Looking back…

A friend mentioned that they were passing on my blog info to a friend of hers and I realised that, owing to the epic rest I had been forced to do, I hadn’t updated for a long old time (mostly because there hasn’t been much to report given the recovery process I needed to go through). What I also hadn’t realised was the fact I never got round to doing a full blog post about actually completing the marathon and instead settled for a Facebook update. I’m actually quite cross with myself about this given how much completing the marathon meant and how much I had documented along the way!

So, given the time of year, and the fact that many of us look back over the year that has been and start planning what is still to come, I thought I would finally get around to my marathon entry…

Friday 26th October – the end of my first half term in a new job role and the night before the race. Claire and I arranged to go and pick up our race numbers together which was very much needed or I might have jibbed at this hurdle! We wandered through Llanberis to the event village and it was great to see the atmosphere building already but the reality well and truly hit, as did the nerves – was I really going to run a marathon?! I felt very sick!

Race number, t-shirt and hoodie collected (along with a quick hug and some final words of encouragement from Jayne) and I headed for home where Owen had made a massive spag bol and I could focus on trying to get some rest.

Race number collected – note the fear in my eyes!
Kit all ready for action!

Saturday 27th – OMGEEEEEEEEEE! Race day! I can’t actually remember how well I slept the night before but I woke up absolutely buzzing! I always get super nervous before I do an event and today was no exception but in addition to the nerves was this absolute determination that this finish line was going to be all mine! I sorted myself out with banana and porridge and O. and I went to pick Kate up from Tregarth before heading back to Llanberis to meet Claire and Han. The weather was cold but sunny and there was even snow on the mountain tops; stunning! We joined the crowds heading towards the start line with O. in tow and the excitement was now overtaking the nerves. I had been overwhelmed by the messages of support I had been receiving all morning but the time to switch my phone off had come and I needed to get in the zone. I was surrounded by hundreds of people with the same goal in mind; 26.2 miles, bring it on!

Start line selfie!

I knew I was never going to manage to keep up with the girls so we had big hugs and a promise to see each other on the other side and then the race began. It is so easy to get caught in the flow of runners and start off too fast so when I caught site of fellow Runaways Sarah and Kath I made a beeline for them as I knew from Beaumaris Half that they would keep me going at a suitable pace. Running through Nant Peris towards the climb of Pen y Pass and I was completely overcome with something I can’t put in to words but I was in a very happy place. I had endless support and encouragement from so, so many people but the only person I could rely on now was myself so whatever happened it was down to me. I soon parted ways with Sarah and Kath but I was completely okay with being on my own.

Pen y Pass was indeed a tough climb and I took a few walk breaks to get up it whilst chatting with people along the way. I made a point of looking behind me a few times on that climb just to put in perspective the height gained. That valley is stunning anyway so well worth checking out!

Top of Pen y Pass

It’s awesome being towards the back of the pack because people like to chat! Everyone runs these events for different reasons but us folk towards the end like to meet and greet new folk and are more than happy to share stories. I chatted with lots of people on my way around which all contributed to my enjoyment of the whole experience. It was on the descent from Pen y Pass that it dawned on me that now I was on the course there was no way in hell I was coming off it until I crossed that finish line! This was a slight issue for me because I had made a promise to my physio, coach Chris and O. that if my knee started to cause me any problems I would pull out but at that particular moment in time I felt good and the only direction I was going in was forward.

At Llyn Gwynant I reached the point where I had recced the course in training so every step was now slightly more familiar and I could start to get my head around inclines and the route a bit better but at mile 10 I hit an issue; my bloody knee. As I said earlier, I had promised everyone that if I encountered serious pain I would pull out and this initial issue wasn’t so much pain but a definite awareness that things were not feeling right. I was not far from Beddgelert (the half way point) so I eased off and started a walk/run with the intention of seeing how it went over these next three miles. It wasn’t ideal to have had to resort to this so early but I so didn’t want to give up.

Well Beddgelert came and went and it turns out that when I put my mind to it I can actually walk at a decent pace! I knew that if I could keep the walks around the 15 minute mile mark and put a burst of speed in every so often I could still get this race done and more importantly to me, get in before dark! By the time I got to Rhyd Ddu (where I knew Karl and Keira were going to be cheering) I knew I wasn’t going anywhere! Every step now was a step closer to home and I was still enjoying ticking off the markers as I went along.

At Waunfawr (around mile 20) I had the most amazing surprise as O. and Alison had turned up to cheer! I hadn’t expected to see them until the finish line and I burst in to tears with gratitude. This point is the start of the final and the most brutal climb of the course so I went for a big hug before carrying on my way. I also caught up with Sarah and we stuck together to get over this last hurdle before we went to claim our coasters! Part way up the climb we found Jack on timer duty who supplied us with some much needed sustenance in the form of salt and vinegar kettle chips and a big high-five and then we carried on up the hill…

Delighted to see Jack!

At mile 24 you reach the final feed station and they serve tea, that’s right, TEA! It was like liquid gold and the biscuit went down a treat too and then all that is left to do is get down the hill and across the finish. At this point I told Sarah to go on ahead mainly because I knew my knee was not going to enjoy this descent one bit but also because I needed to finish this one on my own. I was right regarding the knee, that descent was absolute agony and I did start to worry that I might have done some serious damage but there was no chance I wasn’t going to finish now and I just kept going, one foot in front of the other. By this point in the course the view across Llanberis is awesome but you can also hear the noise from the finish line which is enough to keep you going. I reached the village and started to pick up the pace to ensure a decent finish and when you turn the corner to the finish straight and hear everyone cheering for you, it was only right to finish properly (luckily I had conserved enough energy through the jalking to be able to run at this point). I could feel the tears starting again as I made out the cheers from O. and the purple fam but when I finally saw that finish line I couldn’t help but punch the air with victory.

Crossing the line!
Nailed it!

Ten months in the making, hours of training, the laughs, the tears and the new friendships and I had actually done it! 6 hours and 17 minutes later and that finish line was in the bag – I was absolutely buzzing!

When I got home I put a post on Facebook thanking all the amazing people who had helped me along the way and did my best to thank all the people who had sent me messages that day too – my thanks to everyone still stands. Doing this marathon has changed so much for me: obviously it made me fitter and showed just what the body can do when you give it a chance; it has shown me how strong my mind can be – if you want it in your head, your body will follow; it has given me new levels of discipline with regards to training but, most importantly to me, it has given me friendships that I know will last a lifetime.

It took me a long time to physically recover from the after affects of that day (which is why my blog has been quiet) but the running has started again, steadily and the plans for next year are beginning to get formed; so excited about these. In the meantime though, I did actually get a small marathon tribute tat and will forever cling on to the title bestowed on me by Gez… I am so proud to be a marathon wanker!

Fresh ink!
Nuff said!

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