Right on Hereford, left on Boylston ...



 You see this everywhere in Boston - "Right on Hereford, left on Bolyston". The final directions of the Boston marathon. I've never quite understood why it has such resonance - I mean, no one ever says "right on Birdcage Walk, left on the Mall." I know now. 

Partly, it's because it's literally the only two turns in the ENTIRE race. I swear to god I'd actually forgotten how to turn by that point. I laugh about only being able to turn left after epic track sessions, but running in a literal straight line for 26 odd miles is quite something. But mostly, for me, it was a case of finally, finally, reaching that iconic end of a very very very long race. 

26.2 miles is always hard, but some times it really decides to kick you in the teeth. I packed for Boston when the forecast was "freezing, rainy, headwind". Instead I died a slow death by humidity and ended up with sunburn. Of all the things I expected, that was not one!

I knew going into the race that it was going to be a bit iffy - my training has been consistent yet weirdly patchy - and I'd decided beforehand that if running hard felt, well, too hard, I'd just ease back and enjoy it. But easing back and enjoying still leaves you with a lot of road to run and a lot of hills to go up and down. And boy, they aren't kidding about those Boston hills. All the people who told me: "It's not the ups, it's the downs" were spot on. Heartbreak Hill was fine - on the way up at least. You'd think a roll in to the finish with a couple more downhills in the last few miles would be ace. You'd be wrong, or so your quads tell you. So it was, in truth, an epic sufferfest, with quite a few strategic (hey, if you call them strategic it sounds better, ok?) walk breaks and some lovely chats along the way. 

When I'd got my number at the Expo a few days ago, I also was given another sort of bib on my back, reading "I'm going for my sixth star today". This turned out to be a genius move: I got so many congratulations and "nice works!" from fellow runners that it really kept me going. That, and the thought of that huge medal waiting for me. And about 345346 consecutive high fives from the girls of the famous Wellesley College "scream tunnel". And the watermelon popsicle from a very cute little girl. And the wedge of orange from another. 

And so finally, there I was, I'd turned left on Boylston. Though it turns out you've still got a very long way - either 325645m or about 1km, but I think the former feels more like it - to go. I managed to speed up from snail deathmarch pace to "at least respectable jog" for the last few hundred metres. Crossed the line, got my medal, went to the Six Star finisher bit and found my husband waiting for me to present me with it. All just a little bit emotional.

And then beer, pizza, cake (a free cupcake for all marathon finishers from a bakery, but also a muffin, because little cupcake just wasn't going to cut it) and bed. And amazingly, I actually slept last night, for the first time after a marathon that I can remember. Perhaps my walk break strategy (ho ho) did protect my legs a little after all. They are sore as anything today - my quads feel like they had a fight with a truck - but hopefully nothing more than DOMs. 

So... over to you. Sorry for the belated blog, but you know, I was a bit busy yesterday ... 



Comments

  1. Congratulations Kate! Nice to have clocked up the 6th major marathon. Now go and enjoy the city, it's lovely!

    I almost have forgotten the weekend running, 11 miles, tiredly. Not much to get excited about. However, this morning, after a lot of conversation with fellow bloggers, I got out to do 65 minutes above race pace. The first two miles were nice and steady but then mile three was 7.58 and I though, oh this is good, mile 4 was 8.04, but that was with having to open and close gates, mile 5 was 7.36, stupidly fast for me. Then a nice ease off for the final 3 miles, but still brought me home in a fast time. Not sure I can believe it! It helped that Mrs B agreed to meet me at a Starbucks, saving me the mind numbing boredom of a circular or out and back run. Thanks RGG, Asta, KYD & MRM, you really, really helped this morning.

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    1. Well done for getting out Pete. I hope you're periodically looking back on your training to see how far you've come.

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    2. Funnily ruby, I'm not as fast running, swimming or cycling as I used to be. But, and it's a big but, I'm very happy with the speeds and distances I'm covering in all the three disciplines. It does feel like I've become much stronger with this training plan, and able to endure more pain!

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    3. Your training has been nothing short of epic BH Pete. I have been monitoring from afar and I take my cap off to you. Here’s hoping for a fruitful reward at the end of it all!

