Normally, within three days of the marathon I'm walking normally and feeling ready to get my trainers back on. Seven days on from Milton Keynes and I still have a slight crab-shuffle and can't get down stairs without looking like I belong on a maternity ward. It will pass; pain, as I frequently tell myself, is temporary. Anyway, here's a brief encounter of mine and Mark's journey around the Milton Keynes Marathon...
Having sustained a nice bit of damage to my knee during the London Marathon, I was feeling pretty apprehensive in the lead up to the race, but somewhat more nervous that Mark had left me at 5pm the night before the race to go and eat a curry. Who eats curry the night before running a marathon?!
Races seem to come around very quickly now, it doesn't seem like a few days ago that I crossed the London Marathon finish line and now, here I was just three weeks on, about to run another marathon. I felt safe and reassured with Mark to keep me company and knew that laughter would get us around the next few hours, whatever it had in store for us.
We left our amazing support crew (sans-Meg) and joined the other runners on the start line. Without any real warning we were shuffling forwards before breaking in to a gentle run. The first few miles were loops of the same road, and up several enjoyable hills (yes, I am a bit sadistic). Disaster tried to make an appearance just three miles in when Mark asked to stop quickly to check his foot. We sat down on some steps, he whipped his sock off and peeled the tape from his foot, taking a 50 pence piece size of skin with it. I honestly have no idea how he managed to power through, seemingly at ease, with an enormous hole in the bottom of his foot!
As I waited for Mark to redress his feet Kate ran past us, waving and smiling. Kate has been a huge supporter of Team Run 12 from day one and I'm very grateful that she was inspired to take part in the marathon - she was a great support on the day and spent a lot of her time selflessly telling people about what we're doing. Kate disappeared over the brow of this HUGE hill as Mark stood back up 'you want to catch her don't you?', I nodded and replied 'hill sprints?' before charging up the hill, my Garmin hit a 7:30 min p/mile pace before Mark yelled at me to slow down a bit, I was trying to run 3 minutes ahead of our target pace up a massive hill - never a good idea with 23.2 miles to go.
The next few miles blur together. It was a relief to see Mum, Allie and the rest of the team waiting for us at Mile 9. 'Do you want a drink?' Mum asked, 'water would be great' I said, 'well I don't have any' CHEERS MUM. A handful of red jelly babies (thanks Els) would keep me moving until the next water station several miles down the road.
Around 14 miles in my quads started to tighten up, another half a mile and my knee began to scream at me, not long before my IT band in my other leg started giving me grief. Stopping to stretch I had a moment of panic, we had to get through another 12 miles and I was in a lot of pain. I took to singing to Mark to keep me distracted; after several stunning renditions of The Spice Girls I unplugged my headphones so he could hear the actual tune of the songs I was listening to. Reach by S Club 7 came on and we started a miniature flash mob through the thinning crowd of runners. Distracted by our singing and frankly bizarre dancing we got back up to a respectable running pace and I was actually having a great time.
As we darted through a water station, arms in the area, one of the marshals declared us the 'happiest marathon runners ever'. I was happy; I had a moment of realisation that this isn't about breaking personal bests every time I run but about having fun and spreading the message on Team Run 12.
We later caught back up with Kate who was having a pretty miserable time, having thrown up twice. I put S Club 7 back on to my phone and shared our dance routine with her to distract her. It had the same effect it had had on me just 20 minutes earlier; she was soon dancing, smiling and eventually finished before me and Mark! Well done Kate, you star x
Before I knew it, we were done, the finish line was behind us and I had another lump of heavy, cold metal being hung around my neck. Marathon number five, complete.
I am SO grateful to Mark for sticking by me; he could have achieved an incredible time if he'd been alone but the Team Run 12 family stick together. Mark was a lucky find on the Runners World forum late last July and has been such an integral part of the team since. I know I have a true friend for life in Mark, and his amazing family. I'm really sorry for singing and swearing so much Mark, but so glad we got to share those 26 miles, and have more to come together this year!
Recently, I've been called a hero, an inspiration and told that I'm selfless to give up a year of my life to this challenge. If you've said any of these things to me, thank you, it's really very overwhelming to know people see me in this light, and very very surreal.
I do not see what I am doing as selfless, it is something I do without really thinking. I do it for those who live with cancer, for those who live with someone with cancer, for those who have loved and lost someone to cancer. But I also do it because I want to. This is one of many challenges I will face in my life and I am eternally grateful that this challenging year of my life can be so rewarding, so uplifting and full of so many incredible experiences. The opportunities in front of me are insane, and given that I've only been running for 16 months, I know this is just the start of a life-long hobby (sorry legs).
Whatever challenges you are facing in your life can be changed by challenging yourself in a positive way. Too often we allow 'challenges' to be things that upset us and cause us pain, often, things we wish to forget about. It doesn't have to be that way. Challenge yourself to learn, to grow as a person and to achieve what you currently believe to be impossible - you'll be amazed at what you can do if you want it enough.
I really hope that each and every one of you reading this will gain as much reward from your personal fights as I am in mine. I am not selfless, nor am I a hero, just a girl with a dream that I am, day-by-day, turning in to my reality.