I started running just over two years ago purely to help with my goal of losing weight. I was pretty miserable at the time, and something had to change. I was terrible at it and it was hard. I persevered though, and it worked. I lost over 30kg in the first year. As time went on I got hooked and started to realise that I actually enjoyed running, and I was getting better at it than I could have ever imagined. I loved seeing the fast improvements I was making and I liked getting all nerdy about the data I collected in strava.
In 2016 I got a charity place for the Berlin Marathon. At the time I had no idea if I could even finish, so I put my estimated finish time as 04:45:00 and embarked on 6 weeks of endurance specific training. I ended up finishing in 03:53:07 and raised well over £1000 for Manchester mind. That night in my hotel room, I did some nerdy calculations and came to the conclusion that it would be possible for me to run a 03:30:00 marathon. This seemed crazy, that’s the sort of time “real runners” get, and I kept the idea to myself. But that idea had taken root and a plan was forming.
I signed up for the Greater Manchester Marathon straight away with that number rattling around in my head. I embarked on a 12 week training program leading up to the big day. I committed to running outdoors 3 times a week, despite it being cold, wet and dark for the vast majority of it. I would do a long run every Sunday, recovery run on Tuesday and a varied workout on Thursday. Track days, progression runs, fartlek sessions, fast finishes, threshold intervals and goal pace runs. Anything I could think of (or read about on the internet) to keep it varied and interesting. I uploaded all my runs to strava and was amazed to find that quite a few people were genuinely interested in following my progress and all the nice comments on there helped keep me motivated.
I had often toyed with the idea of joining a running club but I was always a little nervous about it. I decided it was about time I actually met some people who ran. Coming straight from the freeparty scene to doing pretty much nothing but training in a relatively short space of time meant that none of my friends ran and I had no one I could really talk to about what I’d been up to. I did some research into local clubs and the VEGAN RUNNERS seemed like the obvious choice.
I went vegetarian in primary school (mainly to annoy my dinner lady and get special meals) and have been vegan (with quite a few cheesy lapses and various levels of flexibility) since college. The social aspect of VR appealed to me the most. They have lots of meet ups involving tasty food. Having people to meet up with at races and people I can chat to about running has been great. Wearing the vest is also quite a talking point and I’ve had quite a few nice chats with people on the street.
So, on race day I was ready. I had a plan and I had put in the hard work. All the VRs who were doing the marathon met before the start for a quick photo and some words of encouragement then we split up and went off to our various starting positions in good spirits. The weather was perfect. The sun on my face and a cool breeze in my hair. It was time to blast SLAYER in my headphones and simply execute the plan! For the first 30km I was feeling great and cruising. I had to keep reminding myself not to speed up even though I felt like I could. Compared to the city-wide party that was Berlin, I was half expecting the Manchester Marathon to be a boring trudge through Trafford, but the the crowd support was amazing and the big marathon vibe was there in abundance. Manchester did good.
As the km clocked up, my legs started to hurt, but I was still managing to maintain my pace. I was loving it. I was pacing myself using strava and I knew I was bang on schedule pretty much the whole way round. I saw a few VEGAN RUNNERS running the opposite way on the various loops of the course and we waved each other on. I also saw a few VEGAN RUNNERS supporters in the crowd going nuts when they saw the green vest. For the most part I was in the zone and getting on with it. Finally, I saw the finish. I was really struggling now but I knew it was okay that there was no chance I could do the sprint finish I had hoped for because I had made up a few seconds here and there along the way. The finish was on the longest straight ever and it didn’t seem to be getting any closer for what seemed like an eternity. And then it was all over! My phone battery died the second I stopped strava, so I had no idea if I had achieved my goal. I knew my splits were good, but gps can be pretty inaccurate over that distance and it’s chip time that counts.
I saw Kevin from VR who was waiting at the finish line to congratulate everyone. He had got an incredible time, smashed his target and looked fresh as a daisy. August crossed the line shortly after me. I’d passed him at a water stop a few minutes earlier and I did my best to tap him on the shoulder and give him a smile without tripping and knocking him over. We had a little chat before I skulked off to find some bananas, a complimentary alcohol-free beer and a phone charger. And there it was. I’d done it. 03:30:05 – I’m sure not going to lose any sleep over those 5 seconds! I was sat on the grass enjoying the sunshine and watching the finishers when a stranger came up to me and gave me a giant vegan protein bar and congratulated me. It was disgusting and I couldn’t eat it, but it was a lovely gesture and it made my race day perfect.
Make a plan and stick to it.