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  2. Well done Kate - six majors is very exciting. Boston sounds brutal I have to say - three of my clubmates ran it and only one of them seemed to hold it together in the final miles. The speediest one still managed to dip in under 3 hours though, which is astonishing (and speaking of which - Jeet, show yourself and take all the glory!)

    My long run was on Friday and it was 10 miles, which is the furthest I've done since injury put pay to my Spring marathon ambitions. It felt great though - was supposed to be 'easy', but my body seems to have forgotten what 'easy' means and it was on average a speedier pace that I would normally run a long one. But hey, it felt good so I'm not complaining! Sunday I spent tracking various people doing Brighton - the one I was supposed to be at. It was great to see them all doing so well - shout out to KYD but she'll be along to tell the story herself I'm sure.

    Now I'm just looking at autumn possibilities: Chester and York are on the list, but coming up on the outside is Amsterdam which I'm quite keen on - anyone done it?

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    1. Not done Amsterdam myself but heard only positive things about the race from those who have.

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    2. I ran Amsterdam in 2015 - it's nice and flat (the only noticeable climb is an underpass around 22 miles). Apparently there is a slightly dull part of the course just after leaving the Amstel river (I missed this I was focused on keeping up with the person in front at the time). The start and finish were both in the Olympic stadium which was good - though try to get into the stadium in good time before the beginning - at one point I thought I wouldn't get in in time to take advantage of my start pen.

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    3. Thanks both. I've also heard lots of positives, and the flatness appeals! Good tip re. getting into the stadium DavID - I hate that kind of pre-race stress!

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    4. That was the most stressed I'd ever been going to a marathon. I'd assumed you could go into the stadium from any of the entrances, but found out after warming up outside the west side that the only entrance for non-elites was through the main entrance on the east side. I joined a queue of thousands trying to get in. Around 19 miles into the race I was passed by a runner flying along whose chip time was around 2:35 but his gun time was nearer 2:45.

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    5. DavID - that sounds almost as stressful as Kate's pre-Seville marathon being stuck in a lift! That still haunts me and I wasn't even there!

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    6. Your comeback from injury is starting to progress nicely RGG. Well done!

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  3. Well done Kate. Humidity would be an absolute killer for me I think.
    My running continues to go well as I taper down for Stirling marathon on the 28th.
    Only niggle is that my watch died! Warranty replacement agreed with garmin, they got the dead one today, so fingers crossed the replacement arrives in time.
    All I want is a battery that lasts 26.2 miles, and to be able to see lap pace and heart rate on the same screen. The old FR15 i kept hold of for emergencies won’t do either, but it’s there as a fallback. Not confident enough in my pacing to try and go by feel for my 1st marathon!

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  4. Well done Kate.

    If I had a bucket list and was good enough, Boston would definitely be on it but I don't and I'm not. Ho hum. Astonishing finish to the men's race and a remarkable run from Degefa on the women's side. Pleasing after a little bit of pre-race bickering that the sport turned out so well.

    Like Ruby, I am also on the comeback trail and had a weekend off so plenty of time to get stuff done. I managed just over 15k on my tod on Saturday (Junior Handsome claimed to be busy teething and Mrs Handsome said she was 8.5 months pregnant, excuses excuses) before some intervals Sunday. OrangeLaces, formerly of this parish, was pacing on the bike and no doubt brought out an extra few seconds.

    Anyway, well done to all those out and about, looking forward to reading plenty tales of heroism and beer this week.

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  5. Well done Kate, congratulations on completing the set!

    kyd - awesome work on the south coast on Sunday - 6th in age category - well done!

    leanmachine - top run in Boston - your last training block served you well yesterday, congratulations!

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    1. My own weekend's running - far less exciting than anything above^

      I did a spot of parkrun tourism on Saturday morning at Penrose, my second visit. I went out a little too quickly and suffered for it, getting passed after 4km. I was still happy with the time, just forgot how much a 5k can hurt :-)

      On Sunday I did my last long run ahead of London - 17 miles, the first 10 of which were quick, I tried to ease off in the remaining miles but barely succeeded, still running the route nearly 4 minutes quicker than I've run it before. The rest of my running this taper will be easy/recovery runs apart from one session and one dress rehearsal.

