In early December I decided to apply for a marathon. I asked mum where we would be end of March beginning of April time so that I had a few months to train. She said we would be near Greece, and it turned out that there was the Thessaloniki marathon, Alexander the Great Marathon.
History of the marathon
The name marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides a Greek messenger. He was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens. He ran the entire distance without stopping, burst into the assembly room to announce that the Persians had won the battle, before collapsing and dying. One of the reasons why I was worried.
A marathon has an official distance of 42.195 kilometres.
I emailed the organisers and asked wether it would be possible to apply for the marathon, they replied by saying that it was an international marathon so I had to be 18, but they said I could apply for the 10k instead. That’s what I did.
Now I’ve always loved sports but not running. I hated running, I would run for 5 minutes and I’d feel sick, breathing heavily… So I knew it would be a challenge.
The 26th of December I went to get a pair of running shoes, because no I didn’t even have running shoes. I went to Sports Direct with my uncle Graeme who is a physical training instructor in the prison service, which is what I want to do except in the RAF. So he helped me chose a pair and said, you’d better get started training quickly. My uncle’s time for a 10k, he says is 37.42 which I thought was an alright time. Before I left my uncle’s house he gave me one of his old fancy running watches, it gives you your time, speed, lap pace, etc.
The 1st of January we were in Spain, and I was exited to try out the watch and wear my new trainers, so I set off on my first proper run. I decided not to look at the watch but just to run as far, as fast as I could. So I started the watch and ran, after only 28 minutes I was exhausted and hadn’t even reached the 6k mark at an average speed of 12.5km/h. Now after that run I realised that 37.42 for a 10k was really fast. After that run I remember thinking that originally I was going to apply for a marathon, 42.195k, I was so relieved that I didn’t.
The 4th of January I did the same thing I went as far, as fast as I could. This time however I only reached the 4k mark with a time of 19.07, average speed of 12.8 km/h, I got a sore tummy and just felt weak and wanting to give up, which is why I didn’t like running in the first place.
My next run wasn’t until the 14th because after the previous run I just wanted to quit, this time only 3.5km at 17.44 with an average speed of 11.8. I felt terrible just wanting to quit instantly couldn’t even hold for half of what I had to do.
Here’s a list of a few of my next runs:
15th January, 2.57k, 15.39, 9.9km/h
23rd January, 3.32k, 14.34, 13.7km/h
24th January, 2.98k, 13.53, 12.9km/h
2nd February, 1.89k, 08.13, 13.8km/h
2nd February, 1.49k, 06.47, 13.2km/h
3rd February, 4k, 19.45, 12.2km/h
5th February, 1.76k, 08.16, 12.8km/h
5th February, 5.01k, 23.36, 12.7km/h
And it goes on like this,not too much progress, feeling terrible after every run, until the 23rd of February. Everyone was saying, you sure you’re doing enough training, there’s only 2 months until the race… I was just annoyed with everyone and everything, so I said right I’m going to do 10k, don’t care if I run it, walk it I’m doing 10k.
So I set off, I got to about 4k and thought, right 10k is kinda far though maybe I’ll just do 7 or 8. Moments after I met this old French guy riding his bike, we got chatting, he was in his 60s, very sporty looking guy, had 2 sons… He also mentioned that he did marathons, and he specified that he did them at about the same speed I was at, show off. As soon as he said that I thought well I can’t stop now otherwise this old guy is going to think, what this young sporty guy wanting to become a PTI is stopping now?!
I wasn’t really looking at my watch, but time flew by whilst I was talking because the next time I casually looked down I was at 7k, my longest ever run. It was at this point that the guy went ahead and said that it was nice talking and good luck. I was in my own, my legs were sore, I was sweating like crazy (I forgot to mention that I was within walking distance to the Sahara). I said to myself that I’ve never been closer to 10k can’t give up now. I just kept going, I finally reached 10k. When I did I was so happy, found a spot of shade and sat down celebrating for about 20 minutes. I was over the moon! I finished my first 10k in a time of 51.24 at 11.7km/h.
That run really helped me mentally because I knew that I could do 10k it was just a question of speeding up a bit.
The 25th I set out for a 5k feeling like I could achieve anything now I’d competed my 10k, and I did so in 21 minutes.
Then the 27th I did another 10k in 49.06 this time so a big improvement.
In that week I had ran quite a bit, and that had resulted in a few blisters. My next run wasn’t until the 7th of March.
On the 17th I did another 10k, this time in 46.39 and hadn’t run for over a week.
Next 10k was in 46.36 so just 3 seconds off but still better. I decided to run my last 10k on the 1st of April, a week before the race and remember that pace at keep it for the race. So I went out on the 1st finished in 44.56, much better than before. So not once had I gotten worse, I’d always beaten my time.
