressing, but at least I knew I was only six miles behind the leader! It was a long slog down the road to the airport, and we made our way past two water stops on the way, which was a welcome reprieve as the temperature had started creeping closer to 20°C, and we were quite exposed to the sun here. Everything was still going to plan as I closed in on mile 10, and I was still feeling good, maintaining a decent pace along the way. Now, I don't know if you can sense it or not, but there's one big but coming up...
Just before I reached the turning point at the bottom of the road, on mile 11, I felt a sharp pain in the arch of my left foot, resulting in sudden tightness, and causing me to start limping. I could still run, but not very fast, or gracefully. I spent a few minutes wishfully thinking I'd be able to shake it off, but it didn't seem to be going anywhere soon. In our race pack, we were given a sachet of Bio-Freeze gel, which I'd packed in my Flipbelt - so I made the decision to stop at the side of the road and apply this. I removed my shoe, and sock, then applied the gel before giving my foot a bit of a stretch and putting my gear back on. I was soon off again, and I'd actually managed to regain some sort of pace, and even managed to find the 4-hour pacer and keep up with him for around a mile. This didn't last too long, however, and the pain was back, causing me to slow down significantly.
Now, this was a sucker punch of the highest proportions. I can't really describe the feeling - it's hard to put into words, just how mentally draining the feeling of sustaining an injury at that point in the race was for me. I was so hyped for the marathon. I'd trained so hard. I was feeling great. And then this happened. It took so much out of me at the time, but I knew I couldn't let it get the better of me - I could still run, not quite as normal, but I could still run. I knew it could get through it, I just had to take my time. So I slowed it right down, and was running between 10:00-12:00/mile, a pace which lasted pretty much for the rest of the race. For the next few miles, I was trying to manage the pain by running for as long as I could, before giving myself a brief walking break through the water stops to let the pain subside.
Eventually, the sharpness of the pain went away, and I stopped taking any real notice of it. But by that point, the race had taken its toll on my legs, and they were feeling really heavy, and I couldn't really pick up the pace. However, at least I was starting to enjoy myself again and when my watch alerted me that I'd reached mile 17 - I even had a slight smile on my face... we were down to single figures. This continued through the following miles, and as we reached the main roads, crowds of people were starting to appear, offering some much needed encouragement along with live DJ's, and more refreshment stops. Around mile 23, I also took full advantage of a Bio-Free stop, where I was able to get the gel applied to my calves and thighs, to help me with the final push - I can't state enough, just how much of a relief on my legs that was!
I was soon back in familiar territory, making my way along the main strip of hotels in Paphos, with cheering tourists and locals all round. Now, while this was all very encouraging, it also felt a bit daunting as I knew I still had around 2.5 miles of running to go before I reached the finish line. As I made my way towards mile 26, I passed the hotel where we got married, The Annabelle, and it gave me the right amount of inspiration needed to pick up the pace for the final push. The crowds really picked along the home stretch on the harbour front, and by this point, I'd taken out my headphones so that I could soak up the atmosphere - I even managed my first sub 10:00/mile since I picked up the injury!
The finish line was in sight, but there was one final sting in the tail, with an ever so slight hill to traverse before the home straight - I'm fairly certain I let out a curse at that point! But I got to the top, and as I made my way round the final corner, the crowds were roaring, and I managed to spot my cheering family, which gave me everything I needed to push for the finish line.
I DID IT!
Crossing the finish line is a bit of a blur. There were so many thoughts and emotions running through my head, that I can't really remember it fully. I do know, however, that the sense of relief, happiness, and most of all, achievement, that I felt when I crossed the finish line is unlike anything I've ever felt. It was incredible. One of the volunteers put my medal around my neck, and then I think I picked up a banana and a bottle of water as I made my way through the crowds trying to find everyone. I know that I soon found myself in the queue for beer, as I eventually spotted Kerry, whilst I was trying to phone her. I was greeted with huge congratulations along with a big kiss and a hug, and my mother and father in law wasn't too far behind, offering their congratulations too.
We then took a much needed seat, and enjoyed the FREE BEER that was on offer, as we watched the prize giving ceremony, celebrating the runners and their achievements. I really was in awe at what some of the other runners had achieved, especially the older runners - it really was amazing.
