Wednesday, May 05, 2010
The inspirational reading on my daily calendar today pretty much sums up my attitude toward marathon running—“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving”. King
Sometimes during the course of the 26.2 miles (42K) marathon distance I go through each of the above phases. However, my mind remains fixed on that waiting, beckoning finish line, and I continually push onward.
This was the pull London had on me even before stepping into my start corral at Blackheath on 25 April 2010 in Greenwich. Because a race/event begins long before the starting line it; it’s that idea that I CAN DO THIS, and so I WILL.
My husband and I arrived in London Thursday afternoon and followed our three time before routine of getting to our hotel, dropping our bags and heading to the race expo to secure our numbers, kit bags and scour the exhibitor booths for clothing, running gadgets and the like. This is always a memorable occasion and we always document it with photographs. Often times we or I return the next day catch any last opportunity to pick up a bargain or catch a glimpse of any running celebrity.
So it was that Friday morning we made a return trip after an evening’s think about some new shoes. It was on our sweep through the show floor that we noticed people congregating at one of the booths and on closer inspection my husband excitedly came back over to me and announced that it was Paula Radcliffe!! OH MY!!! Paula...THE Paula was standing just a few feet away from us and we had cameras in hand.... (If you aren't aware, Paula is the World Record Holder for the Women's Marathon 2:15:25 and is from the UK and ran it in London) We joined the autograph/picture line and the Legend that is Paula was gracious as she signed my running shoe and posed for a never to be forgotten photo! I babbled something about how we had just watched two nights before, for inspiration, our recording of the 2008 NYC Marathon which we ran and she won. Meeting her was like being touched by running royalty and sprinkled by magic dust. The experience left me in awe and wowed by a very special pre-marathon moment.
On Saturday it was time to turn our focus to preparing for Sunday’s race. We had both finished our last easy paced shorter distance runs around Canary Wharf and even got to run along the marathon route marked by the this years RED line (in recognition of the Virgin Corp sponsoring the race). Our evening pre race meal was jacket potatoes with cheese and a light salad provided by room service so we would do as little walking as possible.
Marathon Sunday Morning started early; 0400 and we were awake with nerves already in second gear! Always before a race my stomach just churns with excitement and I do my best to calm them by just robotically going through the same routines of preparing muesli/fruit/milk breakfast, packing after race sandwiches and drinks; mixing up sport drink for my hydration pack during the race ( I don’t use the race provided drink, don’t like it), showering and then putting the last items in the kit bag to carry up to the start area to be then deposited in the trucks that will transport them for me to collect at the finish. At 0700 we left our hotel and began the exodus of the “Red Bag People” towards Greenwich.
I had planned our route to the start with precision so we would have as little walking as possible. We took the Docklands Light Railroad from the Docklands area to Greenwich where we walked a short distance to catch the above ground train to the next stop at Maize Hill. Then it was an approximate one mile uphill to the start areas.
As my husband had secured a good for age entry his start area would be different than my club provided entry and once guiding him to his GREEN START area and giving him a kiss and wishing him a strong and fast finish time, I walked onward to the larger BLUE start.
My mind now began its focus on the task at hand; prepare myself during the next hour or so with the routines I have done six times before. These routines do help to settle me in some respects, but as the minutes creep towards that moment of turning in my kit bag my nerves just go into overdrive.
I mentally check off from my list each item as I finish; potty breaks, waist pack of gels, phone, tissues, money, ibuprofen secured; watch replaced with Garmin, USA bandana secured on my head, MP3 player on arm and playlist cued and ready to go; race shoes replaced walking shoes; over-pants removed. A quick phone call to my hubby over in the green start and a final strong running wish and then I hurriedly put on the rain poncho obtained at the expo from one of the charities as the predicted spot showers begin and then turn in my kit bag; it’s TIME! Time to go to my start corral. Time to trust my training. Time to make another Marathon Memory! Time to DO LONDON, again!
The race start areas are divided into 3 sections; RED, BLUE, and GREEN. The elite races all begin from the BLUE start. The Elite women were already on the course and by the scene on the big screen they were already past the 5K mark! Next the wheelchair athletes began and that would signal just 5 minutes until the Elite Men and the Mass start. Too far from the start line to hear the start signal it was the view across the grass field of a sea of runners moving that alerted me the marathon had begun. Nine minutes later I could see the start gate and then hear the electronic bond of my timing chip with the mat. MY race had now started.
