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It WILL happen, Just Keep Believing (race report)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On Sunday 13 April, it was more than just belief; it was determination, drive, preparedness, passion, pain, grit, stamina, exhaustion, elation, perseverance, and persistence that made it happen! All of the above and more got me to the finish line of the London Marathon.

Preparing for a marathon isn’t easy, but running it is even harder. I had a goal time in mind and I wanted with all my being to make that goal.

The ride down to London went smoothly and getting to the expo on Friday allowed my husband and me a bit of “look around time” before it got really hectic. The excitement started to build when I went to sign for my number. Then it was getting my timing chip and browsing/shopping the exhibitor’s stalls before heading back to the hotel located right off mile 19 in Canary Wharf in the Isle of Dogs, Docklands part of London.

Saturday morning was brisk and mostly sunny. I went out for a quick 2.25 mile run through the glass high rise office building area of Canary Wharf. I knew I would be running partly on the marathon course and sure enough overnight the marathon crew had painted the “blue line” that would be guiding the thousands of runners in just over 24 hours. I ran lost in thought of the world class athletes who would be leaving their foot strikes in this very area. Stunned I realized that I was running much quicker than I anticipated. I turned around at mile 18 and completed my run back to the hotel in a shocking adrenaline pumped time.

Sunday morning arrived quickly. I had prepared the after race bag the night before and my race clothes were laid out. I filled my camelback with race fuel and made the finishing check to all that was needed before showering, eating a light breakfast of muesli, skim milk and fruit and getting changed. My husband’s procedure was much the same as mine and we were ready to head to the Docklands Light Railroad station right outside our hotel for the short ride to Greenwich Station. From there it was like watching some sort of migration as other runners joined the procession to the start area not quite a mile up the hill.

We entered the Blue Start area and found a place to sit and wait with the thousands of others before making the final preparations to our running gear and turning our kit bag in to the proper truck to take down to the finish area. Then with a kiss, a hug, an “I Love You”, and “Run Strong” I walked in the opposite direction from my husband as I went to my pen and he to his 6 higher then mine! (The speed demon he is!!) Standing in my pen, the nerves were kicking in big time and it wasn’t any different for the others standing around me.

Then suddenly, the pack started to move forward, although I didn’t hear it, the gun had gone off and the race had started. Getting closer, I increased the speed of my walk to an increasing faster run and crossed over the starting mat with the strange electronic sound of my timing chip engaging. I was now in the race!

It was partly sunny, the air was crisp, and the crowds lined the roads and were cheering us along. My heart was elated and I watched my breathing. U2 were softly playing in my ears and indeed it was “a beautiful day!”

I had prepared a wrist race band to keep watch of my split times. I didn’t want to go out too fast but I wanted to run so as to give myself a time cushion towards the later miles when I knew my legs would be reminding me of how many miles I had completed. I was already being swept along by the other runners and by the end of the first 10K (6.2 miles) I was 5 minutes up on my time.

The crowds were fantastic and continued to urge me on to keep my pace steady. I was now passed the Cutty Sark and heading towards the Tower Bridge and the half way point. My legs were tiring slightly and at 10 miles I took a short walk break and my first sport gel. This is when the grey clouds that had now blocked the sunshine opened up! It was a downpour and not just rain, but hail as well. It felt strangely good and refreshing. Then it was a right turn onto Tower Bridge! The cheering crowds were deafening and the site amazing!

Approaching mile 14 allows runners the opportunity to see other faster runners approaching from the opposite direction. It was there that I spotted my husband, running like an engine at his mile 23! We yelled encouraging words to each other and then resumed focusing on our respective tasks. He only had 3.2 miles left! I was only just over half way!

The sun had come back out and the crowds were in force again as I approached the Isle of Dogs area and where last year I nearly crumbled with pain in my left quad. There was evidence that the distance was taking its toll on many a runner. I cautiously made my way around a runner lying in the pavement covered with a space blanket, an oxygen mask and being attended by the ambulance crew. I had to bring my focus back to myself and do a body check to see how I was feeling. Other than a slight twinge in my quads I was feeling good.

Weaving through the other runners and around the Canary Wharf area I remembered Saturday’s run and how different it was now being surrounded by thousands. Passed mile 19 and the place were I received assistance for my tired and aching quad a year ago. Then it was on to the highway and another deluge of rain!