Overall, despite the slight setback that I suffered, I am absolutely delighted the way things went. The fact that I was able to suck it up and get through over half the race, whilst carrying an injury left me extremely proud of myself. It may have not been the sub 4-hour marathon that I'd hoped for, but it gives me something more respectable to beat in New York in November. Oh, in case you didn't already know... I'M RUNNING THE NEW YORK MARATHON!
As for the Cyprus Marathon itself, I would 100% recommend this race to other runners. It is such a well organised event that caters for all levels of ability, whilst set against the stunning backdrop of Cyprus - I can guarantee you would enjoy it. All that's left for me to do is thank the organizers and volunteers for putting on such a great event, and most of all, thank everyone for their support - especially those that were there waiting for me at the finish line - it really meant a lot to me.
Guess Who's Back...
Well, after four weeks without running following my calf injury, combined with slowly expanding over the Xmas period from all the food, chocolate, and beer - my marathon training seems to be finally back on track.
I've been back running for around two weeks now, and I'm feeling pretty great overall. Sure, I don't quite think I'm at the level I was at pre-injury, but I'm slowly getting there. I've made the decision not to follow the initial plan I was following, which seen me running four times a week. I think that this was a little bit too much for me, and I was worried the additional strain could see a re-occurrence of the injury. So, I decided to take it down to three times a week, trying to run on a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
I started out almost four weeks to the day of my last run, with a planned three mile run with the aim of a pain free run, whilst trying to take it as easy as I could. Before starting I gave my calf a spray with some deep freeze, put on my calf compression socks and had a decent warm up with a bunch of dynamic stretches. I was pretty nervous when I set off - the thought of pulling up after a mile or so was playing on my mind constantly but I soon hit my stride and the realisation came to me that this injury might actually be gone. Thrilled by that prospect, I pushed on and successfully completed the run, with an average pace of 08:53/mile. I was elated. There was some slight pain in my joints, but that was expected due to lack of exercise, combined with the cold - but there was absolutely zero pain in the calf. When I got back in, I was taking no risks, and immediately began to warm down with stretching and foam rolling, and later that evening I kept my calf on ice, as a matter of precaution.
Buoyed by the successful run on Monday, I set out on a planned five mile run on the Wednesday, again planning to take it as easy as I could. Again, I managed to make it through the run pain free (in the calf at least!). Delighted with my progress, I pushed myself even further on the following Saturday, with a 7.5 mile run which proved to be my third pain free run of the week. I'd even managed to pick up the pace slightly, finishing that run with an average pace of 08:32/mile. It finally felt that my injury problems were behind me, and I really could get my marathon training back on track which was great as the marathon was only around eight weeks away!
The second week began with another three mile run on Monday, during which I tried to up the pace as much as possible, finishing the run with an average of 07:30/mile. Now, that may not seem fast to some runners, but to me - that is speedy! I kept this going on the Wednesday by doubling the distance, whilst trying to maintain the pace, successfully finishing a 6.2 mile run at 07:52/mile. I really was feeling good about my running again. Sure, I wasn't running along, pain free with a constant smile on my face, but running has never been that for me - it's always a struggle to some extent, and there's always some sort of niggling pain, whether that's in my shins, knees or stomach cramps. But, it was starting to feel normal again, at least.
So this takes me to Saturday, yesterday at the time of writing, and I decided to push myself even further with ten miles. Ten miles would be the furthest I'd run since the Crathes Half Marathon in September. It was a daunting prospect, but one that I felt that I could manage. I didn't exactly pick the best of days for a long run with it being cold, wet, foggy and windy - but I didn't let that put me off and I set out on my run. It really took me a while to get going on this run and around two miles in I was struggling to see how I was going to finish it but I kept pushing, and I soon hit a decent stride. For this run, I'd chosen to run from Elrick, along to dual carriageway to Hazlehead and back again, and at when I reached the half way point to turn around, I was struggling for motivation - but that's my own fault for choosing a quite mundane route to run. Anyway, I sucked it up and got on with it and before I knew it, I was back in Westhill and the end was in sight. The final mile was a struggle, and I really had to push to get through it - I'm not going to lie, I was so happy when it was over, and it even ended up being 10.5 miles. I was really feeling it in my legs after this run, I still do feel it as I write this and I don't think I'll be running on Monday next week, most likely Tuesday, or Wednesday. But I was delighted that I managed to do it, I even finished with a pretty respectable average pace of 08:23/mile!
