Now I realise that a weekend spent running with travel, eating and sleeping in-between may not be everyone's idea of a good one. This one was special though as it was my first crack at running a marathon one day and then running exactly the same marathon again the very next day.Those of you who've been reading my blog for a while may remember that I ran the Kent 50 miles ultra marathon back in 2007 as part of my 50th birthday challenge for Alzheimer's Research UK so you might think that this would be an easy thing for me to do.
However, that was 7 years ago and that race was run all in one day and there's the clue; it's not just about the training in your legs, it's even more about the psychological side of things - you go to bed with tired legs and wake up knowing that you've got to do exactly the same thing, on exactly the same route all over again. It can mess with your head if you let it! That's why I included this idea in my fund-raising challenge for 2014; because it's a tough challenge.
I firmly believe that I can do anything until proved otherwise and so I usually manage to maintain a positive mental attitude when presented with a challenge.
So at 6am on Saturday morning I bade farewell to Mike and headed off to Dover for the Buttons for Brathay Bells and Whistles Race Festival for the first of 2 marathons that weekend. If you click on that link you can see where we had to run - the length of the pier and back then along the seafront up to about halfway along the second white building and back. This route had to be repeated 16 times so you can see how that could be a challenge for many reasons - you know exactly what to expect each time and it could get monotonous and become psychologically debilitating!
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself in my excitement.
My journey took 1.5 hours and as I headed down into Dover harbour there was a lot of fog shrouding everything from view. You can just about make out the infamous white cliffs of Dover but you certainly couldn't see any bluebirds flying over them.
I managed to park right next to race HQ which was at the front of the clock tower so I nipped in to register and collect my number. I was number 56, my age, on both days.
Inside I spotted a face I recognised from many of Ruth's photos, Brian. He looks just like an ordinary chap doesn't he? Well, let me tell you how many marathons this unassuming man has completed……………….drum roll……………..966 or thereabouts (THUD!). He is a legend in marathoning circles in the UK and is going to complete his 1000th marathon some time this year.
Oh my goodness! Nearly 1000 marathons since he started in 1989. We walked over to a nearby garage together to get coffee and I could hardly believe it when he told me his tally. Incredible.
|Here he is showing off his collection of tattoos|
There were lots of people I knew running it, many of whom were wearing their 100 marathon club vests, and as there were only about 60 runners it felt very intimate and friendly.
At 9am we started running and the fog lifted to give us a taste of just how hot it was going to get during the day. HOT. Very hot in fact and I had some very interesting strap marks by the end of the day - such a good look!
As the sun rose in the sky it cleared away the fog to reveal the cliffs and a couple of ferry boats. This was really early in the day as the beach was crowded later.
Each time a runner completed a lap, Karen, the Race Director, ticked it off and told them how many they'd done. It was quite exiting when I reached the halfway mark and still felt OK.
There were many lovely marshalls along the route and they were very friendly and encouraging. There was also an aid station with water, sweeties, biscuits, salted nuts and crisps and it was very important to keep well hydrated on such a hot day. The event had a great camaraderie about is as many of us were doing the marathon on both days and there's always a great deal of support and respect amongst distance runners. Many people struggled and one lady had to start walking really early on as she obviously had an injury. What was wonderful was that a fellow runner walked around with her, encouraging her and keeping up her morale.
The lead runner, Adam Holland, was way ahead of the rest of the field and finished both days in just over 3 hours! He's about to take part in the Brathay 10 in 10 (that's 10 marathons in10 days) alongside Kaz who organised this event as part of her fund-raising activities. Kaz was quite happy that I wore my ARUK vest as her dad suffered from dementia too.
I was aiming to finish in around 5.5 hours on the first day and so I was careful to pace myself accordingly and to slow down when it got really hot. I came in at 5:19:32 and was 46th out of 58 runners who completed the marathon.
I felt good but I knew that a post-race massage could make a big difference to how I felt the next day and so I treated myself to one from Vixx who did a wonderful job of loosening my legs and my shoulders too. Then it was home to Mike who'd made me an excellent post-race meal which I washed down with a glass of red wine - no, OK, it was 2 glasses actually.
As the clocks went forward we lost an hour's sleep but I still felt fine when I woke up bright and early the next day. My legs felt surprising good as I walked around but the real test would be when I started running again. The other thing of note was that it was Mothering Sunday here in the UK so it was especially poignant as it was the first time I've run a marathon on that day.
On the drive there I was listening to the radio and there were loads of messages for mum's everywhere and every song was pulling at my heart strings. I found tears rolling down my face and I felt an emotional wreck. By the time I arrived in Dover I had regained my poise and realised that mum would be running the marathon with me as always because I wear her ring every time I run one. That felt good.
The weather forecast was for it to be even hotter that day and it certainly felt warm even at 8am when I arrived. It was much clearer and I could see Dover Castle on top of the cliffs.
|Off for an early-morning rowing session|
|An assortment of runners milling around|
|Someone running dressed in a Scooby-doo costume as a trial for the London marathon in a couple of weeks (during the race he took the head off and unzipped the front as it was just too hot!)|
|I went to look at the finish line and focussed on seeing myself running across it|
At 9am we started running again and it became obvious that a lot of the field had run the previous day too. We all knew what was ahead so it was just a case of grinding out the miles. All I can say about the first few miles is ouch, ouch and OUCH! Then, once my legs had stretched out a bit they stopped complaining and behaved remarkably well.
On each lap we'd say "well done" to one another or "keep going/looking good". Almost everyone commented that I was still smiling and indeed I was 'cos I was just so glad to be doing it. Although the route was the same there was always something to look at - along the pier there were lots of people sea-fishing and they wished us well. There were loads of people out with their mums and families and the beach was very busy.
We had fun with Karen when we passed her on each lap as she'd got music playing to spur us on - on one lap I did a bit of gangnam style with her and some children walking along the pier with their parents! Another time she was twerking at someone.
|This photo was taken around the halfway mark by Sharon who ran the marathon the day before but came back to marshall as her husband Mark was running again. Thanks for your support Sharon.|
|3 more laps to go, yippee!|
I was aiming for between 5:45 and 6 hours that day as I thought I'd have to walk at some stage. In reality I came home in 5:32:23 and was 32nd out of 39 finishers. I ran all the way except for a short walk through the aid station whilst eating a biscuit or sweety.
|Approaching the finish line!|
Then it was a phone call to Mike to let him know I'd finished in one piece, another massage and a drive home to eat and sleep. Yep, there was more celebrating but this time it was pink and sparkly. I slept well that night.
The next day there was no resting allowed as it was business as usual and back to my running streak. I have, however, been sticking to no more than 3.5 miles each day so far just to let my legs recover fully as they've got the London marathon to run a week on Sunday. Bring it on!