Stuff I Learned While Running 26.2 miles

I ran my first marathon yesterday! It was a super hot, super hilly course, but with really good views over the city. I saw people I follow on Instagram (which was weird, like seeing a celebrity) and I have never known community spirit like it. I learnt some stuff over the whole 26.2 miles, mostly while my brain was screaming at me to stop.

Number 1 – A marathon is a long way. I thought I realised this. I’d run 20 miles in training, I had trained for months. I thought I knew how long it was going to feel. It feels so much longer. The last 6.2 miles were the longest 6.2 miles of my entire life. A marathon is a really long way guys.

Number 2 – The people cheering you on are lifesavers. The first time I saw my people (in the first mile) I was ecstatic, and it totally powered me on up the first hill of the day (there was many more to come). The amount of people who came out to cheer us all on was incredible. I was so grateful to all of them, everyone who clapped us up hills and let us know where the next water station was, every kid who gave us all high fives, everyone who handed out jelly babies. It was awesome.

Number 3 – I loved the first 6-7 miles. I kept telling myself to feel the joy in the run, to smile, to enjoy everything. I was having the time of my life. I was naively thinking it was going very well, and that sure I’ll totally run another marathon, this is fun! Enjoy those miles cause it gets super hard later.

Number 4 – Panicking at mile 13 really sucks. Not being able to catch your breath, and you know it’s cause you’re brain is panicking over something that is ridiculous because you’ve run 20 miles in training why are you bothered about 13?? is stressful and terrifying. I was walking, tearing up, surreptitiously wiping a couple of tears away and gulping back sobs through the water station because I knew if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop. I was really tempted to ask one of the spectators for a hug at one point. BUUUT people will check on you, slap you on the back when they pass you, spectators will give you a thumbs up even when you look terrible. People are better then you think.

Number 5 – If you can get over your panic at mile 13 everything will be fine because if you can do that you can do anything.

Number 6 – Hills really suck. You really should have done more hill training. Stop avoiding things that are difficult because it leads you to situations like this where you’re struggling with any and all inclines.

Number 6 – Music really helps. If you need a particular song to help you out cause only one will do you sure as hell stick your headphones in and get that song playing. Whatever it is that helps you do it. Make a banging playlist before you start and set it going on repeat.

Number 7 – When the weather is super warm you really need to chill and take it easy. Aim for the water sprays when people have their hosepipes out, ask the kids with water pistols to aim right at you, do as the professionals do on TV and throw water over the back of your head, whatever it is DO IT. Also remember to keep hydrated. Sip your water, make sure you use the water stations. Don’t go overboard and get a stitch (that sucks) but definitely make sure you’re keeping hydrated.

Number 8 – You really should have put sun cream on your neck because that’s literally the only place you didn’t and now you’re going to get burnt there. Put all the sun cream on everywhere.

Number 9 – Walking is not a failure. You’re still moving, you’re still getting round. It’ll be aokay.

Number 10 – Even when you want to stop, every step you keep taking forwards is an achievement. I have never before wanted to stop halfway through a run or a race. I’ve been tired, I’ve been sore, I’ve been at the point where I don’t know if I can do it, sure, but I have never mentally told myself that I wanted to stop and go home. It was terrifying. Every step you take when your brain is telling you to give up is an achievement.

Number 11 – Volunteers at water stations are the best. All the volunteers are amazing, but there’s something special to be handed a water bottle four hours into the marathon by someone who is clearly tired and is still wearing a smile and shouting encouragement. They are lifesavers.

Number 12 – There’s something to be said for the running community. Every time I huffed and puffed, every time I walked, every time I looked moderately more in pain then usual someone passing would check I was okay. Runners are amazing people.

Number 13 – You can get through more then you think you can. Yes, every mile since 17 has been super painful. Yes, your legs are telling you they’re sore but you did your training. You have put the miles in. You have got this far already you can most certainly get further.

Number 14 – You’re gonna hit the wall. You might hit one wall, climb over it and find another wall. There might be wall after wall after wall. All the walls. You’ve climbed walls before, you can totally get over this wall. Knock them down if you feel like it. You’ve got this.

Number 15 – Sometimes you got to find someone who’s running at your pace and stick with them. I literally only got through miles 21-26 by running alongside this angel in the form of human being called Carol. I swear to god it made everything somehow bearable run/walking with someone who was struggling just as much as I was and didn’t mind having company.

Number 16 – Literally nothing is better then getting within 200 yards of the finishing line, seeing your people screaming, and somehow finding the energy to bounce back up and run, not the funny jog/walk/shuffle you’ve been doing for the last 3 miles, properly run, with a massive smile on your face across the finish line. There is no better feeling.

Number 17 – Your legs really hurt.

Number 18 – Get all the drinks and food they hand out at the finish line. Even if it tastes awful, try it cause sipping water after shot bloks for 26 miles with the odd bit of Lucozade really messes with your stomach.

Number 19 – Bring some shoes for afterwards. It was the absolute BEST thing to awkwardly bend down and get my trainers off after the race and put my flip flops on. Bring some flip flops or something. 100% would recommend.

Number 20 – Don’t stop moving. I’m writing this the day after running the marathon and my legs are not as sore as I was expecting and I can only assume that’s because I had to walk 1.5 miles back to the car. I mean, it wasn’t a swift walk and I was overtaken by literally everyone but I think it helped me not to seize up cause my legs are just a bit achey-sore, not stiff-I-really-don’t-want-to-move-at-all-sore.

Number 21 – Even if you’re disappointed with your finishing time (which you totally shouldn’t be you’ve just run a marathon!) most people will just be amazed that you’ve run that way. You did it. You ran 26.2 miles. YOU RAN A MARATHON THAT’S AMAZING.

Number 22 – You’ll tell your mum not to let you book another one ever straight after finishing but the next day you’re starting to wonder whether you could get a faster time on a different course.

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