How I Ended Up Running A Marathon (And Learned To Kind Of Like Running)
2015 Lucy: "Running? No thanks, I've tried it and don't like it much. You'd never catch me doing a 10k let alone a marathon, those crazy fools!"
2016 Lucy: "So last week I ran the London Marathon..."
What happened to me?! How did a lover of weightlifting and CrossFit end up being glad she ran 26.2 miles (and a further 150+ miles in training)? If I can do it, does it mean you can learn to enjoy running too?
When Lucozade Sport asked me to run, my main motivation to yell 'YES! (Please!)' was that I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that if I said no, it would be something I'd always regret. I respond well to a bit of fear, time pressure and a new challenge (plus I don't like having regrets), so 13 weeks to go from 3 miles to 26.2...well that ticked all of those boxes which, funnily enough, all sit a fair distance from the edge of my comfort zone...
I'll be totally honest (as always): training for the London Marathon took over my life. I was determined to give it my best shot and so I completely gave up alcohol for 4 months, trained religiously 5-7 times per week come rain/hail/snow (this is England after all), got plenty of early nights and ate well: no junk food for me. I've certainly prioritised my health over the last few months but I've been much happier for it. My fitness has soared, as is evident in my CrossFit performance; my body is leaner and stronger; I have tonnes more energy. It's been nothing but a positive experience for me, which is not something I would have said about running 6 months ago.
Does this mean I'm some nutter who likes being uncomfortable then?
Maybe I am, because that seems to be the space in which we develop and progress the most: the space in which it isn't easy. I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed the threshold sessions (5 x 5 minutes running at 85% with only a minute's recovery - brutal, especially when done uphill) or hadn't found every one of my long runs tough, both physically and mentally. The feeling of achievement and pride when you've done it, though, takes some beating, and keeps you going back for more, as does the visible impact it has on your body and any other sports you take part in.
"If you had one shot, one opportunity...you can do anything you set your mind to"
The other massive thing for me has been the mentality of marathon running, and this is, I think, where CrossFitters and athletes from other competitive disciplines have an advantage. We are used to getting into a pretty dark place, mentally, and just staying there for however long it takes to get the work done. Running is hard; I am not a natural. Running 26.2 miles is really hard even if you're a pro, and if there's even a smidgen of doubt in your mind about whether you can do it, you introduce the infamous and entirely fabricated 'wall'. Once I'd decided to run that was it: I was never not going to finish. I did everything in my power to prepare physically for getting around that course, and in doing so I kept myself mentally strong. You cannot let the doubt creep in: you have to know that you are capable; that not only can you do it, but that you will do it. Sticking to the training and knowing you've worked hard really helps to build that confidence in yourself. Yes the last 4 miles or so were tough but I never hit any kind of 'wall' or felt I couldn't complete it. I was prepared and with endurance sports, preparedness is key.
Race day: the culmination of all your hard work
Setting off over the start line is heart-burstingly joyous. Even with headphones in you can hear the crowds and their cheers carry you through the tough steps and those miles that keep on coming. There's something quite strange about having worked for something for months on end that is suddenly all over in just a few hours (4, in my case), and I was concerned I'd feel that everything had to go really well other the whole thing was wasted. Actually, I felt that I'd enjoyed the training - the running, the thresholds, the hills (well, maybe not so much the hills) and of course the CrossFit - so much that it really didn't matter what happened on the day. It could all have gone horrendously wrong at mile 9 and I still would've seen it as a success because I learned so much along the way. For me it was an incredible experience from the real start (in January when I started training) to the Lucozade Sport cheering station at mile 23 (just 3 miles to go! It's nearly over!) to crossing the finish line outside Buckingham Palace. I won't forget Race Day but nor will I forget all the hours of training and dedication that went into getting me there with a smile on my face.
I never thought the day would come when I would run a marathon: I thought it was just too far out of my comfort zone. Now it's one of my proudest achievements and an experience that has brought so much positivity to my life. We don't have time for excuses or reasons not to reach for the things that bring us joy. Live your life with passion. I'm already on the lookout for my next adventure...who's in?
Extra special thanks to the Lucozade Sport and Speed Communications team for your support, advice and excellent sense of humour throughout my training!
Special thanks to:
@monsterproducts for the iSport SuperSlim Wireless Headphones, which I still use every day.
@adidasuk for the Ultra BOOST trainers which have been consistently incredible over all the miles I've racked up.
@lululemonuk for the Pace Rival Crop, Run Swiftly Top and Daily Practice Jacket which I ran in - these leggings have the best pockets ever for distance running.
@garminuk for the Forerunner 230 which kept my pace consistent!
@Mbymontcalm for the wonderful, relaxing stay the night before the marathon and the best spa!
@KTTapeEurope for kinesiology tape that actually worked on my knees!
Charlotte Bennett, Joe and Will Oldfield, and Sarah Bridson for being the most amazing support crew and cheer squad! I couldn't have done it without you!
Want to read more? See my blog on Training After Injury.