There had been a glitch in the last 10 minutes prior to my start…my Garmin 305 would NOT turn on! The instrument I was counting on to help me maintain and gauge my pace/speed/HR was not going to be available. I was devastated! I was going to be running blind and it shook me. The only hope I had of knowing how I was doing was to notice the clock time at the mile markers and try to keep the same margin of minutes throughout the course. (Something to be said about keeping a watch on the other wrist.)I had prepared a race time band that would be of some assistance when mentally attempting to figure my pace/splits.
I was listening to my body and my own breathing to gauge how I was running. I could tell I was at a quick pace the first couple of miles. As runners streamed past me I kept my focus on what I felt like. How was my body responding? It is so easy to get caught up with what the “others” are doing and attempt to keep pace.
The rain had passed and now the humidity of the morning began to settle in. I registered the “Come on Mary” shouts I heard as I passed by the spectator lined street sides. I passed the 5K marker with a split that was quicker than my pace band. I was on target for my desired finish. This is the area of the course where the RED start runners join onto the road I was on. The road remains divided for a short distance and then we run as ONE unit until the finish.
Water stations were provided more frequently than the mile distance previously arranged as organizers anticipated temperatures into the mid 70sF. This was not the case as the cloud cover stayed with us well into the halfway point.
I kept focus as best I could with the music softly playing in my ears so I could also soak in the on course entertainment. My 10K split was still slightly under my projected time. It seemed like each pub along the way had either a band outside or music blaring from speakers to cheer and encourage us along. The children’s attempts to “high-five” us as we went by was as if to capture some of that “magic dust” I felt when I met Paula just two days previous.
The turn onto Tower Bridge always takes me by surprise! It sends chills and brings a wide smile because to see that span above you is simply amazing and words can’t express. It’s one of the very few uphill in the course and is deafening by 3 deep rows of cheering and shouting spectators. This is defiantly the first “ROCK STAR” moment of the race.
The clouds for the moment had passed and warm sunshine necessitated a few side stepping diversions into the course provided showers. The short respite was a welcome relief as I now was entering the part of the course where the quicker runners were at mile 22 and I was barely half way. My eyes scanned the approaching fast flowing ribbon of sub 3:30 projected finishers for my husband. If we were both on pace there was a possibility of us passing so I positioned myself along the left side of the road. These amazing athletes were moving at close to twice my pace and deserved respect for their achievements. Due to my pace in the previous 10K I realized that my husband was well passed this portion of the course and nearing his final few miles along The Embankment. How I wish I was that close to finishing! The course now turned and headed toward the Isle Of Dogs and the Docklands; a portion of the race that had unravelled me before.
Going through the mile markers at 15 and 16 I could tell my time was slipping. I was developing an uncomfortable ache in my periformis (R glut muscle) and it wouldn’t stop. I had some pain relief pills that as a last resort I took at mile 16. I pressed on and the support at Mile 17 was encouraging and the smells of barbeques and Sunday lunches filled the air. I was now approaching the financial district of Canary Wharf and the tall glittering office buildings and the winding streets. I could feel a rubbing on the top of my R foot and could tell that the area was raw and if I didn’t stop for assistance I would not be able to endure the final 7 miles.
Reluctantly at 19 miles I sought out the St. John’s Ambulance first aid station and asked for assistance. This stop I knew would cost at least 10 minutes in my final time, but you do what you have to do. With a now bandaged toe I vowed that I would attempt to catch some of the runners that had passed by while I was being treated.
Blocking the discomfort of my glut muscle, the tightness in my IT Band and the bandaged toe, (all on my R leg) I continued my pursuit of the golden finish gates just 6 miles further. I approached the area where over an hour before I witnessed the sea of quicker runners pass me, now I passed the dismantling crew removing signs across the barrier. The Blackfriars Tunnel was ahead and crowds of people still adorned the overpass. A sign above announced that in just THREE miles I would make history! I held on to that thought….THREE, just three more miles.
Entering the tunnel I needed to stretch my tight IT Band and found the tunnel side a suitable stretching post. Then it was off again to make my way through the dampness and asphalt stickiness from sport drink/gels to the light of The Embankment and the River Thames.
Here I welcomed the tree sheltered street, the view of the Thames to my left, The London Eye further along and then the tall soldier like stance of Big Ben. Cheering crowds were still present as a woman ahead caught my focus. I remembered her passing me while I was stopped for assistance, I was now determined to not only catch her but stay ahead of her. My mind shifted to something to divert its continual reminder to me of the bodily discomforts I was feeling. Now I could reel her in foot strike by foot strike. Before the turn onto Birdcage walk, less than a mile from the finish I overtook her and planned to keep it that way.