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    2. ... so that's a 3rd in age category ; )

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    3. I was waiting for that update kyd!

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    4. Thanks mate. Your training programme for the last few marathons served as some inspiration when I was developing my own programme for Boston.

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  6. Many congrats Kate - super effort and am in total awe of the super six...! I haven't done any of them...!

    And lots of bloggers have done marathons in last week - congrats to all - sorry about Strava/blog nickname confusion
    - kyd looking happy in Brighton
    - Jeet (big PB) and Rachael (running for 2!) in Boston
    - Pip/Spiller in Paris
    ... who did I miss...?

    Starting to plan the autumn - minded to do Maidenhead Half in September and Yorkshire in October. Excited!

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  7. The Brighton Marathon … was a game of two halves. I really enjoyed the first despite the up-hills (or inclines as they are more moderately referred to in PR material!) and the headwind, it didn’t seem so bad then, and the views out to sea were amazing with brilliant sunshine and blue skies! Then a pleasant enough descent into the town centre to the cheers and halfway point, I was going easy, holding back throughout but still comfortably maintaining a pace that would have seen a 3:20 – 3:30 finish.

    Just after the halfway point I felt the arches of my feet pull together, then my calves joined in, cramping and spasming and actually contorting my foot-strike! I knew then it was going to be a case of bloody managing the rest of the race, similar to London but thankfully without the heat. What an absolute pig. This meant frequent stretch stops and also having to actually stop to drink water, as trying to fashion a beak out of a small half full paper cup then get it down your neck whilst running is just comical, and I needed the hydration to help with the cramps!

    So into the second half which, cramps aside, has negatives of it’s own. It mainly consists of 2 long and dull switchbacks that seem endless and feel a bit soul destroying (but maybe it was just cos I wasn’t having fun at this point anyway), and then the final 8k heading east towards the finish line being in a full frontal headwind, made you feel like you were pulling a car through a cold wind tunnel. It will have cost all runners many minutes off their hard earned trained for times! I had given up stopping for stretching and water and just battled through, at one point being practically mowed down by the 3:30 pace bus and having the 3:30 balloon wallop me on the head and the side of the face several times as a final insult! I just went into resilience mode and ran as fast as I could (not fast) to the sodding finish line which took an age to present itself (I could see the pier just there, but it stayed ‘just there’ for bloody ages).

    I was surprised to make it over the line in 3:37:08, I honestly though it was closer to 4. The other thing was, my original chip time was clearly wrong as it was almost 3 minutes slower than the gun time, so I emailed the Chiptiming UK when the results were in and they’ve amended it now.

    And guess what, I was actually 3rd in Age Category!! Not bad for a 16,650 race : )

    I think that the reason many runners become addicted to marathons is that we’re always trying to find that elusive one where all the conditions are perfect and you run your A race. But then again, I bet they don’t stop after that either.

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    1. Great run and great result! I think I might have resorted to violence on someone or something had a pace balloon started smacking me around in those circumstances!

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    2. The pacer balloon! - that did make me laugh just now, but i’m sure i’d have been seething if it happened to me!

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    3. Good on you kyd. On Sunday I checked the wind conditions for Brighton and looked at the course, I decided then that the last 5 miles wasn't going to be fun for anybody. Made up for you though on you run and to get the timing company to realise their mistake.

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    4. Nice report kyd. Okay so that's something else to have handy then - a sharp pin - burst the bloody balloon.

      I thought the same about the switchbacks - actually in both halves of the route. It doesn't look the most imaginative...

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    5. Given that you'd trained less than you'd have liked to and then everything you had to deal with during the race, it was an incredibly impressive time kyd! I reckon many people might have given up when the cramp persisted. Really brilliant effort (and there's clearly far more there).

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    6. That's encouraging, thanks MRM!

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    7. So inspirational KYD!! You should be really proud, especially given the prep was not absolutely ideal. I need to harness some of your mental strength!!

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    8. You should enter Boston next year KYD - I think you’ve got a super quick marathon in your legs if you can manage that on minimal prep!

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    9. Wow. What an epic display of perseverance and strength, kyd! I am awed. Congratulations, even more so for the age group placing!

