The first time I’d stood nervously at the start of a race since primary school sports day was in October 2008 for the Wimbledon 10K. I’d started running just six months earliers, first run/walk-ing on a treadmill and then building up to running a mile without stopping outside.
The furthest I’d run when I lined up for the start of that first 10K was 5 miles, and me and my friend Ros were both concerned about whether we’d make it up Wimbledon Hill in one piece. Two things stand out from that day: being elated at finishing in under an hour (57:17) and thinking ‘there’s no way I’ll ever be able to run an extra 20 miles and do marathon’.
But in April 2010 I was doing exactly that when I completed the first of the four marathons I’ve done to date. At Brighton Marathon I had no goal other than to finish having enjoyed it and wanting to do another. If pressed for a time that I thought I’d finish in I’d say ‘under 5 hours would be nice’. So when I finished in 4 hours 31 mins I was delighted.
It took 18 months for me to find my way to the start of another marathon. I headed to Nottingham for the Robin Hood Marathon in September 2011, but this time I knew what number I wanted to see on the clock. I was chasing a sub-4 time but it wasn’t to be. Lack of hill training and the weather on the day conspired to see me struggling home in 4:17 – a PB by 14 minutes but not what I’d wanted.
The disappointment of Nottingham played on my mind this spring as I trained for my third and fourth marathons. I returned to Brighton Marathon in 2012 with my friend SportyGirl, agreeing that as I was running it as a training run I would pace her round for a sub4:30 time. Running with a friend at an easier pace allowed me to enjoy the marathon experience and push aside bad memories of Nottingham.
Six weeks later I was running the Edinburgh Marathon. My last long run had gone as good as I could have hoped (18 miles at 8:45) other than an Achilles strain in the last mile. I’d adopted an extreme taper to get me to the start line fixed and ready to go and with fellow blogger K’s words ‘SUB-4 OR BUST’ ringing in my ears I was ready to go. This time the story finished with a happy ending: I got my sub-4. Finally marathon running made sense. Now… what next?