Big Ben’s loud 4 o’clock chiming announcement singled to me that I was now 15 min beyond the finish time I was hoping for. I pressed on and continued running when others around me had been reduced to continual walking. It hurt my hip more to walk than run, so I kept running. I ran passed the Houses of Parliament, passed earlier finishers making their way from the area, passed the overhanging sign that stated just 385 yards left. Passed the 800 metre sign, then the 400 metre. I know that is just once around the track....I kept that illustration as I pressed forward.
Buckingham Palace was on my left the quick lean to the right, the large projection screen on the left and then that final welcoming right turn to see the yellow finish gates across the expanse of the Mall. Applauding and cheering crowds lined the finishing straight either in the stands or against the fences, The Union Jack adorned the flag posts and photographers positioned themselves to capture the last steps of a long yet rewarding journey to the awaiting final timing mat. My arms outstretched, I mentally pulled that gate toward me and ran through the finish line of my seventh marathon.
No personal best time like my husband’s amazing 3:18:43, no second goal time of less than 6 hours because Big Ben’s chime announcing 4 o’clock signalled that. Just the warm satisfaction of completing something I had set as a goal in the best manner I could. I kept moving and finished in 6:18:01....and never ever quit!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Not just the number of days left before London, but the last number of miles before tomorrow's train ride down to London.
The clear bright blue sky and slight crisp air made the miles even more enjoyable.
A short stop at the local bakery to wish one of the employees a great race. This is to be her first marathon and hearing her enthusiasm brought memories back to me. I laughed when she said she had seen me running all over the place. We wished each other a strong finish and I continued on my run.
To my surprise I finished my run faster than any other short marathon run in my training....must have been the excitement!
The suitcases are now packed, the house is clean, the pets are at the kennels.
In 10 hours we will be on our way to the train station. The ride to London will take a little over 2 hours.
After arriving at London Euston station, a city cab ride to our hotel (at mile 19 of the course in Canary Warf-Docklands), then to the Expo to get our numbers and SHOP!!! (I love that part!) Then a 3 miles on Friday, 2 on Saturday to calm the nerves and excitement; the best part of these runs is I get to run them on the marathon course..the blue line goes down (the clue for the shortest route along the course, Friday night!!!. And then it will be countdown to Sunday morning.
These next days will blend together and I may not get back on line to update the rest of the countdown. So with this blog just want to say for those that are interested my race number is 24468. I take to the start line in Greenwich at 09:45 GMT (04:45 EST) Please think kindly, send warm vibes, healthy running thoughts, be safe prayers, and/or anything else.
You are a part of this experience. I thank you for your voices, your shout outs, your goodies, your posts, your cheers! You will be running with me; and in those miles that are the toughest I'll draw on your strength to get through to the next mile and beyond until I pass Buckingham Palace and see the yellow gates down the mall and imagine all of you in the grandstands cheering me on. Thank you for being here...and thank you for joining me on my 7th marathon! See you at the finish line!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
A week. Just seven days and memories will envelope me.
Memories of rising before the spring sun, of pre-marathon race morning routines. Walking with kit bag over my shoulder the mile to the start areas.
Waiting, preparing, last line up at porto-loo, walking to my assigned pen, alone with my thoughts, my plans, my ambitions, my focus.
I can see the start in my mind's eye, and feel the wrenching in my stomach of the adrenalin pumping.
So I bring myself back to today. To the Sunday before the Sunday and I am pleased I did that marathon paced 10 mile run on day 9. It felt good and I tested myself. Yesterday's run was to recover and it was tiring, but afresh this morning I was out again for a focused four...and felt strong.
The race is not just on the road, but in my mind....and it is good to have memories to return to....so throughout this week before, I know I will return in my mind to Blackheath and the Blue Start, and 2 previous London's and feel again that rush, that power, that emotion, that enthusiasm, that pride. I have the honor to run London again...and for those of you who have wished me well, who are reading this., a HUGE THANK YOU for ALL your kind words, your prayers, your shout outs, your confidence. It means so much to me. I will run with your words in my mind's ear and together we will answer the call of LONDON!
Friday, April 16, 2010
Yep, down to single digit numbers now as the count down to London continues.
My nerves are kicking in. My hubby is already getting things together to pack.
We leave in 6 days.
I have my last pace run to do today which I delayed from yesterday. Can't put it off I have to get out there!
The doubts want to creep in, to replay all the aches and pains and cramps and blisters and heat and rain and cold and negative moments from past marathons/races.
I let the doubts and anxiety wash over me.. and then I HAVE to let them wash away. To linger too long with the thoughts is self defeating, self bashing, self destroying.
Positive, strong, determined, capable, persistent....those are the type of words that I put into my mind...that is the type of fuel my body needs as well as the healthy edible kind.
I ask myself, what am I doing today to be the strong athlete that is taking on another marathon?
The rest of day nine will show that.
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