The day before the ‘big one’, London 2 Brighton

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I am very mindful that I am one of many runners sat here today overthinking every single aspect of pending ‘race day’ tomorrow. I feel very similar to how I did before my first ever race; have I packed everything I need, do I have the right fuelling, is my body ready, can I do this? The biggest difference is that my first race was a 10K road race, and I knew it would be over in an hour. It is just under two years later, and tomorrow I plan to attempt 10 times the distance, mainly off road on trails.

I don’t have much to say ahead of the race, as quite honestly I have no idea what to expect. I know I have prepared as best I can under the circumstances. I know I am mentally tough and that I can keep going through pain and exhaustion. BUT, and this is a huge, massive, ginormous BUT (not my derriere which is relatively in proportion l think!). Having never done this distance, and needing to cover 17 miles more than ever before, it is impossible to know if I can achieve this or not. Its a route I have never covered before, terrain I haven’t had to contend with, and a distance that I still am not entirely sure I comprehend. The unknown is scary, but equally I am thankful it will all be a surprise – sometimes knowing what’s to come is more of a worry than not.

What I can categorically say is I am determined to give this everything I have got. I will crawl on my hands and knees if it gets me to that finish line. If something goes wrong and I have to walk the whole way, I will do it. The only thing that would ever prevent me completing this is an injury that would cause me long term damage if I kept going. Otherwise I will take the entire Bank Holiday weekend to complete this if I have to (fingers crossed it won’t come to this as I quite fancy a couple of days rest!).

This is my biggest challenge, and despite my nerves, fear, and apprehension, I am in fact hugely excited and can’t wait to get started. I am confident none of the above will happen, I am certain it will be the toughest thing I have ever done, but I also know I will feel a new sense of achievement and elation when it is done. Think of me tomorrow, it will be a long day out for all of us, even the speedy ones – lets hope theres some nice food on the way to distract us from the pain in the legs!

Good luck to everyone

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London Marathon 2015 – taking it all in

Setting the scene

London 2014 was the reason I had to start running.  My Uncle suffers with Parkinson’s and I wanted to do something for him, and to help others with the same debilitating disease. Having got in on the ballot, first time, I took on the huge challenge of learning how to run – this was not something I could do. I was lucky to raise over £4000 for Cure Parkinson’s Trust, so many kind people donating for my efforts for that one run.  I fell in love with running in the process, and decided that 2015 had to be even bigger to try and raise as much money as possible. After much thought, my 6 week challenge was decided – 2 marathons and a 100km Ultra (Brighton, London and London to Brighton).

Post Brighton

I surprised myself with how quickly I seemed to recover from Brighton.  Within just a couple of days of the race I felt sprightly, and my mini ‘recovery’ and ‘test runs’ were back to normal almost instantly.  2 weeks to recover seemed fine based on how my legs felt and what my heart rate was saying, and my huge challenge suddenly seemed less daunting.  I was certain I could do it.

Then, just a week after my Nan’s funeral, and a couple of days after Brighton, we received the concerning news that my other Nan had been taken ill during a routine operation and was in a very bad way indeed. It took a few days to learn the enormity of the situation. An elderly lady taking longer than normal to come to from anaesthetic seemed almost standard given her age.  But soon it transpired that what was happening was far more devastating, and sadly we lost my Nan that weekend. A difficult time mourning one grandparent, and worrying about how your parents are coping, developed into another huge and unexpected loss for me and the family. Concerns for my parents were taking over my thoughts, and shock seemed to take over.  Is this for real? Two grandparents in little over two weeks, surely not?

