19 May 2013

395.63 - 437.82KM: Revenge is a Vulture (North Norfolk Marathon)

Today I ran my second marathon of the year (and ever) and took a big step closer to my 1000km target. Throughout this year I have constantly referred to the London Marathon as my first ever marathon, although that is not technically correct. It was the first marathon I have ever completed, but was actually my second attempt having entered the inaugural North Norfolk Marathon last year, but quit about 3/4s of the way round. This year was about retribution, no matter how much I may want to, quitting was never an option and I was getting over that finish line on all fours if necessary.

So what happened last year and what was I going to do to prevent it happening again?

Last year I didn’t so much as hit the wall, rather I ran into it face first and knocked myself to the ground. Going into last year’s race I was quite simply nowhere near ready enough. In the build-up to the race I was suffering numerous niggling injuries and in my training I hadn’t ran further than 14 miles so I was almost asking my body to do double what it was used to. As soon as I reached the 14 mile mark this lack of preparation began to show and I began to struggle hard, all the niggles come back and a long-standing hip injury I thought I had seen the back off returned at the worst possible moment.

When the time came to ask my body whether it was going to ‘man up’ or quit, it quit, each step became increasingly difficult and I was soon struggling to even plant my foot on the ground. So I took the easy option, phoned my brother, who was there watching me, and at the 18 mile mark I stopped. I regretted it instantly, but at the time I felt it was my only option.

In a way now I am kind of grateful that I did, it has made me a much more determined runner and when my body asks me if I want to quit, I say ‘Not today’.

Today was always going to be one of the most difficult races of the year, not just because of the distance but also the course. Described as multi-terrain, the route takes you from Holkham Hall, through country tracks and woodland, into Wells-next-to-Sea and then back towards Holkham before a mile and a half across the undulating, uneven grounds of Holkham Hall, and then back round again for another lap. Added to that was the stark contrast in atmosphere between today and in London and the fact that large sections of the run would be spent running by myself rather than with several hundred people. I knew I could run the distance, but all these elements combined to make it a much, much tougher run both physically and mentally than in London.

To avoid crashing out in a similar fashion to last year I had no intention of running for any particular time, it simply wasn't worth it. I had a rough target of finishing inside 4 hours 30, but today was more about getting to the finish line and making amends for last year.  I set off aiming to start running at about 8 minute miles but I had no intention of checking my watch at any stage, I would allow my body to dictate the pace it was comfortable running at rather than being pressured by numbers on a screen.

Once again I hit the magical 20 mile mark and bad things started to happen. I had struggled with the heat throughout the race and despite grabbing as much water as I could I still felt massively dehydrated. This then had the knock on effect of me missing a planned time to take a gel. I struggled on, almost counting down every metre until I would cross then line and the pain, for the most part, would stop. I slowed to a very slow run, I could see runners in the distance alternating between running and walking, and as much as I tried I could never catch them. Each step became a victory, as long as I could keep moving I was alright, the temptation to stop and walk had to be batted away numerous times, I felt I owed it to myself and to Jenny not to. Anyway, the faster I got to the finish line the sooner the pain would stop.

The last couple of miles were a struggle, as I stumbled up the hill towards Holkham Hall I knew that the most difficult mile was still to come. I'm not sure how long it took me, but it felt like a week had passed from entering the grounds to crossing the line. In truth it would probably have been quicker had I opted to walk, but somehow with the finish line in sight and less than 50 metres away my body saw a way out and I found enough left to manage what felt like a sprint finish but probably looked more like a comedic shuffle.
I crossed the line, grabbed my medal and goody bag and almost immediately laid down on the ground. It was over. What was potentially the most challenging run of this year was over, I had made it to the end even if it really, really hurt.

The past few weeks have been a bit of a struggle emotionally, Jenny and myself feel we may have found an answer to her persistent health issues, but at the moment we can’t afford for her to take the necessary steps towards the cure. For those wondering, it is highly likely that she is suffering from Red Skin Syndrome, where her body has become addicted to the endless amount of steroid creams that she has applied throughout the years after being prescribed them from doctors. There are numerous cases online of people whose resemblance to Jenny’s health is remarkable, who have gone cold turkey on the use of steroid creams and after a long, brutal battle have come through the other end ‘cured’. You can read more about Jenny’s thoughts on this diagnosis here.

Yesterday I stumbled across a blog post from a fellow eczema sufferer caregiver, who wrote a piece on the struggles of caring for someone with a chronic illness. You can find this post, alongside some of my own thoughts, here. I am not sharing this post in an attempt to gain sympathy, but rather to highlight areas that often go unconsidered.

Next weekend I do not have a race lined up, but will still be running another 21.13kms towards my target. I will however be taking advantage of the (relatively) free weekend by hosting a fundraising Bake Sale in Lincoln on the Saturday. So this week I’ll very much be putting my feet up and having a slice of cake (or six).

Please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can.


Distance: 42.19 km | 26.22 miles
Time: 04:19:15
Average Pace: 06:16 min/km | 09:50 min/mi
Playlist: Stormwarrior
Goody Bag: Water Bottle, Electrolyte Powder and Electrolyte tablets.


View my run:

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