On Sunday I ran my first marathon. It was the Manchester marathon and it was amazing. I’d only done one half marathon before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Ok, I expected pain, pain and more pain.

Yup, pretty much what I was expecting!

The Journey

The weekend started on Saturday morning when I met some of my running club Pegasus at Cardiff Central train station. I had been packing on and off during the week and may have taken a few too many items.

This is called ‘panic packing’!


It wouldn’t be a Pegs outing without a selfie so we all squished together.

#PegsOnTour!


I got to the hotel and unpacked then laid out all my running kit for the morning.

My first marathon
I’m ready!


We all got together the night before the marathon to carb load and have a giggle. Sarah arranged for us to eat at Dom Marco and it was fantastic. I’ve never seen a table full of people drink so much water!

Cheers!


After the meal we all went back to our hotels for an early night.

It’s Race Day!

I didn’t have the best nights sleep which was to be expected but I woke up feeling confident and excited about the race. A quick breakfast of porridge and a banana then it was time to get my kit on and jump in a taxi.

Ready for my first marathon
Let’s go!!


After 3 trips to the toilet and dropping my bag off, it was time to go to the start line. The nerves started to creep in a little bit but I was feeling great and couldn’t wait for the marathon to start.

Katie and I looked around us and noticed that spectators were stood in the starting area with the runners. There weren’t any marshals around to keep them out of it and for some reason they thought this was acceptable behaviour.

I was later told that spectators where also using the portaloos and causing runners to be late for the start. This was also happening along the course and runners were having to wait longer than necessary during their race.

At the start of my first marathon
Starting line selfie with Katie

And We’re Off

The race started and we crossed the timing mats so started our Garmins. Katie and I kept the pace quite slow so that we wouldn’t get carried away and ruin our race in the first mile. It turns out I had more to worry about than my pace.
About 1/2 mile in I felt my foot go into a hole in the road and I couldn’t get it out quick enough. Splat! I landed on my knees, my hands and also smacked my right shoulder on the ground. Katie pulled me up and we carried on but my hands and knees were stinging like crazy.
My left hand was bleeding and I didn’t want to look at my knees. My running tights weren’t torn so I guessed that my knees were ok. It knocked my confidence for a bit but I knew I had to ignore it and keep going.
 
Mile 4 and I was photobombed by a Welsh flag!

I kept my pace comfortable and enjoyed the amazing support from the marshals and spectators. Having my name on my running vest was the best decision and about 50% even got my name right. I’m used to being called Sarah instead of Sara so answered with a “whoop whoop” and kept on running.

The miles ticked away but by mile 11 I was feeling tired and my knees were killing me, the finish seemed so far away. I kept plodding on and chatted with a few runners then we were soon at the halfway point. I like the halfway point of any run as I know I’m on my way to the end and I can start counting down the miles.

Halfway There

halfway through my first marathon
13.1 miles down… only 13.1 miles to go!


Just after mile 14 I stopped to say hello to Adele, her hubby, their daughter and their 2 border terriers. I met Adele on Twitter, she’s also a runner and a big inspiration to me so getting to meet her was brilliant.

Runfie with my run-spiration!


Then it was time to crack on and tick off some more miles. This was the hardest part of the run for me, miles 15-19 seemed to drag and it didn’t help that the 19 mile marker was actually at 19.6 miles. A lot of runners freaked out at this point but we pulled ourselves together and stomped on.

Mile 20 Onwards

A lot of marathon runners say that somewhere between miles 20-23 is when you ‘hit the wall’ so I was expecting the worst but it never came. After mile 20 I seemed to kick it up a gear and loved the fact that I’d never run this far before.

My training runs had stopped at 20 miles so when I hit 20.01 miles I got really excited and the adrenalin was flowing. My knees were still hurting a lot from the fall but even that didn’t dampen my fun. I loved mile 20 onwards!

Mile 23 and feeling good!!
 
