During these weird times I’m grasping at anything to keep my running feeling fresh and to keep it from feeling samey.
So when my friend, Emma, said that she was going to be running the Virtual New York Marathon at the end of October and mentioned I could join her if I fancied, I jumped at it. My running lately has been feeling so meh and flat. It’s not that I’ve lost motivation it’s just that I don’t know what I’m doing, if that makes sense? What mileage should I be running? What goal am I aiming for? I’m not training for anything. Portsmouth Coastal Marathon in December has been cancelled and I’m a bit bereft. (As I’m sure so many others are as well).
On Friday evening after work I drove up to Reading and stayed with Emma and her family ready to run the marathon the next day. She had a route more or less planned and we decided to head out at 8am the next day. That evening she had chicken and pasta and I had a delicious vegetarian pizza. I know it’s crazy but I really cannot stand pasta!
The next morning we got up early. I had some porridge and a black coffee (my standard) and we waited a bit to digest before getting ready to start.
I wasn’t feeling that nervous. Without sounding arrogant or blasé, Emma was aiming for around a four hour marathon with a pace of 9-10min/mile, which is quite relaxed for me.
My training up to this point hadn’t really been optimal for another marathon but I felt confident I would be OK. Of course, the distance is always hard regardless of the pace you run so I knew not to be too chilled about it.
The weather was due to be pretty grim as well. It wasn’t raining as we set off but we knew it would come at some point. As we started, while it was quite windy, it was mild which was nice and made me wonder if my long sleeve jacket was a mistake (spoiler: it wasn’t). We had a few loops around the immediate location of where Emma lived, round some country roads, and we kept it nice and relaxed chatting away. It’s always nice to see Emma and while we catch up most weeks via phone, it was nice to see her in person and have a long chatty run. It was also nice to run in a very country-esque location and pretty much carless roads.
It was really quite easy to keep my pace nice and relaxed – something I had been a little worried about. I didn’t want to speed up and push Emma without realising. But we kept to the goal pace.
As we headed into Reading at around mile 11, Emma said she needed a quick toilet break so we popped into Costa (we’d brought our masks just in case we needed to do this thankfully).
As we came back out the rain had started in earnest and having stopped running for a few minutes my legs were a bit stiff getting going again and I was a little chilly. Thankfully as we got going I got warm again.
We then started running alongside the Thames River and the rain properly started hammering down. The more stable pathing turned into more of a trail route and the rain and leaves on the ground made that a little precarious.
I had visions of slipping and falling into the river – thankfully this never happened! As we ran alongside the river we saw several people getting ready for what looked like a boat regatta with their bibs on.
While running through the wind and rain I was certainly more happy to be running through the rain than rowing through it on the water! It just looked so grim. We did get some grim smiles from the few supporters along the bank. Everyone just looked so thoroughly soaked – as we were too of course. But looking at this point we weren’t cold.
So we continued running alongside the water until we got to the end of the road, as it were, where a gate blocked our way. And so we turned around and headed back the way we’d come. This had always been the plan but I think Emma thought that the path might have gone on a little longer. At this point we were almost at 17 miles. My legs felt a little tired but otherwise I was OK. I did have a slight dip in motivation when I considered how much longer we still had to run and be wet in the rain. The rain was just so relentless it really was quite tedious.
As we headed back down the path we’d come down, the rain had created more and more puddles and we had to do some strategic running and jumping to get through. We continued running further down the Thames to get to around 20 miles and Emma started to struggle a bit with some pains in her hip.
I tried to keep her mind off it by talking about stupid things but it was a struggle as the weather was really killing our vibe. Emma stopped a few times and I started to get colder. I needed to keep running to stay warm, but equally I didn’t want to put pressure on Emma, especially if she was in pain. She kindly said I could run ahead for a bit.
As we got to 22 miles we stopped again and Emma was clearly struggling a fair amount – the rain, the wind, her painful hip and general fatigue – and we needed to find four more miles. We decided to keep running loops around the area we were in – up and down the Thames, round near to the shops a bit and back. It was a little tedious but every mile ticked off the end got closer.
In terms of how my legs felt, they were good. They were tired but no niggles and I didn’t feel that tired in myself. I wanted to stretch my legs out a bit but I knew increasing my pace wouldn’t help Emma finish any faster. I did run ahead a few times so I could sprint back to her to allow my legs to stretch a bit – as my cadence was slower than if I’d been running my usual pace. It helped keep me warm as well. I had to check with Emma a couple of times regarding how much she had left as obviously my watch wasn’t accurate due to my extra running ahead and back.
We got near to where her parents would be picking us up (I was now over 26.4 miles so stopped my watch), Emma was almost there and I ran ahead so I could cheer her in to the imaginary finish.
Then we were done. Soaked and tired but done!
Emma’s parents were incredible. The car was lovely and warm, they had towels for us and big hoodies for us to get into and it was just GLORIOUS. I was so cold by this point and utterly, utterly drenched through I was just glad to be out of the rain.
Emma’s watch time was 4:18:52. I’m not sure what her official time was (we did stop our watches when we stopped – I know there are several opinions about this). But anyway, she was very happy with her time – as she should be.
I had the most gloriously hot (scalding really) shower and a cup of tea and felt a million times better. The marathon itself wasn’t hard per se as the pace was very comfortable for me. But running for longer than I’m used to did make it fairly tiring. I found at times that I wanted to run faster to stretch my legs and it was mentally tough trying to support someone who was struggling a little at the end. Like there’s nothing you can say to help them but just be there and push as much as you can. You wish you could run the miles for them and seeing Emma in a bit of pain at the end was hard. This makes it sound like I’m being smug and that it was easy. It wasn’t easy. It was just very different and hard in different ways.
Emma and I celebrated with a delicious lunch at a little garden centre café. I opted for the rather delicious (and different for me) lentil salad with another pot of tea. So tasty and warming.
And of course later we had a Doughnut Time doughnut to really celebrate 😉 They were the Halloween specials and very tasty. Then it was an Indian takeaway for dinner and a very early night!
I thoroughly enjoyed running the marathon with Emma. And just before Lockdown 2.0! Not sure what next is planned for my running though…
Have you ever run a marathon with a friend?
What’s your celebratory food of choice?