Blog: Running Through My Mind
I did it. I ran Brighton Marathon on 12 April 2015 in a time of 4 hours 38 minutes and 18 seconds. I went from saying I ‘may’ have signed up for a marathon 11 months ago, to completing my first 26.2 miles.

I Definitely Ran a Marathon … and I Broke the Golden Rule …

I did it. I ran Brighton Marathon on 12 April 2015 in a time of 4 hours 38 minutes and 18 seconds. I went from saying I ‘may’ have signed up for a marathon 11 months ago, to completing my first 26.2 miles.

If you are wondering why it has taken me so long to write my blog about it, almost 5 weeks in fact, the answer is quite simple: my friends and family, patiently accepting my marathon-related excuses for not going out, or visiting, sometimes not even ringing, know that I have now run the marathon and therefore will not take ‘no’ for an answer. I have 4 months of not socialising to make up for! Today, my toenail, a casualty of Brighton Marathon, finally came off and I decided it was high time I sat down and wrote this blog.

To anyone thinking of running a marathon, whether it be your first or your 50th, I would recommend Brighton. The atmosphere is great, with a very supportive crowd to help carry you through. The course is flat, except for one not very steep hill, and fast. Ok, the power station out and back section between 20 and 23 miles is a bit dull and unattractive, but let’s face it; by then most people wouldn’t notice even if it were paved with gold and lined with flowers…

Did I love it? Yes and no. Would I do it again? Definitely.

Months of training, a thrown fibula, sore ankles, last minute trainer crisis, multiple list writing and a couple of terrible long runs led into a near-perfect taper.

If you ignore the maranoia and tantrums, that is.

After binning my slippers (it’s a long story, see my previous blog if you are really curious to know why) and consulting a sports masseuse, a physio, my boyfriend and anyone else who would listen to me at parkrun, I decided to wear my old neutral trainers rather than my super-duper new supportive ones for my pronating gait. This turned out to be the best decision I could have made and it goes to show that sometimes you just have to listen to your body.

The day of Brighton dawned, bright and promising, after a carb-filled dinner followed by a good night’s sleep. I proceeded to fuel for my run with porridge and my homemade peanut butter flapjack (runner’s rocket fuel – see my recipes section if you want to try it for yourself) and managed to leave the house no more than 20 minutes later than planned. Trust me, for me that’s pretty good.

Everything was going to plan so far … except for one thing. I broke the Golden Rule.

Now this may be a case of too much information and I strongly urge the more delicate souls to look away now … but as many runners will know, the Golden Rule of running a longer distance race is ‘The Two Poo Rule’. All I will say is that I failed miserably here, which led to a lot of trips back and forth to the bathroom ‘just to make sure’ and queuing for over 20 minutes to use the portaloos at the start. Twice. With a run around Preston Park in between periods of queuing, to see if I could set things in motion (well rather then, than after the start of the marathon). Let me tell you, there is nothing I can think of that could have played on my mind more than the thought I would need to make an emergency trip to a portaloo ‘en route ‘ – it took me until about mile 20 to finally believe this was not going to be an issue. On a more positive note; at least it took my mind off the distance for a while, as I was counting not in miles to the finish, but in how far it would be to the next set of portaloos and whether I would be likely to make it if I suddenly changed my mind.

Anyway, back to the pre-race preparations and finally we were called to our starting pens, (which stopped me from queuing for a third time) and I made my way into the blue wave, still telling myself to try and enjoy my first marathon and not worry about trying for a sub 4 ½ hours.

Then we were off and I was high-fiving Jo Pavey and trying not to get carried away and set off too fast.

I watched the Channel 4 coverage the following week and spotted myself high-fiving Jo on film. Well, I say spotted myself. I am only 5’ 2” tall and the camera was on the other side of the course, so what I actually spotted was my skinny little wrist, clad in a sky blue Bosh sweatband, reach up out of the crowd and high-five Jo’s, before being swallowed up again! Oh well, it still counts as being on the telly, right?

