26 Things I learnt from my first marathon

When I talk to people about running Edinburgh Marathon last year I tell them how much I hated it. I did. I struggled. And the only thing that kept me going was the money I was raising for The Lullaby Trust in Matilda’s memory. Knowing people were sponsoring me on the day and had sponsored me in the run up kept me putting one foot in front of the other. I’m now looking at Brighton Marathon head on with just a handful of weeks to go and as my ‘long run’ gets longer I am thinking back to that last marathon, the first marathon! So I thought I’d share a few of the things I learnt!

1) Don’t stress about carrying water, theres plenty of water stops, a little bottle to wet your mouth if you really need to will suffice between water stations.

2) If the race your doing isn’t using your usual energy drink/gels, take your own, if you can give them to spectators and ask them to meet you at a certain mile (this however will backfire if your Dad is still queuing in the centre of edinburgh to get on the spectator bus!)

3) Vaseline is your best friend. On long runs I suffered with hideous chaffing on my back and the side of my boobs. On race day I got my Dad to slap vaseline all over my back! If you suffer thigh chaffing DO NOT run a marathon in shorts!

4) Gels that tell you to have 3 in an hour … well when you’ve been running 3 hours and have had no other solid food, they may well make a reappearance and make you feel horrendous and make you spend 10 minutes with St Johns whilst you stubbornly state your not stopping!

5) Read signs, lots of people make funny signs. They will make you smile and spur you on, for 0.5 of a mile 😉

6) Having your name on your top means strangers cheer you on. From mile 18 onwards when everything hurts and your battling hard every time someone says your name you will cry!

7) Support those around you. If someone passes you say well done, if you pass someone tell them they are doing well.

8) Your toes won’t be the same again. I lost both my big toe nails and the nails next to them last year. So far in training this year they haven’t started to go black. Theres still time yet….

9) When you finish your whole body will cramp up pretty damn fast. Where you were running quite happily (ok not happily but you were managing a reasonable pace) you will now struggle to walk more than pigeon steps!

10) The end hurts. Like really hurts. Your feet hurt from being pounded for hours. Your hip flexors will be screaming. Your knees won’t want to bend. Your quads and calves will tighten like you’ve never felt before. Your core is wrecked. Your back aches.

11) For your first marathon try not to have a goal other than ‘to finish’. I had TRIED so hard not to have a goal in mind. But I did. And when I didn’t meet that I really struggled and in the aftermath I struggled to celebrate an amazing achievement.

12) Don’t take EVERYTHING with you. Its easy to think you need it all. But that weighs down your bag. Chances are there will be a first aider with a tub of vaseline. You don’t need your huge tub. Plasters? Same thing.

13) You won’t want to take off your medal for a few days. I’d have slept in mine if I could. I proudly wore it to breakfast in the hotel, on the plane home the next day, through the airport, all evening. You ran it. You earnt it!

14) When its all over you kind of don’t know what to do now. For weeks your life has revolved around long runs, miles, pace, distance. And then suddenly theres no goal anymore. The goal has happened. Its been achieved. Now what do you do?

15) Tapering sucks! You panic your injured. You panic you haven’t trained enough. Chances are the pains are in your head, your not injured. Just rest. As for training, any extra training in those couple of weeks won’t make any difference, its far better to be on the start line rested than overtrained!

16) You will probably cry when you finish. I crossed the line and bent over double in tears! The relief it was over. Kind of sad it was over. The achievement. And then I pulled it together, walked to get my tshirt and medal and then bumped into a friend, I cried on her shoulder too!

17) Run your own race. Its easy to want to keep up with someone you met on the start line and got chatting with. But your running 26.2 miles, you may think going out a bit faster than you planned to will be ok, but its silly, you’ll burn out fast and hit the wall early, I’m speaking from experience!

18) Reaching half way can be tough. You realise you still have to do the same distance all over again! I was dying to get to halfway and when I did I just thought my god I hurt now and i still have to do it again. Soon after I hit my wall!

19) Toilets on route are AWFUL! Like really bad. I’m not one to hover generally but these were bad! If you have the guts duck behind a bush if countryside is available, if your a bloke? Well aren’t you lucky!

20) Don’t listen to music the whole way. Quiet stretches. (Like most of edinburgh was :() then yes use it, but when your in areas where theres support take your headphones out and listen to that support, it will help you I promise.

21) Rest the day before. Like really rest! Not get on a plane and fly, and get lost and walk around Edinburgh! Ideally sit and do not very much. Maybe a little 2 mile gentle jog. But don’t do something crazy and silly. Save your energy.

22) The night that you finish the marathon your body will hurt. Its not a bad thing to take ibuprofen. I couldn’t sleep properly as I ached so much. Every time I turned over I hurt. The 2nd night is a bit better!

23) When you finish you may be like me and not feel like eating. But I can assure you you need to for your recovery. So no matter how hard you have to force it, do!

24) Have some motivational mottos that work for you. For me I run with a ‘For those who can’t’ mindset. If I’m struggling I remember I’m lucky to be able to run. For many reason lots of people can’t run, but I can.

25) Running your first marathon miles from home isn’t neccessarily a good idea. It has its pros and cons. I am looking forward to Brighton this year as I will have family and friends that matter to me there. Edinburgh was in some ways nice having just my Dad as he didn’t fuss over me, he let me tell him what I needed and he just did that.

26) When you finish your a marathoner. This doesn’t have an expiry date. Most people won’t ever even attempt a marathon. But you did and you completed it. BE PROUD!

These are things that apply to my experience of running a marathon. Sounds pretty horrendous some of it doesn’t it?! But your experience may be different! And I hope to make my experience at Brighton very different! If not maybe Liverpool will be the one 8 weeks later, or Bournemouth in October! 😉

I’m running 24 events this year, 3 of them marathons, to raise money for the lullaby trust in memory of Matilda Mae who passed away 2 years ago this February. Please do sponsor me at my justgiving page  or text me as below.

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