Marathon number one is done! Wahooo! I ran the Flitch Way Marathon on New Year's Eve to kick off my ten marathon challenge.
Before that though, I had already hit my £1,000 fundraising target without running a step, which is so crazy. I say this every week, but I genuinely cannot believe all the support. I've had over 150 new followers on Twitter, and someone even said "well done" to me in the sauna at the gym the other day! There are still almost six months to go, so hopefully I can still raise a lot more money for Beat, and as always you can sponsor me here.
On to the race! I travelled to Braintree in Essex with two of my good mates Ian Coxall and Matt Hunt (photo above). BBC Radio Suffolk interviewed me live on their Breakfast Show following my previous appearance (which you can listen to again here). Randomly, about an hour before the start I was offered a cigarette by another runner! I decided that sparking up a fag before a marathon probably wasn't the best idea..
The course was "out & back" so 13 miles in one direction, and then turn around and run back, with the final 0.2 up an almost vertical hill (see top photo). I started at around 6:15 pace and built a nice lead. At halfway I worked out I was about 0.9 miles ahead of second. As I passed the other runners, everyone said "well done" which was nice. Seeing as there are another nine more marathons to go, when I got to around mile 20 I decided to slow down to 6:50-7:00 min/mile pace to save my legs a bit. It was a great, friendly event and really well organised.
I finished in 2:51:46 (6:35 min/mile average) which was a good effort for a muddy off-road marathon. You can view the results here, or my GPS race stats & splits here. I also broke the course record by around six minutes, which was a bonus. Matt ended up finishing 2nd. This is the second consecutive race to which I've worn the same burgundy sweatshirt (I do own other clothes!) and I have won both, so I've decided it is obviously lucky and therefore I've decided to wear it to the next nine marathons!
After an ice bath, the evening was spent at a Masquerade Ball with my closest friends. I woke up on New Year's Day surprisingly hangover-free, but with a stinking cold and feeling like I had been hit by a bus! I decided to just swim and sauna for the rest of the week. There was some brilliant news with Gina Long being awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours. Gina is mum to two of my friends, Alex and Sam, and has been influential with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation among others, and so it is certainly a well deserved accolade.
As I ran the whole marathon on my own and there were no supporters along the route, it was very lonely! But it gave me plenty of time to reflect on the past 12 months. Running-wise, in 2015 I spent 344 hours or 14.3 days running, and covered a grand total of 2,809 miles, which is the equivalent of running from my house in Suffolk to Canada, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan or Nigeria. Or to Paris and back thirteen times!
I ran a sub 16 minute Parkrun, set a new PB over 10k (32:52) and 10 miles (53:28). I finished 2nd in the Reykjavik Half Marathon and received my prize on the podium from the iconic Kathrine Switzer. I ran sub three hours in two World Marathon Majors, at Boston in April, and then a negative split PB of nearly 5 minutes in the Berlin Marathon (2:34:11) in September. I finished the year ranked 176th in the UK for the marathon, 309th for the half marathon and 71st for 10 miles.
From a personal viewpoint, I continued my love of travelling by visiting Germany (twice), the USA, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Spain, Iceland and the Netherlands. I passed the second year of my degree, secured awesome work opportunities, discovered I am to become an Uncle, and watched two of my best friends marry each other.
However, the biggest achievement of 2015 was overcoming and publicly confronting my eating disorder. There were times during my bulimia when I genuinely thought I would never be able to stop. Now I am healthier, happier, more confident and stronger, although having to replace my whole wardrobe with bigger clothes has been expensive!
My personal goals for 2016 are to be a better friend and be less of a perfectionist. I set very high standards for myself and probably do not give myself enough credit, so I aim to treat myself better, recognise and celebrate my achievements more, and be less hard on myself. Finally, to relax more and accept that sometimes "okay" is good enough. I saw a Maya Angelou quote the other day which said "If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?". which pretty much sums it up perfectly.
Whatever your own goals or resolutions are for 2016, I hope you get everything you want. The next marathon is on Saturday 23rd January. It's been nice speaking to you as always, and here's to 2016. 明けましておめでとうございます!
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.