The first few miles of the marathon were great, starting with a lap of Preston Park before coming through the Lanes in the town with people lining the streets. The only hill on the course was at mile 9, according the course map, and I was looking forward to seeing my work colleagues, who had told me they would be there to cheer me up and back again at the turnaround point in Ovingdean. True to their word, they were there, with signs saying “Go Karen Adams Go, Go, Go” and shouted words of encouragement. They later told me I looked like I could have easily run much further than another 17.2 miles. Good job they weren’t there to see me at mile 23!

With my personal cheer squad behind me, I made my way back down towards Brighton pier, passing the finish line before heading out on perhaps the longest out and back section of the race, at Hove. This is the point where I started to struggle a little. There was no physical reason for this. My fibula was behaving impeccably. My ankles weren’t hurting. It was a bit warm, but I was dressed for the weather in shorts and t-shirt. No, it was all mental. I looked ahead to see how far I had to run before I would join the other runners running past me the other way and I couldn’t. There were brightly coloured, lycra clad, number wearing runners as far as the eye could see.

Needing a boost, I remembered my fancy new headphones for my iPhone work with Siri to take instructions. Sadly, over the noise of the runners and the crowd, Siri couldn’t hear me and my request for ‘Afterglow’ by Ellie Goulding was misinterpreted as 'Billy Joel' and I found myself listening to "An Innocent Man".

(In case you are wondering, Billy Joel got onto my iPhone after I made a mistake backing up my Mum's iTunes account and ended up importing her music onto my 'phone. It could be worse - on one memorable run, I found myself listening to her Michale Buble album. Eeek!)

After a brief scuffle with the iPhone, I was the victor and the next few miles passed in a happy blur of running to dance music, broken up at intervals by water stations (I didn't need a drink at every one, but they gave a perfect excuse to walk for a bit!).

At mile 18 I spotted the sub 4:30 pacer and made an effort to catch up to them, but I realised after a short while that I was not going to be able to keep this up, particularly as we headed towards the Shoreham power station. To try and lift our spirits on this particularly unpromising out and back stretch of the route, a DJ was very helpfully set up at the start of the Basin Road to encourage the runners. Great idea. Except not when he announces that there are ‘only 3 miles left to go’ and you momentarily feel elated, only to realise he is talking to the runners coming back along the Basin Road, which you have yet to run down. I think it was the realisation that not only had the 4:30 pacer vanished into the horizon, but that I actually had 6 miles to go, not 3, that finally made me slow to a run-walk.

By now, although my fibula was still behaving itself, I did have mild hip-ache and my glutes were feeling a little tight. So I continued to run-walk for the whole of the Basin Road, mentally cursing the DJ for his false hope followed by crushing reality, and along the seafront onto the final straight. I spotted two young children with their mother, hopefully holding their hands out for a high-five and being ignored by runners who were clearly feeling every step of the 23.5 miles they had run so far and struggling just to keep moving. As I was walking (shuffling?) anyway, I made my way over and high-fived them both, receiving two big grins and a ‘thank’s Karen, you can do it’ from the mum (which confused me until I remembered my name was written across the front of my sun visor) and this spurred me on again.

My next boost came from the Bosh Run crew waiting to give encouragement to fellow runners. I held my wrist bearing the Bosh sweat band up high gave the best ‘Bosh’ shout I could muster. Well done guys – you definitely made some noise!

It was shortly after this point, with only a mile or two to go, that I became aware that my hands had swollen up. Imagine blowing into a medical glove. Yep, that was what my hands looked like. When I held my hands out in front of me, there were no gaps between my fingers, which resembled sausages. I was, of course, slightly alarmed at this and my first thought was that this must be a sign of hyponatremia (when I looked it up afterwards, I was right) brought on by drinking at too many of the water stations (as I mentioned earlier, these were just an excuse to walk for a bit, so I had probably drunk more than I should have as a result).

