Running a marathon during the pandemic

I was meant to be in Rotterdam last weekend but of course due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it didn’t happen.

The Rotterdam Marathon that Kyle and I had trained for was not to be. It’s since been rescheduled for October. Who knows where will all be then, eh!

I’ve been feeling very out of sorts, down and just a bit meh – as I’m sure everyone else is too. To be honest, I have nothing really to complain about as my job is secure (for now); I’m WFH, Wiggle is still trading (and customers still buying! Everyone wants a turbo trainer it seems…), my family and friends are healthy. I’m just sadly separated from Kyle, which is tough.

Anyway, I had in my mind that I needed an endpoint to all the training I had done. I was running well, I wasn’t injured and I was finally feeling out of the woods. The end of last year was tough with my two major injuries which dragged on. I now felt like I had nothing to look forward to, nothing to celebrate and an endless span of days ahead with the same old nothing.

So I decided to run my marathon anyway.

I must stress several things about this first. I didn’t take this decision lightly and there was a lot of stress involved in my brain whether to run it or not. Not because I was worried it would be hard (undeniably it would be), not because there was really no point, no medal, no glory, and not because it wouldn’t count to anything anyway. My angst was down to “should I be doing this?”.

Realistically no I shouldn’t. Realistically there was no good reason to run it. But something was eating away in my brain, niggling me: not being able to close the door on last year’s injuries. I also needed something to focus on because, other than work, I currently have nothing. Days blend into days.

I decided the weekend before that I would run on the Saturday, and that gave me a solid week to psychologically prepare for it. I planned my route, planned my other runs around it and mentally got it into my head that I would run on Saturday all being well.

The route was a quiet 13(ish) mile loop. I was going to set my alarm just before 6am and start running no later than 6.30am. I would do my best but ultimately have the freedom to stop at any point for whatever reason. Only my family, Kyle and Kyle’s family knew my plans. I didn’t want to advertise what I was doing, sing and shout about it, as I knew people would have opinions about it. And I also wanted zero pressure.

Friday I did a gentle 5k shake out run, as I always would the day before. I also (jokingly) did a flat lay of my kit.

I had an Indian takeaway for dinner… crazy I know, but it’s a meal I’ve often had the night before long runs and it’s worked well. It’s not that spicy and it’s something I really enjoy and my body has no issues with.

Tandoori chicken, chicken tikka and a lot lof poppadoms (I adore this meal)

I woke up at 5.50am, I had a small black coffee, I went to the loo, I got my kit on and did a few dynamic warm-up exercises before leaving the house just after 6.20am. I didn’t have breakfast. Now normally I would of course have a bowl of porridge before a marathon but as I didn’t want to get up any earlier I decided to forgo it. I’ve run many long runs fasted before (up to 20 miles) and thought I’d be OK. I wasn’t pushing the pace and because my loop past my house halfway I could pick up some fuel to keep me going from there.

My dad (bless him) wanted to come out and support me and cycled to meet me at around 6 miles, then he was there at halfway with my fuel and water ready, and then at 20 miles.

It was cold and super misty that early but it wasn’t windy, and it wasn’t raining. Perfect marathon conditions really. I listened to the MarathonTalk podcast which actually really helped my nerves. I wasn’t nervous per se about running but more about what people would think about my run. But Martin and Tom actually debated about length of runs and the government guidelines during the show and it really put me at ease. I wasn’t breaking any of the guidance by running my marathon. I would give two metres spae to everyone I saw (very few during my first loop – more cyclists than anything) and I was technically on my “one exercise” for the day.

I got to six miles and my dad appeared on his bike and cycled alongside me for about a mile and a half. It actually really broke it up for me and one of the roads was a bit of a windy road (rather than go onto the promenade of the beach where it would likely be more busy) so having my dad there to see ahead for cars and keep me shielded was helpful.

I had hoped to use the public toilet at around 7.5 miles but of course they weren’t open. I hadn’t even thought about them not being available (of course they wouldn’t!) so this was somewhat of a blow as I really needed a wee. My dad took a quick photo and then I headed off on my own again, and he headed home (only about four miles from our house for him).

Mentally it was a good way to do the run as I knew it so well having run round these areas many times in the past. So things sort of flew by. I knew I’d be doing it all again so just focused on getting my first loop done.

I got to my house for just over 13 miles and my dad was standing outside with the fuel I’d asked for and some water. I quickly headed inside for a wee (what a total luxury – a wee in MY OWN HOUSE) – and as I would during a “real” marathon I left my watch running. I wanted this to be relatively realistic.

Then my dad handed me my fuel. I say “fuel” but again this was a bit out of my ordinary. I wanted something I could enjoy, something sugar-rich and easy to eat (and something I had easily available). So that meant some Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel chocolates!

I’d put them in a little sandwich bag and my dad handed them to me and I ate one there and then with the water he handed me (my watch still running). I decided to leave the water with him (to give me later at 20 miles) and take two more of the chocolates for the road (I had six ready for consumption in total).

I headed off for my second loop. Now lighter, less misty but still quiet. As I got to mile 15ish Kyle rang me. He’d planned to do this after he woke up and sometime after my first loop. Unfortunately this meant just before the one large hill of my route. Thankfully the rest of my route is almost pancake flat, but this hill goes on for almost 0.5 of a mile and is a bit of a grinder.

It was so nice to hear from Kyle regardless and I huffed and puffed my way through a conversation. He was lovely and it really boosted me. Unfortunately I then heard my Airpods beep at me to say the battery was running low. Oh no! I quickly messaged my dad to ask him to bring new headphones when he saw me at mile 20 (another luxury!).

