Berlin Marathon

Training for the Berlin Marathon was hard.  Proper hard.  It was literally like starting from rock bottom and building back up to 26.2 miles.  My enjoyment was limited but I point blank refused to let another opportunity to run Berlin slip away because it was ‘too hard’.  I’m not that kinda girl.

I was supposed to run it last year but luck was against me and a string on injuries put me firmly on the sidelines.  I promised myself it would be me next time and I couldn’t let myself down because that would totally suck.

On the bright side, spending last year being a Berlin tourist meant that I could concentrate on all the important things this year such as laying down, eating carbs, napping and eating more carbs.  Luckily I found some pals who were up for doing the same and we got an apartment near Hermannplatz in the south of the city.

C9895353-0CB5-4796-8633-CECAF8F86296

The Expo: The Stressful Bit

Arriving on Friday afternoon meant I could head straight to the expo to maximise the opportunity for resting and napping on Saturday.  Situated in a disused airport, it was big and busy.

They’re quite hot on ID but, once you pass all the checks, you get given a wristband and sent on a mammouth trek to the opposite side of the airport to get your number.  Berlin gives you a choice of opting for a bag drop OR a poncho.  If you choose the poncho you can’t drop anything off on the day, but they will give you a poncho at the end of the race which promises to be both warming and multi-faceted.  Obviously I wasn’t that silly, but Charlotte and Cathryn seemed to think it was a brilliant idea and couldn’t stop raving about how jealous we would be…

It’s worth noting that if you want a finishers t-shirt you need to pay €30 and buy it in advance.  It’s a bit offensive on top of the €108 entry fee and a bit worrying if you’re not entirely sure you’ll finish but, for me, it wasn’t an option, I wanted a finishers t-shirt.  I also came away with an event jacket and a pint glass but I didn’t spend much time at the other stalls because I just wanted to get away from all the people.

9349A93B-B32B-4FBC-8FE3-8C66DF0F1799

Hasenheide Parkrun: The Warm Up Bit

Our apartment was rather conveniently, and maybe a little bit on purpose, located next to Hasenheide Park which is home to one of the 10 parkruns in the whole of Germany.

Hasenheide usually attracts a field of less than 100 but a whopping 517 people turned up to run this weekend.  They were awesome.  Truly brilliant.  Although totally out of their comfort zone, they had put on a host of extra marshals and could not have been more welcoming or excited to have us.  Hasenheide was the epitome of running spirit and it was lovely to be a part of.

The course is pretty, especially under the morning German sunshine, winding around the park and including a short, but very sharp hill.  I loved it, thanks for having us!

39E215D6-0313-43D8-916B-624EED6B96B4

The rest of the day was spent as planned, sitting, and eating, and napping, and eating and laughing uncontrollably on the carb high.  For dinner we headed to a local Italian called Masaniello for a massive bowl of pasta with a side of garlic pizza bread and another side of, ermm, bread.  It ticked all the boxes – definitely recommended.

D8585921-A0B7-4C67-A63D-A6068AF63AD4

Berlin Marathon: The Main Event

The marathon starts in Tiergarten Park where you will find some very long and unorganised queues for toilets (not your usual German style), some inconsistent bib checks (it’s easy to jump the fence if you’re so inclined) and some questionable starting corrals.  You’re placed into your start zone based on your marathon PB, no matter how old it is, and if it’s your first time you’ll be at the back.

Runners are set off in three waves, 20 minutes apart, which helps with crowding on the course, especially with over 40k runners, and you head straight through the park towards the Victory Column.

Berlin

As planned, I started off slow and tried not to get swept along, it wasn’t long before Cathryn trotted past me and it was nice to see a friendly face.  The race is well supported with spectators cheering on either side.

The water stations are plentiful and well stocked and they also supply some kind of warm herbal tea (slightly odd when you’re expecting a cold electrolyte drink) and a rather ‘interesting’ beetroot sports drink.  I don’t think I liked it but in the latter stages I knocked it back anyway. Needs must.