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  8. Flippin eck KYD, that sounds like a hell of a run! The pacer balloon wacking you in the face would probably have finished me off at that point - I'm not surprised you swore at the pacer. Although it did make me laugh reading it. Absolutely brilliant result though, with or without cramp. Although I hope I never get cramp during a marathon - sounds horrendous.

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    1. Oh man, why do these things never appear where I think they're going to appear? You know that was a reply to you KYD right?

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    2. Ha ha, thanks Ruby! I can see the funny side of the balloon fiasco now, it was a serious matter at the time! Pacer buses are ruthless, that's my first experience of being in the vicinity.

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  9. Congratulations on your 6 stars, Kate! That's such an amazing achievement!! If I can even qualify for Boston one day I'll be stoked, let alone collect the set. Your write up also reminds me to be proud of my one marathon. Some people throw them down so often it's easy to forget it's a serious distance and every one is a real achievement. What amazing races by the elites too. I have been collating a list of running people on twitter and they came through with the goods on Monday. Not as good as actually watching, but I was still on the edge of my seat.

    Is yours the infamous "Boston sunburn"?

    The centre of my running week was a mile (ok 1600m) time trial on the track on Thursday. My goal was to do 1:32 on the first lap, then 1:30, and then go for broke, hoping to at least match that 1:30 for each of the last two. I hit the first sub-goal... but got slower from there. I think I did the first 200m too quickly. My time was 6:23.

    The purpose of the exercise was really to test my fitness before starting a block of training that is more focused on shorter distances (shorter than the marathon!!), so I'm not too heartbroken about it.

    The main reason it does bother me is that I'm convinced my major weakness is pain tolerance. I was hoping that going into this having really drilled into my mind that I was going to have a short period of pain would make a bigger difference. I suppose the lesson is that sheer force of will isn't enough to boost that tolerance. I have some 400m reps ahead on the training schedule so maybe it's actually by throwing myself into those that I'll build mental toughness as well as those short-twitch muscle fibres.

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    1. New Balance 5th Avenue Mile. 8th September 2019, Go on. You know you want to! Asta might give some advice.

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    2. I guess those lap targets weren't significantly slower than when you were doing 400m intervals - with 90s recoveries - so, take out the recoveries and you're not going to be able to sustain it beyond 1 or 2 laps... ? Also, a mile TT really must have very specialist training requirements. Still a great effort though!

      Here's a, ahem, useful video on how to run a 5 min mile:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpClwXjDqro

      (Best bit is the coach at 1:50, trying to keep a straight face: "And why did you choose 5 minutes?)

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    3. I really enjoyed that video Paul. I was funny, but there are lots of serious pointers in it to getting faster.

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    4. 4.43, in 2015...during marathon training. Great race.

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    5. Running a mile all out is seriously difficult though a great fun thing to do as well. I wouldn't worry about the pain tolerance thing if you identified you started too fast - once that happens you've run off the cliff and it's only a matter of time until you realise, cartoon style, the ground is no longer there and plummet...

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  10. Well done to all this week's marathoners - some superb efforts!

    Got to admit, the Boston course is just so appealing, so iconic and the fact that it's tough just adds to that. Reading one of the course guides sends chills down your spine. To run it is one thing; to also get a PB there is something else - huge kudos to LM - bravo.

    I very much like the idea of courses that are point to point, direct line, such as Boston or Athens; or failing that then nice loops with no kinking around/switchbacks whose only purpose is to squeeze in the requisite miles.

    Finally, saw the news about Joan Benoit Sameulson - 3:04:00 at age 61 (1st in category), 40 years after first winning - outstanding!

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    1. That's an impressive time for a 61 year old! If only, if only!

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    2. I ran Loch Ness in 2016, my first marathon (and best), that's point to point and gorgeous, from the Highlands to Inverness.

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  11. Paris on Sunday was dry, cool and sunny - perfect marathon running weather. Unfortunately/ stupidly, I went out far too fast (running 30-45 seconds/km faster than planned) and around km 30 the wheels came off. The last 10-12 km were pure hell, walked/jogged to the finish and limped home on bruised feet and a little bruised ego. After all the wonderful sights and distractions en route, that final stretch through the Bois de Boulogne is bloody tough. On the bright side: Paris was beautiful in the April sunshine, it's not every day you get to run down the Champs-Élysées, I got a medal and in a week or two I'll remember only that I finished and not what it took to get me there. Overall, a chastening and frustrating day, but not disastrous by any means.