London was a week away, and given all that was happening, I gave it very little thought.  I did little running, just enough to keep the legs turning, and my mind was not focused on what was round the corner. The expo was great as always.  I collected my race pack and chip on the Wednesday, managed to avoid any more unnecessary purchases, and floated around the Excel centre in a little world of my own.  How things had changed from the first time I did this.  I wrote on the Adidas Boost wall, and went to the booth to have a picture taken with my number. I really thought about the wonderful man who’s amazing spirit has spurred me on to do of all of this.  I may have been sad, it may be a difficult time, but the world keeps turning and this was for me, and for him. London Marathon was special to me and thinking about his strength and determination,  I was  motivated (and stubborn – a Hornigold trait).  I was going to love it. At the expo 11156131_10153200803090126_4390521108144270003_n

The race Pre race excitement

I was not nervous, I had nothing to prove, and just wanted to take it all in.  Starting in a pen far closer to the start line than the previous year I knew I would be running soon. The excitement levels around me were escalating, until we were soon moving towards that huge start clock surrounded by cheers from the supporters and runners around me.  Before I knew it I was off, I was running London Marathon for the 2nd year in a row.  The first few miles ticked away and I felt great, much more in control than the start of Brighton.  Seeing the odd person I knew supporting throughout the course made the time go faster than expected. My coach had mentioned we wouldn’t really know the true effects Brighton had had on me until around the 20 mile mark, so I tried my best not to push too hard. At mile 8, heading towards Surrey Quays, I felt my hamstring getting tight.  Not too concerned I kept at the same pace and hoped it would ease off. By the time I reached the 10 mile marker my legs were getting tighter and I knew this feeling – I was clearly fatigued.  Interestingly my HR was spot on, cardiovascularly I was fine, just my muscles were not too happy!  I knew I would have to slow down, but also knew by the 14th mile I would see the Cure Parkinson’s cheer point and my parents who had come to see me.  I crossed Tower Bridge to the deafening noise I so clearly remembered from the previous year – I challenge anyone not to crack a smile or feel emotional when you have hundreds of people shouting your name, ringing bells and cheering you on.  This is easily the most iconic moment of the race for so many runners, impossible to explain unless you have been there.  Feeling inspired, I pushed on towards Wapping, and as soon as I went past the 13 mile marker my eyes were peeled.  I was going to see my darling Mum and Dad soon.

I spotted Mum first, could see her desperately trying to find me amongst the constant flow of runners. I shouted as loudly as I could and then locked eyes with her, swiftly followed by my Dad leaning forward to catch a glimpse of me. Their excitement was like nothing I have seen, such pride in their eyes I struggled to keep the tears away. At this point I felt emotional enough. Then I saw what I thought was my Uncle Mark and my Auntie Karen. Then my other Auntie Sue (married to John, my Uncle with Parkinson’s).  I couldn’t believe it. They had all come to support me, the tears arrived at this point!

Spotting the family - total shock      Mile 14

Once I had gone past I knew I had to slow down.  Having had knee trouble only a couple of months ago, I was all too aware if I wasn’t careful I could end up having to walk the entire second half of the race. I slowed to a walk and at the next water station stood and stretched as much as possible.  My knee completely locked up, so a slow hobble until it released, and back to jogging.  I never thought I would have to walk or stop, but it was the sensible thing to do.  Through the Isle of Dogs, and the section everyone despises, I was jogging, walking, stretching, jogging again, to try and cause as little damage as possible.  I never felt out of my depth though, just guilty for walking and making people wait longer than they expected to see me again.

I pushed on and I knew I would see my family soon. A loud shout from my right, and I spotted my childhood best pal Carly (delayed reaction meant I had to rotate around to see her, but always amazing spotting people you know).  Then I was running as fast as I could. Literally sprinting towards the charity point, desperate to get there as soon as possible. As soon as I reached the family I stopped for a kiss and a cuddle with each and every one of them.  This was the best feeling, and there was no way I was just running on past. I told them I was being careful despite the pain in my legs.

Mummy hug High five

Then came the classic line that everyone needs to hear at mile 22,  “save some for the big one”. Yes, a lovely reminder from Mum that in just 4 weeks I had a 62 mile Ultra to contend with!

