In just over a week’s time I’ll be taking on the Virgin Money London Marathon 2014. My 12 week training plan is nearly complete, but in reality my preparation for this race started a long time ago.
Many of you know that I completed the London Marathon in 2012. It was the most amazing experience but the day didn’t quite go to plan, and from mile 16 when things started to go wrong for my running buddy, I knew that I’d come back to complete the race again. To set the record straight about what I was actually capable of.
I set my sights on the 2014 race – two years to get myself into better shape and improve my running. Two ballots to try my luck for a place and if that failed then I decided I’d run for charity again. But the marathon gods smiled on me and I was successful in the 2013 ballot. I deferred my place and got on with the job of getting into shape.
Through Twitter I found Julia Buckley, an online fat loss coach who was looking for people to pilot her fat loss fitness programme, The Fat Burn Revolution. It sounded like just what I was looking for so in January 2013 I signed up.
One of the first things Julia asked me to do was to stop running long distances for the duration of the programme. To achieve the best fat loss results I needed to run harder, not longer and lift weights rather than pound the pavement for hours on end. It felt like an odd thing to do, knowing that the end game was a marathon, but I put my trust in her and followed her advice and the programme with fantastic results.
Over the course of 2013 I shifted a lot of fat off my body and in the process made huge improvements in my running, which I re-introduced but just not as often as I had been doing. I scored PBs at 5K, 10K, 10 miles and most pleasingly at 13.1 miles. The Edinburgh Half Marathon 2013 was my best running performance to date. I felt comfortable and strong throughout the race and my pace indicated that I might be capable of a sub 5hr marathon. Not fast by many people’s standards but for me a bit of a dream.
So in January 2014 I embarked on my ‘proper’ marathon training. With Julia’s help I designed my own training programme which featured a lot less running than my previous marathon plan, but far more strength and speed work. Despite being slightly experimental I had faith.
Those 12 weeks of training are now nearly over and while the strength and speed aspects have gone well, the long distance running side of things has been inconsistent at best. I’ve had a niggling hip issue which has cut short two runs, and a terrible performance at the Surrey Half Marathon caused entirely by being far too hard on myself to stay on target with sub 5 hour marathon pace. On the upside there have been other great training runs where I’ve felt strong and consistent. And the fantastic experience of running with friends during the Brighton Half Marathon and Kingston Breakfast Run.
With the start line now so close there is nothing more I can do to prepare. The next week is about keeping things ticking over. Some reduced intensity strength work, some sessions at Tempo Pilates and a couple of gentle runs.
Whether or not I can score a sub 5 hour marathon time will become clear on April 13th. To be honest that doesn’t really matter to me now. I am in far better shape that I was in 2012 and given what happened on that day I’m pretty much guaranteed a better time. How much better really doesn’t matter any more. I just want to finish knowing that I’ve done my best. I am a recreational runner, not an elite, and while people will ask how long it took me, the fact that I’ll have finished my second marathon is achievement enough for me.
Running the London Marathon is an amazing experience and I feel privileged to have a ballot place. I want to relax and enjoy the race, soak up the atmosphere and run with a smile. I have friends and family coming to support me and I want to be able to acknowledge that support. Stop for a brief hug and hello. I do not want to spend each mile checking my Garmin and worrying about lost seconds or minutes.
When I finished the Surrey Half Marathon and was feeling very disappointed with my performance and time I texted Julia to tell her what had happened. Her response was fantastic and her words will be with me every step of those 26.2 miles on April 13th.
“Becca, you have nothing to prove to anyone, including yourself. Let it be a celebration, not a test”
So my marathon goals are simple. Get to the start line. Get to the finish line. Enjoy myself.
Bring on April 13th!