The miles ticked by and my first focus was to get to the halfway point.  My longest training run was only 18.5 miles and I only did that once.  It wasn’t my normal prep so I was a bit worried about how I was going to get to the end.  However, I knew people at home were tracking me and I kept thinking about the finishers t-shirt and jacket I had already bought…finishing was the only option really.

I kept progressing, half way came and went, and I took my planned walking breaks where I had mentally scheduled them.  If you’re going to walk, I really recommend having a structure to it (ie 0.1 mile walk, 0.9 mile run) so you don’t get disheartened, honestly, it works.

I didn’t take the gels they offered (there’s only one gel station), but I did take some pieces of banana towards the end.  I’ve never done this before but, as usual, I couldn’t face my last gel so opted for my pre-packed Haribo Smufs and banana.  It really seemed to do the trick so I’ll be doing that again!

The last few miles are a bit of a blur, everything hurt and it was hot, but I knew I was going to make it.  I took water at each station and plodded on until I finally turned the corner and saw the iconic Brandenburg Gate.  From then on I just kept running until I crossed the finish line.

It was a road marathon personal worst time, but I had already accepted that and was more relieved to finally complete my 14th marathon after 2.5 years out of the game.

480F8B8A-B114-468F-BDCA-46E9A1FCC656

After I collected my bag the only thing I could do was plonk myself on the ground and not move.  It hurt.  I was just going to have to sleep right here.  Luckily a super perky Alice came and found me and scraped me off the floor before taking me to the group and bounding off to find me a goody bag which I had missed (where does she get the energy from?!)

We had a successful day all round with everyone finishing the race.  Alice and Sam got new PB’s, Ed smashed it as usual, Charlotte and Cathryn ran strong times and were awarded multi faceted ponchos, Ellie completed her 2nd marathon despite struggling with an injury over the last few weeks, and I completed my 2nd Marathon World Major.  Most importantly, I think everyone had enjoyed it.

4794F7F4-B003-47D9-B3C1-A1CE54EEE4A4

10 Things I learned from the Berlin Marathon

1.   You can’t blame the conditions for your poor performance when Kipchoge decides to totally obliterate the world record by a massive 78 seconds. You also can’t expect the UK to give this any kind of decent news coverage because apparently it’s not significant enough.

Total Ledge

Berlin Marathon

2.   If you have any adverse feelings towards beetroot make sure you swerve the bright red sports drink on the course.  It won’t end well for anyone.

3.   If you forget to pack any pants and are forced to buy new ones at the expo, you will be at considerable risk of bankruptcy, but you’re highly likely to get a new PB.  Sam forgot all his pants.  Sam has a new PB.

4.   If you fancy running a sub 3 marathon, getting a new PB AND coming home as 6th Brit you should do as Alice does.  Alice likes to swop running for pilates, water for Aperol Spritz and excited race morning banter for solo quiet time.  If it works, it works…

3FF8AF86-0106-4495-A9EF-7DD17B5203AC

5.  When you’re faced with a pre-race portaloo without an inch of toilet paper in sight, you can always rely on tearing off strips of your pre-race foil blanket.  Almost as genius as actually remembering your own toilet paper right?!

6.  If you decide to have a little sit down after 25 miles like Ellie, be prepared for a friendly but persistent German lady called Brenda to repeatedly shout ‘nine’ and drag you on your merry way.  We like Brenda.  Ellie is undecided.

7.   The Berlin Marathon does NOT end and the Brandenburg Gate, there is still 400m to go.  If you’ve run this before you will know this.  Unless you’re Alice.  Who promptly stopped running and stopped her watch whilst wondering why everyone else was still powering past…and she still got a PB!

sportograf-137747835_lowres (1)

8.   If you haphazardly opt for the warming and multi-faceted poncho over the traditional and sensible bag drop, be sure you’ve mastered the look of unequivocal joy on the outside to mask your deep, crushing disappointment on the inside.  Charlotte is available for advice on how to nail this…

A502A120-111F-4408-846F-7404F96229F8

9.   Don’t expect four post marathon runners to agree on a post race cuisine in any less than 58 minutes.  Also do not expect Charlotte to even remotely tolerate a vegetarian menu, even if the restaurant has a cute name like ‘Burrito Baby’ and you’ve already conquered the challenge of sitting down.  After further debate, we ended up at Jimmy Woo’s.

