10 Things I Learned Running My First Marathon.
1. To read the small print
Perhaps the biggest and most rookie lesson learnt. Ten weeks in and four weeks out from race day, I decided to do a bit more research into the marathon I had told far too many people I was running to back out of. There in the fine print was the biggest detail I had failed to notice. It was a multi-terrain race. Well it was too late to start finding trail runs and break in my once used and then discarded trail trainers. I mean there were actual stretches on the beach. In one swift moment my sub four hour aspirations melted away and pre-race anxiety started. A little more reading found reviews that revealed the race distance was actually a kilometre over, naturally the slowest and longest kilometre I have ever ran. Ever.
2. Vaseline is your best friend
I apologise to whoever tipped me off about this, I'm shamefully taking the credit but there are no fancy running socks in the world that can outshine this inexpensive life saver. When I started to run over 20K in training, my feet started to take a bit of a beating. My bony toes would make the goriest blood blisters that were agony. One tip off later about slathering your feet in Vaseline before a run and my feet were pain and blister free for the remainder of the training weeks and I came away with one tiny blister on marathon day that was no bother.
3. No one tells you about the post-marathon bit
When you're a rookie, you spend fourteen weeks or however long you've trained agonising over whether you will make it to the finish line. I was so preoccupied with the race itself, I gave no consideration to what would happen afterwards. After the initial elation that you somehow found the reserve to get through those final eight kilometers, you can finally stop running and even sit down, I would say it took five minutes for my ankles to go. The next forty eight hours were agony, I was out-shuffled by old age pensioners in the local shopping centre, my knees would crunch and punish me if I tried to move them anywhere between ninety degrees and fully extended but like any achievement, the pain goes away and all you really hold on to was how good it felt to cross that finish line.
4. You will probably have a cry at some point
My first blub came after my first 30K run. It was that sobering realisation that on race day I would still be twelve kilometres out and how could I possibly run any further. Well you do and even though it's hard to believe, the long runs do get easier. The one I wasn't expecting was after the finish line, I could see my boyfriend Sam and I'd never seen him look so proud, he threw his arms around me and we both had a bit of a sob. It actually turned out to be my favourite marathon moment, call me Wettie McGee.
5. Winter marathons are under hyped
Whenever I told anyone I was running a marathon on December 23rd, most thought I was a bit mad but it was actually perfect. Training started off mid-September, the sun is still out but you're not running against that awful summer heat, you have all the autumnal smells around and even when it does start to get a bit chilly, it's not the bitter cold of January and February. I probably wouldn't choose December 23rd again as I wasn't good for much over Christmas but December was great.
6. Even if you love running - those last two weeks of training test your passion
I would say I've had the running bug properly for the last three years and it's peaked and mellowed at various points but I've always enjoyed the post run buzz. I would normally head out 2-3 times a week, my longest runs before training were quite often a 20K but I always ran at my own pace. I definitely hit a point in the last few weeks where I was semi-dreading going out, I enjoyed hitting all the personal bests along the way but if I did it again I would follow a twelve week plan instead of fourteen.
7. Even carb loading looses it's novelty
The biggest shock of them all, the idea of shoving my face with pasta for three days before and the night before big runs sounded insanely indulgent at the start, I can not believe I am even uttering these words...I was SO over eating carbs.
8. People are not lying about the cues for the toilets
I actually have to give myself a pat on the back for my race morning schedule because it worked to perfection. Coffee and porridge in the car, a banana when I arrived, one hour before the race to use the toilet as many times as needed - and you will want to get there early because the toilets get busy and if I say that everyone has the same goal in mind - you get what I mean. Finding a secret toilet is also gold.
9. I can't believe I thought I was going to be able to drive myself
For some reason I had the idea that I would be perfectly fine to drive if there was no one around to come with me. This tops the list for the most ridiculous ideas I had, there was zero chance of me being able to operate a vehicle, I even want to say that public transport would have been a push. Be a friend to you legs, take a buddy with you.
10. People are awesome
With it being Christmas naturally everyone was in good spirits, there were quite a few Santas hitting the course as expected but the run back really made me appreciate the variety of people that had showed up with the same goal. The first to go past were the insanely talented runners who were hitting times around the two and a half hour mark, I ran past a man leading a blind woman - that course was hard to walk let alone to run, there was another woman who was power walking her way in religious clothing. The course was very wet so we got a good soaking, especially from those who were shall we say perhaps a little more oblivious to their fellow runners but then you would have the real gems that would run next to you and give you some encouragement. The crowds that were dotted around cheered for everyone no matter if they were anything to do with you and then there was the lady dressed as Santa who met me at the finish line to hand over my medal. She gave me a huge hug and physically walked me over to where Sam was stood. People are awesome, sometimes it just takes a marathon that feels like a miracle to make them shine.