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Does anyone enjoy mile 24?

It’s a day and an event like no other, extraordinary in every way; preparation, noise, support, London, participation, excitement, pain, emotion…

As far as the run went, I’ll just say that mile one was a joy, mile 24 was pretty heavy going but the end was a fantasy moment. As I came down Birdcage Walk, the pedestrian crossing funnel swung over to the left, just in front of me, so for 40 metres I lived the dream of leading 40,000 runners. I was laughing, the crowd was laughing with me (at me?). I’ll spare you mile by mile but here are some thoughts I've had since then…

Sophie running past Big Ben

What went well?

For once, I managed to get both quality and quantity into my training block. Every week had a good mix of pace and distance including strides or hills. And of course one session of cross training. And core and heavy weights. I felt strong throughout so I think it worked.

My tag line could be ‘Never knowingly under-fuelled but marathon fuelling is different and I’ve not got it quite right in the past. Days of good carb loading and honey for the race, I started well-fuelled, happy and relaxed. Although I wasn’t super confident about achieving my A goal, I was very confident of a PB.

My mantra worked - what can I do to help myself? Whether that was checking my form by lifting up and keeping light or thinking of happy places, tricking the brain into thinking that everything is ok, even for a second, can break a downward spiral of pain and exhaustion (sorry, why do we do this?). It was the happiest marathon I’ve done and almost all of my smiling was genuine.

Best Bits

I realise that I love the training process. When I look at a plan and see what I’m expected to do in three months time, it’s difficult to believe that I can do it. I’m in awe of the magic that happens - that my body has adapted and can now do something that a few months ago was impossible.

But on the day, I love travelling to the start with teammates; I love it that within the phenomenal crowds, someone you don’t know calls out your name and you make eye contact and smile at each other. It’s an incredible moment of connection. Of course I love seeing family and all the QPH supporters. It’s humbling that people come out and wait for hours to help us believe we can do it. (I’m going to put my slow mile 24 down to waving at so many people!). This year, friends I hadn't seen for about 15 years called out to me. My heart almost burst. The tube home, wrapped in foil and wishing I’d brought a zimmer frame, is another opportunity to bask in more clapping and cheering from strangers who don’t care what time I got, they are in awe of anyone who takes part.

Seeing Georgia at mile 18:

Sophie smiling while running

Least Best Bits

Taper and recovery - I really struggle with both. We all know that the end of the run is painful. You just have to bite down and decide how much you want it. But taper really throws me. I should be relaxed and enjoying every run where neither pace nor distance is challenging but in fact, I lose motivation and focus very quickly. While recovery really tests my patience. Writing this, 16 days later, my muscles feel almost fully recovered but my whole system is still not right and once or twice I’ve over done it and felt nerve-achy afterwards. I know it will take me weeks to fully recover and at the moment, feeling frustrated, it feels like quite a high price to pay for one run…‘Patience grasshopper’

What would I do differently?

In general, I pride myself on good pacing but it just didn’t quite happen this time. I was very up and down and too many times, after running behind someone for a while thought, “you’re starting to annoy me, I’ll just get you out of the way”. It was arrogant to assume they were in my way, I should have tucked in and used them to my advantage. I haven’t used an official pacer before, but I might give it a go at the next big race and see how it feels.

However, I will definitely hang back from annoying people waving their arms around. How many bloody photos does this woman need!!!

A reel of 9 photos with the same woman waving her arms around in front of Sophie

Though in the end, if you can’t beat them, join them:

Sophie waving her arms around as she crosses Tower Bridge

What did I learn?

1. I ought to follow a training plan more often as I respond well to the routine and discipline. But for shorter distances!

2. It’s neither my favourite distance nor one that best suits my abilities but I love the London Marathon and while I’m able to take part, I will.   

3. Although I’ve often set myself ambitious targets, I’ve mostly not quite managed them but I’ve been confident in, and happy with, a ‘there or there abouts’ time. I’m not going to let missing my time by a few seconds or even minutes devalue 18 weeks of training.

4. Maybe don’t set such ambitious targets. On the other hand, I find it motivating and don’t mind if I don’t quite get it.

5. Maranoia is real. This time it was entirely in my feet; toenails suddenly inflamed, pressure points flaring up, lacing impossible to get just right. #itwillbeok

Thank you to everyone who cheered, screamed, rang bells and waited and waited and waited. I know that every single person who ran, needed you there.


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