10.  A personal worst marathon time on the clock does not equate to a personal worst marathon experience.  Far from it.  Marathons are about so much more than just the time, most importantly they’re about the people you share them with.  Thanks guys!

E526E8B0-7B47-4608-AA0C-7BFB2180BD7E

Advertisements

Why it sucks to be a non-marathon running marathon runner during marathon season

Sooooo, it’s that time of year again.  London, Boston, Manchester, Paris, Brighton, Rome, Hamburg…  All the big cities are hosting their annual Spring marathons with hundreds of thousands of people putting months of hard graft to the test and crossing those finish lines with pride and glee.  Wonderful.

And it truly is a wonderful, magical and pretty remarkable thing.  But not being one of them? Without any particular good reason (I can’t blame a broken foot this year).  Well, that totally sucks.  It sucks on every level.

giphy (2)

1. You just can’t escape it

No matter how hard you try, if you have friends that are runners, it’s everywhere.  I even tried deleting my Facebook account.  But then there was Instagram…and Strava…and Twitter…and, well. the news and, errrm,, the actual outdoors.

I’ve already switched it back on again.  So that went well.

qgxqaiX

2. The FOMO is real

It’s difficult to put into words, and to get any normal person to understand, why exactly it pains you so much to miss out on putting your body through the wars and your mind through hell just to run 26.2 miles.  For fun.  So just take my word for it.

There is no greater pain that being on the spectator side of those barriers.

anigif_enhanced-14224-1397001171-1

3. You feel like the laziest person on earth

It doesn’t really matter how much exercise you do, even if you workout out daily, if you’re not running 20 miles on a Sunday when everyone else in the whole world is, then you feel like the Mayor of Slobtown.

SmartOilyDachshund-size_restricted

4. It makes you grumpy and unreasonable

Yes, more grumpy than usual.  Yes more unreasonable than usual. No, I can’t control it.  Yes, I’m sorry.  No, I don’t wanna talk about it.

It’s best to just stay away from me really.

giphy

5. You’re just another muggle

This one is probably the worst for me.  Marathon running is magical.  It’s magical because it’s made of a unique combination of a strong body, a strong(er) mind, and a lot of  bloody hard work that only comes with resilience, dedication and willpower .  It’s impossible to understand unless you’ve been there.  And when you’re not there, you’re just a regular ol nothing-special kinda muggle on the sidelines.  And that sucks.

giphy (1)

Putting my jealousy aside, I wish nothing but the best of luck and positive, strong thoughts to everyone running over the next few weeks and, if you’re running London, I’ll be in the usual Chaser spot with a can of cider throwing jelly babies at you.  You’re welcome.

I want to be special again by the end of the year.  And I’m going all out for Berlin in September because, this time, I do have something to prove.  In fact I have everything to prove.

But only to myself.

images

 

 

Confessions of a Runner

1.We’re obsessed with Strava

  • Who ran what, where, when and HOW fast?!  No way, the GPS must be wrong…oh yes, that complicated zig zag, that’s not right is it?
  • Errrr, excuse me, I’ve just run a Parkrun PB, why hasn’t the random-guy-I’ve-never-met-but-stalks-my-every-move given me kudos yet??
  • It really looks like that guy sprinted the last half mile of their run to improve their average pace.  That’s just silly.  I would never do that.

Yep, we spend much more time stalking Strava than any other social network. Because we have to. Kudos.

3simy9

 

2. When people ask us how far our next marathon is we want to jab them in the eye with a pencil

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  AAARRGHHHHHHHH.

When we don’t quite know someone well enough to poke them in the eye with a blunt object, and we have to smile politely and explain how marathons work, a little part of us dies inside.