    One question. What's up with Strava? When I ran the Warburton half in March, it told me I'd run 22km+; on Sunday it told me I'd run 40.9km. Neither was remotely true

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  12. Spent my weekend watching my two daughter's netball teams play their winter competition grading games. Managed to fit in an 8km run on Saturday, but was too tired for anything on Sunday.

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  13. Well done, all you marathoners! Great tales of achievement, and based on so many months of dedicated training over the winter months. I'm feeling very envious, as I don't get to attempt my first one until November.

    I did a hard weights session on Friday, strenuous equi-activities on Saturday, and an eleven mile hilly run on Sunday, plus more riding. Walking wasn't that easy by Sunday night, but I slept well.

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  14. Well done to all the marathoners. I hear less about the cake rewards than I used to - have you all given it up?
    I did a jolly 15k with no aches or pains for the first time. Chocolate cake with fruit on top my reason for running.

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  15. Greetings all!! First and foremost, my apologies for being a slacker on this blog over recent weeks. Combination of time zone issues with the northern hemisphere, busy with work, even busier with training all year. As it turns out, I was training for the same race Kate did yesterday. I tried to keep it quiet for months but word started to spread and with about a week or so to go, pretty much everyone knew. Didn’t need the additional pressure but I had to roll with it.

    I am putting together a more detailed race report for my squad which I’ll share with you once completed. But in short...

    My training indicated that somewhere between 2:46 and 2:50 was achievable. I trained for months in the nasty heat and humidity of Sydney. I ate hills for breakfast. Many weeks I clocked over 130km per week. Surely I was better prepped than ever to beat my previous PB of 2:53:07??

    The first 5km was spent trying to manoeuvre through congestion. Boston marathon is unique for many things but the narrow start rarely gets airplay. Once I found space to run properly, I was in cruise mode, making sure I was as relaxed as possible. Went through half way in 1:22:38 feeling great and splitting fairly evenly. Still felt good at 25km. Then went through a mini bad patch just before the notorious Newton Hills and the timing couldn’t have been worse. Despite all my hill training, I felt like I was struggling compared to training. But I told myself not to panic. Had to do this several times from there on until the finish line. Thankfully, through a combination of not panicking and a bit of old fashion grit, I turned into Boylston St and crossed the finish line in 2:52:33 official time. It wasn’t the time I was hoping for but nonetheless it’s a PB on a tough course in challenging conditions as Kate has described above. And these days, I’ll claim any PB I can get my hands on! Although I definitely faded, for once I didn’t completely capitulate. Given the difference between my bib number (they’re based on qualifying time) and my eventual finish position, it seems I “overtook” almost 3000 runners with better qualifying times so that’s something too I guess.

    Must say that it was the best organised and most friendly marathon I’ve ever been to, starting with the expo right through to race day and post race. And the support from the crowds and locals is simply incredible. They truly appreciate the marathon.

    Thanks to everyone on this blog who’s has supported me on Strava. Honestly, it makes a big impact, especially being on the other side of the world.

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    1. Brilliant running LM! You must be made up. I can only imagine that the long distance travel to get to the race is another negative factor to be overcome. Five of us old time regulars to the blog were in touch with each other during the race following your (and Kate and Rachael's) progress on the tracker app. You might have been doing the running but it was stressful watching your efforts, especially when the tracker would stop working for a while!

      Anyway, have as well deserved mini break before you set your sights on your next goal! And plenty of beer!

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    2. As pete says, it was really exciting following your progress through the race LM. Such a richly deserved PB - Your training has been awe-inspiring. I get tired just seeing your efforts on Strava each day! Brilliant.

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    3. It was an incredible run LM - we were on the edges of our seats! I think you were probably running close to one of my club mates for a while but the wheels came off for him at around 20 miles and he dropped back (still came in at 2:59 though!) Your training has been incredible - as MRM says it's exhausting following you on Strava. Well deserved.

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    4. Brilliant stuff LM, very well done!

