Yesterday I finally finished what I had been training for three months for, the Manchester Marathon. I completed it in 4 hours and 40 mins, chip time 4 hours 36 minutes. It wasn’t easy but I can’t believe I’ve done it.
I was going to write a blog entry last week after I’d been skiing to St Anton, as the nerves were really beginning to kick in. I was really worried that a week of drinking and eating too much might have damaged my chances of finishing the marathon.
I kept thinking how I’d been going on to everyone about how I was running the marathon, but imagine if I wasn’t able to finish it? Imagine if I would be one of those people you see sat on the pavement in a ball on the phone to someone waiting to get picked up, or worse one of those people getting driven off in an ambulance. Luckily I wasn’t in either of these groups but I felt like if I had written a blog about all these negative feelings it wouldn’t help so I tried to ignore the fact that I would be running 26.6 miles at the weekend.
So before I knew it my alarm was going off at 6am on Sunday 6th April and the day had finally arrived. After spending my Saturday eating beef fajitas, a recipe that my Mum found in Runner’s World that I would highly recommend, drinking a tonne of water and finishing the evening off with a mammoth sized portion of lasagna and an early night, I couldn’t believe how quickly the week had gone. I had a big bowl of porridge, raisins and honey for breakfast with a mug of lemon and hot water and was ready to go.
We drove the hour to Manchester and got to our pre paid car parking space at around 8.15am. There was quite a bit of traffic near the stadium and I had to spend a penny before the race which landed me in a half hour long queue meaning it 8.50am by the time we were heading towards the starting line which left me feeling slightly rushed, but excited.
Me and my Dad’s friend Graham who had been my coach/training buddy were looking for our ‘F’ starting point but couldn’t really see it as there were so many people so we headed towards the 4 hours 30 mins flag pacer and set off with the 10,000 other runners.
As we passed our support team at 2 miles things were going well. At about 6 miles in we were going through Sale and I was desperate for the toilet, again, so I left Graham and told him I’d catch up. After queuing again and once I’d been I came out of the toilet and tried to spot Graham but I couldn’t. We were going past the offices I worked in as well so I was hoping I could catch him up to show him where I had worked but after sprinting for a while I still couldn’t spot him so decided to slow back to normal pace before I tired my legs out.
At this point I had no idea what time I was running at as I couldn’t see any pacer flags. After asking a few people turns out I was still in front of the 4 hours 30 mins flag but the 4 hours 15 flag we were originally behind was out of sight. I realised I was going to have to do this bit on my own. So from 6-16 miles through Sale and Altrincham I got my ipod out of my running bumbag and kept going. Once I hit the half way point I felt like I was doing well.
At 16 miles I suddenly saw my Dad running along side me and he was said that Graham was just in front with my Mum and his wife Sarah-Jane and that he was waiting for me. When I reached them I felt awful. I asked my Mum for some Ibuprofen and had some jelly babies and thought about having pro plus but decided against it. Graham then urged me to get moving again and we carried on. The next few miles between 16-19 were dreaful. I felt sick, lightheaded and exhausted. I said to Graham that I needed to walk but we could see the 4 hours 30 mins flag approaching fast and Graham said we had to keep going. At this point we bumped into someone we knew from home and had a chat with her for a while which took my mind off how dreadful I felt for a moment.
Soon we were back in the thick of it and the 4.30 flag was right behind us. There was a crowd of people right behind the flag, keeping to their pace to achieve the marathon in 4 hours 30 minutes, and it felt like they were chasing us. Before we knew it the 4.30 crowd had swallowed us up and spat us out behind them and although we were still running the flag was out of sight in no time.
We were now coming up to the 19 mile point and this was when Graham began to struggle. I was beginning to come out of feeling horrendous so I kept my pace but kept looking over my shoulder to keep an eye on Graham but before I knew it he was out of sight. I felt like if I had stopped I might never get going again, so carried on solo again.
I got my ipod out once again, with my yurbuds headphones which were brilliant, and as we were a bit more in the countryside for the last few miles put both headphones and let the my music motivate me for a while. I started talking to a girl I ended up running next to for a couple of miles and asked her what the first thing she was going to do once we finished was and we both agreed that it would be to lie down then have a massive meal then sleep.
This was the part where I began to see people passed out on the side of the road which was extremely horrible to see. Ambulances with pairs of trainers sticking out of them began to pull up on the roads and I started to think about how I just wanted to get around safely, no matter what my time. Between the 22-26 miles I applied a technique I used to use when I first started running which was to run for two songs on my ipod then walk for one. I remembered how I read that to complete a marathon you need to remember to enjoy it. I felt that I had done so well to get this far I wasn’t going to nearly kill myself running the last six miles. So I took jelly babies and whatever else I could get from spectators along the roads and enjoyed the experience.
Suddenly at 24 miles we were back in Stretford and I knew exactly where the finish line was. I kept thinking ‘2 miles you run that all the time, no problem’ but it felt like it went on forever. The crowds kept saying ‘You’re nearly there! Less than a mile to go!’ but it felt like they were saying that for hours.
Finally after all of that I turned a corner and could see the finish line about 200 meters away and I thought ‘I’ve done it. I’ve bloody done it. This is it. It’s almost over’ and then I saw my Dad holding the dog cheering me on then saw my Mum and my sister and then saw my time and then it was all over. I didn’t have to run anymore. That was it.
It was honestly really tough. Those 16-18 miles in particular was when I can remember thinking ‘ I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be here’. I never really thought about stopping but I really wasn’t enjoying it at that point. The crowds as predicted were amazing. People were reading my name off my pinned on number saying ‘Come on Francesca. You’re doing brilliant’ which really, really helped. Kids were holding out there hands for high fives all the way around which kept you motivated right till the end.
It felt like a real adventure on the day, with highs and lows, and the sense of achievement of the end was unbelievable and made it all worth while.
People always say that they would never be able to do a marathon but I never thought I would be able to and I did it. At the end I was thinking of all the people who said ‘You’re doing a marathon?! You don’t look the type to run marathons’ and I was thinking ‘ Well I’ve done it now you idiot’. If you really want to achieve completing a marathon and stick to a plan you will be able to do it too. I would highly recommend it.
Money raised: £1,571 70/70 runs 421/421 miles
Thoughts from this week:
- I’ve now got my first real limp
- Looking forward to a full body massage today
- Signed up to the Chester half marathon in May
- I’ve got a huge blister between my big toe and my second toe somehow
- Not sure what to do with myself now there’s no more training
21 miles deep