61279548

 

3. When we get drunk we sign up to all the races

Most people get drunk and do stupid things. But when we get drunk, our stupid thing is to sign up to all the races.  It doesn’t really matter what distance they are, or how far away they are, or if we have to race against wild horses, or trains, or jump into freezing bogs in the middle of them (all actual races by the way). No, one bottle of prosecco and we sign up to all the races that exist in the whole wide world.

Then we wake up and wonder why we’re poor.

THEN we realise what we’ve done and that we actually have to run the damn things.

tumblr_lvv8maCY7k1r25mo8o1_500

 

4. We Lie

Not all the time.  But sometimes.  You know when we tell you we can’t go for a drink on a Friday night because it’s our neighbours, cousin’s, best mates annual BBQ and we promised to look after their pet tortoise Jimmy?  Well, that’s not strictly true.  It’s actually because we know one drink leads to 16 and we can’t possibly risk having a Parkrun hangover.  In our defense, it’s not just Parkrun…there’s usually brunch and cake and stuff…

Sadly, little Jimmy the Tortoise does not exist in real life.  Well he might do, but we don’t care if he gets fed or not.

Leopard_Tortoise

5. We own more pairs of trainers than any other type of shoe

And we need all of them. Don’t ask questions.

image

 

6. We suffer extraordinary things to make sure a run goes to plan

Not long ago I was getting ready to run to my tempo session from work when I realised I didn’t have any socks. None at all.  After begging everyone who was left in the office for the socks they were still wearing, I finally came up trumps with a pair of colleagues gym socks…that he had already worn to the gym earlier that day…and were still sweaty.

I see no problem with that.

6407c1d09d35b360777ded7556205d9cc8f9dc909d0e582d73c8b35f09afde47

 

7. We don’t always have time to wash our hair

Running can take up a lot of time, what with having to do muggle activities like working and sleeping as well.  It  means we don’t always have time to partake in life’s little luxuries such as washing our hair.  Sometimes, just sometimes, we’ll take a hairdryer and just dry the sweat right out.

Ironically, these always seem to be the days when people politely comment ‘your hair looks good today, have you done something different?’ Yeah, it’s sweat mate, 8 miles of pure sweat.

blowdrying-hair-in-real-life

8. Post long run pain is our favourite

When we’ve run a long way it hurts.  It hurts during the run, and it definitely hurts after.  We put our legs up against the wall, waddle up stairs, climb down them backwards and shuffle along the street. But we like that pain, it means we worked hard, and it will make us stronger.  In fact, that pain just means we’re winning at life.  So giggle all you want, we don’t care.

walk

9. Injuries make us angry. Like, really angry

You need to understand that, when we’re run-injured  and we can’t run, it is the end of the actual world.  And you can’t help in any way.  In fact, you can only really make it worse.

I know it was only a few days ago we were moaning about our training schedule and how tired we were.  But that was when we could run.  And now we can’t run.  So that means the only thing in the world we want to do is run.

No it’s not ‘nice to have a rest’, it’s not ‘good to take a break’, and it’s definitely not ‘fun to go for a swim instead’.  JUST. BACK. OFF.

giphy

10. We don’t understand why you recoil in horror at our ‘easy 10 miler’

Because an easy 10 miler is simply that, we’re running 10 miles and we’re keeping it easy.  OK, maybe running 10 miles isn’t ‘easy’ but, what we mean is, we won’t be adding any strides, fartleks, tempo or MP (I know, I know, I lost you).

The problem is, our concept of distance is completely distorted, we think nothing of our 15 mile weekend run and, for that reason, it’s never wise to ask us if we think somewhere is close enough to walk.  We only know how long it takes to run there.  And therefore the answer is always yes.

giphy (2)

11. We don’t always WANT to go for a run

Despite everything I’ve said, we’re not always filled with joy at the prospect of going for another run.  Sometimes running is hard, and it hurts, and we would much rather sit on the sofa with a box of Lindt balls and watch back to back Friends episodes we’ve already seen 100 times.  But we run anyway. Because running is life.  And it’s the only life we know.  We don’t expect you to understand.

