My Second Ever Marathon: Sub 4 Hours!
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"Good morning!" Called two jolly male joggers as they dashed past.
It wasn't a rhetorical question. It wasn't even a question.
"No," I replied, more to myself then to my fellow runners. No, it was currently not a good morning.
Unsurprisingly, my bizarre response acquired puzzled looks.
Wait – were they men jogging, or were they two ginormous slices of pizza skipping off into the horizon...?
Was it even morning anymore?
Come to think of it, what year were we even in?
Was Tony Blair still the Prime Minister, or Winston Churchill?
I was 34km into my second ever full marathon, and I was pretty certain that I had started to hallucinate. So far, I had run 21 miles without stopping or walking once. I was slap bang in the middle of the most impressive performance of my running career. ('Career' makes me sound like some sort of pro – I'm definitely not. I still wear my garish Percy Pig socks with my running trainers at least once a week, and yes, they certainly are visible every time.)
"I'm done," I said quietly to myself, slowing my pace for the first time since half past six that morning.
My legs felt as though I had spent the last decade on a treadmill.
How was I only on 34km?! I'd been on the go since 6:30am – it was now past 9 O'clock. I was hungry and I was fed up.
I didn't feel physically tired as such, more so mentally shattered. My body felt fine, and was up for carrying on, but my mind had shut down. I'd had enough now, and I wanted to snap my fingers and find myself back home, eating endless hash browns and left over Easter egg.
I checked my timer again: 34.2km. Really?!
I wanted to throw myself to the pavement and have a full-on childlike paddy, kicking my legs and punching the floor, until somebody came with a hefty stash of Crunchy Nut cornflakes and salted pretzels. (It's funny the foods you crave when suffering from marathon-induced malnourishment!)
The first 34km had been pretty enjoyable – in fact, I would even go as far as saying that they had been a breeze. I had absolutely obliterated my usual Saturday morning half marathon in my best ever time (1 hour, 42 minutes), and had carried on running with boundless energy well into the 30km mark. I knew I was on for a good overall time, and the prospect of running the full marathon in under four hours spurred me on.
But then, at 34km in, something inside me just snapped. I think it may have been down to the fact that I had finally been forced to loop back on myself, having run out of my circular route. I had already covered this section of road, and pounding the very same pavement for the second time that morning suddenly felt monotonous.
I ran my first marathon in May 2020, because what else did anybody have to do back then, in the throes of Lockdown 0.1?
Prior to that, I had only ever run one half marathon and one 10km, so I was not what one might call 'practised' in long distance. Despite this, I still managed to complete the 26.2 miles in 4 hours and 23 minutes – a time I was immensely proud of. My memories of the days that followed my first marathon include industrial portions of French Fancies, a lot of crying, and the bizarre inability to even lean forwards to put socks on. I was just thankful that I was working from home back then, because I spent a good week practically crawling around the house, looking into wheelchair hire.
(I received the beautiful Medal Mad 'Trivia' medal for my efforts, which has had pride of place on my hanger ever since, and remains to be my all-time favourite!)
This time around, I felt a lot more prepared. I have been running one half marathon a week for the past six months, and can now comfortably complete 13.1 miles without needing to stop or walk. I never ache after my weekly half marathons, and am rarely rendered breathless, despite my usual route involving some very steep hills (including the second to the last painstaking km!).
I made the decision to try another marathon on a whim. It was Good Friday 2021, and I had spent the day binge watching Homes Under The Hammer (I know, I know...) and eating my way through a whole Lindt bunny.
Casting an eye over the bursting basket of Easter chocolate, I felt sluggish. I hadn't run for a few days, instead swapping my usual 5kms for guzzling down ungodly amounts of Mini Eggs.
Running another marathon was on my 2021 bucket list, but had so far been put on hold due to ongoing running-related issues with my legs. After a few weeks of rest and a new set of running shoes, my shin splints and knee pains started to subside and I was able to return to peak fitness.
Now fully recovered (...and full of chocolate!), I decided it was time to satisfy my marathon craving and do something productive with my Easter weekend. And so on Easter Saturday came my second ever marathon.
Despite my mini meltdown at 34km, I persevered.
I allowed myself half a kilometre to walk, before cranking up my 'running' playlist and pushing on.
For me, one of the hardest and most mentally challenging things about running a marathon is remembering that the distance is 42km, not 40. Those last two kilometres are the absolute worst, and honestly feel never-ending.
But I did it – I got there.
I couldn't believe it when my tracker app sang out, 'Time: 3 hours, 32 minutes. Distance: 42km...'
I had run my second ever marathon in under four hours, shaving 50 minutes off my original time!
I practically floated home, basked in the unrivalled feeling of runner's high.
(The large pizza and double dough ball portion that evening never tasted so good!)
My ultimate running dream is to participate in the London marathon. Unfortunately, I missed out on a place this year, but I have opted for the next best thing: signing up for Medal Mad's amazing 'Run Around London' challenge! I'm looking forward to completing this on the actual race day, granting me a pinch of the action.
Bring it on!
Cara Jasmine Bradley
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