I love running. I'm not fast, but with my years of hillwalking and cycling I have stamina and can keep plodding on for hours - injury permitting. And that dear reader is my downfall, no matter how careful I am about increasing distances slowly, stretching very well after running, and cross-training, I am rather prone to running injuries.
This means my route from complete beginner runner to even thinking about a marathon has taken two years. Local to me, here in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland, we have a small (~3000), but internationally-supported marathon, Baxters Loch Ness Marathon, run as part of the Baxters Festival of Running. I did the 5K Fun Run in 2012 just after completing C25K, and the 10K last year. I loved the family-fun atmosphere during these races and decided to go for the Big One - the marathon - this year.
Training started well during the early summer, with lovely warm mornings for tempo , easy and intervals runs. I tended to do my long slow run mid-morning, so hubby could accompany me on his mountain bike. These runs stepped up in length as the temperatures soared and I had hours of slogging along in 25°C heat (hot for me, as I prefer cool), drinking 2+ litres of water. Hard work, but good fun.
I was deliberately running about 3 weeks ahead of my training timetable to allow for missing some long runs the weeks were we away in Glasgow watching the Commonwealth Games. Which was just as well as at the end of August I developed an injury in my popliteus muscle. No, I'd never heard of it either, but it a wee muscle behind your knee attached to the calf muscles. After several visits to my sports physio, the last of which was last Thursday, I did a wee 'test run' on Friday and it was ok, so I decided I'd give the marathon a bash.
This is a linear event, running along the minor single-track roads on the south side of Loch Ness. My son Craig (who has done this marathon twice before (but is mainly a hillrunner) and I joined the ~3000 runners to be transported in a fleet of buses to the start line on a moorland hillside in the middle of nowhere.
Luckily it wasn't raining, although it was a cold wind and I, like most others, held onto my trousers and top until the 15 minute deadline for putting our bags into the baggage lorries. I soon warmed up as soon as we set off, as we were in the trees, and out of the wind, and starting on a decline so went off pretty fast. I'd started at the back of the 4:30 group, and we all kept up what felt like a fairly relaxed pace, but was really was too fast. From my Garmin stats, I see we did 10K in 1:05. I walked through the drinks stations (which I've never done in other races) and completed the HM distance in a better paced time at 2:18. After that is was all downhill. No, not the route, as there is a killer hill at mile 18, but my pace. I took longer walk breaks at the drinks and walked the hill, but still felt generally OK. However, at mile 22 my popliteus suddenly shouted to me and sent a pain radiating down my calf and my shin. Ouch! I actually pulled up short with the intense rush of pain, and tried to stretch it out... gently. The stretching didn't really help, so i popped a couple of Ibuprofen and walked on slowly until I felt capable of running very slowly onwards. I imagined my C25K running buddies running alongside me to keep me going. We entered the city at about 24 miles and for the final two miles had the cheers and words of encouragement from spectators to keep me plodding on. I completed the run, managing to run through the crowds at the final km with a resemblance of a smile and not a grimace and got my first marathon medal!
I was about 30 mins slower than I'd hoped for, but still came 86th out of 124 in the F50 category.
Today *everything* hurts, but that's to be expected since I ran 42km, after 4 weeks on the injury bench during which time when I'd only run about 15km. I hope a rest from running will be enough to allow my knee/calf to recover, rather than visiting my physio (she's on holiday for 3 weeks anyway), and I'm in no rush to start training again.
~The photo is thanks to my hubby. As ever, he did a brilliant job of researching the route in advance, checking for closed roads, and finding other roads that would take him to junctions to watch us pass. This picture is from about mile 5. Another couple of photos on my Flickr account here: flickr.com/photos/swan-scot/