I ran the Halstead Marathon last Sunday. I ran a Personal Best of 3 hours 44 minutes. I loved it.
In 2012 I ran my first marathon at Halstead. I did it in 4 hours 34 minutes. I hated it.
I don’t know why I chose to do a marathon. I can’t remember the thought process that got me there. What I do remember is coming back from Africa in 2008 and piling on the pounds.
Although I’ve always run as a means of fitness, I stopped in all the chaos of moving continents with a 2 year old and two dogs, not to mention a husband who was too busy working to help at home.
So when I got tired of being slightly dumpy, I started running again the following summer. I didn’t run in winter in those days. How different life is now.
On one particular run I did 8kms. 8!!! I returned home ecstatic with this immense distance I had achieved. The feeling of achievement and accomplishment filled me with excitement. The next day I set out to do exactly the same again.
Within a mile I rolled and tore my right peroneal tendon. I was horizontal on the trail for some time with the pain; a dog walker found me; husband was called to rescue me and I spent 6 months seeing a physio and getting back on my feet.
But that feeling of euphoria stayed with me throughout that winter. I champed at the bit to get back running and find that feeling again.
On 1st March 2010 I set off on a 3 mile jog on a beautiful sunny day. And started entering 5 and 10k races. I honestly can’t remember why I made the leap straight into marathons, but I did.
I joined Halstead Road Runners after a riding friend suggested I join her club and it was through the club I learned about the marathon they organised. It’s held all around the beautiful, quiet and surprisingly hilly lanes of north Essex.
I followed a marathon training plan, from an app on my phone. I have to say, even at the time, I felt it didn’t provide enough long runs, or even that the long runs were long enough. But I followed it and toed the line in May 2012.
I hated it. It was a classic case of train just enough to get to 20 miles then crash. I still look at the formulaic marathon plans that you can pick up off the internet and wonder why the long runs only go up to 20 miles.
I ran with my friend happily chattering round and as things started to get harder towards 20 miles I started grinding to a walk and my friend eventually (and rightly) kept going.
I then spent a tortuous 6 miles walking and jogging painfully, my glutes seizing regularly, cursing and feeling an absolute failure. I finally waddled in 4 hours 34 mins and practically burst into tears at the finish. I had walked. I was a failure.
Before people criticise me for saying that, I must just point out that no marathon finish is a failure. But if you set yourself a goal and if you don’t meet that goal, you feel you’ve failed. To me running a marathon was just that. Running. Walking meant I hadn’t trained enough.
Of course, despite vowing off running marathons ever again, I did actually plan on running in 2013 and I started training in the January with every intention of training better. But in March/April I was struck with cold after cold and training became non existent and I simply wasn’t starting unless I felt confident my training had got me fitter.
And that summer, Facebook suggested I might like to follow a new page called SVP100. What was this? A local race! That ran literally along the bottom of my road. But wait a minute…. 100 KILOMETRES?? What was this madness?
I followed the page with interest. Read the comments posted by runners leading up to the event, read the comments made by runners after the event. And, most importantly of all, I read the blog of someone who started SVP and would later go on to be a friend, mentor and coach; Dan. This blog was instrumental in giving me the idea to do this mad race. I’ve blamed him ever since.
Why? Dan DNF’d the race. How could that persude me to try it? It was reading not only his account of the race, but his reasons for not finishing and the reasons that he was OK with not finishing. Reading this took away the fear of failing and it actually gave me the confidence to give it a go. Because if something didn’t work out, and I couldn’t finish, it wouldn’t be the end of the world; I wouldn’t be the failure I thought I was after the marathon, and it would all just contribute to my experience and knowledge going forward.
I signed up for SVP100 2014 the moment entries opened in October 2013 and the rest, as they say, is history.
I’ve run Halstead a total of 4 times and I believe this year is my last. I’ve run many other marathons in between, but Halstead will always remain the best for me and so special for starting me on the road to ultras.