We made our way to thessaloniki, got there on the 3rd and stayed at this motorhome dealer’s place, for free. Yeah washing machine and everything!
On the 4th dad and I went in to collect my “athletic equipment” at the clock tower square. We went to the closest bus stop, went to IKEA, which is the main changeover for all the bus lines. Got on bus 3 which takes you to the centre, got off at the clock tower, also the finish line of the race. There were lots of stands selling and promoting running gear and gels, protein bars… We went over to the tent where all the runners were receiving there equipment. All I had to give was my name and my bib number which was sent to me by email weeks before.
In the bag was a few magazines, one with all the dates of every race, marathon, 10k and 5k. A T-shirt, and obviously the bib. The bib was really cool, there was my name, number.. And on the back there was a chip.
Now the chip gives you your net time, because if you think about it, there’s 3000 plus people queuing up ready to run, the gun goes and the person who is 3000th in the queue is going to have 30seconds to a minute added on to his time. So there is a sensor at the start and finish that detects your chip passing and that’s when your time starts.
That night I started eating loads and loads of carbs to get the most energy possible on the day. Now you really only have to eat loads of carbs the night before but the sooner the better. You really want to avoid any fried food though, don’t go near them not even a fried egg.
The race day, 6.4.14
The day of the race, I got up at 4, the race was at 8:45, you always want to eat 3-5 hours before. For breakfast you want something plain, so I had youghurt mixed with jam, then some oats, a banana and then on top some homemade granola. Oats are great to eat not only before a race but every day because they are low on the glycemic index, which means they release energy slowly.
We all left at 6:45 that morning to get the same bus trip as dad and I had before. Now Matt and dad would go to the finish and mum and Katie came with me to the start, so we had action at both ends. The buses are free the whole day for the runners which I thought was great.
The runners were just popping out of nowhere the closer we got to the start, buses were full of them.
We got to the start and I warmed up, got my bib on and waited in the queue of runners, all waiting for the gun.
And then 3…..2….1 BANG
My legs felt week as soon as the gun went off.
At the start I must have been dreaming because almost no time at all went by and I was already at 2k and thought wow this is going well.
At the 3k mark the runners were starting to separate and go at there own pace.
At 5k there was a water stop, volunteers all the way down the road holding water bottles and cups, you just grabbed one drank a bit then threw it off to the side. There were 2 of these stops along the way.
The last kilometre was great, loads of people cheering you on and really loud drumming helped motivate everyone. I accidentally stopped the timer on my watch near the end and started it again at the finish and it kept going, so I didn’t know my exact time.
When I saw the line I just started sprinting overtook a few people and when I crossed that line I felt so tired actually, it was only until after my head stopped spinning and my legs stopped aching that I was over the moon. All the hard training was worth it in the end. At the finish you get a medal, an apple and a bottle of water.
We all waited for the first marathon runners to arrive. The winner was a Kenyan, who completed it in 2 hours 15, AMAZING.
Overall a great experience, well organised, and the first of many races.
My top tips for running 10k:
1. If your training for a 10k, and it’s your 1st one, go out there and do 10k. Just don’t stop I know your legs will ache, you’ll sweat, want to stop, but I promise once you’ve done 10k you’ll feel amazing.
2. The week before the race don’t train hard because you won’t get better a week before your race. Go for slow runs, just go until you feel like, do a lot of stretching keep moving but don’t train too hard.
3. Make sure the night before the race you eat loads of carbs, rice, pasta, potatoes… Get as much energy as possible for the race. Avoid anything fried, or cakes, mars bars…. At worst a deep fried mars bar.
4. Go to the toilet before every single run, especially before your race. Nothing worse than needing a number 2 when your running, trust me.
5. Drink lots of water, very important before the race, make sure you stay hydrated.
6. Pace yourself. Start running slower than you think, once you stop breathing hard then slowly increase the speed, 10k is far so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up.
7. Stretch after runs while you muscles are still warm, and before a run always warm up for at least 5 minutes, no need to stretch before.
After all of that, I finished with a time of 45.12, and a net time of 44.52 – my best time so far. I came 9th in my category out of 76, and 144th overall out of 2476.
Here’s a video with an overview of the day.
Finally, my uncle Graeme is a quite fit for an old guy. He is cycling from John o’Groats to Lands End on the 26th of June with some friends to raise money for CLIC Sergeant, a charity which helps families who have a child or young person with cancer. His friend’s daughter has cancer (his friend is one of the cyclists too) and she is doing really well and getting a lot of help from this great charity. PLEASE THINK ABOUT DONATING, EVEN A LITTLE BIT – http://all4oneevents.org – THANK YOU