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    5. So now we know what all those mental long runs were all about, and the hills!! Well it was worth it as you produced an absolutely cracking run, and to PB that course is monumental! so huge congratulations to you LM! You can put that niggly Berlin episode to bed and reign supreme with this result. Amazing!

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    6. Great run LM, and some great lessons not to start to panic when you hit a bad patch. Super solid!

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    7. That's fantastic LM!! I don't know how accurate this is in relation to your past efforts, but "Although I definitely faded, for once I didn’t completely capitulate." is inspiring to me.

      As others have said, you can see how hard the course must be when you're tracking people. I was really surprised how many strong runners I know seriously dropped off their paces in that last stretch. Absolutely amazed that you managed to get a PB on that course. Huge congrats.

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  16. Well done everyone on your marathon exploits. Here in Bangkok, we're in furnace season. Yesterday morning went out at around 6.45am and it was already too late, I felt like I was overheating at 5km and had to stop to buy a cold bottle of water. Probably didn't help that I'd just spent 2km trying to catch up with my other half who was running in a little group just a bit too fast for me, and oblivious to me, a taunting 20 metres ahead of me!

    He was out on a ultra-prep run and made himself do 30km, which was crazy in this heat, and also in Bangkok where the most feasible route is to do continual laps of two parks joined up by a cycle lane littered with staircases, which gets boring very quickly!

    Hashing looks likely this evening, at least that introduces some variety to our routes!

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  17. Congratulations, Kate, and all you other marathoners.

    My running distances are shorter. To try to improve my speed on them, this week I've been trying fartlek.

    Sunday it worked brilliantly for me - five km on the 1 km track at a local park in 28:09 - a record time for me. Then on Tuesday another personal best on one of my fixed routes - a short and hilly one. But today, alas, when I fartlekked 10 km on the waterfront I took more than 61 minutes - on a good day, I need less than 59.

    While the word fartlek is new to me since I took up competitive running a few years ago, I recall a version of it when I was a girl guide in the 1950s. This involved alternating running and walking between lampposts, which is approximately my approach now.

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  18. Congratulations to all. Some inspiring stories above. I'm still basking in the glory of my one London marathon 10 years ago! Do you want hear about it again? No, I thought not.

    Anyway, this week I ache. It's not that I've taken up the Barton/Roulston regime of eating hills before breakfast and running/cycling/swimming amazing distances but I have discovered something that Zoe Williams should consider in her "Fit in my forties" column in The Guardian. What is it? Doing my Aunt's house clearance and getting carpets that I should have cut up smaller over a higher skip lip than expected. It's not as catchy a name as Hot Yoga but 'kin hell it's hard work. So, last week I went to over 40s cricket training, which also hurt a lot, emptied a house into a skip and ran round a bit. There's no setting on Strava for "carpet skiplip" as I am now calling it but if there was I'd be a segment hero. Happy skip filling, everyone. And running, obviously.

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    1. Yes, house clearance is exhausting GJ. The only way to deal with it was beer/wine/spirits at the end of each day! If you can stay awake! It's good to do some achy post-clearance running only so that ordinary running feels so much easier.

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    2. I'd like to hear your London marathon story GJ! : )
      House clearing, cricket training and running about a bit - sounds like a tri of sorts! It's all good, well rounded exercise none the less.

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    3. I won't tell the whole story but one of the highlights was running alongside Monty Halls, the TV marine biologist who was dressed in a full fluffy shark outfit running for Save the Sharks. It was hot that year too so he did very well. Not a Panda but weirdly just as fluffy.I left him at Tower Bridge where we were both overtaken by a banana.

      I ran for MS Society as my dad had been diagnosed with it 25 years ago that year. I think I wrote about his determination in a Guardian blog a couple of years back where he inspired me to the finish in 3 hours 49 minutes, the same time it took him to cross the living room unaided. He died in July last year, not of MS but of cancer, only a month after diagnosis. I think of him every time I put my trainers on, especially on those days that I can't be bothered to go out, with a smile not in sadness.

      I hadn't been a runner until 2008 when I started training and lost 2 and half stone in the 6 months leading up to London. It literally changed me and was the best sporting day of my life. So every time I read of someone doing a marathon, especially their first, it makes me happy and gives me that "I've done that" feeling. I won't do another, simply because it could never be as good. So to all those people doing the marathon shuffle down the stairs after whichever one you've done, good on you. And to those yet to do one - do one. Glad you asked KYD? :-) That's the abbreviated version!

