You should run your first marathon for the right reasons, because you'll never be the same person again. You must want to do it, not do it because your boss did it or your spouse did it.
(Bill Wenmark, running coach. Via Runner's World Daily Kick in the Butt)
I'm not sure what Bill's position would be on "entering a marathon because your squiffy mate, Hammo, said she was going to and you were so squiffy you agreed", but that's how I found myself entering my first marathon in 2005. Truth is, I'd always wanted to be able to say I'd done a marathon, my dad ran one when I was very small (apparently I spectated from my pushchair asking helpfully, "Where's Daddy? Why is he taking so long? Why does he look so tired?"), and I'd been accumulating a small stack of London rejection fleeces in the years running up to this.
It wasn't long before Hammo's persuasive nature had taken a further 3 victims and a crew of five were preparing to tackle our maiden marathon. "How had she managed to do this?" you might ask. By disguising this test of endurance as a jolly weekend jaunt to Amsterdam is how. She is a cunning creature indeed.
I don't remember exactly what I did in terms of trying to find a training programme but I do know that I can't have followed it very well. I do seem to remember thinking I was still quite fit from rowing and cycling (this was a delusion); I also sprained my ankle playing netball about 5 months before the marathon, thus enabling me to procrastinate a little further before starting with the training (this was unwise); finally, I do remember going out for one long run, where I ran as far as I could, basing my mileage on an approximation of 10 min/mile and came home when I was tired after 3 hours or so, claiming it to have been at least 18 miles (this was totally inaccurate and wildly short of the mark, I later discovered using Google maps).
So, in hindsight, my training had been delusional, unwise and inaccurate. Terrific stuff.
Lucky then that I was blissfully unaware of this. In fact, the scale of the task we had undertaken only really began to hit home whilst perusing the map over a pizza the night before. Fortunately, we had innocently installed ourselves on a table outside a pizzeria directly opposite a coffee house and we grew passively more positive as the evening wore on.
Race morning arrived and we faced the first task of finding some breakfast before locating the right train to take us to the out of town start. Hammo was on the ball and got us to the right platform, but we were less prepared with the nutritional aspects and grabbed ourselves some coffee and croissants from a grubby kiosk at the station. The journey was a truly enlightening experience: firstly, by meeting a chap we called "100 marathon man" - he had a special t-shirt on that proclaimed this and he took great pride in warning us that we were grossly unprepared for the day's events; secondly, we discovered that the train journey was just long enough to take us through steps 1-4 of the 5 phases of caffeine intake. We hurriedly bid farewell to 100 marathon man and trotted as fast as we could to the portaloos and bag drop.
As far as the run itself, I think I remember 4 main aspects of the course:
1) 3 laps of the stadium: at the start, halfway through and at the finish. The one at halfway forced me to go to my special place and have a stern chat with myself.
2) The 5 mile out and back along the river: here I saw thousands of runners on the other side of the river at least 10 miles ahead of me. Special place visited again.
3) The industrial estate: a part of the course where tumbleweed replaced spectators.
4) The finish: specifically having to do a final lap of that wretched track, the kind lady who took my timing tag off because I couldn't bend down, and eventually finding my cheering friends who had all finished before me.
I have few other memories of the run itself, except that I know I have truly never been more relieved to finish a race. Oh, and that Gatorade is not a sports drink I like to consume, let alone wear for several hours after sloshing it over myself from a crumpled plastic cup. I realise that I may sound a little negative about my first marathon, but I was pretty gutted at this point. Gutted at myself for preparing so badly and gutted that I wasn't as fit as I thought. There were many great things about the race too, not least the brilliant idea by the organisers to abandon the tried and tested space-blanket and replace it with this example of sartorial elegance (modelled below by Hammo).
Maybe Bill was right and I did enter for the wrong reasons but it all changed on that day. I would definitely tackle another marathon and this time it would be personal.
I have found today has been the toughest of Janathon so far; I have very little to complain about in life but I arrived home aching and tired from work yesterday and woke today grumpy that I would have fit in a long run before going back in to work this evening. Only I didn't have to go and do a long run at all, did I? I chose to enter VLM and I really want to run it. If I want to get better at this sport I love, I'm going to have to get out there and put the work in. So I did, wearing my bright orange Amsterdam 2005 t-shirt. And in doing so managed to go through the 100 mile mark today.
Today is 23rd of Janathon, it also ends Week 4 of my marathon training. If I make it to Week 8, 12, and 16, then I'll blog about the 2nd, 3rd and 4th marathons, respectively. Lucky you.
Lessons learned by running Amsterdam marathon:
A marathon is quite a long way.
A 16 mile "long run" is not long enough.
Gatorade is like lemon-flavoured sweat.
Day 23 - Long slow run
Distance: 12.12 miles
Av Pace: 11:32 min/mile
Cake rating: 5/5 (because I know now I feel better for running 12 miles than I would have from watching the Hollyoaks omnibus)
Cumulative Janathising: 102.0 miles running + 94.5 miles cycling + 1.4 miles swimming