My first surprise of 2015 turned out to be from my charity, WAVE Trust – the charity I skydived for.
You see, WAVE was given a slot in the London Marathon (which will be run on 26 April 2015), but had left it too late to find a runner.
Seeing this, I decided to man up and agree to run the London Marathon.
Only issue is, I am ridiculously unfit, especially after a December full of munching!
My first point of call was therefore to ask for advice from my marathon running friends. Some tips included:
- build up your fitness and don’t overdo it;
- get some running socks;
- read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall;
- try out different energy gels before the marathon;
- drink loads of water!
I then started reading up on training plans from Virgin and endurance coach Martin Yelling to help plan my runs. I also acquired some new barefoot running shoes as I had read that they help your overall well-being in addition to making you run faster (this may sound crazy, but my experience so far confirms that there is some truth in this – my 5km runs take about 5 minutes less than before!).
(Update: the are very comfortable to wear and the wide toe box really does help create a more stable running stance. My only issue so far is that the colour runs off – the majority of my white socks are now pink!)
My first couple of runs (7.5 miles on 10/01/15 and 7 miles on 11/01/15) left me aching from head to toe, despite eating as much protein and carbohydrate as I could get my hands on. This left me thinking: was I running too hard? Or was there something else?
Surprisingly, I found the answer in an article about Ultramarathon king Scott Jurek. You see, Scott Jurek is a devout vegan who runs 100 mile races! Seeing this, I decided to slowly implement the vegan diet and, so far, so good!
This post logs my marathon training and hopefully gives me even more incentive to reach my target marathon time of 4 hours!
10/01/15: Started off with a 7.5 mile run. Recovery was helped by eating some home-made beef shin pasta with a kale salad
11/01/15: Gentle 7 mile run. Finished off the remaining beef shin pasta with a side of kale salad
17/01/15: 10 mile run followed by lunch at Maoz (which is awesome!)
18/01/15: 6.5 mile run, with some home-made vegan chilli and cous cous
21/01/15: It was recommended to me that I supplement my runs with some gym work. Throughout my marathon preparation, I did 2 sets of the following weight free training;
An added benefit was that it helped break up the monotony of running!
22/01/15: 2 sets of the weight free training, which is surprisingly tough!
23/01/15: 2 sets of the weight free training. As a treat to myself, I ate a whole tin of home-made nak’d bars
24/01/15: A 10 mile picturesque run around central London, starting from Victoria and ending up near London Bridge via Regent’s park. Recovery meal was a large salad from Beatroot vegetarian cafe and a protein bar (which are so grim to eat!)
27/01/15: 2 sets of the weight free training; large salad from Sunny Olive Tree
28/01/15: 2 sets of the weight free training; pumpkin curry from Pure
29/01/15: 2 sets of the weight free training; large salad from Sunny Olive Tree
30/01/15: 3.5 mile run followed by 30 minutes of cycling (which helped break up the monotony of running!); Falafel container from Pilpel
01/02/15-07/02/15: skiing in Val D’Isere (where I temporarily gave up the vegan diet….the food was too tempting!). Despite eating excessive amounts of butter, croissants and cheese, I came back fitter than before – the high altitude coupled with the cardio heavy nature of skiing helped increase my V02 max!
09/02/15: 4 mile run from work, with dinner being a Thai green lentil soup from Pure
13/02/15: 4 mile run after work
15/02/15: 6.5 mile run around Canary Wharf, familisarising myself with the route in the process. This was followed by some well-deserved dim sum at the Lotus
18/02/15-19/02/15: 20 minutes of intense skipping (harder than you think!), eating some home-made vegan chilli afterwards to help with the recovery
20/02/15: Somehow managed to injure my Achilles and was forced to substitute running with 30 minutes of cycling on my CycleOps Aluminum Rollers:
Cycling on these rollers are so much harder than cycling outdoors: The aluminium rollers makes it feel quite slippery whilst the narrowness will mean you need to focus 100% of the time! Although the rollers were quite expensive, I opted for these rather than a turbo trainer – which wear down your tyres ridiculously quickly and are comparatively boring as you cannot fall off!
21/02/15: 30 minutes of cycling on rollers. Achilles still painful
22/02/15: 30 minutes of cycling on rollers. Achilles injury getting better
27/02/15: 30 minutes of cycling on rollers followed by some weight-free training. Dinner of pumpkin curry
28/02/15: 2 sets of the weight free training, Achilles injury still limiting running
01/03/15: 2 sets of the weight free training. Icing Achilles throughout the day to help speed up recovery
04/03/15: 2 sets of the weight free training. Icing Achilles seems to work!
05/03/15: 2 sets of the weight free training. Deep stretches to prepare myself for my first run tomorrow
07/03/15: First time back on the road, running 7.5 miles at a decent pace. Went to an aerial yoga class afterwards to relieve muscle pain. For those of you who have never tried aerial, I would highly recommend it! You come out of the class feeling invincible!
09/03/15: Got reminded that the marathon was in less than 7 weeks! With fear setting in, I started running to and from work, adding an extra 2.5 miles to my running every day
10/03/15: Added an extra few loops onto my daily run, increasing the distance to 4 miles
11/03/15-12/03/15: 4.5 mile run to and from work
14/03/15: Light 5 mile run in central London, starting in Victoria and ending up in Regents Park.
17/03/15: 4.5 mile run to and from work
18/03/15: 4.5 mile run to and from work
20/03/15: 4.5 mile run to and from work
21/03/15: went on a stag do in Brighton which scuppered my training. Managed to keep up the fitness with some Zorb Football(!)
