After Laura's blog about what she's learned since she started training for her challenge, she asked me to write one from my perspective. I must say that it's been amazing watching her progress since signing up for the Everest Marathon, and she's been running all winter, which is proper dedication! I've also picked up a few things from my role as "support crew", and here they are.
1. It’s expensive
Whoever said running was a cheap sport, was clearly not married to a woman! I never knew that 64 pairs of leggings in myriad colours would be an “essential”, or that you actually need different trainers for different races. Thankfully, those good people at Ellis Brigham stepped in to sponsor Laura’s kit, which is a huge help. Likewise Suunto sent her one of the watches she was dropping such unsubtle hints about just before Christmas.
2. Say goodbye to your Sunday mornings
I’m not sure who decided that races should take place on Sunday mornings, but you’d better be prepared to drive to numerous school car parks and muddy fields to wave off your beloved. Of course there is one advantage of events taking place on a Sunday, which is being able to read the papers whilst your wife tackles hills, trails and tracks.
3. Wearing a bin bag is perfectly acceptable
Grown men skipping around in rubbish bags is, apparently, completely normal and raises not so much as an eyelid! Laura prefers to wear a warm down jacket and hand it to me 2 mins before the start.
4. Runners look remarkably similar when there are a lot of them
I always walk parts of the course (usually with our dogs) to try and spot Laura and cheer her on. However, it’s not as easy as I thought. First there’s the panic of thinking you’ve already missed her, and then the waiting game. Every girl that jogs towards us from the horizon could be her, the dogs wag their tails, but it’s not. And so this continues until she pops up for about 5 seconds, jogs straight past and you see her again at the finish line.
5. It’s expensive (Part 2)
Not only will you be staring down the barrel of 3 (or 4) digit kit expenditure, but as your partner changes shape as a result of all the running, so their entire wardrobe will gradually become obsolete. Cue sentences such as “literally NOTHING fits me, I need a whole new wardrobe!”. At this point I find it best to bury my head in the sand and quietly ignore various parcels arriving at the door!
6. You will get to watch all the boxsets and movies your partner doesn’t like
Training for marathons takes a huge amount of time and dedication, which I am full of admiration for. It also means you spend a lot of time at home whilst your partner sets off in to the dark winters night. The best way to get through this is to watch the things Laura doesn’t much like, and to cook ever more complicated meals for when she gets home. A late arrival is well met by exclaiming “dinner is ruined!”, usually followed by much laughter.
7. You’d better have a good excuse for not running with them
If you take an active interest in your partners running, you’re bound to meet members of her running club, fellow race competitors, and of course the friendly staff at your local gym. All of these people will quiz you on why you’re not running with her. At this point I like to lean on my excuse “I’d love to, but my dodgy knees..”, which is actually true, honestly...
8. You’ll realise how awesome they are
Watching your partner fidgeting with nerves at the start line is horrible, especially when they’re shoulder to shoulder with hardened runners who’ve been at it for years. It feels like the first day of big school. But seeing them cross the finish line is awesome. They keep achieving distances that were previously deemed impossible, and the pride is etched on their face when they hold up the medal for the post-race Instagram shot.
9. You’re desperate to help them achieve the next milestone
And for Laura’s 7 marathons project, that means helping to find sponsors and raise donations for the charities. So if you want to help her too, you can, by donating at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/icanrun7, or by helping to underwrite the costs of the events.
Written by Rhys Jones
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!