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Thames Meander Marathon - Sophie Barnard

I entered the Thames Meander Marathon with some very specific goals. I wanted low key with an interesting course but most of all, I wanted to be in a better position to train for London having done it, than if I hadn’t. That meant getting to the start line, finishing uninjured and not getting sucked into chasing a time.

Goal #1 Get to the Start Line.

I have missed so many races through injury. I trained for London 2020 and like everyone else, I was disappointed that it was cancelled; though truthfully, I had injuries that were getting worse, and I probably wouldn’t have made it to the start. This time, taper in sight, it was all going smoothly until an enthusiastic Friday night ceilidh almost scuppered everything. Mid dance, an enormous bloke spun me so hard I received whiplash in my arm, wrenching my shoulder, chest and back.

But I am a devotee of cross training. Not only do I think it helped me avoid (running based) injuries, but I was easily able to transfer all my training to the gym. Not ideal at this point in the schedule but at least I could replace my 2hr runs with the stair treadmill and elliptical. (I got through a lot of police dramas.) I had excellent treatment from Ben and felt confident the start line was mine, though I nearly fell down the stairs at 5:30am on race morning.

Goal #2 Finish the Race Uninjured.

Hooray, so far, nothing to report. The course is lovely, along the Thames tow path from Kingston Upon Thames to Barnes and back again and although it’s flat, there’s much more trail than I expected. The paths are stony, uneven, muddy and in places, busy with dog walkers, local runners and rowing crews. Miraculously, I didn’t turn an ankle, strain a calf or twist a knee. Quite a new experience. Hooray too, for my expert supporters. Jen A and Sarah B darted to and fro linking up loops in the Thames to see me and cheer. It felt wonderful.

Goal #3 Never Mind the Time.(ish)

Training for 3:30 seemed within my abilities but I constantly reminded myself of my goal when I thought I should be aiming for a faster time. Though, I admit, I did peek at past results and realised that with a fair wind I might get a podium place.

‘Don’t go off too fast, don’t go off too fast, don’t go off too fast’. Thanks Susan. On pain of ex-communication from the club by Jen and Susan, I tried my very best to not go off too fast. And I didn’t, but even so, it started to hurt much earlier than I expected; far sooner and very differently than in any 30k training run, but there we go…race day is never simple. Good God it hurt, for so long. I think Kipchoge said marathon pain is like putting your hand in boiling water and keeping it there. I marvel with new appreciation at all those, of all abilities, who dig deep in their marathon effort.

I had chipped away at the pack but at 40k I was fading. Then I saw the woman who had overtaken me at about 8k and she was slowing down…stopping…starting again.

Right, I’ll have you. Amazing what you can find in the tank and I equalled my fastest km. I almost apologised, I’m a guilt-ridden competitor but it turns out she was an incognito Ealing Eagle! Imagine if I hadn’t dug deep!

So, there we are. Finally, I’m able to join the marathon gang. I’m so happy with the goals I set and that I achieved them. I loved the day, loved the run and can’t wait to crack on with London.


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