My second thought, following on from the fact that my fingers resembled sausages, was that I really fancied a bag of chips…. mmm, sausage and chips.

I considered stopping to show one of the medical people on the course, but , as any rational, sensible, marathon runner would, I decided not to in case they pulled me off the course. Besides, I felt fine.

Then the finish line was almost in sight and I am pleased to say I had enough left in me for a final sprint. The official marathon photos even show that I looked pretty good, all things considered and not, as I suspected, a total mess. Or, as a friend once described themselves when running, “like a frog in a blender”.

So, I crossed the finish line. I collected my medal. I collected my t-shirt, “small?”, “yes, probably”. I collected the water I had no intention of drinking until my hands went back to normal. I collected my chocolate bar, banana and a plastic bag to put everything into.

And that was that.

What’s that, you say? What about after I crossed the finish line? What about the crying and the hugging random strangers and euphoria?

Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t say I felt a huge welling of emotion. I know that’s probably not what you wanted to read. So many runners talk of the experience in almost evangelical terms and rush out for their 26.2 tattoo. But not me.

However, just because I didn’t feel the post-marathon euphoria, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. I still had a great sense of achievement and pride. This increased when I received text messages from my boyfriend and mum, before I had even looked up my time, telling me that I had come in way above the average of 5:08 for a female runner and in the top 46% of female runners that day (at 38 years old and with only 2 years of running under my belt, I am quite happy with that).

I have talked before, in previous blogs, about how I don’t tend to dwell on the past, but prefer to look forward. This can be a good thing, but it also means I don’t always get to experience something in the same way as other people. For me, the marathon was all about the build-up. I enjoyed the excitement, the anticipation, the nerves, the feeling of what I was about to try and do, which is something only a small number of the population will ever achieve. Once I had done it, however, the moment I crossed that finish line, it was no longer a big deal. It wasn’t that impossible 26.2 any more. I was no longer in awe of it. I had done it. And it was no big deal.

Only it is. Of course it is. It just took a little while for the realisation of what I have achieved to sink in. I am a marathon runner!

So, I finished my race and had a bit to eat at the beach village, soaking up the sunshine and watching other people’s antics at the bar before making my way to the park and ride and ultimately, home.

I learned a few interesting things on that bus ride:

  • Bouncing spritely onto the bus and then up the stairs to the top deck is met with equal measures of envy and annoyance from other runners

  • If you are happy with the extra 2,200 you can consume as a result of your marathon ‘burn’, don’t listen to the fella sat across the bus telling his wife he burned 4,500 calories running.

  • Energy gels not consumed during a marathon can spontaneously explode in your waist pack and are very, very sticky.

  • My boyfriend, offering to make me a recovery meal of balanced protein and carbs, followed by lemon cheesecake (which he swears he read online is the perfect post run food), is lovely enough to go to four separate fish and chip restaurants before he finds one open, because I really want chips.

  • Taking electrolyte tablets in the little tube so you can add them to the water provided on course seems like a good idea. It’s not. I didn’t use them and I still haven’t managed to get the electrolyte (purple, by the way) out of the carpet from where I opened the tube and powdered electrolyte came spilling out everywhere.

So what’s next? Well, as I mentioned before, I spent the next few weeks catching up on everything in my life which was put on hold during marathon training. This is still a work in progress.

I also spent the first two weeks avoiding the Brighton Marathon 2016 sign up emails. It was a great marathon and I would like to do it again, but I don’t want it to just become something I do every year – trust me, the temptation to sign up (once your legs stop aching, which for me was Monday night) is strong.

I am back running shorter distances and trail running on my beloved South Downs and I have a few 10k trail races pencilled on the calendar, plus the UKRunchat training weekend coming up in June. I have a road bike now and went for my first ride last Sunday, which was a lovely 25 miles on country roads.

Oh, and did I mention? I may have a plan to run Beachy Head Trail Marathon in October 2016, which just so happens to be my 40th birthday weekend …..

Note: no frogs were harmed in the making of this blog.