I was aware my pace was slowing slightly, but with fatigue setting in and mile 23 approaching I was starting to take a few more walk breaks. Each time I hear my name being called by a spectator I gave them a thumbs up and an inner smile urged me to press on. I now was entering Blackfriars Tunnel. It’s a lonely stretch with no spectators and no crowds to cheer you on. It’s dank, dark, and sticky from lucisade and the low point for me. But I knew that when I emerged, I would be on the Embankment with just about 2 miles left to run.

Oh how my legs were tired, my body was aching, both my quads wanted rest and my mind just willed Big Ben closer. When I crossed the 40K mat I knew it was less than 1.5 miles and I knew also that even if I walked the entire remaining distance I would have a massive personal best time. But, to walk that was NOT an option. The finish line was just 3 right turns away, there was a medal with my name on it waiting and I wanted to get there as quick as I could. I wanted to be able to stop running, I wanted to find out how my husband had done, and I wanted to sit down! So I kept running. I made the first turn at Big Ben and now on tree lined Birdcage Walk I saw the 800 metre sign ahead! I took a final couple walk steps and then ran! The 600 metre sign approached and mentally I figured that was just 1.5 times around the track! I kept running. Buckingham Palace was coming up on my left; I didn’t look as my eyes were focused on the blue banner across the road which said, “Just 385 yards remaining”.

The slight turn to the right, then the final right turn and there in front of me were the long awaited yellow finish gates. The way was lined with spectators cheering and Union Jack flags attached to the poles. I heard the announcer say my name as my eyes focused on the finish clock and the waiting gate. I swung open my arms and embraced the finish line. I had completed my second London Marathon 24 minutes faster than last year! My time was a well deserved 5:46:37. I had obtained my goal; I at last had broken the 6 hour mark that for the previous 3 marathons I was unable to do.

The timing chip was cut from my shoe laces, a finisher medal was placed around my neck and I posed for a commemorative finisher photo. After collecting my kit bag and making my way to the meeting area I was reunited with my husband and to hear his marathon story. He had run his second fastest marathon of 3:22:54, and a 2 minute improvement from his 2006 London Marathon finish time.

So what now? First a week of rest with gentle walks, then slowly easing back into running. I have 10 weeks to enjoy running some off road, a couple of races, and then the marathon training starts all over again!! Yep, NYC awaits on November 2, 2008! Just 200 days!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MIIMA-ME-MY 4/21/2008 3:50PM

    emoticon You did AMAZING, Mary! I am SO PROUD of YOU!!! emoticon
I love the photo too! ♥

Comment edited on: 4/21/2008 3:50:17 PM

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BLONDE_RUNNER 4/18/2008 4:55AM

    Hey Mary, Fantastic Blog and emoticon on the time!!!

I was watching on Sunday morning (I have to admit lying in my bed....but after I ran to the gym, worked out and ran home again!!!) - and I was thinking of you running, especially when the rain started!!!

It looked awesome on TV and reading your report I can imagine how it must have felt on the day - I was welling up watching on TV just thinking of the emotions of the runners and definitely reading your blog!!

Hopefully I can someday come and blog about a marathon run and with people like you to inspire me I might just get there.

Sarah emoticon

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KRHAMRICK 4/17/2008 12:18PM

    Oh Mary... I am so proud of you! I love this blog. Tears of joy are welling up in my eyes. I feel like I was there. I'll be thinking of you this weekend while I'm skating in my "Stick It to Breast Cancer" tournament. Thanks so much for your inspiration.


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HISARTIST 4/17/2008 8:31AM

    This is an incredible blog!! I can really feel the excitement and I can see how you were able to take 24 minutes off your PB. As a runner who has only recently started thinking seriously about 10K races, and who has only been running for about 3 1/2 years, the idea of completing a marathon is almost unfathomable. However, your story is a definite inspiration and helps me to see that with determination and perseverance anything is possible. Thank you and congratulations!

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SHANSTORES21 4/16/2008 3:48PM

    Thank you so much for posting this race report! It was amazing and inspirational to read! You did AWESOME! Congrats on beating your old time by 24 minutes! That's incredible! You Rock!