After a couple of Jelly babies I ran on, soon entering the ‘disco tunnel’ as I now call it, I felt like I was on the home straight.  The shouts go louder and louder and soon I was at the final mile, searching for my darling Bug pals who had come to support.  Expecting them earlier I thought I had missed them, so just took in the moment and ran with a huge grin on my face past the growing crowds. Reaching Buckingham palace I was loving every second, then the familiar sound of my darling friends, cheering with prosecco in hand so proud of ‘Lana Legs’ nearly finishing her 4th marathon to date….and somehow it got captured on camera – a wonderful moment

Me spotting my friends

Then the home stretch.  As I reached the last few hundred metres I lifted my arms with happiness.  Somehow amongst the noise I heard my friend Perrin shout my name, and turned around to see him belting out my name and punching the air with a ‘COME ON’, he looked so happy for me, I just ran with the biggest smile and took in that wonderful moment of finishing my second London Marathon (in a respectable time of 4 hours 1 minute).

Finish

I crossed the line feeling ecstatic to have done this second challenge, collected my medal, and in my own little bubble of happiness managed to bump into three runners I know.  Two I have only met on twitter, and it was so wonderful to see their grinning faces, so proud of what they had just achieved.  The other is a great athlete who had advised me so much in my gradual introduction to running, it was fitting I should see him on completing the event a year on that he had helped me so much with.  He had achieved the most incredible time and it was a pleasure to share such joy for a few moments.

Finally I made it to my meet point, and dived into the arms of my Proud Dad. Lots of hugs and kisses with the family, and of course fizz, my Mum then arrived and all the emotions of the last couple of months came out in the longest hug I think we have ever had. What a wonderful day, what a fantastic support, and what a lucky girl I am.

I soon met with my lovely supporters and a couple of other great runners, and we headed for dinner together and reflected on the races we had.  All very different, all struggling at different points, but each achieving the same thing – we had completed London Marathon in its 35th year, the year of the amazing Paula Radcliffe’s retirement. A day I shall never ever forget.

The 'bugs'

Brighton Marathon 2015, a Lesson learnt

Brighton was the most nervous I have ever been for a race. It had been a tough few weeks with the loss of my darling Nan, and her funeral just a few days prior, to be honest I think in any other circumstance I wouldn’t have been running. But knowing I would see my wonderful group of ‘bugs’, running and supporting, and the fact I had been fundraising as part of my bigger three-part challenge, combined with my own stubbornness, meant I would go and drag myself across that finish line if I had to. There was no way I would let anyone down.

Arriving on the Saturday, I went to the Expo on my own, and of course got sidetracked by beautiful trainers…the perfect distraction pre race. Soon I had met up with all the Running bug group, and seen all the lovely UKRunChat crew for tea and nervous chit-chat. Dinner with everyone that evening distracted me long enough that I didn’t think too much about what was to come, and despite some VERY noisy male occupants waking most of us in the early hours in the Hotel, I got an ok nights sleep.

Waking on Sunday, my main focus was food. All my race kit had been prepped long before I went to bed, so it was a case of dressing, grabbing food in the hotel (the porridge by the way was dreadful!) and heading on my way.

Walking to the line as a group was a new experience, my two previous Marathons I had travelled to on my own. I have to say it was a welcome distraction as I was petrified – emotionally exhausted, mentally in the wrong place, I knew this would be tough. Never before have I felt this kind of nervousness, I hid it as much as I could but my confidence had gone. Why was I doing this? How could I do it? Memories of my second marathon GFA time vanished, I was mad thinking I had the mental or physical strength for a marathon, this was a bad idea.

Having dropped my bag and stood in a toilet queue for a good 10 minutes, I realised there was no way I would make it in time to get to my pen before the start. At this point I made a judgement call and ran to the edge of Preston Park, found a tree that vaguely hid my now bare bum, squatted and relieved myself, weeing in full site of the thousands running that day, with Maria stood over me giggling. I couldn’t have cared less at this point, and in hindsight, pretty funny!

I then headed straight for my Pen, which was completely full and dispersing out onto the grass at the side. Stood there, completely blocking out the noise of the runners, I wondered how I would feel once I got moving. This was the first time I had no concept of what to expect, but I battled with my brain and remembered I was strong and I COULD do this, and most importantly, yes I was doing this for charity but also, I love running!