282

7 Reasons why I LOVE the London Marathon

This weekend London hosts its 35th Marathon and some 36,000 people will line up for one of the most exhilarating experiences of their life.  This is why I love the London Marathon.

1. The atmosphere is electric

I’ve run a lot of big races over the years, including several marathons in various big cities across Europe, but nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to the atmosphere of the London Marathon.

Energetic, upbeat, loud, happy, powerful, and ever encouraging, they’re not far wrong when they say the crowd will carry you the last few miles.  They’ll pick you up when you’re down, go wild when you’re running strong and they’ll push you harder than you ever thought possible, it’s a 26.2 mile support crew.  Soak up every second.

2. It’s the sightseeing tour of dreams

Starting in Greewich and Blackheath, the London Marathon takes you past Cutty Sark, Canary Wharf, the Tower of London, the Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and, of course, the magnificent finish along the Mall by Buckingham Palace.  Quite frankly, London is one of the best cities in the entire world and I can promise you there is no better way to see it.

For me, running across the iconic Tower Bridge never fails to send shivers down my spine and it also means you’re nearly halfway!

article-2312400-1969C6AF000005DC-962_964x549

3. We’re nice to each other (and not just because we’ve had one too many and it’s the last tube home…)

City life is pretty cold and unfriendly.  You rarely get kindness from strangers and you certainly don’t get the warm smile and wave you get from a fellow runner in the country.

On Marathon day something changes.  Londoners unite and flood the streets in their thousands to cheer and shout and wave banners in the air.  Hell, they even come out of their houses to stand on the street in their PJ’s and bunny slippers to offer you a selection of fruit and sweets!

It’s one of the few days of the year when everyone rallies together to celebrate the achievements of others and it makes me proud to be a Londoner.

jellybabies (1)

4. It’s the best street party you’ll ever go to

I don’t know how many spectators the London Marathon attracts but it’s a LOT.  Whether people are out to marvel at the elites as they fly past, offer support and sweaty hugs to loved ones, or just admire the sheer grit and determination of the masses, they come out rain or shine to holla at you and enjoy the entertainment, often with a pint in hand.

There were over 35 live music sets adorning the route last year, numerous charity cheer points that go nuts when one of their team runs by and 80 odd pubs which helpfully open early so spectators can enjoy a pint with breakfast, there’s never a dull moment.

Sure, Notting Hill Carnival has people shaking their jelly in bejewelled bikinis and feather headdresses but we have 7ft dinosaurs, Sponge Bob Squarepants, men in mankinis, enough superheros to save the world, and people running 26.2 miles with an actual friggin’ FRIDGE on their back.

Notting Hill ain’t got shit on the London Marathon

image

5. You run in the same race as some of the finest athletes in the world

As a World Marathon Major, London attracts some huge names to the start line, including current WR holder Kimetto who’s racing this year.  And you get to run right there with them!

OK, so you’re unlikely to be keeping up with any of them, but everyone runs the same course at the same time with the same roaring crowd.  It’s an honour.

6. You’ll be a hero

If you’ve ever come to watch the marathon, or even seen it on TV, you’ll know what I mean.  Running the London Marathon is on the bucket list for many people but it takes true strength of character to be able to tick it off.  Each year thousands are inspired by the relentless determination of those who make it to the finish line but most will never find the dedication needed to prepare for such a gruelling task.

Cold dark nights, rainy lonely mornings, endless tiring miles, it’s nothing but hard work and you just can’t cheat your way through.  If you run any marathon you will be a hero to someone.

image

7. It’s HOME

I don’t know what it’s like to run across the finish line to win Olympic Gold at the Queen Elizabeth Park, or bang in the injury time winner at Wembley, but I do know what it’s like to do the thing you love the most, in one of the best events in the world, that’s televised across the globe, with all your friends and family around you, in the place you call home.  And when that thing is the London Marathon, well, quite frankly, you’re buzzing off your face as soon as the alarm goes off.