Mile 23.1 meant that I was only a parkrun away! Just 5K to go. 3.1 little miles and it would be over and I would be a marathon finisher. 
 
We came up to a bend in the road and a marshal shouted out that we would be able to see the finish as soon as we got around the corner. Then it happened… I could see the finish in the distance!
 
I CAN SEE THE FINISH!!
 
The crowd seemed to be exploding with excitement for us. My name was being called out every few seconds and their amazing support drove me forward.

The Finish Line!

I sprinted to the finish line and threw my hands in the air!! Finally I had done it. I had finished my first marathon!
 
Finishing my first marathon
NAILED IT!!
 

My official chip time was 5 hours 18 minutes and 40 seconds. The goal was to finish before the 6 hour cut off so I was chuffed to bits!

I finished my first marathon
My precious…
 
I picked up my medal and my goody bag then went to find the rest of the Pegs. I’d been messaging them during the last few miles so knew they were in the queue to collect their bags. They’d told me the queue was massive but I hadn’t quite realised how long it was.
I finally found the end and joined it. It moved really slowly and soon we were being told that runners who had just reached the front had been waiting for over 2 hours. 2 HOURS! Food and warm clothes were needed but had to settle for a bag of popcorn from my goody bag and a space blanket which I wore like a cape.
 
I chatted with a few fellow runners to pass the time and eventually I was getting closer to the front and my Pegs were in sight. They had just collected their bags and came over to keep me company. We all congratulated each other and swapped marathon stories.
When my bag was back with me (after only an hour of waiting!) we had a quick group photo.

 

Very tired and happy Pegs

Post Marathon Debrief

We went to Hotel Football opposite Old Trafford stadium for a celebratory drink.

We did it!
 

Now the contents of a goody bag are usually quite normal but now and again they throw in something a bit strange…

I was nearly tempted to suck on the spaghetti
during the baggage queue!


After a quick drink it was time to go back to the hotel to wash off the road and relax. During miles 15-19 I kept thinking about how I was going to have a hot bath with a cuppa tea to rest my achy body. It was bliss!

I showered to get the road off me first!


We all met up again for a meal but everyone was so tired that we weren’t out for long. I was exhausted but couldn’t actually get to sleep. All I could do was lay on the bed and look at my medal. I still can’t quite believe that I’ve run a marathon.

Eventually I put my medal on my spare pillow and went to sleep. Monday came and it was time to get the train home.

#PegsOnTour is nearly over!

Homeward Bound

Now I know what you’re all thinking… what happened to your knees Sara? Well here they are; grazed, bruised and swollen but they still carried me 25.5 miles!

This was a few days after the marathon
 
And this is my pride and joy…

My first marathon medal!
 
Most runners follow a plan when training for an event and I had mine printed out and stuck to the fridge. Like most plans they are subject to change and mine changed on a pretty regular basis.
There are lots of crossings out and amendments but it got me marathon ready. In total I ran 301 miles before the big day!
 
My first marathon training plan completed
301 miles!!


Before I ran this marathon I had decided that I wouldn’t run another one, not because it would be hard and a challenge but because it takes up a hell of a lot of your life. Well race day changed that, I realised what the sacrifices were for and it was so worth it!!

I want to thank everyone for their encouragement and support. There were times when I didn’t think I could do another training run but a quick chat/message with my Besty or one of my Pegs and I was back on it.

My family, my friends and my running family got me through this and I am so grateful, I know I couldn’t have done this without you.

Fundraising

I also want to thank everyone who sponsored me. You helped me raise £443.04 (including gift aid) for Friends of the Dogs Wales and their gorgeous puppies who deserve to find their forever homes. If you didn’t get chance to sponsor me then you can still do so here.

Training for a marathon while grieving for my lovely Dad was incredibly hard but it also gave me something to focus on. It gave me the distraction that I needed at a time when I didn’t know how to move forward. Somehow I found a way, one step at a time, one tear at a time, one run at a time. 

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