2021 · Running events

Virgin Money London Marathon 2021 – part 1

Taking part in the London Marathon had been on my wish list since I started running in 2013.

After eight years of entering the ballot, I finally got a place in 2020, but typically would be eight months pregnant on race day, so had to defer to 2021!

Everyone has their dream, their goal, and this was mine. I was so excited to take part. I drafted up my own 16-week training plan using my 2018 Brighton Marathon one as a guide, and checked it against the official London Marathon Intermediate plan. I worked it around my son Hunter, as I’m a single mum and would be doing the majority of running using our Out’n’About Nipper Sport buggy, so everything needed to fit around his schedule.

I pencilled in four runs a week (a 10K, 4-5miler, Parkrun, and a ‘long run’ on Sundays), along with two sessions of strength (kettlebells, weighted hoop, yoga, skipping, resistance bands). Hunter was fine with being awake in the buggy for up to an hour (although I usually ran over his naptime, so he slept); and I did the strength sessions in the evenings once he was in bed, so that just left ‘long runs’ on Sundays. My mum kindly offered to look after him during this time.

To be honest, the 16 weeks of training, of exercising six days a week whilst being a single parent and working part-time, nearly killed me! It wasn’t easy. In week five, a massive wave of tiredness hit me. I powered through it and started going to bed much earlier. In week 14, Hunter went from having two naps a day, down to one nap a day. That transition is so tough, on both parents and children! Hunter went through a stage of waking up at 4am, and then he caught a cold from nursery. I was utterly exhausted. I couldn’t wait for training to end! I just wanted to run the marathon and have a little rest. I’m so lucky, though, that Hunter was an incredibly patient co-pilot, who thankfully never once objected to being taken out in the running buggy three times a week.

The race information came through from the marathon team thick and fast via email – it was super useful and informative. The occasional Facebook Live sessions with Martin Yelling were a great way to have questions answered!

As per tradition, race numbers were not posted out, and had to be collected in person from the Expo in London’s ExCeL, up to four days before the event. This was also where you dropped off a pre-prepared kit-bag containing everything you would want or need to access once crossing the finish line, as there would be no baggage drop-off or storage facilities on the day – you had to turn up ready to run!

So, on Thursday 30th September, I took half a days’ annual leave from work while Hunter was at nursery, and headed up to London in the afternoon. It took me two hours door-to-door, but the Expo was very much worth it. Runners had to drop kit-bags off first: this was a very simple process – there weren’t any queues and I simply showed my negative lateral flow test and a QR code which had been emailed to me, to a friendly marshal behind the desk, who gave me lots of useful advice and told me that he’d run over 35 marathons! He added a medal, t-shirt and drinks to my kit-bag, then stored it away in a crate and wished me luck! I headed up the corridor to the main Expo and once again showed my negative lateral flow test, then headed to registration desk to collect my running number. Again, I showed the QR code that had been emailed to me, along with some ID (driving licence), and my running number was printed and handed over super quickly, with a bunch of safety pins.

Around the corner from the registration desks was the entrance to the Expo – a huge New Balance store took centre stage, where I picked up a t-shirt for both me and my son, plus a pair of ‘RUN LDN’ sliders to wear after the marathon! I also purchased a teddy bear and fridge magnet from the official merchandise stand, and headed over to the Scimitar guys (I’m an ambassador for the brand!) and picked up a pair of Funky Sportswear ‘London’ leggings, before grabbing a takeaway coffee at the central kiosk, and heading back to the DLR. I was impressed with the expo, and really pleased with my purchases and experience.

That night, I ate a ‘COOK‘ yellow vegetable curry for dinner, with a litre of water. (Bear with me here, this section is mainly for my own reference so that I can come back to it when I train for another marathon in future – because this fuelling really worked for me!) Friday was two poached eggs in a granary roll for lunch, and Chicago Town pizza for dinner. Saturday was a foot-long 9-grain Veggie Delite Subway for lunch, then Frankie & Benny’s Arrabiata pasta with garlic bread for dinner. (This was all a lot more carbs that I would usually consume, but I didn’t feel over-loaded.) Breakfast is always no-sugar Alpen muesli mixed in with honey-nut protein granola; a WellWoman Sport multivitamin and Omega-3 capsules. I drank about two litres of water per day (instead of my usual one), along with fresh orange juice. Snacks were protein bars, Bounce balls or Diet Whey protein shakes. During the 16-week programme, I’d eaten as healthily as possible – lots of fresh fruit and veg, smoothies, chicken, eggs, no alcohol and minimal treats. I definitely felt good, healthy and ready to run.

Part 2 – Race Day – coming soon! 😊

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