The London Marathon? Yeah, it’s pretty special.

If you’re lucky enough to be taking part on Sunday, don’t forget to take a step back, look around, take it all in and appreciate how amazing it is because it will be over all too quickly.  GOOD LUCK!

2011 – my first ever marathon, finished in 4.13

image

Two years later – finishing in 3.50

IMG_0190

Running from the Heart

Standing on the start line, everything fades away
Excitement has been building, just waiting for this day
Now you stand on trial, there’s nothing more to do
You did your best to get here, you know that much is true

 

Lost in your own thoughts, there’s one more challenge ahead
But this will be a tough one, you slowly fill with dread
You slaved for hours and hours, the road was certainly long
But have you done enough? The doubts, they haven’t gone

 

It’s been a tough few months, nothing has been easy
But now the time has come, the gun sounds, you feel queasy
There’s no time left to worry, please don’t fall apart
The strength you feel inside you, it comes straight from the heart

 

26.2 to conquer, the prospect seems so daunting
‘You can’t do this, can you?’ the voice inside is taunting
One foot in front of the other, you remember how it’s done
A little kid high-5’s you, oh yeah, it should be fun!

 

Soaking up the atmosphere, a smile creeps over your face
The crowds roar all around you, you’re in a happy place!
The cheers are getting louder, the miles are rolling by
It lifts you higher and higher, you feel like you could fly

 

It’s starting to get tough now, you’re not feeling quite as strong
Everything’s turning hazy, where did it all go wrong?
It was always going to test you, you knew that from the start
The force that drives you forward, it comes straight from the heart

 

The crowds are going crazy, they scream as you run past
Your legs are feeling heavy, how much longer can they last?
The miles are getting slower, but the end is oh-so near
With the finish line in sight, you step it up a gear

 

Emotions they engulf you, from sheer relief to joy
You can’t believe you’ve done it!  Those doubts have been destroyed
Riding high and giddy, you feel nothing but elation
Huge medal round your neck, it’s time for celebration!

 

What a day of triumph, what a day of awe
You feel a little tired, your body aches and more
But pain will fade in time, from every single part
Pride, it lasts forever, because you ran straight from the heart

 

By Katherine French

 

Who’s Harry Hawkes?

Harry Hawkes was a real life man who lived in Thames Ditton in the early 1900’s and had a really cool name.  His Dad ran a bottling factory producing Ginger Beer and mineral water, and Harry was the captain of the Thames Ditton Cricket Club 2nd Eleven for 10 years.

Why is this important?

Well, in 1984, back when I found Button Moon more interesting than lycra, the cricket club launched an 8 mile race and named it after Harry (his really cool name probably had a lot to do with it).  It was a race that quickly established itself and ran (excuse the pun) for 26 years.  Even my Dad had heard about the Harry Hawkes race and he lives over 100 miles away!

After a 2 year break, the race was re-launched as a 10 mile event and a few of the Chasers found ourselves entering this year.  10 miles is a great distance, possibly my favourite.  By the time you even think about flagging there’s only a couple of miles left anyway, there’s none of that ‘no mans land’ you get in a half marathon.

Spot the Chasers!

image

The race started on Giggs Green by the cricket club (which I think is 175 years old, one of the oldest in the country) and looped round Thames Ditton (adding the extra 2 miles) before continuing along the towpath by the river, crossing Kingston Bridge and heading back along Hampton Court Towpath, past the Palace, and back on the 2 mile loop to the finish on the Green.

The route is on mixed terrain but is flat and fast and very pretty along the river, I wish I had a camera!

It was smiles all round as Andy took the win (by over 3 mines) AND the course record by over 4 minutes, and the boys took the team prize for the top 4.  There were also some PBs despite the warm, sunny weather.  I, however, was so far behind everyone I actually missed the team photo at the end…I fully intend to be faster in the next race and photobomb at every opportunity I find!

