Max’s Marathon WEEK 12: One month to go! Magazines & monstrous mileages

This week: Easter! Monster runs! The 18 miler!

Easter is a bit of a funny time. When I was younger it meant essay crises and breakdowns. Now, it means poignant and sad anniversaries. More on those in another blog post, soon…

First of all: Thank you very much to the wonderful Grassroots for tweeting out my blog post about work from a couple of weeks ago. It’s massively appreciated. For those who don’t know, I’m on a big work-hunt at the moment, and looking to use my writing and social media skills more directly for mental health organisations. I’m a bit terrified of a post-Marathon mood slump, ending up with no work and being skint and anxious all the time again. I’m bridesmaiding at two weddings this year so a healthy mind and a healthy bank balance are very much required. If you think you can help, please read and share the post…

*coughcough* Back to running…

This arrived on Thursday…


Marathon News (also know as the slightly sinister Final Instructions), is the official “where to go and what to do” publication from the organisers, containing all the info you need for race day and the Expo. I love getting magazines through the post. It happens far less than you’d expect it to happen to someone who trained as a magazine journalist.

On Thursday evening, I spent a frankly horrendous amount on a fortnightly Ocado shop before Lodger (in end-of-term mode) twisted my arm into going for Wagamama. Eeep. It was good, though.

Good Friday was my 18 miler…

If you’re wondering what an 18-mile run is like, I can reassure you that, by some way, planning it is probably more stressful than actually running it. At big races like the London Marathon you follow an organised route with signposts, loos, showers and drinks stations in all the right places. On a long training run you have to work all that out yourself (a sort of Make-Your-Own Marathon – well, 18-20 miles of it anyway). As well as somewhere close to Marylebone where I could shower and stash my kit bag, my 18-miler also had to be somewhere I wouldn’t get too lost, or too emotional. This seemed like nowhere on earth, and certainly nowhere in Central London. (I mulled it over with my dad at Christmas. He very sensibly advised I pick somewhere free of any associations with anyone dead. I mean, FFS, if I ran somewhere like that for three hours listening to Don’t Give Up, there’d be localised flooding…). In the end, we decided on Hyde Park. Central enough to get to easily and, just about, neutral enough not to stir up too many difficult memories of anything. The choice was cemented in February when I started going there for Mental Health Mates, and learning my way around it better.

Great things about my 18-miler…

  • Being up early on a Bank Holiday to enjoy what was to be the only gloriously sunny day on an otherwise batshit stormy and rainy weekend. Hyde Park in the sunshine is perfection. For the first couple of miles I blinked and grinned gooily at everyone I passed, as though I’d won a competition. Responses ranged from a cheery “Hi!” and a mutual smile to bafflement to “Rather you than me!” nods.
  • Contrary to expectation, I did not get lost. I’d tapped some approximate directions into a note on my phone which it turned out I didn’t need. I didn’t quite believe my dad that keeping my bearings would be as simple as following the footpaths in a circle, but apparently it is. I ran in a loop from the North Carriage Drive entrance near Bayswater Road, down to Kensington Palace, past the Royal Albert Hall and back round, past Speakers Corner. There were no speakers, but many joggers and tourists. Next time I’ll extend the run out to St James’s (a similar route to the Royal Parks half Marathon).
  • I saw lots of horses, from the Hyde Park stables and the Hyde Park barracks. The Household Cavalry look a bit like Klansmen from a distance but once you’re over that, they’re nice to watch.
  • Hyde Park Gardens Mews (on the route from Paddington to Hyde Park) has these lovely twee little cottagey buildings that look like a film set. The riders from Hyde Park stables often trot through them too – even more twee!
  • At about 14-15 miles I stopped at the snack hut next to Speakers Corner for an extra bottle of water. I hate handling liquids. I hate handling money. I hate doing the above in tourist traps. This did not bode well, especially when you add on the whole “just been running for three hours” bit. However, it was all very smooth and efficient.
  • As well as snack huts, there are also drinking fountains in Hyde Park too. Very handy. Not necessarily very hygienic, but hey, it’s been three days and I’m alive.
  • My fear of having a tearful emotional meltdown towards the end was misplaced. After three hours, rather than being overcome with Sadfeelz and bawling at a Kate Bush number, I actually lost the ability to feel very much at all. And when the edges of feelings crept in, I told them to shush because I needed to focus on more important things like remaining upright right now. For significant parts of the next few hours I lost all basic human drives (food, sex, free wifi, that sort of thing). Never wanting sex or wifi again would be quite a help. Not wanting to eat, probably less helpful for the next three weeks…
  • I glowed a bit during the short walk from Hyde Park back to Paddington station. Paddington station took on a majestic quality as I saw it glinting promisingly at me from Sussex Place. I seemed to be the only person on the concourse who wasn’t a public schoolboy wearing a ski resort t-shirt, but they all kindly ignored me while I sweated and ate. A shop assistant by the queue at WH Smith suggested I use the self-service checkout as it would be quicker. “Possibly not in my state,” I laughed, explaining the situation. “Good luck with the Marathon, I hope you win,” she offered. Err, I doubt it, but thanks.
  • The shower at Paddington was the best fiver I’ve ever spent. They even give you a towel and free soap (though I’d brought my own, not anticipating this). I knelt behind the door groaning and whimpering softly for a bit before I could summon the brains to actually shower. God knows what the attendant thought I was doing in there.
  • Lodger picked me up from the station when I got home. I didn’t want to walk for twenty minutes up a hill or pay £5 for a taxi up it, so this was very much for the win.
  • The best bit of all is that I actually ran the damn thing. A long run is best thought of as several short runs you might do over the course of, say, a week, sandwiched into a few hours. Whereas normally my runs and my feelings during them are fairly consistent, here I found myself fluctuating between woo-and-yay comfort and eeep-what-is-this discomfort very quickly, within the space of a few minutes. Also, when you’re not used to running beyond a certain distance, getting to that distance and realising you’ve still got several more miles to go can make you feel a bit OH BUT WHHHY. Hence, the half Marathon mark was where I hit a wall and nearly drank all my Lucozade. BUT I DID IT. 18 MILES.
  • My mum messaged me from Argentina asking how it had gone. “If you say you did it, I’ll kiss the person next to me. Which may or may not be your dad.”  I confirmed I had indeed done it. She told me she and dad had hugged each other in celebration in a pub in Buenos Aires, earning them some strange looks.
  • My body didn’t hurt for ages afterwards. I woke at 5:30 the next morning. My legs felt heavy and hot, as if it were high summer. But not painful. Bless everybody who gave me muscle soothing lotions and potions for Christmas. Radox bath salts worked a treat too.
  • I’ve been eating fairly sane amounts since, and not felt horrible stabs of hunger. Someone in the Mind Marathoners Facebook group said they ate six bowls of cereal in a row the other day. I’m going to remember this next time anyone says I eat too much cereal…

