Team Run 12 has become far more to me than a hobby - it's also become far more than 'my challenge'. Team Run 12 is, and always will be, an integral part of my life and the people I consider to by 'family' has grown because of it. I've made existing friendships better and made new ones on a global scale and together, we're saving lives. There is nothing more incredible than that, not even crossing the seventh marathon finish line this year. Thank you for being part of this journey. x
It's Friday 11th July and my Time Hop app is telling me that it's been exactly one year since I announced what I wanted to do with Team Run 12. At the time, I'd only been 'a runner' for seven months so my goal was ambitious to say the least, and yet, here we were one year on preparing to leave for my seventh marathon and a weekend away with people who, this time last year, we didn't even know existed.
Mum, Meg, Dan and I packed up and spent seven hours travelling to Fishguard, Pembrokeshire to meet Mark, Allie, Beth and Ed. We danced and sang the entire way (I say 'we', I mean Dan) and I swore quite a lot as we got in to Wales and I realised that it was really VERY hilly. I'd been really nervous about this race; whilst my body felt strong and I was injury free for the first time in a long time, I was fearful of not making it to the finish line.
Beth, Allie, Dan, Ed, Richard, Meg and Mum!
Apparently, our best looking support crew yet...
Thank you all SO much for everything you have done and continue to do for us. I cannot put in to words how grateful I am to have you join me on this journey x
Does Chinese food counts as carb loading?
We'd had so much fun in the days leading up to the race and I think staying together as 'a family' contributed to this being such a great race. I was almost jealous that everyone got to stay together whilst Mark and I had to slog our way through 26.2 miles!
From sitting in an ice cream parlour and Meg having her spoon ripped straight out of her hand by the elderly waitress (and that weird man date), to the pub bar man falling off a bar stool in to a bloke's lap, and Dan's one handed clapping. It's safe to say we laughed a hell of a lot.
Nerves were really getting to me the night before the race; when I laid my kit out I was actually shaking, thinking about all of the hills we'd driven past and walked up when wandering around Tenby. Mark and I had a brief chat about the race and agreed we'd just get to the finish - no time aims, no personal bests, just slow and steady, walking the bigger hills if we needed to.
As we got in to bed that night, Dan said something to me that really stuck with me; 'you've got to six finish lines, what makes this one any different? You've done it before, you'll do it again.' It's hard to explain how it feels to have so many people believe in my ability to do this, when I have moments of doubt, their support gets me through.
Meeting the #TwitterFamily
Talking of support... For the last seven months, I've been lucky enough to be involved in the twitter #ukrunchat community and have connected with some incredible people as a result.
I've been talking on a pretty much daily basis to some of the Swansea Vale Runners for a good 6 months- Stace, Nick, Marc, Nic and Jo. When they found out I was running The Wales Marathon as my seventh race they immediately commented on the hills.
So much respect for the Swansea Vale Runners x
On the morning of the race I text Stace and Nick to let them know where we would be so they could meet us. I spotted Stace in the crowds and we stood chatting and taking pictures - something to take my mind of the next few hours!Marc had kindly printed us Swansea Vale Runner vests - making us honorary members for the weekend. It was great to finally meet them, and even greater to end the race seeing them waiting and cheering for us at the finish line.
As always, pre-race flew by; Mark and I were soon having our last good luck hugs from our amazing support crew. As we walked to join the crowd of runners, we spotted the SVR boys again in the crowd. The more races I do the more I recognise regular marathoners but to meet a group of people online and be able to see that they genuinely are behind you 100% is incredible. #TwitterFamilyForLife
In a whirl wind of confetti and noise, we crossed the start line. Mark and I were both in good spirits; for the first few miles everything felt relatively steady and easy. The hill at the third mile was on the large side, to say the least, so we tactically walked up it to save ourselves for later, a majority of people were walking which made me feel a little bit better.
The miles merged in to one another, without a great deal of drama. Around five miles in we decided to put some music on and every runner we saw joked about wanting to stick with us to stay motivated, one even asked if I took requests.
We then overtook a blind runner and his guide, something I always find incredibly inspiring. As we passed him he asked his guide who had run passed with music 'a lovely young blonde girl, we'll chase her I think?' Erm, not sure how I feel about that but okay...?
We started talking to the runner and he told me that he had been running for over 20 years and this race was his 266th marathon. I was in complete awe. Running one marathon in good 'health' is an incredible, life changing experience but to run 26.2 miles over 250 times with a disability. There are no words to explain the respect I have for that; I hope to be able to be a guide runner in the future. We later saw this gentleman and his guide cross the finish line so a massive congratulations to them.