Winners and more winners

image

 

image

Although I was slower than usual, I’m attempting to follow the P&D marathon plan (in preparation for Amsterdam) which meant Sunday’s run was a mix of marathon pace and an easy pace rather than running as fast as possible.  Not only did I achieve that, but it meant I very much enjoyed the run too!

It was a beautiful sunny day so we hung around afterwards for the post race BBQ the cricket club put on (although, disappointingly, there were no vegetarian options, only burgers and bacon) and enjoyed the atmosphere.

The Harry Hawkes 10 is highly recommended.  It’s well organised, on a lovely course, with fantastic marshals and has a great local feel about it – if you fancy a flat, fast and scenic 10 miler in the Summer make sure you join us next year.

Cheers Harry!

http://www.harryhawkes10.com/

image

Maratona di Roma…ice cream, pizza and running

I was initially going to call this post ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ but, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that was unfair and would indicate that I hadn’t enjoyed the race which simply isn’t true.  Sure, there were ups and downs (mentally and physically what with the hills) but hell I was running round ROME!

I arrived in Rome on the Friday night to leave plenty of time to settle and go to the Expo, plus I couldn’t think of a better place in the world to carb up!  The Expo was a little out of town – the queue was pretty long and Katherine, James and I found ourselves queuing across a road that cars were still trying to drive on…this was the first organisational fail.

We (or rather James) was amused by the people dressed up as New Balance trainers and he insisted we pose for a photo for the Chasers site (funny innit).  Collecting our race packs was petty simple but leaving the Expo was not – you’re forced around numerous stands in little more than single file and you get told off if you try to sneak out!  The goody bags were much better than Frankfurt though with a New Balance backpack, technical t-shirt, sports drink and (obviously) some dried pasta!

image

When we eventually got out we stopped for pizza and I headed back to the hotel for some rest.  Travelling, tapering and excitement is all very exhausting!  I went out again in the evening to meet my friends Ruth, Nathan and Paul for dinner and then got an early night.  We arranged to meet at 8am at the Arch of Constantine for an 8.50 race start.  Simple?

Well, not so much… I sprang out of bed when my alarm went off and made myself some porridge with the little kettle in my room and left the hotel at 7.30.  We were all staying in different places so I headed off towards to Colosseum on my planned route to meet my friends.

However, the route I was planning on was closed off and we were sent round the houses (or round the ruins should I say…) which was beautiful but I didn’t have a clue where I was and even less idea where the Arch was, there were loads of arches?!   Following the crowd I realised I would be starting alone, alone in the rain.

Oh, did I mention it was raining?

image

Attempting to drop my bag off was the next challenge and next organisational fail.  I ended up trying to push my way upsteam in an overly crowded area to the female baggage drop which was, of course, at the very back.  Without meaning to offend, I found the Italian men very rude.  There was pushing and shoving and elbows in the face, no chivalry here!

It wasn’t a great start, I was stressed.  Of course when I finally managed to get rid of my bag I had to fight my way back down again, the clock was ticking and I couldn’t start a marathon without going to the toilet first!

Mr New Balance showed up for race day…

image

The next fail was the lack of signs and toilets – it looked like there were just 8 portaloos and there was no systematic queuing.  I waited for maybe 15 minutes in torrential rain (hail at one point) before coming to the conclusion I would miss the start if I waited any longer and I was no closer to the loo.

So I did what any self respecting athlete would do moments before the gun – I peed in a bush.  I met another woman doing the same, she didn’t understand a word of English but we understood each other!

I rushed off to the start area where there was more congestion and no way to get through to my start pen – there were only 4 but I was in Pen C and really didn’t want to be at the back of Pen D.  But I was.  Eventually we got to some railings that separated the start pens but no one was checking who went where and it was a chaotic free for all.  I got into Pen C, relieved, but my relief didn’t last when I realised all the pens merged into one a few metres later and I was no better off than I was before. CHAOS, ARRGHHHHHHH

image

As soon as I got over the start line I was weaving and weaving in and out of people ‘scusi’, ‘excuse me’, ‘pardon’, ‘MOVE’ .  By this point I gave up and just started shoving my way through which was met by some angry shouts in Italian. Don’t have a clue what they were saying but it probably wasn’t pleasant.  Whatever.