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RHYNIC 4/16/2008 3:39PM

    Mary what a great race you just ran. Congratulations. And your husband...what a trooper. Congratulations to him also. You guys were fantastic. Just fantastic. I loved reading your blog. Hopefully in October you will get to read my marathon blog. Today I went on an 18 mile long run. It just felt fantastic. I was tired during that last mile...but it has given me the confidence. I do believe there is a marathoner in me also. thanks for sharing you marathon experience...you truly are an inspiration...one of my heroes. love gail

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BARBIET65 4/16/2008 12:46PM

    Oh Mary, this was truely worth the wait!
Just like your last race, it gave me goose bumps.
Mary I went to the link and did get to watch an hour of the race live, it was around 4am in the morning here, they kept flashing back and forth to the men & women leaders. Once or twice the cameras went to the general runners. I looked for ya! LOL!
I am proud to know you my dear virtual friend, and will lokk forward to reading about your next blog 200 days from now!
Much love,

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TLB513 4/16/2008 11:58AM

    (((MARY))) You are simply amazing! Your writing takes us on the journey with you... each step of the way. I thank you for that!!! NYC!!! WOW! I wish there was a way I could make it but, unfortunately, it's just not feasible. :o( You know, however, I'll definitely be there, in mind and spirit... cheering you on! emoticon

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OUTOFCONTROL 4/16/2008 11:26AM

    Congratulations! What a fantastic marathon!

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SANDYC17 4/16/2008 8:16AM

CONGRATULATIONS! I've been waiting for this blog. I feel as though we ran that marathon with you, through you, and it was certainly a pleasure - THANK YOU! You should be so proud of what you have accomplished. Team Sassy is proud of you!

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WANDAH3 4/16/2008 8:06AM

    Congratulations, and thanks for taking me along on your run. You are amazing.

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    Auntie Mary!!!!!!!!!! I am sooooooo excited for you and your sweet speed demon!!! Last year when I read your blog I followed along, this year I was able to run it step by step with you, because of you, I am a runner!!! I can only hope to be as strong and determined as you are when I start training for my next race!!! I love that you have a new Personal Best!!! Under 6 hours is amazing and a 24 minute improvement and with an injury!!! I knew you would be FANTASTIC!!! I love you and thank you for sharing your life and your passion with me!!! emoticon

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CEEBEE200 4/16/2008 6:57AM

    Mary!!!!! 24 mins faster than your previous time!!!!! That. is. HUGE!!!!!!! Massive congratulations to you - your preparation, visualisation and positive attitude all came together in an incredible way! I hope you are enjoying a well-earned rest this week, and basking in the glow of your success - you deserve it!!!

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London Calling

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This is it, The final four miles today in my taper. Then it's down to London in the morning. Excitement to say the least! My bag is just about packed and the last of the food/fuel items awaits to be put into my backpack.

This is what I have trained 18 weeks for. This is what I have spent miles running in the rain, the cold, the wind, early hours, and late afternoons. Given up my Saturday mornings for, squeezed into my weekdays, and went out even when my mind was saying..." ahhhh you can skip it today".

This is what I ran the Liverpool Half for back in the beginning of March. Pressing on to run it to the best of my ability.

This is what I went to a physiotherapist for when my hamstring tear occurred. It's what I spent time stretching, hot baths, cold baths, hot water bottles, frozen packs of peas and applied countless rubs, ointments, creams and taken many an ibuprofen for.

This is LONDON! This is my fourth marathon. This is a test of my body, my mind, my soul. This is for me. This is to pass down a legacy to those that know me.

On Sunday 13 April I will lace up with my red laces, make my way to the Blue Start area and at 9:45 GT finish what I have prepared for all these months. This is satisfaction, living with a passion. Seizing the day and wringing it dry! Bring IT on!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

RHYNIC 4/10/2008 12:58PM

    I don't know what to say Mary. I read your post and here I sit with tears in my eyes, and I am left speechless. In a short blog you have capture the past 18 weeks...your marathon just around the corner. I want to wish you luck, but I don't think you need it. I want to tell you to run smart, but I know you already know that. I want to remind you to run safe, but you know way more about running safe than I do. Mary, may the pain of running 26.2 miles be less than the joy of crossing the finish line, getting a new t-shirt and a medal around your neck. Love Gail

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WANDAH3 4/10/2008 10:13AM

    You can do it! Your passion speaks through your words. I'm cheering you on and looking forward to your end report.

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    I can't believe it is here already!!! London is calling and you are answering with Desire, Dedication, Determination and Drive!!! I love you and am sooooo very proud of you!!! Jackie!!!

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LILLIAN64 4/10/2008 6:18AM

    That sounds so exciting.

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Working A Plan

Monday, April 07, 2008

I like to have lists. I work better knowing what I am to do each day be it for my running, my work, or my food. I just like not having to try and figure out what to do at the last minute. If it is all laid out there infront of me when I need it, I can more easily do it.