As we approached Pembrokeshire Castle I knew I was close to a cuddle. We turned up a steep hill in to what appeared to be the high street, then heard the roar of everyone stood on a street corner. It is so motivating to see your family; before I ran the London Marathon for the first time, my mum sent me a text message that read 'Just because you can't see us doesn't mean we're not behind you, we're with you every step of the way'. Whenever I'm struggling to keep putting one foot in front of the other I think of that and, so far, I've always managed to keep going.
Strawberry Daiquiri Flavoured Gels = LUSH (I'm in Wales so this is an acceptable word).
As we approached the 16th mile I started to feel a little bit sick. Rule number one of running a marathon - do not try anything new on race day. I made the error of trying a vanilla bean GU over the berry isogels (they do actually taste of watered down strawberry daiquiris!) I've been using and suddenly felt very sick. Add on the blister that was forming on my foot and I was starting to feel a bit rotten and grumpy.
Mark was doing a great job at keeping me moving. The hills were really apparent now; I'd jinxed us by laughing over how few we'd seen in the first half. We were still ahead of target so just kept plodding on, looking back, we could have picked up our pace significantly in the first half but then, hindsight is a beautiful thing.
As we approached the 18th Mile I was still feeling quite sick, I'd noticed that I had a lot of salt on my skin but hadn't read the warning signs of what this could mean. Half way up a short but steep hill, outside a post office (I think) was a man stood with a tray of Tuc Biscuits. TUC BISCUITS. I could have kissed him. I took three of them, thanking him as we continued up the hill. Nothing has ever tasted as good as those dry, salty crackers did. I text mum to ask her to find me a box for when I got to the finish line. If there's any form of motivation, it comes in the shape of a little red cracker box.
One of my highlights of the race was a water station at the 22nd mile. There was a large group of children supporting their parents who were marshalling, aged between 3 and 11. As we approached the station they were cheering, full of support and offering water and snacks.
I started to make my way up the next hill whilst Mark refilled his water bottles, when one of the young girls said 'COME ON WE'LL RUN WITH YOU!' I laughed but realised they were serious as they stated to run alongside me. 'Can we race you?!' one of the smaller boys asked, that made me laugh more, he clearly had no concept of how far 22 miles is or how knackered we were. 'Come on then' I agreed, we raced up a hill, me pushing them to run fast, Mark joined in with another group of them catching us up at the top of a hill.
They waved us off, laughing and smiling 'GOOD LUCK' they all chanted.
As we approached the final stretch, Cotton Eyed Joe came on to my iPhone. We cowboy danced our way to the final hill, Mark joked about us crossing the finish line to 'this shit', I think we'd both underestimated how amazing this finish would be.
We picked up our pace for the final stretch. 'Come on, lets go' Mark said to me, we powered our way towards the finish line, spotting the SVR crew in the crowd, seeing their 'familiar' faces and hitting the wall of noise was just incredible. About 10 metres closer to the finish line we spotted the TR12 support crew, I grabbed Meg's camera and we crossed the line hand in hand, laughing.
Here I was for the seventh time this year, having a piece of heavy metal hung around my neck, another 26.2 miles under my belt. We're now closer to the end than the start, the countdown has almost begun to the final race and that almost scares me.
By far, this has been my favourite race yet. The fear in the months leading up to the race challenged me but added to the experience. Meeting the SVR boys and seeing so many inspiring runners on the day showed me how incredible the running community really is. The marshals and our support team were second to none, as always. And the views, oh the views, unbelievable.
We'll be back next year Tenby - what a weekend!
I always react differently after a race; sometimes I feel horribly sick, other times I'm starving and eat everything I see. After a 50 minute car journey home, I felt a rush of tiredness and was freezing cold, which in 22 degrees heat is ludicrous. I jumped in the shower and could hardly stand up, I laid in the bath, holding the shower head on my tired legs. I begged mum to dry my hair before curling up on the sofa under a blanket and falling asleep. After struggling my way through some food, I went back inside feeling like I might throw up (I think Dan's 'singing' - NONE THREE FIVE - might have had something to do with that). I fell asleep again and woke up feeling awful. Almost four hours had passed and although I'd been drinking all day, I hadn't been to the toilet for about seven hours. Dehydration.
Mark made me a High 5 drink and after slugging my way through it, I started to chirp up, craving salt and wanting more sleep. Getting in to bed that night was amazing, what had been a bit like sleeping on a snooker table for the last two nights suddenly felt like a cloud.
When I woke up the next morning and managed to walk downstairs like a normal person who hadn't completed a marathon the day before, I was surprised. Mark was more surprised though when he asked if I wanted to do the race again next year and I immediately said 'yes'.
If you want to get fit, start to run. If you want to change your life, run a marathon.
Challenge yourself. Push the boundaries. Do what others believe to be impossible.
Stop dreaming, and start living. It's the best thing I ever did.
Team Run 12 have also entered a competition to win £5,000 toward our fundraising total. At the time of publishing this we were in FIRST place.
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