OH. MY. GOSH I did it. Years of dreaming, months of training and 3 hours and 59 minutes of hard work later and it is done! It came down to the wire in the end and there were a few tense moments when I thought it was out of my grasp but job done!
On Sunday 7 April I achieved my long term goal of running a sub 4 marathon. A date I’ll never forget because not only is it my marathon PB, but it’s also my boyfriend’s birthday! This distance hasn’t come easy for me, I find it really tough, I know everyone does, but mentally I really struggle in the latter stages and convince myself that I can’t do it.
Manchester marathon was the one. A race I’ll never forget and a day of celebration as part of the ASICS FrontRunner UK meet up. Achieving my goal at Manchester was really special as two years prior I came here for the very first ASICS FrontRunner UK team meet up and ran the final leg of the relay. At this point I had never run further than 10km so to come back and smash my marathon here felt like the icing on the cake.
After months of training race day arrived. I was full of nerves and woke up at 3:25am unable to sleep. Charlotte, Livvy and I got ready and had breakfast in our hotel room together and the nerves soon turned to the buzz of excitement. We met some more of the ASICS team members and made the short walk to the start. Once we arrived at the start the butterflies returned, it was busier than I imagined and the race atmosphere was overwhelming. After seeing some friendly faces I felt much more settled. Bag check was simple, you picked any queue, handed your bag over and were given a wristband in return. Then a quick pre-race toilet stop, there were LOADS of toilets and we managed to find some with no queues which I don’t think has ever happened at a race before! Could that be a good omen?!
We had taken our time at bag drop stopping to talk to people and take pictures so we got in the start pen quite late and didn’t have to wait long until we started running. Coming over the timing mat I had this wave of panic thinking ‘this is it’. I settled down into my pace and it was game on. My aim was to run the first half around 1:53 and then hold on the best I could, I’m aware I always slow up in the second half so I needed as much time in the bank but I also needed to feel comfortable. The first 5km flew by and I was on track, a little ahead of schedule but that was good I felt like I was running strong. As the crowds began to thin heading out through Stretford I popped my music on and took my first gel. I’ve never used music during a marathon before and can’t remember the last time I raced with headphones but I’ve found listening to some songs really helpful during my long runs. I’ve also started using the Aftershokz Trekz Air which were gifted to me. These are over ear bone conducting headphones so I can also listen to the crowds when I want.
10km came and I was still on track, I was absolutely buzzing. I carried on ticking off each km holding my pace and feeling strong. We then entered the first loop back on Stockport Road, Altrincham and I started looking for familiar faces. It was a nice distraction. I spotted Danny the 3:30 pacing machine with a happy bunch of runners in tow and then carried on around the loop. I got slightly disorientated in amongst the houses and soon we were running against runners on the opposite side of the road. I spotted Lotta and became very confused, I couldn’t work out how she was ahead of me as I had passed her at mile four, then I realised I was on the opposite side of the road, where I had just seen Danny. It’s funny how your concentration can go during a marathon! I carried on towards the half way mark spotting Livvy, Matt and Kelly on the opposite side of the road. I flew through the half way point somewhere around 1:53 it was all a blur- it was still game on. My next big milestone was to reach 20 miles in under three hours.
The miles ticked by and I began my favourite distraction game of playing spot the dogs- I can assure you there was a good selection! The dreaded 18 miles came, I have such a mental block with this point in my training runs. But I was through and I was still running. This was now the longest I had ever ran non stop without a walk break!
At 19 miles the wheels began to fall off and the fatigue from the jet lag the week prior caught me and I feared the wall was coming. I was 30 seconds off my pace, then 45 seconds but I kept going. I was still holding the pace best I had ever achieved at this stage compared to my previous two marathons and I was still running.
Then onto Carrington Lane, the quietest part of the route. I was braced for this having run the relay prior and it honestly wasn’t as bad as I expected. I kept saying to myself ‘do not walk at this point’, I knew that mentally if I took a break when it was so quiet I wouldn’t get going so easily.
In the end I managed to get to 23 miles before I took my first walk break. The furthest I have ever run without stopping. I felt so proud and I definitely think I could have kept going but trying to get a gel out of my waistbelt when I was so exhausted was proving a real challenge! I soon got back to running as I could feel my legs going stiff and worried that the longer I walked the longer it would take me to get going again. Everything was sore but I just had to keep going.
A quick glance at my watch and I was behind where I wanted to be. I tried doing all the maths it was going to be tight, I had to keep going. I gave myself a little pep talk- I had not come this far to come this far. I was into the final 5km now just a parkrun to go, the hard work was done and I just needed to hold on. I reached mile 24, the ASICS cheer station and there was a wall of friendly faces, high fives and screams of encouragement. It was just what I needed and I shuffled on. Two miles to go, my whole body was screaming for this to be over. More friendly faces in the form of Becca @Redfaced_runner and her cheer squad were next, complete with confetti, it was so extra but soooo needed.
I knew I was closing in on the finish line but time was catching up with me, it was going to be tight. I was getting close, but with no metre countdown signs I didn’t know how close or how long the course would be. Chelle was waiting on the final bend screaming that I would see the finish when I rounded the corner. She was right, but my heart sank when I realised just how far I still had to go. I was convinced I had lost it that I would be just over 4 hours and miss my goal by seconds. To have gone all that way and miss out would be painful. I had missed my boyfriend’s birthday for this (with his encouragement) and there was no way I was going home without my sub four goal. I started digging deeper than I ever could, finding a gear within me I didn’t know I had. Everything is a blur, I just remember a set of traffic lights before the finish and I kept saying to myself I had to just get to those then I could figure the rest out, the lights came then the finish and there was the mat. I hit my watch and desperately looked down, and there it was: 3:59:02. I had done it, then the tears came. Emotional and exhausted. The battle was over and I had won. Official time 3:59:00- I’m so glad I don’t have an fiddly seconds to remember. A PB by 27 minutes and 4 seconds! And I’m still on cloud 3:59!