Monday, 14 April 2014

Yes, you could run the Marathon, too

By HFG fitness writer Hannah Ebelthite

Four words you need to know about the Marathon: you can do it. Injury or illness aside, I truly believe anyone can run 26.2 miles if they want to.

And that’s what I did yesterday, along with 36,000 other runners who lined up to start the 34th London Marathon. It was my third marathon and I was proud to be representing my running club, Ranelagh Harriers, in my blue vest. Waiting in the warm spring sunshine at the start on Blackheath I felt a flutter of nerves, but was determined to channel them into energy. My goal was to come in under four hours, for which I’d need to run even splits of nine-minute miles.

And, despite the crowds, I managed that comfortably for the first half of the race, passing halfway in 1:58. After that? Things went a little pear-shaped. Running along The Highway from mile 13 is the first chance you get to see the much-speedier runners coming back in the opposite direction. Distracted by looking out for other members of my club, I tripped on a traffic cone and went flying. I quickly picked myself up and styled it out… but I’d badly stubbed my toe and kicked myself in the calf and was a little shaken. Then, at mile 15, I could hold out no longer, and had to stop for a quick wee (at a Portaloo - I didn’t ‘do a Paula’).

It was at this point I realised that my GPS watch, that had been keeping me on pace, had stopped! I’d have to run the remaining 11 miles ‘on feel’ – something many runners do anyhow, but something I wasn’t used to. Too fast and I risked burning out before the end. Too slow and I’d miss my target. Such are the challenges of endurance running.

In the end I ran what I thought was a decent pace, even managing a sprint for the final iconic metres down Birdcage Walk, past Buckingham Palace and into The Mall. As I collected my medal I couldn’t stop grinning. But I had to wait to retrieve my baggage in order to find out my finishing time (the digital number shown over the finish doesn’t include the time it took you to cross the start line).

Did I make it under four hours? Unfortunately not. My time was 4:02:03, which marks a six-minute personal best for me. But I was so desperate for my time to start with a three that I can’t say I’m not annoyed. Would things have been different had I not tripped up, stopped for the loo or had a working watch – or if it hadn’t been quite so hot and sunny? Who knows? But I’m pleased that I finished the race in decent shape, with a smile on my face. 

Today my legs ache and my stubbed toes are sore, but I feel good and I’m planning my next challenge. There’s nothing to regret about taking part in one of the world’s greatest events – it takes in some of the city’s most impressive sights and shows Londoners at their finest. The roar of crowds cheering us round Canary Wharf and along Embankment are still ringing in my ears.

The ballot for next year’s Virgin Money London Marathon opens on 22 April… just in case you’re tempted!

My top Marathon tips:

  • Have your name printed on your top – the sound of strangers calling it out in encouragement is really motivating.
  • Follow a decent training programme of at least 12 weeks, ideally 16. I got mine from
  • Practise race day nutrition and hydration on your long runs. I had Weetabix and a banana for breakfast, then topped up my energy during the race with SIS Go Gels – sachets of easy-to-digest carbohydrate fluid to fuel you. 

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