Back in my first blog post, I talked a little bit about the challenge I had set myself for this year; three marathons for my 30th year, supporting 3 amazing charities along the way. Initially, I had planned for the Cardiff half marathon to be the final event, but having decided to do the Great Welsh half marathon in May, I found my challenge being compressed from 1 year into a 3 month period- the wisdom of which I was seriously questioning at around 1pm last Sunday!
Having completed Newport half, Brighton marathon and the Great Welsh half in the space of 2 months, that left me with one final hurdle to reaching my goal- Edinburgh marathon.
As I have probably made clear in my blog posts recently, I was absolutely terrified about this one. My legs were done in before I even made it to the start line; I had packed so much training and so many races into a 6 month period that in the weeks building up to it I could barely bring myself to pull my trainers on. But hey, I’d done it before right? Besides, I’d raised a lot of money for charity and didn’t want to feel like I was letting anyone down by bottling it.
Before I go into my experience of the race, I should make it very clear that the event itself was fantastic- incredibly well organised, great support and the course was absolutely stunning. I definitely intend to return when I am at full fitness to hopefully enjoy the whole experience a bit more!
Lining up at the start line at the foot of Arthur’s Seat I got a bit swept up in the occasion; despite my concerns about the heat, the city was beautiful and the atmosphere was great. I kept that positive state of mind for the first couple of hours, easing along, taking water on board regularly and gels every hour as I had planned. I also saw my husband at mile 10 which spurred me on a bit, and took my second gel at around this point. At about 12 miles, I had to stop to use the loo; there was only one person in front of me, so it only took a couple of minutes, but getting going again after coming to a dead stop was hard. My legs started feeling heavy and wobbly, and my head was fuzzy. I checked my watch- only 25 minutes since I had taken my last gel, so I shouldn’t need anything else for a bit. I had been drinking plenty of water, having got through about a litre by that point in the race…. I was doing everything right but my body was having none of it. Weird. I cranked the music up, chucked a few Haribo down me, and got my head down. I made it to about mile 15 before the wheels really came off. First one, then both of my feet started niggling with a recurrence of the injury I’d picked up a month or so ago just before Newport. The outside of each foot became really tight and tense; every time my foot hit the floor shooting pain would radiate through my toes and along the length of my foot. My physio had explained previously that the tightness on the outside of my foot was preventing my toes from splaying correctly, therefore stopping the shock from being absorbed correctly through my foot. I was gutted; I couldn’t believe that this had happened again, and not just in one foot but both! I felt like I could have pushed through the tiredness but this was a whole other ball game. I stopped to try and stretch my feet out, but nothing was really helping by that point. I managed to limp through to the turnaround point, and shortly after that saw the 18 mile marker. I was doing frantic calculations in my head; 8 miles to go- could I walk that and still make it in under the 6 hours 30 cut off for the race? Or should I just give up now, and try and avoid any further damage to my feet?
My natural stubbornness kicked in; I messaged my husband to let him know to expect me a bit later than we had initially planned. He replied and said that I’d already done so well, and no one would be disappointed in me if I decided to stop now; my response? ‘I’m getting this sodding medal even if I have to crawl over the line’. That last 8 miles wasn’t much more dignified than a crawl to be honest; I kept trying to stretch out my feet but the pain kept coming, often forcing me down to a brisk walk.
I kept plugging away and counting down the miles in my head; the last 5 miles seemed to take longer than the rest of the race put together; the point I turned into the finishing straight was probably one of the most overwhelming moments of my life. There was a lady running alongside me at that point and we matched each other down to the finish; I could see my husband standing right on the line cheering for me and that gave me the incentive I needed to get over the line. I wandered through the finishing area in a bit of a daze, collecting my medal (my new favourite, it’s massive!), a lovely goody bag and T Shirt, and then met up with my husband on the other side. When I saw him, I completely crumbled; all the pain of the last 6 hours got to me, and I burst into tears. I had come so close to falling at the last hurdle, and I couldn’t believe I had actually done it.
Ignoring the pain in my feet that evening was wonderful; I had some fantastic messages from my friends and family, the donations were rolling into my JustGiving page, and it was great to be able to go out and enjoy the city (and a few beers!) without the thought of an imminent race looming in my head for the first time in months.
There will be time over the next few weeks to reflect on what I’ve learnt from this experience, and to think about where I go next; for now though, I am going to enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation- and more than a few glasses of Prosecco!