The thing with running a marathon is no matter how hard you’ve trained and no matter how confident you are of your ability – it can all go pear-shaped on the day. This leaves you with two choices: you can feel sorry for yourself and quit or you embrace the challenge and surge ahead no matter how tough the road ahead may be.
This is what I was faced with as I ran my second marathon at the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival on Sunday.
For sixteen weeks prior to the event I had trained consistently and gave every session 110%. Even on those days where I’d been up most of night with the baby/toddler or I just wasn’t in the mood – I got out there and gave it my all. I never skipped a run and only had to bail on two. One because I was so exhausted that it would be detrimental to my training and health to push on and another time when my foot was in pain. Ain’t nobody got time for injury!
My training consisted of three runs per week – speed intervals, tempo and a long run. There were no easy runs or junk mileage. On the days I didn’t run I either strength or cross trained – to further boost my aerobic fitness and to get my body nice and strong. It was a tough plan but it resulted in me setting three new PBs – 5km, half-marathon and marathon. Woo hoo!
In the lead up to the event my mindset kept switching from “you’ve got this” to “OMFG don’t be ridiculous how will I ever run that far at that pace”. You see I had an ambitious goal in mind to run a sub 4:00 marathon. Those 16 weeks of training had me primed to achieve just that. It was a terrifying thought. Running 42km isn’t comfortable at the best times but for me to run it at a faster pace was going to take it to the next level for me.
When I ran Three Waters last year in 4:22 primarily I just wanted to finish so kept it at a comfy pace. I stopped to hug family, I chatted to other runners, I walked every drink station. Don’t get me wrong it was still tough – it’s a bloody long way to run however I kept it cruisey and loved every second of it. I also achieved my goal of sub 4:30.
This time I knew it was going to hurt a lot more but was determined to give it a red-hot go.
I had a baby almost six months ago so most people thought I was a few stubbies short of a six-pack for even considering another marathon so soon. Well I love a challenge and I love proving people wrong. And yeah I can be quite crazy at times especially when I’ve set my mind on something.
However I think the craziest aspect of it all was thinking I’d be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep the night before. With a baby. A breastfed baby who decided she was not in the mood to sleep and was only calm when attached to me. She wasn’t the only one in tears at this stage.
Thankfully my superstar of a mother who flew over to help me out, along with my youngest sister, took over the reigns at 11pm so I could try to get some shut eye. Good news – the baby went to sleep. Bad news – fucking worst insomnia of my life. I think I managed about two hours of sleep before I was up feeding the little-little and getting myself ready to run. A less than ideal way to kick things off.
After my banana porridge, a caffeine hit and at least five trips to the toilet (!) it was time to meet my running buddy Ashul downstairs and head on over to the train station thus beginning our journey to the start line. To say I was nervous is an understatement. I felt like throwing up. Not just about the run but I was leaving the little-little for the longest I’d ever left her and I was worried she might miss her food source. Luckily my mum is a legend and assured me everything would be okay.
We got to the start at Milson’s Point where we reunited with the amazing Stephanie and fabulous Lyndal. The four of us became firm friends via social media after bonding over our love for running. This was Ashul’s fourth marathon for the year, Steph’s third and Lyndal’s second. We all had our own individual goals however Ashul and I were going to try to stick together for as much as we could.
We stood around chatting for awhile and took the obligatory pre-run selfies and before we knew it we were off! I was feeling strong and on pace. After a few kms I knew I could do this. Everything was going to plan. It was what I’d call a dream run. Running over the Harbour Bridge was very cool!
Then we reached the 18km mark and it all started to go pear shaped and by pear shaped I mean I got a mother-fucking stitch. A stitch. A godforsaken stitch. Who even gets stitches? Not me. Ever. Why was this happening?
I hadn’t done anything different. I’d eaten the same breakfast I’d always eaten before a long run. My fuelling was as I’d practised. WHY RUNNING GODS WHY?! WHY TODAY OF ALL DAYS?!
I tried every trick in the book to get rid of it. Exhaling as my left foot hit the ground, digging my nails into my palm. Ashul got me to bend over and exhale sharply. Nothing worked. By this stage my pace had slowed dramatically and in the end I couldn’t keep up with Ashul so we parted ways.
I was devastated and in so much pain. I started to cry and run at the same time. All my hard work was going down the drain all because of a stitch. I hobbled along with this pain for at least 3km. It finally dissipated but by then my mental state was not where I wanted it to be and then it started to bloody rain.
I started to self doubt and was so close to pulling the pin. I kept thinking of how I’d let so many people down. My husband who put up with all my crazy, watched both kids every Saturday morning as I pounded the pavement for hours, who stayed home with the big-little while I was on the other side of the country. My mum who flew over to watch the little-little while I was running. My training buddy Sarah who was by my side on most of my long runs and tempo sessions. Each and every person who believed in me and wished me well.
My legs kept moving but my mind kept taunting me “just quit now, you’re not going to make it, you’re not a runner, you’re a joke just pull out before you make a fool of yourself”. Welcome to my inner monologue. I started crying again.
I think it was around 28km I stopped running and began to walk. It was the only way to get my shit together. I gave myself a stern talking to and a figurative kick up the arse. I’d come too far to quit and even if I had to drag myself over that line I was going to give it my all. I am not a quitter!
Sub 4:00 was now out of reach so it was time to reassess and aim for my next goal – beat my Three Waters time.
From god only knows where I got this sudden determination and strength and powered through the final 10km or so kilometres. I felt fan-bloody-tastic. I even managed to catch Ashul and pass him.
Those last 3km you could not wipe the smile from my face and when I crossed the finish at exactly 4:07 well I was beside myself with joy and yep the tears began to flow again. A new PB by 15 minutes – I’ll take that.
It’s now four days later and I’ll be honest I’m not thrilled with my time but what I am proud of is the fact I never gave up. It would have been so much easier to quit but I embraced the hard and broke through to the other side. This is one of the lessons of life running has given me and I hope both my littles learn from it too. It has also spurred me to work even harder – I will run a sub 4:00 marathon.
Until then I’m still allowing myself a couple more days to recover before slowly easing into my next goal – the 6 Inch Ultra Marathon in December. My first-ever trail race and my first ultra. A whole new level of crazy! Bring it on 😜