Friday, 26 April 2013

Post-marathon post-mortem: Part Three

Miles 16 to 26.2

It all was going so beautifully.  But then, during a walk break in Mile 16, I noticed that my right knee was stiff.  When I transitioned into a run again, it immediately seized up to the point that I couldn’t bend it.  My heart sankThis is what happened after the Aviemore HM and what happened on the downhill sections when I used to hill walk.  It couldn’t be happening now, though, because I still had 10 miles to go. 

But it was happening.  I hobbled through most of Mile 16 – with lots of stops to stretch - then tried to run again at Mile 17.  Excruciating pain for the first 30 seconds, which then disappeared entirely.   I ran all of Mile 17 (because I was afraid to stop) and thought that had done the trick because my knee felt absolutely fine, so took another walk break at Mile 18.  Big mistake.  My knee seized up even worse and I ended up walking (with periodic stops to stretch) for most of Miles 18 and 19 and 20.

I wasn’t sure that I could walk the rest of the way, that’s how little I could bend my knee and how much it hurt.  I thought about quitting at this point.  I thought about going to the St John’s Ambulance station and throwing myself on their mercy because no one would expect me to try to run through this pain.  I wasn’t even upset about this; I had tried and my body had given up and now I was about to give up too but hey, I had given it a go.

But then I thought about all of the people who had sponsored me and who were cheering for me, who were waiting to hear how I had done, who had faith that I would finish.  And I remembered Tess, and how she got herself home with a fractured pelvis and dislocated hip, and what an incredible fighting spirit she had.  And I thought about my friend C’s daughter, who has cerebral palsy and has been a fighter since the very moment of her birth and who continues to fight and achieve and grow and thrive.  I couldn’t be any less of a fighter than them, or less of fighter than people were expecting me to be.

These thoughts cleared my head and I suddenly harked back to mile 17 when my knee didn’t hurt while I was running and I decided to experiment.  I gritted my teeth, dug my nails into my palms, and broke into a hobbling shuffle.  I wanted to cry because it hurt so much but, just like at mile 17, the pain eased within 30 seconds and I was pain-free. Woo hoo!

I now had a new plan:  run the remaining miles of the marathon without stopping (because, if I stopped, I feared that my knee would refuse to start back up again).

This is where the psychological struggle kicked in.  I had a constant stream of thoughts in my head saying, ‘You haven’t run 5 miles without walking in over 6 weeks, you won’t be able to do that now, you’ll hurt yourself, you’d better stop and walk, it’s too far, you’re too tired, feel how much your blisters hurt, it’s too far, you’d better stop and walk’ and so on and so on.  But I didn’t stop.  I kept on running, even though it was really more of a fast shuffle at this point.  

By Mile 23, I had settled into a slow and steady rhythm.  I had to stop and stretch once, after a downhill section made my knee hurt, and I walked a couple of times when the person in front of me stopped dead and I didn’t have the energy to veer around them or to break back into a jog, but mostly I kept moving.  Mile 23 also included the Tunnel of Yes.  If I had had the energy, I would have rolled my eyes at how naff this sounded but, to my surprise, I got all teary in the tunnel as I read the motivational slogans and could hear how loud and excited the crowd was at the other end.  ‘Pain is temporary.’  Yes, it was (unless it was a stress fracture but I wasn’t allowing myself to think about that).   

The Tunnel of Yes
I picked up my pace, only to have my head go into panic mode.  I was getting such clear messages to stop  - ‘You’ve gone far enough, you can walk the rest of the way, your hip is starting to hurt now, you’d better slow down, just a little walk, you're so tired, walking will help’ – but when I checked in with what my body was saying, it was perfectly happy to continue running.  My hip ached a bit but it certainly wasn’t painful.  My knee felt fine.  My cardio was fine.  And I really, really wanted to look strong when I ran past the PDSA cheering stand at Mile 25.  So I carried on.

The PDSA cheering stand was loud and fabulous!  Bassman was there, looking fabulous himself in a PDSA t-shirt, and I ran over for a kiss (and to give him my Spibelt, as I was tired of faffing around with it) and for a quick chat with the volunteers.  This really boosted my spirits but, unfortunately, stopping made my knee seize up again.  It hurt so much and I was so close to the end…again, with gritted teeth and clenched fists, I broke into a hobbling shuffle.  Only 1.2 miles to go.

I felt like I was going in slow motion for this last section.  It seemed like it never was going to end.  At the ‘800m to go!’ sign, the crowd was going wild and urging the runners to pick up the pace, reminding us that we were almost there.  I briefly got caught up in this because I have no idea how far 800m actually is (I operate in feet and miles, not metres and kilometres) and I thought that the finish line was imminent.  Once I consulted my Garmin, however, and realised that I had a whole ½ mile to go yet, I put myself back into automatic mode.  I would have liked to up the pace for this last bit, but I simply didn't have anything left.

And then there were 200m to go and I could see the finish line.  I didn’t notice the time above it or the crowds to either side or who was running next to me.  I just felt light and grateful and happy and crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.  I had done it. 

I have one of these!
Despite my dodgy knee (which cleared up by the next day), dodgy ankle (which was swollen for a couple of days and still aches), three blisters (which didn't hurt as much as the ones that I had during the Aviemore HM), and traumatised hip flexors (which hurt so much the next day that I couldn't put weight on that leg and almost had to be lifted in and out of the taxi to the train station by Bassman and the taxi driver but which has now settled down nicely - so no, it's not a stress fracture)...despite all of this, I had the most amazing day and it's still sinking in that I DID A MARATHON!!!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who supported and believed in me - you are stars!  And since this hopefully is my first marathon rather than my last, you'll get to be stars all over again next year.  Hurrah!


  1. YOU DID A MARATHON!!! We knew you could do it as well!

  2. It's only just starting to feel real, and am feeling happy with what I achieved but also looking forward to the future. Next goal: to be able to say that I RAN a marathon!

  3. You did it!! What a great record of it all to look back on too. I was nervous all day and kept wondering where you were and how you were doing - and sending positive vibes. Was delighted when the website said you'd done it. Is Bassman ready for the next roller coaster?! I hear the Stockholm marathon is nice and flat...

  4. I think that Bassman needs a bit of time to recover before the next round of roller coastering starts! I did have a look at Stockholm...and Venice, Reykjavik, Prague, Amsterdam, Dublin, Paris, Berlin, Edinburgh, Loch Ness, and Lochaber. So many choices, so indecisive...your positive vibes were much appreciated - they definitely helped!

  5. You did so well! And you can, yes, you really can do anything you set your mind to. Fabulously well done to you!