Kyle kept me company for a number of miles and then we said goodbye and I listened to some music. At mile 18(ish) I saw my dad. I hadn’t eaten the other chocolates as I was worried about needing water so I ate two more as I ran alongside him as he also had the water. It was tough to chew and breathe – which reminded me of why I prefer gels. But the chocolates were delicious and I was happy to accept their disadvantages in order to enjoy them!

I saw other runners and walkers out and about now but was able to keep my distance quite easily (the joys of quiet roads now, eh!). I chatted away to my dad and felt quite happy with how it was going. I knew the route so well and knew exactly what was to come, it wasn’t daunting. It was just time before I’d get back.

My dad left me again at the same point and now I had around 10k to go. As I turned a corner and was intending to go up the path to get onto  the road rather than stick near the beach I saw an elderly man coming down it. Instead of navigating the hurdle of trying not to get too close I decided to run up the steep grass to the side (oooof that was not fun!). He smiled so nicely at me and clapped me on – he actually clapped! And it made me smile wryly to think this is probably the first marathon I’ve run where I’ve only had one person clapping. Another nice lady later on shouted at me to “keep going, keep going” – it was weirdly like they knew. It really did help.

And then I was on the home stretch. As I ran down my lane I saw my watch creep to 26.2 miles. I saw my parents at the bottom of the lane cheering me on. It was surreal. As the miles ticked over to 26.28 I decided “that’ll do”. And just stopped, metres from my house. No finish line. No big time on the wall. No medal. No cheering. Just me coming to a stop. Clicking my watch. Done.

3:37:05 – but I guess it’s arbitrary really. It counts for nothing and had I run a metre or so further or less the time would be different.

While I know some people might disagree with me running all those miles for so long and potentially increasing the risk of catching/spreading the coronavirus, I don’t regret it and I’m proud of myself for doing it. I managed and reduced the risks as best as I could. I didn’t break any rules. I was sensible. I saw less people on my entire run than I had the other day when I walked to the local shop and stood queuing outside.

You could argue if we all ran a marathon it would create a problem. But I very much doubt there are many people that would want to go out and run a marathon so that risk is low. What if I fell over and needed medical assistance? Well, this has never happened during any of my running career before, marathon or not, so why would this suddenly be an increased risk?

And yes, my immune system will be somewhat lowered post run, despite how easy I took it. So for the days afterwards I avoided shops and busy places. I also stayed inside for the rest of the day, of course.

The run itself went really well. Surreal really. It felt odd, but good. I think I had one wobble during the entire run at mile four (so early on in the game!) where I realised I had 22 more miles to go. But other than that it was, dare I say, not bad at all.

Of course I would have loved it to be different. To have been running with Kyle in Rotterdam. To have had crowds cheering us on. To have a medal to show for it. To say I’ve run 21 marathons not 20. But it isn’t to be and that’s OK. I learnt a lot about myself during that run – that sometimes I can overcomplicate things. I stripped everything back and just ran. No pressures. That hugely helped. I could stop if I wanted – who would care? Who would know?

Anyway, it’s done. And I feel so much better. Like a weight off my mind. I can remember the experience fondly. And I’ve closed the door on that chapter.

What are your thoughts?

How long would you run for?

7 Replies to “Running a marathon during the pandemic”

  1. You basically created the dream marathon – your own food and bed the night before, personal support, comfort break in your own house and Hotel Chocolat for fuel!

    You absolutely stuck within the rules for this one and I get why you would feel the need to do this. My only concern would be the post-run dip in immune system but you thought about that. I’ve been running a bit shorter but going more frequently so pushing my own boundaries in a different way. We all just have to do what we need to do to feel sane right now (within the rules for exercising wherever we are) and for me that’s definitely to get out and run. Hope you’re recovering well now.
    Allison recently posted…Week in Review – The Corona Chronicles Part 2My Profile

  2. This was amazing to read, can imagine you get all of the emotions but then must be strange with no finish line and you simply stop your watch to end.
    Everyone is just doing what they need to right now- feels like a good bit of closure to complete your training, especially after the injuries you’ve had- a massive well done! (love the bit about a few people clapping, so lovely!)

  3. I think that’s awesome you did that. I know there are people out there who negatively judge this type of thing, but the mental health benefits cannot be discounted. In a world where everything has been taken from us – we have to do the few things we can to make us happy. Awesome work.

  4. I think you did amazingly to run that far (and that fast) without the boost you would usually get from crowds and from the finish line and that sort of thing. I can totally understand why you did it.
    I only had a half marathon cancelled , and having done one recently I’ve not felt the need to run that far again on my own, but there is nothing to say you can’t. (Actually the Disney Princess weekend has been cancelled too, and I was meant to be doing the 5k and 8k, but I can’t really replicate that and the awesome medals at home!).
    I think there were some muddled reports because Gove (not that we should ever listen to him) said the other week that people should walk for no more than an hour, or run for 30 mins, but that isn’t in the legislation and they reiterated the guidelines this week that you can go outside once for exercise and there is no time limit on that. I have read a few things about the lowered immunity that you would get after a long hard effort, and that is a risk because if you catch the virus, you are relying on your immune system to fight it. But like you say you are not coming into close contact with anyone when you were out.
    You clearly weighed up the risks and made sure you were careful to avoid busy places/ people and so on.
    Love the idea of the chocolates for fuel, although on a warmer say they might turn into a gel!
    Maria @ Maria Runs recently posted…Getting a new routine goingMy Profile

  5. This was amazing to read, can imagine you get all of the emotions.
    hope you recover fast and running again keep practicing use Air-pods to listen music for relaxing you can also use Black-pods which great also

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