After just two weeks at home from finishing the Everest Marathon, it was time to hit the road again and head west, to North America. With marathon number 3 in my sights, I was feeling much more relaxed and looking forward to running amongst some spectacular scenery in Banff National Park. The race briefing had gone well and I was all set, although I’ll admit to being a little concerned when I was strongly advised to carry bear spray!
This is where I would have loved to go on explaining how well the run went and here’s a photo of my medal to prove it, but it sadly didn’t end like that.
Despite starting in high spirits, quite early in to the race I started to experience eye-watering pain radiating from my knee to my ankle. Initially I kept telling myself it would wear off and that it’s a marathon after all, it’s bound to hurt, right? I tried so hard to keep looking at the incredible scenery around me and just take it all in and enjoy myself.
As I reached the half marathon turn around point I started to slow down and eventually stopped. This is where the battle in my mind began. I knew that the aid stations were every 5km and I knew that if I was to carry on then I really wanted to make it to the next aid station. The slower I became the more risk there was of being on my own between aid stations and I was worried about the bear risk. The next 20 minutes saw me running to and from the turn around point. I had tears pouring down my face as I kept battling with myself:
“ What am I doing? It shouldn’t hurt this much!”
“ Come on pull yourself together, you've got this, ignore the pain”
“ No I really don’t have this, I’m really worried about injuring myself”
“ I have to finish this, I’ve travelled too far and I’m going to be a failure if I stop, what will others think of me?”
But after trying to keep running on it several times, in the end I had no choice but to concede defeat and hobble to the aid station at the 7 mile mark. I was driven back to the start line, checked by a paramedic, and sent to the hospital for x-rays. After having my leg bent is various peculiar angles by several doctors, it was diagnosed as a strain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL).
It was a really tough and upsetting decision to stop, but ultimately the right one, as I managed to stop before any damage became more serious ...or even permanent. It wasn’t easy coming home empty handed, a big part of me felt like I had failed myself, the challenge and all those who had supported the journey so far by donating.
I remember trying to think how I was going to break the news to those at home and what they were going to think of me. Maybe I haven’t trained hard enough? Maybe I wasn’t a runner after all? Maybe I was just too ambitious?
As a last note I would like to say that I shouldn’t have ever worried about what others back home thought about me for not completing the Banff marathon. My family and friends have been amazing and so supportive as always and for that I am so thankful.
Now I’m looking ahead to Patagonia on the 9th September with excitement. I’m looking forward to carrying on with this challenge and raising more money and awareness for my two amazing charities. If you would like help by donating I would really really appreciate it. Thank you!
With less than a month (ahh) until my first marathon in London, it’s got me thinking about all the things I now know about running that I didn’t 7 months ago:
Running hurts but it's all worth it!
We’ve all seen someone dressed as a rhinoceros or carrying a fridge crossing the London Marathon finish line, so running can’t be that bad, can it? Well, when I started it hurt, when I improved it hurt, and now I am almost running marathon distance it still hurts but you just keep going! The pain is short lived but the achievement is forever!
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover...
So you’re standing around waiting for a race to start, you are looking around hoping that someone there is going to be slower than you. You see a pensioner with a taped up knee and you think you’ve got it in the bag… until they fly past you leaving you in their wake. I have huge admiration for them and can only hope I am as fit as them in the future.
Say GOODBYE to your boobs - sigh!
Would I have started running if I knew that my boobs would get smaller?...nobody knows! I can’t deny that running has been great for my body confidence, I look and feel much fitter and healthier. It’s ironic that before I started running I was sufficiently “equipped" to fill my bikini top, but could have used a little more toning elsewhere. Now that I’ve ended up a couple of sizes smaller, my old bikinis are baggy in all the wrong places!
You always find the energy when there are photographers
It could be a couple of miles to the end of a race, you are puffing, panting and hunched over waiting for the pain to end when you see a photographer up ahead. You instantly adjust your hair and spring towards them with a smile on your face, only to return to your former state just after you pass them.
You live and breathe sportswear
Even if you don’t mean to, you live in it! When you’re either running or at the gym pretty much every day of the week, why would you wear anything else? Plus it is so comfortable!
You use your GPS watch for everything
Who thought sports watches could be so versatile? Not only is it amazing for tracking my pace, time, HR and navigation, but you can also use the stop watch to time how long your cake has been in the oven!
Everyone is obsessed about your time!
Hello people, I AM RUNNING A MARATHON! If I finish it in 4:15, 4:45 or 5 hours what’s the biggy? I’m not an elite athlete, I just want to see if I can get to the finish line, 26.2 miles is a heck of a long way to run. Maybe we should give more kudos to runners taking 5+ hours for spending so much extra time on their feet!
You have to stretch
I have a very short attention span, so I am terrible at stretching, I get so bored plus I never really know if I'm doing it right! But when things start hurting and your coach asks if you've stretched, you better hope you can say yes!
The rain can be your friend
Rain has always been my arch rival, turning my hair frizzy. But now I love to run in the drizzle, who cares if I have frizzy hair anyway!
Most importantly, you meet amazing people who inspire and motivate you
You meet lovely people from all walks of life, different abilities, different ages, different goals but you all have something in common... running! You talk to a stranger on the route during a race, you egg them on and they egg you on! As for the race marshals and supporters, I don't know what we would do without their words of encouragement. The awesome members of the running club who always ask how you are getting on, help when you're hurt and give you the confidence to keep trying!
It was after a couple of glasses of red wine that the words "I would love to run the Everest Marathon next year” spilled out of my mouth. The next morning I woke up with a feeling of slight disbelief. What I had signed up for?! As someone who had never really run in a race before apart from the odd charity 5k’s here and there, it is without a doubt the most ambitious challenge I have ever signed up to. Nevertheless I knew this challenge is going to be great for me, even life changing.
The Scene of the Crime
The truth is that since my husband Rhys and I returned from our last expedition in 2014 where we climbed the highest mountain in the Arctic Circle, I have been desperate to find something else to challenge me in the same way. Something which will give me the drive and determination to get out there and train even when the nights draw in, and it's cold and dark outside. Something with an end goal that would keep me motivated and determined. The marathon sounded perfect.
So I started training, at first by myself but I was finding it extremely hard. I found it difficult to find places to run and then when I started running I found myself only 500 metres from where I'd started, keeling over unable to catch my breath. It was then that I wondered if I had been too ambitious and bitten off a little more than I could chew. After speaking to my mum about my struggles, she recommended that I join a running club.
So my big challenge starts with the super iconic London Marathon on 23rd April, in the company of elite athletes, dedicated fundraisers, and probably more than a few crazy costumes. Then 1 month and 1 week later, I'll be tying my laces at Mount Everest Base camp, over 5,300m above sea level, ready for the world's highest marathon. Two weeks after that, I'll be in Canada, running the Banff Marathon and with any luck not being eaten by any of the long list of "dangerous wildlife which may be encountered" (and yes it includes bears and wolverines!). Then I have a summer at home, before a busy Autumn, running Patagonia in September, Australia in October, Antarctica in February, and Kilimanjaro later the same month.
I've been overwhelmed by some of the early support I've received, most of all to the very generous person who would like to remain anonymous, but who has donated a third of the project costs to get it started.
I'm also thrilled that an award winning PR company, Pic PR are supporting the whole project, and that Suunto have sent me their top of the range sports watch. I'm also really excited to be an Ambassador for Ellis Brigham, who run a vast network of top quality outdoor shops selling everything I'll need for my challenges, and much, much more.
So, that's it for now. Back from 5 weeks skiing and time to raise my game on the treadmill, on the pavements and in the hills!