I remember writing my first blog post in December. I ended it with the words… ‘I’m Laura. And I’m a runner’. Fast forward 4 months… I’m still Laura, but now, I’m a marathoner.
Manchester Marathon was an incredible, life changing experience and it’s taken me a week to even begin to think about how I can possibly put it all into words.
When I decided I wanted to enter Manchester I had two main goals. I wanted to stand on the start line knowing that I’d given 100% to the training and I wanted to cross the finish line knowing that I’d given 100% on race day.
My 16 week marathon training plan had to be squeezed in around being Mummy to my three little girls, trainer to my incredible clients, a student of Mac-Nutrition Uni and Chair of school Governors. I can honestly say, never in my life have I worked so hard for something.
I have become an expert at squeezing a run in where it seems impossible. 5am alarms have been par for the course and my head torch has used enough batteries to keep Duracell in business.
Training for a spring marathon means you are almost guaranteed copious amounts of rain, hail, and snow. I have found levels of resolve that I never knew I had, stuck at it even when I wanted to quit and become quite accustomed to heading out for two or three hours round the country lanes on my own.
Marathon training makes you braver. It makes you stronger and it makes you more determined. I am a far more courageous person now than I was in December. Of course there were plenty of times that I doubted myself. Doubted my ability to hit the pace in sessions, doubted my mental strength on long runs and some days I just doubted whether I’d make it out of the door.
But, each time you overcome that doubt and get it done regardless, you get a bit braver. I read somewhere once that courage is like a muscle; it gets stronger with use – and rarely has something rung so true.
As marathon day approached I knew that I had definitely achieved my first goal. I had worked hard, followed the plan and I felt fit and strong. Anyone that knows me will testify to the fact that I am a very determined person (some might say stubborn!) and I definitely applied that determination to marathon training.
On Sunday 7th April I stood in the start pen ready to run my first marathon. I’m always completely honest about this journey of mine and I don’t mind admitting that the hours between 7am and 9am that day were two of the most anxious, excited hours of my life. I didn’t have butterflies in my tummy, I had full grown Atlas moths and they were having a party.
The first 15 miles went totally to plan, Paul, the 4-hour pacer was brilliant and I ran beautiful consistent 9 minute miles. Then I had a funny turn… nobody needs to know the details but I had to slow down a lot and the last 10 miles were just about getting it done and picking up that medal.
I tried not to be disappointed that my dream of sub 4-hours had slipped away and just concentrated on my goal of giving my all on race day. And that’s what I did. I tried to encourage other people who were struggling to keep going, to run with me for a bit and have a chat to take their minds off it. I learnt really quickly that the latter stages of a marathon can be a very lonely place; even when you’re surrounded by people. It helped me hugely to help other people feel less alone.
I knew I had familiar faces waiting for me at mile 25 and seeing them was like a pressure valve finally being released. The tears came – the enormity of it all just hit me and I was engulfed by a massive wave of emotion. I sobbed my way through the last mile in slightly overwhelmed disbelief.
The finish came into sight and, just as it did, one of mine and my girls’ favourite songs came on – Defying Gravity from Wicked. It made me cry even more but also gave me all I needed to really run towards that line. The lyrics just sum everything up really… “I’m through accepting limits ’cause someone says they’re so. Some things I cannot change, but till I try, I’ll never know”.
Manchester marathon completed. 4 hours, 32 minutes and 15 seconds. My finish line photo says it all. I gave it everything. No it didn’t go completely to plan but, when does life ever go completely to plan? All that courage I built in the training was there when I needed it and it got me round 26.2 miles and made me a marathoner.
Lots of people have already asked me if I’ll run another… all I’ll say for now is watch this space…
And to anyone considering entering their first marathon, first half-marathon, first triathlon… first anything… I’d say this: how will you ever know what you’re capable of if you don’t try?