If you follow this blog you will know that I returned to running in January last year, joining my local club, Wimbledon Windmilers and taking on the challenge to run 7 races to mark the 7 years of care our family have received from our wonderful hospice, ShootingStar-Chase. You can read more about this here This Mother's Day I will be mostly... and here Fundraising for our Hospice.
The 7 race challenge as well as several cross country and trail races in between left me hooked on running and racing so when I was offered a place on the ShootingStar-Chase London Marathon team I jumped at the chance. And never one to do things by halves I have spent the past few months running in mainly sub zero temperatures, clocking up the equivalent of hundreds of miles, and completing countless hill and speed training sessions in an effort not just to complete the marathon but to complete it in a reasonably good time.
This is not my first marathon however, I normally answer this question with, well this feels like the first one and it's the first I have seriously trained for, it's such a long time since my last marathon.
My last marathon was BC - before children, the Flora London marathon in 1996. I ran it in 4 hours 55 minutes - not bad really considering I did not have the luxury I have these days of a Garmin satellite watch, the skills of an osteopath and sport massage therapist and the support of a fantastic running club as well as loads of training info on the internet. And while I was motivated, I think the motivation of running to support a cause you care for so passionately helps as well.
But actually while that was my first London Marathon, my first marathon was quite a few years before that. Flora London Marathon in1996 was the peak of my return to running as an adult (a few weeks later, the day after completing the Basingstoke half marathon, I found out I was pregnant with Theo and for a while after the most I did was a few 5k races until Daisy's arrival put paid to any thoughts of serious running for a long while).
I actually ran my first marathon in 1981. That's not a typo and for those of you trying to work out the maths, I was 13. There's not much around in the way of stats for this marathon but I think you would also be safe in assuming that not only was I in the minority in terms of my age, I was also a minority female entrant.
I was never very good at team sports in school, being left handed I also seemed to have two left feet and was frequently among the last few left on the bench when it came to picking teams. But through my Dad, I started running. My Dad was a former club rugby player turned marathon runner and I have many early memories of family trips to obscure locations in Wales to cheer him on in a race. I found that I could run, not fast but I could run far (yes images of Forrest Gump do spring to mind) and this was in the very early eighties where long distance running was the preserve of eccentrics. And while the rest of my contemporaries listening to the latest Duran Duran album on cassette, I was pounding the country lanes of South Wales, without a garmin, without a mobile, without energy gels.
In those days you could enter a marathon below the age of 18, so when Dad entered the first ever Cardiff Marathon, I thought I'd give it a go too. It was tough, and long and there were many, many areas where there were no supporters, just amused onlookers,but the abiding memory I do have is of the bemused face of my PE teacher as I ran past her. Suddenly I was no longer the geeky girl who never got picked for the hockey or netball teams, now I was golden running girl who later that year won a gold medal in sports day for the 3,000m.
|That's me, number 3917, my dad's to my left|
That first marathon was completed in around 5 hours 55minutes (no chip timing again in those days). I'm hoping that on Sunday will be able to knock a good couple of hours of that original marathon time and with a good wind behind me and a good race on the day I'm hoping to know an hour off my last London Marathon time. Because these days. despite the fact that I am considerably older than when I ran my original two marathons, my motivation is very different. After all what person of sound mind is prepared to get up in the early hours, when there is ice on the ground and freezing rain to run a 20 mile race around the Surrey countryside? We all have our reasons why we run, but for me running is escapism. It gives me space, time and it's something just for me. As I tell many people, running is my prozac, it keeps me sane and helps me cope with the physical and emotional challenges of my life with Daisy and the rest of the family, and it also allows me to eat cake!
This week's events in Boston have given me an even greater motivation to run well. Runners have an incredible camaraderie, we support eachother and share in eachother's successes and near misses. It doesn't matter if you're an elite athlete or the slow one at the back we are united in our common love for what we do and that we have all made that first, most difficult step and laced up our shoes and stepped out of the front door to run. My race on Sunday will be for our hospice and all the children who they support but I'll also be thinking about everyone who was involved in the Boston Marathon in some shape or form.
But most of all I'll be thinking of my lovely Dad who sadly didn't get to run a third marathon with me but will be smiling with the angels on Sunday.
(Please don't forget you can still sponsor me at www.justgiving.com/stephnimmo)