23/03/15: 4x weight free training circuit. Core is getting really strong!
24/03/15: To help with recovery, I attended a yoga class. Becoming addicted to the post-yoga class feeling
26/03/15: 4.5 mile run to work
28/03/15: Stag do in Barcelona. Lots of boozing and a lack of sleep didn’t help the marathon training, Good fun though!
01/04/15: To ease back into the running, I did a gentle 4 mile run, followed by some aerial yoga!
03/04/15: Jabbing pains in my right knee as I run. Switched to cycling to maintain the fitness
04/04/15: Knee pain still occurring. Managed a 10 mile cycle as a substitute
05/04/15: Tried to run, but my knee just gives way. Continued to cycle instead
06/04/15: 10 mile cycle. Received instructions from Virgin Money regarding my runner number
10/04/15: 15 mile cycle before work. Lunch at the incredible Bel-Air:
11/04/15: 15 mile cycle
12/04/15: 15 mile cycle. Knee pain has finally gone! Really worried about the marathon….
13/04/15: Took a break from training and went to Alice’s Adventures underground, an interactive theatre experience. It is highly recommended!
14/04/15: Started to taper down the amount of exercise with some yoga after work courtesy of Richard Holroyd
15/04/15: 10 mile cycle before work. Feeling very energetic!
16/04/15: 2x weight free workout
18/04/15: 10 mile cycle
21/04/15: 10 mile cycle before work. Brought a load of home-made cakes into the office for some fundraising:
23/04/15: brief 5 mile run to get back into the swing of things. Knee pain did not re-occur.
24/05/15: Went to pick up my runner number from the Excel centre. The organisers suggested that I avoid Saturday as it would be manically busy, so I went after work on Friday. Even then, the venue was packed! After picking up my runner number (remember to have ID and your letter from Virgin), I picked up my timer chip before heading over to explore the expo.
Apart from seeing awesome graffiti
and getting my name printed on my t-shirt (highly recommended!), I also managed to sign my name on the wall
in addition to picking up some goodies
and getting the obligatory selfie:
On leaving the expo, I was given some more freebies from the organisers!
25/04/15: Spent the day relaxing and mentally preparing myself, Before I went to bed, I laid out my gear and packed my post-marathon bag so that I didn’t have to rush in the morning
26/04/15: the big day! As expected, the trains to Greenwich were super busy and even busier than rush-hour in the city!
After meeting up with the WAVE Trustees, I headed over to the start area for some stretching.
A couple of things I noticed at the starting point:
- You will feel super nervous. This is normal!
- The queues for the toilets are crazy. Either be ready to queue for a good 30 minutes or go beforehand!
- A good breakfast is key. Do not try to do anything new!
- Keep hydrated. Disgusting as this is, your wee is a good indicator of how hydrated you are!
- Bring some vaseline with you and lube up EVERYTHING! Particular focal points include toes, soles of your feet, nipples, armpits and inner thighs. You will chafe!
- Cut arm and head holes in a big bag and bring it with you. If it is cold or if it rains, you can wear it to keep warm/dry!
- Bring some toilet roll with you!
(one of the ridiculous costumes!)
The actual marathon itself…..After months of preparation, the only thing I can say is trust yourself! Try not to waste energy overtaking/dodging people and just take in the atmosphere, which is INCREDIBLE!
The crowd just cheer you on (especially if you have your name printed on your t-shirt. I was being given the “Alan Alan Alan” treatment!) and give you an extra incentive to keep running. At one point, I was even given mars bars by the handful!
The costumes you will see throughout the marathon will make you smile! I swear I saw someone run it in just their Y-fronts……
(The crowd at Tower Bridge were incredible!)
Having made the half way point in great time (2 hours!), I made the mistake of stopping to go to the toilet. This wouldn’t normally be an issue. However, the queues for the toilet can take anywhere up to 30 minutes, meaning that my legs started cramping up.
As a result of this, I started struggling and ended up pulling my thigh on mile 14. Despite pushing on (I made the rookie mistake of not getting a massage from the St John’s ambulance team), my knee gave way on mile 16 followed quickly by my achilles on mile 19. This all happened as I was running around Canary Wharf, which was very depressing to run around!
Despite all these injuries, I refused to give in and managed to limp my way around the remainder of the course in just over 6 hours. Although I was disappointed with the time, I was really happy that I finished! And that is something that I have to thank the crowd for – they were incredible throughout and helped me push through the pain barrier!
I found that, when I was struggling, focusing on something other than running really helped. My strategy was to eat a snack every 3 miles so that I knew that once I had run out of snacks, I was close to the end!
Once I saw the Horse Guards Parade, I knew I was almost there! Urged on by the crowd, I went for the sprint (well, more of a hop) finish, crossing the finish line to get my medal:
(More of a grimace than a smile)
I quickly demolished all the drink and food in the goody bag before picking up my bag from the lorry. After meeting the WAVE Trustees, I headed home for some much needed rest.
Although I ended up needing over 3 weeks to recover from my injuries, I do not regret running the marathon at all. It was a great experience and the cause made it extra special.
Thank you to everyone who donated and for all your support before, during and after the marathon! It is greatly appreciated and I will be making a start on delivering my cake orders this weekend!
WAVE are making breakthroughs in helping to reduce child maltreatment worldwide and, with our help, are aiming to reduce child abuse by 70% by 2030. If you would like to find out more about WAVE’s work or would like to donate to help further WAVE’s goal, please click the link below.
I will be making and hand delivering a cake for each donation made (as long as you live in London!)