As the race began, I ran as only I know how. Tried my best to take in the route and maintained my own pace without being distracted by others around me. This is something I learnt last year, and I am pleased to say I managed not to get swept away in the initial sprint off that invariably happens at these events. Within a few miles I was feeling great and maintaining a fairly even pace, feeling comfortable and enjoying it already. The hill that seemed to worry everyone before hand was ok, and any undulations after were noticeable, but a welcome challenge to add to the route. Having made a decision (that I highlighted to everyone pre race) to just go and enjoy it, somehow ‘race Lana’ had taken over and every now and then I was checking my pace rather than my heart rate to ensure I was on track for a sub 4 again. This is why I got into trouble.

Nearing mile 15 my Garmin decided it would no longer track me, or my Heart rate. It dropped to about 40 beats per minute and I was tracking at 15 minute miles, and then 3 minute miles. It was impossible for me to know how fast I was going, or whether I was pushing too hard for not enough. I lost all sight of my initial ‘enjoy’ plan and got panicked.  This was made worse a mile or so on, hearing someone cheer ‘go Nan’ next to me.  Emotions took over and tears filled my eyes. This is when my angel Sarah appeared (Satay, Darah or Crunning as she is also known, who deservedly got her GFA time at this event). She spotted immediately that I was not my normal chirpy self, gave me a good talking to, told me to turn my watch off and just enjoy. She doesn’t realise how much she helped me that day, but quite honestly, without her, the entire run could have been ruined for me. I did exactly that. Watch off. Stop worrying. Walk if you have to. Who cares?!

And remarkably, I started to feel ok. In fact I felt good. No idea how fast or slow I was going, and nor did I care. I got a wonderful wave from Dan who was busy sipping from a beer bottle after his epic 10K, and as I started to near the dreaded section leading to the Power Station I remembered why I do this. I love running. I love the challenge. The only real pressure on me was what I was putting on myself, and as soon as I relieved myself of my own expectations, I was enjoying it, even the pain!

Nearing Mile 21 I caught sight of lovely Caroline, grinning from ear to ear, waving and cheering. I asked where the others were ‘around the corner’. This was the bit everyone dreaded, but what I was most excited about. In true bug fashion, there was Nelly, Pauline and Di sipping fizz, cheering on with Mark’s gorgeous wife Sharnie and daughter Keira. Pauline cheekily offered me a sip from her glass as I ran towards them. Well I said I was going to enjoy it..I am not sure she expected me to stop for a swig or two, but I did. Much to the delight and entertainment of the others!IMG_1701

After this it was up to the Power station and back past the bugs, a wave (no secondary prosecco sadly) and down to run along the seafront. The cheering got louder and the crowds busier, until before I knew it, I was running past Alexandra, Chris and Steve on to the home stretch. I crossed the line with absolutely no idea what time I had done, I hadn’t even looked at the finish clock, but presumed I had done just over 4 hours or so.

As soon as I got hold of my phone I looked at my notifications from people who had been tracking me. I had so many I didn’t know where to start, friends and family had been watching my every move, and updating one another on my progress.  It was such a touching and wonderful thing to see. I had to ask what time I had done and thought I had surely imagined the time of 3 hrs 47.21. Not only that, my pacing was near perfect, with a slightly negative split (second half marginally faster than the first). To say this was a shock was an understatement. I had stopped for prosecco, I had run at a comfortable pace and not over worked, and managed to get a great time whilst still enjoying myself! What a revelation!

I have learnt so much from this race. I trust my running ability much more. I clearly know how to pace myself and actually ran stronger without my watch on (though I can’t say I won’t be using it in the future!), maintaining an almost identical pace in the second half without it, to what I had achieved in the first half with it on. But also, its only me stopping myself from enjoying it. It doesn’t matter what other people’s expectations are of me. I am never going to win any trophies, but my goodness I have come a LONG way in the two years I have been running.  Not only that, despite all the emotional battles I was having on the day, I enjoyed the majority of the run, and my goodness did I enjoy that party afterwards!

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