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    4. I love your posts GJ. So much so that I can't be bothered with the faff of signing out and signing in again as Ruby before I reply. I do remember your post on the blog about your dad.

      I think it was Asta who invented Strava house moving, so I don't see why you shouldn't put carpet skiplip on there too.

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    5. Ahh thanks Lucy. If Asta hears about carpet skiplip he'll no doubt be better at it than the rest of us.

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    6. Very glad I asked, thanks GJ! I do remember now, but t's such a lovely story it's worth hearing again x

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  19. I ran a marathon in Pyongyang.

    If LM needs lessons in keeping stuff secret, I’m his man - the number of people who knew I was going to the DPRK was probably less than 10, and of them I think only two knew I was doing the marathon. Even my team mates thought there’d been a mistake when the bibs were handed out!

    My training? 3x9miles@‘race pace’ per week + easy cross training sessions...for about 10 weeks. I threw the occasional set of sprints in to ease the boredom and near the end panicked and put together one long session of mixed XT and running just to make sure I had the stamina to get to 20 miles but other than that, 3x9. Boring as hell but we had to try something novel to get me to 42.2k.

    Prep for the race was not great. The previous Saturday we’d been out until 7am at the World XC and the socialising continued (dinners with the wife because she thought I might not be coming back, beers with my mate for the same reason, ‘planning’ meetings with the crew etc) to the point that 6 pints on the eve of the race felt like going teetotal. Additionally I was heavily strapped on one ankle because it still doesnt understand what my brain is trying to tell it so it collapses on impact. Also, I was constipated which was very, very worrying. What I was planning on trying was fucking stupid but when you go from being decent at running to (relatively) bad, the only things left to do are stupid things.

    Anyway, it was an expensive trip and I wanted my money’s worth. I figured I’d see more on Pyongyang in the full ;-)

    Race morning arrived and there was one other runner from our group doing the full marathon and he was hoping for 3 hours. As I fancied some company for as Iong as possible I decided to run with him, the thought being that if i got to halfway in around 90 minutes then I could walk the second half and still make the time limit of 4 hours. Yes, the stadium doors close after 4 hours. You can still finish in the car park for the next 30 minutes but nobody in Korea runs slower than that (!) so tough titty if you cant manage.

    Not the smartest plan but I went with it.

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    1. You want to know what starting a race in front of 40000 excited Koreans is like? Indescribable. But what a buzz. It was worth the trip just for that moment. But it was all to brief because before we knew it we were off, out of the stadium, around the Arch of Triumph and up the first of many hills. The first third of the race went great, I dropped behind my ‘companion’ on the hills but bridged the gaps on the flat and the curious spectators kept my mind off any problems. Around 14/15k though I realised two things...firstly that my constipated stomach seemed to be behaving and secondly that if I adjusted my pace slightly there was no reason I couldn’t finish within the bounds of something respectable. So I had a quick word with my mate, told him to crack on and I slowed to c4.25 from 4.17 per km.

      The marathon isn’t a large field...other than the 50 or so Koreans and Chinese who are sub 2.30 runners it’s just a few hundred foreigners on an out and back course so from that point on there was barely ever more than a couple of other runners within a couple of hundred metres either in front or behind me so things were fairly lonely, especially as we left the city and headed into the countryside where the crowd was non-existent. But I was occasionally passing people who had gone off too quickly and made the turn in 93 minutes. Pretty decent, especially considering a fair portion of the first half is a long, slow incline.

      Things continued to go well for the next 5k - every time my watch beeped I was amazed to see that the times were consistent around the 4.25 - 4.30 mark and even though I was getting tired I started to believe that maybe there was something in the 9-mile plan after all. Unfortunately at around 28k disaster struck and my left quad started playing up and I was in a bit of pain - I guess that can happen when you aren’t used to going further than 15k or pounding concrete roads. The pain was getting so bad that I was convinced that I’d have to pull out, but I decided to limp on to the 30k drink station at least to assess things.

