Post marathon and the comedown

What happens after crossing that finish line?

In the immediate minutes, Hilde crossed the finish line as did my Mum and the girls. I hugged lots of people, and used the railing to stretch my legs. We took some photos, and I was told where to go to collect my bag and that they hoped there would still be goodie bags. I made a couple of phone calls; Matt, my brother, my Dad, and trudged up the mall and sent other people messages. I collected my goodie bag and my kit bag, and then said goodbye and thank you to Mum who needed to get her train and goodbye to Hilde.

I sat on the steps of some monument and said to the girls let’s go for a drink, but I wanted to get my trainers off. That was an experience… having never had blisters before in training (bar one on a particularly soggy training session), I did during the marathon and peeled my socks off slowly. Helena and Sarah could see my toenails before I could and they reassured me all my toenails were intact! I struggled to remove one sock and we thought it was stuck to my foot with tape, it later turned out to be my skin and I was just peeling skin off… grim!

I put flip flops on, muttered the same thing over and over about can’t believe I’ve done it, thank you thank you, and then with Sarah and Helena taking a side each and pulling me up (sitting down was a bad move!) I staggered off towards the pub. We shared a bottle of prosecco and a couple of people asked me had I just done the marathon, well done etc, and then it was time for a cab to my hotel where Matt was waiting having driven back from Clacton.

Unfortunately, despite being assured the air con was fixed, the room was still a sauna so after a massive hug and chat with Matt I called reception who offered to move us – there was no way I could spend another night in that room and heat as it was simply stifling. Matt packed my stuff whilst I laid on the bed, and we moved rooms. I knew I needed to eat as I’d survived on porridge and jelly babies but I just wasn’t hungry. None the less I ordered Dominos, had a shower, managed a few slices and collapsed into bed.

I thought I would have the best night’s sleep of my life but I couldn’t have been more wrong, I couldn’t sleep! I tossed, I turned, it hurt. Before I knew it, it was morning and Matt went to breakfast whilst I stayed in bed before eventually getting up, washing my hair and getting ready to make a move. Walking was a real struggle and the four wheel suitcase I had with me was turning out to be a useful prop…

Matt had driven into London so could drive me home, and I said let’s get McDonald’s. We got a McDonald’s, but I didn’t eat it all and still wasn’t hungry and was a little confused. We made it home, and I collapsed on the sofa and didn’t do much – all my intentions of posting on my blog etc went out the window. The key I’m told is to keep moving but the challenge was I really couldn’t – moving was done by holding onto Matt and doing a strange sort of shuffle!

Various people called and messaged to check on me on Monday whilst I just chilled out. I was surprised I could barely move; I expected pain and stiffness but nothing like what I experienced. I also didn’t expect such a mental comedown; I was wearing my finisher’s t-shirt and medal but felt quite numb.

Thankfully, sleep last night was better (after finishing the pizza with some chips and a glass of bubbly) and I woke this morning feeling more human. Taking a couple of days off was a good move, and whilst it’s been a slow day, I’ve done everything I wanted to including going to the supermarket and the washing – an exciting day! My appetite still isn’t back but I’m told that is quite normal.

I can’t believe just over 48 hours ago I competed the London Marathon; something I never thought I’d even want to do, let alone accomplish. I don’t want it to sound a cliche, but I simply could not have done it without the support of so many people, most of whom I’ve already mentioned. You know who you are and I’ll always be grateful. I will also always be hugely appreciative of the strangers who made my experience too. It was without doubt the hardest physical and mental challenge I’ve ever put myself through but one that was undoubtably worth it, both personally and raising money for Marie Curie.

I’m very much limping/hobbling around and my body, particularly my feet, are a mess but I simply wouldn’t change it for the world. Yes, my day didn’t go to plan or how I’d expected, but I have to remind myself of the following:

  • I’m now part of a group of 1% of people in the world who have completed a marathon
  • I’ve raised money for Marie Curie, a hugely worthy cause
  • I went from doing nothing/very little exercise to finishing the London Marathon
  • I did a 16 week training plan with 4/5 weeks out through injury and illness
  • I’m the lightest and almost certainly the fittest I’ve been in years
  • If I can finish the marathon, I can do anything
  • I made it home

I’m sure many of you will have seen in the press that sadly one participant, Matt Campbell, passed away during the marathon. Like many others, this weekend I’ll be doing 3.7 miles in Matt’s memory, the distance he had left on the course. That puts things into perspective.