So that has been my plan with my marathon training. 18 weeks of following"THE PLAN"! I get nervous thinking about 6 days from now to see if "THE PLAN" will happen. More on that in another post.

Today I am putting the focus on another plan....my food plan. Something IS working!!! I have seen a weight loss this past week and I just might make it to the marathon running weight I was hoping for!!

What is this plan? I started working at Eating Clean and planning out my food a week in advance. I eat about every 3 hours and keep to the recommendations on the Clean Eating Team. I'm drinking loads of water, watching the total of calories and keeping my exercise up.

That's it! I have a plan and I am working it!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    Mary congrats on the weight loss and finding a plan that works for you!!! I had a feeling Eating Clean would be beneficial for you...I am glad you are seeing results on the scale!!! It would be great to be at marathon weight but even if you are not, you will certainly feel better, stronger, and faster come race day!!! 6 days and counting!!! I'm going to get my red laces today!!! Jackie!!!

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22 Miles....8 Days....And Then London!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

It's nearly here! The title tells it all. That's what remains till 13 April.

Thought this week needed a bit of humor, thus the picture! My FLM long run buddy Kelly, and first time marathon runner, gave the card to me along with some "thank you" socks. She knew I'm the sock queen and have an entire drawer of running socks plus another drawer of everyday socks

We did our long run Friday afternoon due to a Saturday scheduling conflict. She is my IT tutor and in between instruction we had that last bowl of soup. It was late afternoon before we got out running and despite the misty rain, the newly tried hilly route was a pleasure. The rural route allowed us fabulous scenic views, photo ops of newly born lambs with their protective moms nearby, and a final conversation of pre-marathon topics.

On Thursday I was to have done my ten mile marathon pace run, but as I was caught up in doing our company Payroll Year End I altered my running plan to move it to Saturday. I knew it would mean my legs might be a bit tired but it would be the last double digit run of my schedule. I ran the same route as the previous two weeks and knew at what time I wanted to finish.

Light rain greeted me along the early miles and I was even able to cross over the busy roads without having to stop for traffic. This kept my pace even and my breathing steady. I did have some "rough patches" with my legs feeling tired, but keeping positive I knew I would get through it. Sure enough I felt stronger and continued on. I was on target to finish at marathon pace at the 5 mile mark and if I kept that same pace for the second half I would reach my goal. When I stopped my Garmin at 10 miles I had completed it in 2:10:04! That put me slightly quicker than a revised marathon finish of 5:45:00. (My dream finish time!)

Now the last speed session has been completed and the last double digit run is done. All that are left are four shorter runs (6 miles, 5 miles, 5 miles, 4 miles) from Sunday to Thursday. Then a very easy paced two mile run Saturday in London along the Marathon route in the Isle of Dogs. This is where 18 weeks of training has brought me, and I am ready.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FITLIKENIC 4/6/2008 1:53AM

    Love the picture! Mary you are AWESOME! Can't wait to read about the experience, happy running!

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One More Bowl of Soup

Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's been 16 weeks since I started on my road to London. I've now completed over 440 training miles, gone through 2 pairs of shoes, consumed gallons of sports drink and gels, run a half marathon, injured my hamstring, had massages, gone through physio treatment and made new friends.

All of the above has been done so in just 2 weeks I can hopefully run my fastest marathon to date. I've been able to stick with my training program for the most part. The hamstring injury put me back some miles, but I've pushed myself to keep to form.

Now I have printed up my race pace braclet, prepared a playlist on my iPod, purchased and broken in my Nike Structure Triax +11. Monday, 31 March begins my taper. I have just one marathon pace run of double digits. The rest of the runs will keep my weekly total to about 40 miles. The hard work has been done and now it's keeping the legs and lungs ready for the 13 April.

One of the differences with this training is I had a running buddy for my long runs. Kelly is my IT instructor and got a place for London in the ballot. This is her first marathon and she asked if she could run with me. It has made the Saturday hours on the road a lot better. This past Saturday we ran a 10 mile route that will be the last double digit long run. We have gotten to know each other better through the hours on the road, and over a bowl of homemade soup for our after run meal. Just one more long run awaits. One more bowl of soup.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    I soooo envy Kelly for the miles she ran with you and the bowls of soup shared!!! Mary you are an amazing kind and gentle woman!!! I know long after I finish my 3 miles you will still be running, making us all proud!!! Love you, Jackie!!!

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