Marathon number six is done! Today my girlfriend and I ran the Manchester Marathon. Did I mention it is also my birthday?
This week has been spent resting up after last weekend's fifth marathon down in Taunton. I have been stiff as a board all week, so I figured the best remedy for two marathons in a week was to recover sensibly, rather than try to cross train. I spent lots of time in baths, foam roller-ing and in the sauna - curiously one day there was a guy in there with a flask doing press-ups. I know right? What an absolute space cadet.
On Thursday morning I was interviewed by BBC Radio Suffolk live on the Breakfast Show regarding NHS eating disorder waiting times for treatment. The waiting times in Suffolk in particular are horrendous. Friday morning I had another Dentist appointment at Guy's Hospital - this time it was 3.5 hours.
I have got to have six crowns fitted to replace my front six teeth in the summer due to the damage caused by my bulimia. It meant that when we had the usual trip to 26 Grains for porridge porn, I could not taste anything as my mouth was completely numb! But at least it looked pretty tasty...
I came across a brilliant article by Andy Baddeley, the GB Olympic 1,500m runner (here and here). He had so many injuries post-London 2012 that he ended up suffering from depression. He saw himself as a "runner" and when that was taken away, he felt like a fraud and a loss of identity. I can relate a lot to this - I have always been honest with you guys so I have to admit I have found things very tough during the last month.
My challenge obviously started ridiculously well, running all four marathons under 2:51 and winning them all. Pretty quickly I was getting asked almost daily if I was going to win the next race, and I certainly felt pressure building quickly and heavily to keep winning. Then when I had to drop out of the fifth marathon, I felt as though I had let everybody down.
Last week I finally ran my fifth marathon of the year, running 3:31 at the Taunton Marathon. I finished 46th out of 100 runners and I felt I could sense the disappointment in others. I am my biggest critic and am very hard on myself, so I could feel it myself too. I felt like I had to justify my time to others as everyone has been really sympathetic towards me as if I had just received some really bad news!
I love my training partners, but it has been so so tough because I am surrounded by other runners on Facebook, Twitter, Garmin etc who are all smashing their training for spring marathons whilst I am either resting or cycling in a gym on my own. I have deleted the apps off my phone now as I find it's best not to see what people are up to.
With hindsight I can see that most (basically all) of the pressure & expectation I have felt has actually come from me. There is a great question posed in the article which says "Is running who you are, or what you do?" This is what I have tried to remember this last month. I love running, but I am not "Tom the Runner" or a superhero. I am just a normal guy and for the past month or so, pretty much every part of my body has hurt. I am definitely doing my best.
With time to think about things, I have realised that most people will never run one marathon in their lifetime, yet I have managed to run six since New Year's Eve, winning four of them, so I am very proud of what I have achieved so far. I have also now raised over £1,900 for Beat which I know will help lots of people like me.
For the remainder of my challenge I will try to have more fun - I might not win any of them for you guys or run a PB, but you know what, who cares? I am seeing there is more to life than running and winning.
This change of attitude the past few days feels so refreshing. I know my PB hopes for London are dead in the water, so I now hope to just jog round and enjoy it - I certainly don't need to prove myself to anybody. If my biggest problem in my life is not running another marathon PB, then I think I've got it pretty good :-)
Right - the marathon - on Saturday morning my girlfriend Coralie and I travelled up by car from Suffolk. We were staying at Hotel Football, right next to Old Trafford. It was Coralie's first marathon and I had offered my services as pacemaker in her attempt to run sub 4:00 - the pressure was on to deliver as major boyfriend points were up for grabs.
I have done literally zero exercise this week since last week's marathon, and my calf was very sore so I was drugged up to my eyeballs with ibuprofen and paracetamol, my legs were mummified in K-tape and I was smothered in deep heat. I then wore compression socks and leggings to try and keep everything together. But as you can see, Coralie on the other hand looked far more elegant!
I broke the number one rule of running, which is "never wear anything new in a race" but wearing a brand spanking new pair of Nike Pegasus - mine split last week at Taunton so I had to frantically order a new pair in time for today. We headed to the start in good time for the 9am kick-off and the weather was perfect - blue skies, cool temperature and zero wind.
The start was very congested and after less than a mile, a guy next to us stood on an unopened energy gel which squirted all over me, just when you were a kid and you tried to twist a ketchup sachet until it burst! My bad calf then tightened up and then felt horrific just after mile 2 as we passed ITV studios where Coronation Street is filmed. However I decided to keep this a secret so as not to worry Coralie and after trial & error I worked out I could run on the outside of my heel so long as I kept the weight on my left side, so I did that for the next 24 miles...
Everything went pretty much perfectly - the course was really flat and the support and noise was immense. There were lots of random traffic cones which caused a number of issues - we saw at least 3 runners trip and fall over in the crowds on the narrow sections. At one point I clipped her heels - luckily she stayed up right as I'm not sure I could ever have forgiven myself had I taken her down! Worst pacemaker ever.
Despite an early stitch and some stomach pains, Coralie smashed it and we were bang on sub 4:00 pace the whole way, which allowed us to enjoy the last few miles. We ended up crossing the line together in 3:52:19. I am extremely proud of the way she nailed her first marathon, especially as in my debut I hit the wall big-time at mile 20 and it was a really special moment watching her greet her parents post-race who had travelled up with us to support her.
I had banned all talk of my birthday until after we had returned to Suffolk, so following the four hour car journey I opened my presents (THERE WERE SO FLIPPING MANY OF THEM) at 10pm to find out she has booked us a 4-day trip to Italy to run the Florence Marathon! When your girlfriend buys you a holiday that involves running a marathon, you know she is definitely a keeper..
Tomorrow we are off for a two-day spa break. I know what you're thinking - yes I look sensational in a robe, but no I cannot send you a photo. The last few weeks have been crazy busy for both us, so it will be a cool way to kick back and toast two marathons in a week, my birthday and finishing my dissertation (four weeks for the deadline!).
Marathon number seven takes place in two weeks time, with a little event called the LONDON MARATHON..
I am running ten marathons to raise money for Beat, the UK's leading eating disorder charity. You can follow me on Twitter here, on Instagram here, or on Facebook here. You can also sponsor me via my Justgiving page here. Thank you!