      I took a couple of water bottles, and stopped for a drink, a ‘shower’ and then stretched a little. It felt a little better so I tried jogging again and did some maths. Even if I walked really slowly I should still make it in 4 hours so any speed faster than a walk was a bonus. If I couldn’t run 3.15 then I should give 3.30 a shot at least. So from then onwards I tried to run for approx 10 minutes at a time and then walk for 30s to give my thigh a little break. By 35k my other thigh was growling but I could see the numbers were still in my favour and kept driving along, high-five-ing every single kid still on the street (and some grannies) and still passing a couple of people in worse shape than me (because CV-wise I was doing fine) and as I tackled the steep hill to 40k I realised that by some miracle I was still on for something under 3.15 if I didnt break.

      One last drink and short walk and I went for it, fairly flying up the hill from the Arch of Triumph to the stadium where my group were all stood waiting for me just before the entrance. With a pint, naturally. I downed the beer (on the move) and entered the arena for a final lap, pretty much all by myself, being cheered by the crowd. It was all a little bit insane. I felt like I was winning Olympic gold. I milked the hell out of it.

      Final time 3.13.xx.

      I was completely amazed that even with the thigh problems I had still managed the second half in 1.40, at least three minutes of which had been walking. Obviously it’s a personal worst time by around 25 minutes or so but as far as where it sits on my list of achievements I’d put it right up there with my better efforts given all the circumstances.

      Asta

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    2. Yes, yes, very good, but more importantly what's North Korean beer like? Well done!

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    3. You are so f**king cool Asta! I saw on strava that you were in Beijing, but then decided it was for work or something. Never ever thought you had this one up your sleeve! Loved the idea of high fiving North Korean grannies, and coming into the stadium and having the crowd to yourself must have been immense! And a 25 minute worst effort, it must have felt good though.

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    4. Great report and well done. I wish I was as relatively bad as you! :-)

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    5. Taedonggang (a 150 year old Wiltshire brewery dismantled and rebuilt in Pyongyang in 2000) has some nice brews.

      Numbers 2 (standard pils), 5 (rice based), 6(coffee), 7(chocolate) and 8(some weird grain, cant remember what it was) were great.

      When Koreans go to the pub after work they order all their drinks at the same time. So 6 blokes stand at a table, decide on 5 each and two minutes later 30 pints appear!

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    6. "When Koreans go to the pub after work they order all their drinks at the same time. So 6 blokes stand at a table, decide on 5 each and two minutes later 30 pints appear! " ... Wouldn't want that to be my round!

      I honestly couldn't believe what I was seeing on Strava when your NK marathon appeared. You have a knackered back and not yet healed feet, and I haven't seen more than 15k on a treadmill for a long time!! Crazy, crazy, crazy, but then, you are (with running). You must be a constant source of amusement and bemusement to coach Chalfen, his pet Gremlin who keeps spraying himself with water!

      An amazing race, story and I'm so pleased that you had a wonderful experience with it all, you really do seem to have fallen back in love with running, irrespective of PB's. Nirvana!

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    7. Gremlins - or is it eating after midnight? or both!

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    8. Cheers KYD! Coach Chalfen tolerates me as I think he knows I won’t half-arse it...and he’s as interested as I am as to whether it’s possible to get back to where I was (or even close).

      I reckon you could afford the round by the way...30 beers, £6!!!

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    9. That is such a cool experience, great run given the circumstances, and a great story. Anyone going to outdo this on the blog? This year? Ever??

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    10. Wowsers!! Not sure how I begin to react to this. So random but yet so Asta so why am I surprised?? Well done mate for getting through given the minimalist prep. Sounds like a very unique but worthwhile experience!

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    11. You're brilliant. I love you.

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    12. Love this race (+beer) report - well done Asta :-)

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  20. An interesting article on muscle cramping during a marathon, and also the Muscle Cramp 101 article below it.

    https://www.podiumrunner.com/how-to-beat-marathon-muscle-cramps_84843?fbclid=IwAR0AvzEqSITdOXJ6dRBi3cwWMgcmHpFlnRAAm8jIr5YBDUDArKpKr8ZSk_o

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  21. Just catching up at the end of this week, and loving the stories or marathons recent and past. Thank you Asta, LM and GJ for taking the time to put fingers to keyboard. Greatly enjoyable,

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