Less great things about my 18-miler…

  • There were ticket inspectors on my train to London and I hadn’t renewed my network railcard yet. I got off a penalty on a promise I’d do it as soon as I got to Marylebone. Happily I got in a few minutes earlier than expected and the queue of fifteen tourists went down fast.
  • Twelve degrees in the sun feels more like thirty during a run of that distance. I wore a long-sleeved top over a t-shirt so that I wouldn’t get cold and shivery in the event of getting lost. Predictably within a mile I was too hot and had to take it off and thread it faffily through my bottle belt. Hence, the belt (meant to be worn loose) chafed after about 10 miles.
  • My phone died just after 3 hours. My Runkeeper was in miles, my Fitbit was in kilometres. If you know my arithmetic under normal circumstances you can imagine me trying to do the conversion after three hours’ running. At 3:25 and 28.something K I hit the wall and decided I’d done near enough 18 miles and couldn’t face running another circle, or trotting around until 3:30 “just to be sure.”
  • It cost me ELEVEN QUID to drop my kit bag at Paddington’s left luggage for four hours. The cute men behind the counter were very patient while I handed it over and then immediately gabbled “OH, HANG ON, I need my banana out of there. OH, WAIT! And my phone. And my armband, oh God sorry about this!” After the Marathon I might start a left luggage business; it seems lucrative…
  • I spent the last half hour of the race craving a burrito from a stand I knew was at Paddington station, having enjoyed one after a recent work trip. The bloody thing was closed for refurb! (Happily, the noodle kiosk wasn’t, and their veggie curry with egg rice hit the spot super-nicely. And there is, apparently, another burrito place very nearby).
  • I think I left one of my travel hairbrushes somewhere in London. This doesn’t matter really. Under the circumstances it was pretty inevitable I’d leave something behind and at least it wasn’t anything valuable. For the next one, I’ll take a kit list. (Edited-to-add: I didn’t leave it behind, it fell into my laundry basket while I was emptying all my kit into it. I discovered this after buying a replacement, natch).

I have not succeeded as much as I’d like at relaxing over the rest of the weekend. With my parents out of the country, it felt a bit strange to be eating leftover pasta and listening to Sad Girl while friends were Instagramming their family lunches and country walks. But, I managed to rewatch some of the original House of Cards, buy a cheap swimming costume, have lunch with a friend and not go mad, so, all in all, a success. Tomorrow is Mental Health Mates‘s first evening meetup, which I’m going into London especially for (woohoo!), then I’m doing another 18 miler this Friday. After that, long runs (and, hopefully, my monstrous food bill…) start to reduce. It’s now less than a month until the Marathon. I am within a whisker of 50% of my fundraising target and it would be BRILLIANT if you’d sponsor me. THANK YOU. 

*stares vampishly at you until you sponsor me…* (Credit: @Afrofilmviewer)

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