First Marathon Experience

April 2, 2014

One night my dad was looking through possible events and came across the Lanzarote Marathon, which we both decided would be perfect for my first go at a full distance marathon. I didn’t stick to any training plan, but now having the bug for triathlon, I train 6 days a week anyway. My training went to plan, following my dad’s advice, we were running two tough 6 mile trail runs a week, and one big one on a Saturday building up from 13 to 18 miles. I love my Saturday runs, a group of us, basically all middle aged men who frequently train for and compete in Iron man events and myself for hours through the woods and hills in my surrounding area, then straight home for poached eggs on toast.

With an early flight we drove down the night before and stayed at the airport, my dads friend and his girlfriend coming along for a short holiday and to cheer us at the finish. Even the drive down was a chaotic start the trip, a power cut due to severe wind, rain and flooding problems meant packing in the dark, which resulted in me walking around the airport and flying to Lanzarote in odd socks!

We arrived at our hotel, which was also hosting the event, a triathlon friendly hotel that was a temporary home for tri champs such as Bella and Stephen Bayliss! We arrived on Friday (the race was on Saturday) and found a restaurant near by to have some good fresh fish. The following morning having a day to kill, without being tempted to use the hotels great training pool we decided to get a bus to a more commercial town to get some shopping in. About a mile into the journey I rushed off at the first stop thinking I was suffering with travel sickness- not unusual for me. Dad and me grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and enjoyed the pre marathon buzz, watched the kids fun runs, enjoyed the tapas stands and I even got my picture taken with Bella!

It was only mid-day but I still didn’t feel a hundred per cent post the bus journey. I got in bed, only to be woken up at dinnertime to my dad telling me we need to head the hotels restaurant to carb up for the big day. I managed one mouthful of rice before I was sprinting back to our room with a bad case of food poisoning from the night before. All hopes of running my first marathon in the morning quickly fading away.

By the end of my dad’s race I felt better enough to make it to the finish line to cheer him through, however much I was sulking. That nights dinner and the following mornings breakfast I couldn’t help but be absolutely gutted, a lot of tears resulted in my dads promise to find me another marathon, and one soon!

Lanzarote was clearly not meant to be my race, for whatever reason. After another month of training, getting in a few extra of the bigger 18 miler runs, I was ready for the Gran Canaria marathon. This trip was equally as stressful, first it wouldn’t let me enter, and then it entered (and took my money) three times! Being last minute as usual, the night before our flight we couldn’t get a hotel in Gran Canaria, a stressful night of emailing and phoning up, we finally managed to get one in Las Palmas, where the marathon was held.

We arrived the evening before the race, went out to a lovely tapas restaurant and fuelled up on bread, potatoes and fresh sardines, before heading back for an early night. I was wary all day, only daring to eat porridge and vegetable sushi…nothing that could make me ill, but the fresh sardines once dinner came just sounded too appealing.

Waking up all I kept thinking was “ iv made it further then last time”, which was promising, but I was still paranoid that something might go wrong and I wouldn’t end up finishing. We had breakfast and grabbed a quick bus with a lot of Spanish runners to the start line.

My dad and me set off together, staying together for about the first 6 miles. The fist part of the race I noticed I was averaging faster already then I did in my fastest half marathon, which was worrying. I kept hearing the advice of our ironman friends in my head telling me if I started too fast I was sure to crack in the second half. About 10 miles into the race I noticed I was among very few women, and a pacer on a bike appeared and continued to ride alongside me.

The guy on the bike informed me that I was in 3rd, I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about considering my only goal in sight was to finish the marathon (preferably in under 4 hours). Supporters kept holding up 3 fingers to me, confirming what this guy was telling me. Crazy.

I overtook an elder woman at a drink stop, who soon appeared on my heel, I wasn’t sure why she was so close to me and what she meant when she said “maybe we could help each other out”, turns out this woman used to be a professional runner, and runners like cyclists do in fact draft one another.

The last 6 miles two women overtook me, by that point I didn’t care; I just wanted it to be over. When people told me the race doesn’t start until the 20th mile, they were lying! For me it was the 19th! Running through the finish line was the best feeling ever, to see the time was 3:21! My dad was finished and waiting, just as shocked as me. Turns out I had come 5th woman overall, first in my age group, and only 3 minutes off the winning woman’s time. I got to stand on the podium and collect my trophy for winning my category, though I could barely even get on it my legs were so stiff!

The whole morning was so surreal, we went for tapas on the beachfront and tables cheered me! A random man actually asked to take a photo with me! We ate fish curry, Spanish omelette, grilled squid and tons of fresh bread, before heading back for a sleep. The whole experience was amazing and a memorable first marathon, I managed to complete it a week before my 20th birthday, which is something I wanted to achieve still in my teens. I’m already looking forward and hoping to go back to Lanzarote in November to do the marathon, as well as London 2015 as my Gran Canaria time gave me guaranteed entry!


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