So with exactly seven weeks until marathon day, it really is time to push on with my training. My plan is to step up the long Saturday runs, building towards 20/21 miles in 4/5 weeks time and then start to taper back down. Next Saturday, I plan to complete a half marathon (13.1 miles), which will hopefully go to plan. Apologies for my rambles but getting back running was quite a big deal for me! Anyway, thanks for reading, and I'm sure you'll hear from me again once more before the big day.
Things Aren't Quite Going To Plan...
I'm now four weeks in to my training plan for the 2019 Cyprus Marathon in March, and my training so far hasn't exactly gone as I had hoped. I originally planned on posting this blog at the end of my fourth (successful) week of training, but unfortunately that's not the case. Not even remotely...
During week one, I decided to cancel my second run due to "Storm Diana". Excellent start. Seriously the weather was so bad that day, I really didn't think it was worth taking any risks. That day aside, the rest of week one went pretty well, with three pretty good, fast paced runs, with me clocking up an average pace of 07:26/mile over the three runs. Come the end of that week, I was feeling good, relatively happy with myself, and more than ready for week two.
Week two started much the same as the first week finished off, with me continuing my runs at a pretty good pace. I also decided that inserting a lunch time run in to my schedule was a good idea, to get some daylight, so that I'm not almost constantly running in darkness. This week was also the first time that I had ran three consecutive days in a row for as long as I can remember, and although they were all relatively short distances, I definitely felt it in my legs, and shins. However, after a day or so rest, they felt good to go on Saturday morning (the 10+ pints on the Friday evening, however, are another matter altogether!), and I headed out on a planned nine mile run - which would incidentally have been my longest run since Crathes Hall Marathon in September. All was going well, I even headed out on an un-opened section of the AWPR and had the whole dual carriageway to myself for a while, and then around the five mile mark, I felt my left calf go...OUCH.
Shortly after I'd turned to make my way back, I slipped on the slight verge between the edge of the road and the grass and was immediately met by a sharp shooting pain in my calf. I could still run, barely, but it hurt. Being out on the (un-opened) AWPR meant that I was around 1.5 miles from traffic, which meant I would need to limp my way back to civilization in order to be rescued from Kerry in the car. That mile and a half of running/limping was an extremely deflating experience - knowing that I was only two weeks in to my training, and I'd gone and hurt myself was incredibly frustrating. So, unfortunately I missed the whole of week three. My calf did start to feel slightly better by the end of of the week, but I didn't want to risk anything, so I decided against running and concentrated on stretching/foam rolling in order to ensure I was good to go for week four.
Week four came around and my calf was feeling good - the pain was still there, although it didn't really hurt. Tuesday was my scheduled day to run, and there just so happened to be a world ending storm on that day - great. Anyway, I got home from work, and thankfully the weather had started to ease up so I got changed, stretched and got ready to head out for a three mile run. For the first mile, everything was going to plan; I had my headphones in, there was no pain, I was feeling good and enjoying myself. But as I got closer to 1.5 miles, I felt it, my calf was starting to hurt...I knew what was coming. The pain came fast and sharp - not as bad as the first time, but enough to make me stop in my tracks, stop my watch, turn around and immediately start walking home. It was incredibly frustrating - I knew I'd rushed it, but I was so eager to get back out there. I really want to give a good account of myself on this marathon, and was so determined to get back on track with my training that I left no where near enough time for the injury to heal. Deflated, I limped the 1.5 miles home (coincidentally the same distance I had to limp my way back after the first time), in the rain, contemplating my next move.
I've decided that I'm going to give this injury some serious time to heal - at least four weeks I think, then I'm going to reassess the situation, and try and make the most of what training time I have left...and if it takes longer than that to heal, then so be it. I can't risk hurting myself again - I'm DETERMINED to run this marathon, and run it well.
