Saturday the 19th of March was a lovely day. We had a 4th birthday party which was great fun for both my 3 year old and I. I got high on coffee, Bonnie got high on cake and we bounced with our friends like there was no tomorrow.
My first half marathon event (and 2nd ever organised race) was booked up for the following day so I was drinking lots of water and eating my carbs (I am a perfectionist when it comes to being organised). I was looking forward to a relaxing evening – doing some yoga stretches, getting packed up for my early morning drive to Alloa, having some good food and getting a great nights sleep. The thing is, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Watching my 1 year old son become very delirious that night changed everything. He was burning up, struggling to hold his head up and he looked frighteningly ill. I held him tight as my husband called NHS 24. On hearing the news that they felt it was best to send an ambulance my heart started to race. The panic kicked in. The overwhelming love that we have for these little people becomes very real. Holding my son close to me in the ambulance as he tried to stay awake broke my heart. I just wanted to take all of his pain away. I looked at that little flushed face and those wee fingers wrapped around mine and felt nothing but pure love.
Shortly after, once we arrived at the Sick Kids, the calpol had kicked in bringing his temperature down and he was feeling a lot better from his power nap in the ambulance. He started giving the nurses and doctors his notorious cheeky smile and we knew that he was going to be alright.
We drove home late on Saturday night and I felt exhausted. I felt emotional. I thought of parents who have to watch their children suffer. I thought about how much I would love to wrap ours up in cotton wool. How much I want to protect them. My heart was actually breaking a little bit on the drive home as I turned round and looked at my babies so innocently sitting there.
Seeing a child ill is just so hard – I am in awe of the bravery of families who have to watch their child suffer (physically or emotionally).
There would be no yoga that evening. I put Charlie to bed and held him so tight. If he was still ok in the morning I would be driving to Alloa, unprepared but going to give the half marathon my best shot.
I had a few nightmares after our traumatic evening but I woke ready to take on the 13 miles. After some serious hugs with my wee guy (who was almost back to himself and full of beans) I set off.
The sun was beating down, just like it was for my 10k event. I am not a fan of wind and rain but feel the sun is bittersweet for runners. Great weather looks amazing, especially on a scenic route like the one I was doing surrounded by mountains. The running itself is much harder though. I was unprepared and was too tired to search for my running belt (which had gone AWOL) when we got home from the hospital. I had intended to wear a light running jacket with a pocket for my music, however on feeling the strength of the sun already at 930am I knew I needed a back up plan.
Thankfully the event was very well organised. There was a stand selling running belts so that was me sorted. I really enjoy the atmosphere of the crowds but I also rely on my music. I love reminiscing to songs with great memories or getting in my zone when a funky beat takes over. It helps me to really enjoy the experience. The only other little niggle I had pre race was my slightly dodgy left knee (dancing like nobody is watching in high heels). To my delight there was a great physio on hand so I was able to have it checked out and taped up. Happy days.
I love the atmosphere just before the gun goes. You can feel the excitement, anticipation and nerves in the air. I really wanted to learn from my first race last May which got off to a shaky start after my music let me down. I had the playlist running smoothly and as the race started I was buzzing. I was soaking up the atmosphere and loving it. I think it is always important to remember the power of the mind when running. I hit a point last May about 2 miles in when I was getting really thirsty after the first hill in the heat. The early affects of dehydration meant that my mind started to tell me I couldn’t continue. I really had to use my mental strength to carry me through until I got to that water station. My legs were strong enough to carry me but sometimes the mind plays tricks with us. Funnily enough, I got ‘the fear’ at the same point running the half marathon. The conditions were very similar and my mouth was dry. I was desperate to get to that first water station and felt a little bit dizzy. I had to power on through.
I loved the race but I am slightly worried by the fact I have to do double in May. Sadly, I ran past a girl who had collapsed towards the end. She was in good hands with the professionals but I really felt for her. We should never underestimate the power of running in the heat. I think as I have ran 13 miles before I played it down slightly. It is a decent distance and it has reminded me how important my training is.
I have been running a lot but I feel we learn a lot more from organised events when training for a big race. This was only my 2nd race and I fear I should have entered a few more with the marathon fast approaching in May. If you are fairly new to running and gearing up for a big race – here are my tips:
- I like to run with free hands where possible but if the weather is warm I would run with water for the first few miles (you can ditch) until the first water station – this will prevent any early panics and keep the mind relaxed. I ran past a lot of people saying ‘where is the first water station?’
- Make sure you have done a minimum of 5 runs in your running gear. I wore size small Nike trousers as the medium pair I got in Nike were falling down and annoying me when I was out running recently. The small were a bit tight and uncomfortable though, giving me some stomach pain throughout the race that I could have avoided
- Wear your trainers in – I would go on a minimum of 10 runs in fitted running shoes before a long race. If you have not been for a gait check this is essential
- Make sure you are comfortable with any running straps/belts and devises and know how to use them
- If the weather is warm I would wear a cap or visor you are comfortable running in and some decent shades. Nike shades have been recommended to me. I had a pretty stingy sunburnt face last night
- If things are not going according to plan, you had a stressful night before and are not feeling on best form – deep breathing, surround yourself with positive people, listen to some good music and tell yourself you will feel so proud at the finish line
- Experiment with gels and different drinks for the long runs. I saw a lot of people taking gels around the 10 mile mark. I was scared of the unknown but they may have given me a boost – esp on the long hill at mile 10 in that heat. I will be experimenting over the next couple of months in the run up to my marathon
- I was violently sick after downing a bottle of lucozade not long after the race. I never drink the stuff and found it far too heavy for my stomach. The tight trousers and run in the heat probably didn’t help but I would try out a few different recovery drinks before a race day. I have since read up on it and there are lots of differing opinions. Some say if you drink or eat too quickly after a race it can make you really sick, others say to do so as soon as possible. Know what works best for you.
- Enjoy it, keep calm and don’t listen to the voices in your head when they say stop. Keep hydrated, walk if you start to feel sick but if your body feels strong just follow it
- If you have young kids get some help for after the race as walking will hurt – esp the following day. Not ideal for me with Daddy back at work and my 1 year old desperate to run around the garden at 830am!
If you would like to help me raise awareness please feel free to share any of my mental health articles. I am working with some amazing people and trying to write as much as I can in the run up to my marathon. The feedback I have been receiving has blown me away and I am so glad that people are talking. Talking helps. Let’s keep sharing and supporting x