Race recap: Richmond Marathon
Marathon number SIX is mine! And it certainly wasn't an easy journey....
After London Marathon this year, I went from that most amazing high to some rather low lows. I felt tired but good in the weeks after London and had events quite soon after (Darkstar 7 and Gatwick Half) and although mentally quite marathon fatigued, felt physically ready to start training for Richmond four weeks after London. But yeah...I'm not sure things could have gone much worse!
I felt like I was in trouble on the very first run of the training block (NOT a good start) which quite nasty knee pain. It plagued me for weeks, I tried and failed on so many runs to get going and get through them unscathed, but it was just too painful. I'd rest for a bit, try again, go one step forward and two steps back. I knew soon on that my dreams of a sub 3:15 marathon were never going to happen but it soon become a case of I just wanted to FINISH Richmond Marathon and not even care about how long it took.. it was a very tough time.
Fast forward a few weeks and a successful Wakehurst Willow (with a course PB!) and I finally felt on the road to recovery. I enjoyed an amazing week of running in France and Andorra and came back home raring to go and train as best as possible in the final 6 or so weeks ahead of Richmond. Knee was feeling fine...and then, the shin splints started.
Doctors, physios, sports massages, and an air of negativity loomed over me, but when I finally decided with 3 weeks to go that I was definitely going to run, I actually felt better. No more ifs and buts, just bloody do it.
I was excited about running in Richmond again, having lived and worked nearby for over 10 years (before escaping London!!) and knew the route well from having done the half a few times. We drove up, I hydrated like crazy, had a shake-out 2 mile run then a little swim and sauna in the hotel before turning my attention to the CARBS.
As the marathon start time was 8am I had the glorious prospect of a 4:45am alarm ahead of me, but it all added to the excitement. I feel like I've got my marathon fuelling down to a fine art now, so after the alarm went off I shot out of bed and straight to two Chia Charge bars, Science in Sport Beta Fuel, coffee (obviously), two bananas, electrolytes and as much water as I can get down me. Then it was time for the short walk to Kew Gardens..
After a little one mile warm up and THREE toilet breaks (got to be prepared!!), it was time for the fun to begin.
I knew I was no where near PB condition (my PB at London was 3:25), but my vague goal was a sub 4 and to start as brightly as possible. I set off well and loved the almost 4 miles around Kew Gardens - it really helped me settle in, get a feel for things and by the time we exited and went onto the Thames towpath we'd got miles under our belt and were potentially into a bit of a rhythm.
I was so pleased with these early miles - managing to stay under 8 minute mile pace and working through my shin splint soreness as best as I could. I had my usual combo of Maurten and Science in Sport gels and took my first one at mile 5. The whole course was pretty much flat as a pancake, and the route down through Richmond really is beautiful. So far so good. Until mile 9.
I felt the first squeaks of knee pain and knew the jig was probably up..I was delighted to go through half way in 1:41 (exactly the same time as London!!) but the soreness in my knee was progressively getting worse and with that restricting my movement. There were a lot of hard miles to come, let me tell you..
By Hampton Court the crowds were pretty sparse and a lot of other runners were starting to pass me so it was time to dig as deep as I could. I don't normally listen to anything when I race anymore but relied heavily on music just to stay positive, especially during those miles where I'd been running for so long and had, well, bloody ages still to go.
Back through Kingston at the mile 19 mark was the start of the toughest point in the race and were a lot of doubts were creeping in. My poor pace was hovering around the 9:30-10 minute per mile mark (a far cry from the 7:50's of the early miles) and it was such a hot day. It made me realise just how electric and special the crowds at London are - whereas at Richmond you are weaving in and out of people walking their dog or having a casual Sunday bike ride. Quite the contrast!
At about mile 22/23 the marathon runners merge with the half runners and I found this an extra challenge - I'd been trotting along trying to keep with my fellow marathoners, so the change of tempo combined with much more runners to contend with did make me lose rhythm (or whatever rhythm I had left at that point!) But with that came the crowds, loads of people lining the river front and that special atmosphere that makes a marathon what it was. At mile 25, I knew there was a short bit of towpath left before the finishing straight in the park and I could finally relax, safe in the knowledge that yes, I was going to finish this.
I soaked up every single bit of that long finish straight, cheering and punching the air. Yes, my leg was kiiiiilling me, but I was finishing my second marathon of the year, something I had never done in my life before, and not only that, I was going to get a sub 3:45 to boot.
Done in 3:44. I EARNED that, blood sweat and tears and I couldn't have been more proud.
As soon as I stopped running, I just started to cry (of course I did, I'm such a cryer), maybe it was relief, maybe it was shock to have done so well, maybe it was to have proved so many people wrong. But I soon cheered up when I got my lovely bling and my pint of Pride.
The after-party in the park was amazing. The weather was fantastic, we were high on endorphins (or was that said beer) and the live music was SO GOOD. We cheered on the other runners coming in, had more beer and it just felt like such a special day.
I followed my gut with this marathon and I feel like this was the right thing for me. Almost two weeks on and my knee has settled and I'm back to my rehab routine. Could I have benefited from no marathons and more rest? Maybe. But I know to miss this would have made me miserable, so I know I made the right choice.
I'd love to be back at Richmond one day - it has PB written ALL OVER IT and I have unfinished business...