I want to finish off by saying that running through winter is gruelling; the dark nights along with the cold winds, and rain make it really hard to stay motivated day after day. But as gruelling as it was, I'm gutted at the fact I can't get out there. So, hopefully if all goes to plan, then I'll be back, some time in January with an update for you all. In the mean time, wish me luck.
The Road To Cyprus
Starting tomorrow, November 27th, I will be embarking on a 16-week training schedule that will hopefully see me through to the finish line of the 21st Logicom Cyprus Marathon, on Sunday 17th March, 2019. So, I thought it would be good for me to document the struggles, and hopefully successes, every few weeks as I embark on this journey.
I did a bit of researching online, and combined a training plans from a few places that were recommended for someone of my level and ability. I was a bit sceptical when looking at it to begin with, as there's a fair amount of short 3/4/5 mile runs on there where, in my mind initially I was thinking this sort of training should focus on long runs. However these short runs should be really beneficial when it comes to building on my pace, and maintaining it at a decent level. So I'm certainly hopeful that I'll get some sort of benefit out of it.
This training plan will see me run almost 400 miles in 4 months as I prepare to take on the elusive 26.2 in Cyprus in March. It's going to be challenging, I am almost certainly going to hate it at times and want to give up - but I'm going to have to stick to it (providing I don't hurt myself). Sure there will be days where I don't stick to the plan - it has me running on Xmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day for example. That's not to say I won't run on those days, but I have to allow myself to relax the schedule and not get too caught up in trying to catch up.
I am under no illusion of how challenging this is going to be for me, especially for my legs – I actually think I’m dreading this more than the race itself. This training schedule will see me running four times a week, with three of those days in succession. Now, I am not used to running that frequently, I often struggle with runs on a Monday then a Wednesday, so running three days on the trot (albeit relatively short distances) should be quite challenging, at least in the beginning.
One of the challenges (I think it’s a challenge?) I’m going to face, is that I am effectively training through winter in near freezing cold temperatures for a race in roughly 20ºC heat. I’m unsure how my body will react to that, but I’m hoping I’ll be fine. Although, maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way. Just think how good it’s going to feel (who am I kidding?!), running along the beautiful Cyprus coastline with the breeze from the sea in my face after those gruelling 16-weeks of dark, cold and wet nights.
I also took advantage of the Black Friday sales, and managed to pick up a Garmin Forerunner 235 at a great price - so no more relying on just my phone to analyse my runs!
So that's it for now, all that's left to do is start running. I'm going to try to check in here at least once a month, and give an update on my progress - hopefully they are going to be positive posts, and not me complaining how much I am hating life! But for now, wish me luck!
Not Just Any Old Marathon...
I've done it! I've finally taken the plunge and entered a marathon! Not just any old marathon either - the 21st Logicom Cyprus Marathon in Paphos. Taking place on 17th March 2019, this will be my first marathon, and the longest distance I have ran (to date) by five miles.
Why Paphos you may ask? Well it's a place I've visited several times over the years, my in-laws have an apartment there (they actually suggested the run to me), it's a beautiful island, oh...and I got married there too. So it's safe to say Paphos is a special place to me - it's even tattooed on my arm! So when the chance came up to take part in a run there, I did not hesitate. I've never taken part in a race outside Scotland before so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to bag my first 26.2 miles.
Thankfully, Cyprus isn't too hot in March with the temperatures probably even cooler than what we've been seeing here in Aberdeen over the summer. Also, as you can see from the course map below - there is water every 3km, as well as a combination of electrolyte drinks, energy gels, bananas and sponges, so I should be able to keep myself reasonably hydrated.
The real test is gonna come from my legs though. They've never ran that far before, and as I experienced during the BrewDog Run, they gave me some problems after the 15 mile mark. However, if I can get that under control (I suspect new shoes will be required before then), I'm fairly confident I'll be able to give a reasonably good account of myself in the marathon.
So now the training starts. It all kicks off with the PIM Crathes Half Marathon on September 15th and then I'll have a long winter of training ahead of me.
If anyone has any training suggestions; plans, podcasts, videos or anything along those lines then please feel free to pass them on in the comments below.
But first...I have a two week holiday in Mexico to look enjoy 🍻
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