So often, you will finish a race with a feeling that you could have done better. Looking back on yesterday’s London Marathon, I can honestly say that I couldn’t have given much more. And this is quite something for me as I tend to be my harshest critic. I had aimed to finish in roughly 2 hours and 35 minutes and ended up finishing just outside in 2:36:04. Boom!
In this blog I will share my account of the race and then some tips for those running long distances with Crohn’s and other digestive conditions. I’ll also publish a vlog on carb loading which will be coming out shortly.
Fairly aggressive carb loading in the three days preceding the marathon, meant I was well fuelled on the day. Although I did my best to make things difficult by leaving my carb gels at home – thanks to the family for bringing these to Waterloo for me at an early hour!
Getting to the start
I got to the start area with out about 35mins to spare which gave me time to warm up for half an hour, finish off my sports Lucozade, take some caffeine pills and visit the portaloo one last time to avoid any mid-race disasters! I managed to do a great warm up – I’ve learnt that a more aggressive warm up is best to get your mind and body ready. That way the start of the race isn’t such a rude awakening. But I found myself on the toilet with 10mins to go until race start oblivious to the fact that the whole Club Championship start had assembled and was waiting for the gun! I came out to find everyone gone from the enclosure and actually I was quite lucky to find my place as they were starting to let the masses merge in. Anyway, I got there and in time for the race start.
The plan was always to run the first 30km at around 5’54/mile and then hope to up the pace from that point. In the early stages, myself and some other Club Championship runners were joined by a man dressed as a carrot. There’s something mildly irritating about feeling like you’re running hard after a long season of training, in what is carefully chosen, aerodynamic gear to find yourself being equally matched by a guy in a carrot suit! That said, fair play to him for holding the pace for so long.
Aside some soreness in the calves for the first seven miles, I settled into a good rhythm. If you ever do a marathon (or even a half for that matter) I highly advise asking as many people as are willing to come and support you on the day. I was very fortunate to have a lot of support throughout. And first this came in the friendly form of my triathlon team mate Rebecca six miles in. It’s important to look good when you’re passing someone you know so this usually works quite favourably, especially if you need buoying.
And again on mile 11 I was greeted by my family (and an air horn my brother had commandeered!). Just before mile 18 where I was expecting to see another group of my family, I found it slightly harder to maintain my current pace. The decision at this point, especially with so long to go is whether to fight harder to keep the pace or allow myself to drop off a little to regain some energy in the hope of picking up the pace later. I’ve tended to find this is the start of a slippery slope as although you can recover from a drop in pace, the longer you settle in a lower gear, the harder it is to shift up later. So I opted with fighting a bit harder to retain 2hr 35 finish pace.
I got a great boost from seeing the family at this point and then enjoyed the next three miles. Again at mile 21, things started to get tough. Like before, I was wondering whether with five miles to go I was too far out still to really dig deep in case my body might not let me down dramatically. This was uncharted territory after all! But I’ve noticed previously, that even though the thought of picking up your pace when you’re already struggling feels terrible, that feeling doesn’t last forever. And you can go up a gear and the pain settles tells me that so much of this running malarkey is in the mind.
The marathon begins here
Around the same time as I was having internal battles, a chap who I met out at Berlin Marathon last year overtook me. This was a fight or flight moment. I could either allow this to contribute to a drop in pace, or decide to do what I could to keep up or at least retain the gap to him. Thankfully I chose the latter. And after losing about a minute in time between 34th and 38th km, I was motoring again for the final 4.2km. Towards the end, I had three excellent groups of support to help me on my way including my housemates brandishing a banner with expletives that I couldn’t possible mention in this blog!
And I crossed the line in 2hr 36m 04s. With hindsight, I’m sure I could have fought harder where I had lost that minute, but at that moment I didn’t know whether I would have been running to protect 2hr 35 with a serious risk of not finishing at all, so a 2hr 36 finish rather than no finish seemed good to me!
Really pleased to knock off over five minutes from my personal best. If I were to list the top five reasons behind how well this went I would say 1) training performances (under the watchful eye of a good coach) 2) bagels/aggressive carb loading 3) being relaxed on the day or as much as possible 4) a sensible race strategy and 5) not having to stop to use a toilet.
I used the toilet a number of times before the start and have recently switched from coffee to caffeine tablets – (for performance effects) which are kinder to the digestive system. I think this made a big difference!
Congratulations to everyone who ran the marathon. And I hoped some of you who didn’t are inspired to think about entering. If in doubt, just enter one and think about it later!!
Some tips for those running longer distances who have Crohn’s, colitis or other digestive issues
- Eat early the night before the race (around 6pm) which gives your food plenty of time to digest.
- Try not to eat breakfast any closer than within three hours of the start of the race and don’t eat any more than you have done before a long run before.
- Make sure you go to the toilet a few times on the morning. And if you are doing a warm-up, you might want to go again as exercise can get the system working.
- If you choose to have tea, coffee or another caffeinated hot drink, I would recommend switching to caffeine tablets which are kinder to your innards.
- Use Imodium if you are used to taking it but be careful to keep well hydrated.
- There are plenty of portaloos along the course of most marathons so you won’t get caught short (but think about carrying spare toilet roll with you!).