All my early miles were 20-25 seconds slower than I wanted them to be and by mile 7 I realised I wouldn’t be able to make the time back.  I think at that point I mentally gave up.  I was delighted to bump into Ruth who was full of positivity, I thought about trying to keep up with her but, mentally I was out of the game and she sped off.  I knew she would nail it.

The route was pretty awesome.  Starting near the Colosseum the course wound round the city and along the river taking in temples and churches, passing St Peters Square and the Vatican, through Piazza Navona, round Piazza del Popolo, past the Spanish Steps and back towards the Altar of the Fatherland (which is a spectacular if controversial monument) and the Colosseum to take you to the finish line. There’s plenty to look at!

image

There were cobbles, but I was prepared for that and they weren’t really that noticeable for the most part, even in the wet.  There were also some inclines but they were tolerable and the declines were enjoyable.

The water stations were a disaster.  There was no water! At least no water readily available, you had to grab a cup and wait for someone to slosh a bit of water in – they weren’t generous with it either, were they rationing water on race day?!  I dread to think how much worse it would have been on a warmer day.

There was Gatorade and food stations with oranges, bananas and biscuits as well as some other bits.  I didn’t have any food but Paul had a full on picnic…he still beat me by some way!

Through a combination of a chaotic start, slow early miles, lack of organised water stations and generally feeling not quite right (I realised too late this was caffeine withdrawal, my usual 10 cuppas a day had been reduced to none…error!) I finished in a disappointing 4.04.

I got a lift when a group of British people shouted ‘go on the Brits, go on Katherine’, and James shouted at me with his little daughter Jessica at 36k. I’ll also never forget the look on Nathan’s face when he saw me walking at 37k – a combination of pity and errr, what are you doing?!  ‘Just 5k, just 5k‘, he said.  But 5k seemed so far…

Some thoughts I had whilst I was running:

  • Get out of my way
  • Italian men are rude
  • I’m never running a marathon ever again
  • Maybe I’ll give it one last shot in Amsterdam
  • Ooooo look at that!
  • I’m going to pull out
  • No, I really really want that medal
  • Oooo look at the pretty big building
  • Oh good, it’s raining again
  • Why do the Italians think a shot of water will get me through the next 5k?
  • I wonder what that building is…
  • Why are there twice as many sponges as cups of water?
  • I’ve just put my entire foot in a puddle, perfect
  • Does the Pope live there?
  • I’m embarrassingly uneducated
  • I’ve just been overtaken by a man with a distinctive limp
  • Whhhaaaaaaaa
  • I’m never running a marathon ever again…

As I rounded the corner from the Altar of the Fatherland I saw what could be the finish.  However, my Garmin was well over 26.2 and I didn’t want to get my hopes up, from the experience I’d had so far it could be a decoy!  Luckily it wasn’t.

image

Marathon number 5, and my 3rd international, was completed.  Job done, now where’s that medal!!

The post race goody bags, which contained all the drinks, was just as chaotic as everything else.  Pushing, shoving, elbowing.  Frankfurt may only have had cups of water at the finish but at least there was plenty of it and I didn’t have to fight!  I was ready to get out – it was a shame I didn’t see any of my friends at the end, especially as Katherine had run a similar time, if I had known we could have run together.

Anyway, I made it back to the hotel for a shower and a snooze then headed out for dinner and celebrations.

image   image

The Rome Marathon is a beautiful course in a beautiful city but it’s not well organised.  As long as you go expecting that, and maybe even taking your own water, you should enjoy it.  I really do love Rome.

What did I learn from this marathon?  The Italians are not good at organising events but they are awesome at making ice cream.  I tried 9 different flavours.  Well, when in Rome…

image