One day you won’t be able to do this. Today is not that day.
This was a statement that I first read on a banner held by a spectator in the New York marathon when I was lucky enough to run there in 2011. It has stuck with me ever since and has given me a boost when I have needed it at moments in every challenge I have taken on. I have never needed it more than in the London marathon in April 2018.
As I set out in my last blog, in October I am lucky enough to be travelling to Nepal to trek to the 6,500m summit of Mera Peak, the highest trekking peak in Nepal. From here I will be able to see five of the highest ten mountains in the world, including Everest. This will be an adventure which will challenge me physically and mentally. I am doing this to fundraise for the wonderful charity, Cancer Research and to help raise awareness of my fundraising, I am writing a series of blogs to share my training, preparation and experiences on the trek itself.
To help build my physical fitness for this challenge, I am walking, running and doing weight training. I love running and have planned to run two marathons this year to help me keep disciplined about the training I need to do. The first of these was the London marathon on 22 April 2018.
So, what is it like to train and run a marathon? I have now been lucky enough to be able to run seven marathons and my experience is that it is hard work, enjoyable, daunting, inspiring, relentless, exciting, sociable and life affirming. In the course of a marathon, I can love the experience and be convinced that I never want to do it again!
The training plan that I follow is 18 weeks long and requires me to run four days a week alongside a weekly weight training session. In practice, this means that I am often found running on a treadmill late at night looking at my garage door. This isn’t, as you can imagine, the most inspiring of activities but the fact that it is helping prepare me for Nepal really does make the runs worthwhile.
My weekend runs are usually highlights as I am able to run outside but this year the cold weather has taken its toll. An 18 mile and a 20 mile run were both completed in below zero temperatures and in the snow. I did question my sanity at several moments during those runs! The worst run, however, was a 16 mile run on a treadmill in a hot gym as the snow and ice were too dangerous to run on. The mental battle for that two and a half hours was tough!
The build up to the marathon itself was the usual mix of nerves, excitement and carb loading (the best bit of any marathon training programme, in my view!). This year, it also included daily reviews of the weather forecast. Running a marathon in temperatures above 15 degrees is hard for me and this year’s marathon was forecast to be hot.
For once, unfortunately(!), the weather forecasters had got it right and it was the hottest London marathon on record which made it the toughest marathon I have completed. Nonetheless, it was an inspirational day and I felt privileged to be part of it.
A key reason that I find it so inspirational is that running at the pace I do, I run alongside many charity runners. The sheer number of charity runners is one of the aspects that makes London such a special marathon. Many wear a charity top which they write on to show why they are running for their charity. Seeing people that are running in memory of family and friends never fails to make me emotional. This year the stories that particularly impacted me as I ran were the Grenfell Tower firefighters, a woman who was running in memory of a teenager who had died from cancer and a man who was running in memory of his dad who had sadly passed away exactly a year previously. Seeing these stories reminds me just how lucky I am to be surrounded by friends and family who give me so much support and inspiration.
I am always in awe of the courage that is shown throughout the marathon by every single runner taking part. This year was no exception. The heat made it incredibly hard. It was energy sapping and after just mile two, I knew that this would be a tough mental battle. I wasn’t aiming for a particular time as I wanted to enjoy the London experience and focus my training on Nepal. Nonetheless when I realised that my time would be much slower than I am capable of, it was mentally hard. I have never seen so many people taking some time out to walk so early on in a marathon and I have also never seen so many people requiring support at the side of the road. I was determined to be safe and to finish. I took each mile at a time, took on lots of water, used the amazing crowd for support and focused on why I was doing this – to help me train and raise money for a wonderful charity.
Despite the challenge, I knew just how privileged I was to be part of this occasion. When I fell in to my parents’ arms at mile 25, I knew I would finish and I did so with a huge smile on my face, with tears in my eyes and with an immense sense of pride. I was so proud of my husband and our two wonderful friends, collectively my running family, who had all run well and successively conquered their mental battles.
My walking has taken a bit of a back seat over the last four weeks as I have focused on the final weeks of the marathon training. I am looking forward to continuing with some more walking over the coming weeks.
One development has been the arrival of my Nepal kit list which has increased my excitement and nerves. The kit list is three pages long and includes mountaineering boots, crampons, an ice axe and abseiling equipment. I am researching this to make sure that I am as well prepared as I can be.
In less than six months I hope to have successfully won another mental battle to stand on the summit of Mera Peak and to look out over our beautiful world. I can only do this with the fantastic support of my family and friends – thank you to everyone for your ongoing support through the London marathon training. I’ll keep you updated on my progress over the coming weeks.