This is absolutely not the post-race re-cap that I had dreamed of writing. I am desperately disappointed with the way my race went at the Edinburgh Marathon on Sunday. I trailed over the finish line in 4 hours 27 minutes which was way below my sub 4 hour target and almost 20 minutes slower than I managed 9 years ago. I am so disappointed because the time I achieved was something I feel I could have got without putting in the work that I did. It seems ridiculous, but I feel completely bereft. The “post-marathon blues” are not uncommon. Lots of people report feeling down after a marathon. It has been the focus of your life for 18 weeks – training plans, eating plans, sleeping plans, trawling the internet for tips, products etc. However, I not only feel a void, but a sense of defeat and failure. My training definitely had its ups and downs, but nowhere did I run as badly as I did on Sunday, at no point was my pace so slow, was the process so difficult. My two 20 mile runs were both done in less than 3 hours (2.55 and 2.52) and I would have been able to continue if I had needed to on both those occasions. I did not miss a single training session on my 18 week programme and I had convinced myself that it would all pay off and the race day would be my chance to smell the roses and see my hard work rewarded. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t like that at all and I really didn’t feel comfortable for almost the entire run.
The Run and what happened:
Right from the first few minutes of setting off I felt stitchy and uncomfortable. The effort required was far greater than my pace suggested. I knew I was in trouble from around 6 miles when I couldn’t stomach any of the sweets I was carrying. I gagged a bit and had to spit one out. I usually manage a sweet a mile quite comfortably from 6 till about 18 miles when I find I can’t stomach any more. I struggled through the wind along Portbabello and Prestonpans knowing that it was not going to be a good day. I gave myself a pep talk at 10 miles when I got a wonderful cheer from the Stroke Association cheer squad and thought maybe things could be okay, but soon after I started to get an unbearably painful stitch and I knew the game was up. I was sick at 18 miles and from this point on I was walking/stumbling. I became one of those people that I have spotted in previous runs that I have always been very smug and sanctimonious about – “obviously not trained properly for this 10km/half marathon/marathon, must have gone off too fast, not respected the distance.” I was weaving the course ( According to my Garmin I actually managed 27.1 miles in total) and went down at 22 miles after another bout of sickness. If I had stayed down for any length of time at this point I knew I would not be able to continue and so somehow I got up and mainly walked/staggered to the finish line to complete the worst running experience of my life.
The end zone seemed terribly disorganised although to be fair I was probably not the best judge. I had no direction through the massively long runners finish area and stumbled through. There is an official photo of me smiling holding a medal at the finish area that I cannot understand how was taken! I finally made my way through to the baggage area where an anxious Billy was waiting. He had obviously guessed that something had gone wrong when I was so far behind the time I had hoped for and I didn’t give him much reassurance by being unable to stand. I spent the next couple of hours not wrapped in glory, but in a Red Cross blanket, throwing up.
I honestly don’t really know what went wrong and I wish I could put my finger on it so nothing like it ever happens again. I had been a bit stitchy and uncomfortable during the week leading up to the run, but didn’t think overly much of it. I do have tummy troubles a fair bit that I may have to think more closely about in terms of foods etc that act as triggers. I had orange juice on the morning of the run which may have been too acidic. However, I am probably more inclined to think that there isn’t much rhyme nor reason to it and it was just a bad day at the office. I do know that I couldn’t have had enough to drink as I was really dehydrated after I finished. Taking on board fluids during a run is really something I need to work on as I am extremely bad at it.
I am embarrassed about what happened in this run and I have read lots of comments, blogs etc from people who have gone through similar experiences. Knowing I am not alone definitely helps. Unfortunately there was a higher than usual number of drop-outs and medical incidents at the marathon on Sunday. The organisers are putting it down to the changeable conditions – it was cold at the start, windy along the seafront, then it got really hot (I have sunburn!) and then very wet. There were some cases of hypothermia at the finish and my temperature took a drop as well – though thankfully not into hypothermic range! The comment I have read that sticks with me is that running a marathon is more about the journey – the training, the mental battle. I hope in time I can appreciate this, but at the moment I am just so bitterly disappointed. I read that the disappointment comes from the fact that I was unable to showcase the progress that I have made as a runner on race day. However, the advice I have been told to remember is that just because I didn’t show it on race day, doesn’t mean that the progress hasn’t been made. The song that I played most in my training was Avicci “Wake Me Up” –
Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start
And the line that sticks with me the most: All this time I was finding myself and I didn’t know I was lost. I certainly connected with the experience and found a sense of “me”.
I hope I can come to terms with my failure – I know it doesn’t seem that way to others reading this, but in running, the greatest race you have is with yourself, and I was defeated. I had hoped that this marathon would be able to finish my distance running on a high and would have purged my need to tackle this event ever again, but the fact that the story ended the way it did for me makes me want to avenge it. The big problem is that avenging a marathon defeat is difficult. My body cannot bounce back quickly. It is broken and I am mentally exhausted. I don’t know if my body or mind can face the rigours of another marathon training plan, but I don’t want to leave it this way. I want to continue the feeling of pride I got in training for this marathon. I want to say “I did it well.” I don’t want to just say, “Well, I finished.”
The “finishers” t-shirt and medal brings me no pride at the moment and I can’t bare to look at them! (Though by all accounts I was lucky to get them. The EMF organisers are being slated for various organisational issues at the moment including running out of t-shirts!)
I would like to say a heart-felt thank you to everyone who has supported me in running the marathon. The kind words and supportive comments have meant so much to me. The important thing is that the kind donations and sponsorship that I have received have meant that over £600 has been raised for the Stroke Association. (I will give a final total when I get all my pledges in!) I am delighted that this brilliant charity will be able to benefit from my fundraising and can hopefully make a difference.
The biggest thank you has to go to my amazingly supportive husband, Billy, who has put up with a lot for me to get to the start line and then had to put up with even more trauma at the finish line!
I need to get out of my funk and back with a focus again. I will warn that I cannot talk about the marathon without tears at this stage. Not good when I ended up greeting trying to read Scott his stories when he made a throw away line about me not running fast enough! I think most of all, I need to get a love for running back again. Watch this space.