I’ll post a little more about my experience and thoughts later this week, but for now, thank you for reading and your support.

To view the video of my marathon experience itself, click here to go to YouTube.

Click here to sponsor me – thank you for your support!

 

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Virgin Money London Marathon 2018 – my experience

Approaching the start line I realised this was it… my marathon was about to start. I needed to start my watch, but I also wanted to film the start, start jogging, wave at TV cameras and get going. I was also supposed to start Strava but I forgot about that until a few minutes in!

The first few hundred metres were fairly sparsely populated with a few people, but then we came to the end of the green and the residential area and there were people everywhere. The Greenwich Green section was funny; so many people peeled over to bushes on the left to relieve themselves I didn’t quite know where to look!

I was jogging along, a gentle but happy pace, and was just hit by this wall of noise as I hit the residential area. Then the cheers and shouts started “come on Suze, you’ve got this Suze, go on girl” and it was just overwhelming. I was thinking “is it like this all the way? What’s going on?” Lots of people and lots of children with high 5s are my memory of this section.

I felt the first few miles went really quickly and it truly was overwhelming with all the people. Tim Ski had said he’d call me en route and he did, as I was coming up to mile 1 and I confirmed yes, I really was doing the marathon!

I found a pony spectating in this section and one hill where a woman was just before the crest of the hill cheering everyone on saying “nearly there, nearly there!”My 5km time was ok and it was not too long before I reached the dual carriageway section where the red route (me) merged with the green and blue routes.

The sound of music, clapping and cheering was incredible and the people handing out water, ice cubes, ice lollies, jelly babies, Haribo, mars bars, everything was plentiful. Water provided by the organisers didn’t start until mile 3 and I’d carried a bottle from the start with me, and whilst I believe in “nothing new on marathon day” I did eat 20% of an ice lolly offered as it was hot!

I knew that friends and colleagues (Jen, Sarah, Helena) were waiting at mile 6 and Jen called me to check where I was. In typical Jen style her description and directions were interesting; being at mile six and on the right hand side “after a bend near Costa” turned out to be on my left hand side, by Costa but nearly at mile 7! By this point I’d passed the Cutty Sark (overtaking someone round the outside…) and had a text and video from my brother to say I’d been on TV. To see the girls was great and just along on the same straight I found my Mum and the Marie Curie cheer station which was more encouragement. I’d texted Mum asking for a safety pin as one of my event clips had come loose and I was patched up and carried on.

By this point I was feeling hot and had got out my special towel (more a thin strip of material) which someone had advised in the London Marathon Training Support group on Facebook was good. When wet, it stays ice cold and I was using that to keep cool, but I felt ok. The miles were becoming slightly longer but I was happy with how things were going, until mile 9…

The number 9 is my lucky number, but I got to mile 9 and found they had run out of water. They promised there was more at mile 10. I got to mile 10, and no water; I’d been taking (and drinking) water at each station and saving a mouthful until I could pick up my next bottle, but by this point I was out of water. I forgot about the towel, I needed water just to fuel myself.

It was around this point I hit “the wall.” I know what the wall is; it’s my head going, telling me I cannot do it, and it’s mind over matter. I’d hit it once in training and knew it was hell, but this was the worst ever. I felt sick, I felt faint, I felt I couldn’t go on. I wanted to quit. I felt ashamed, a felt embarassed, I felt foolish, I felt useless. I didn’t know what to do. I texted my brother, Mark. Jen called to tell me where they would be next. I told her I couldn’t do it and in typical Jen fashion she said “oh it’s only pain.” She told me to get on with it and they’d see me at mile 12. I didn’t believe I could keep going, I had broken mentally. I can’t describe it any better, but I was gone, I’d lost my mind, I wanted out. I tried a few jelly babies, cried and carried on.

Not that far on from here someone offered me chilled water. I took it, took a gulp and found it was alcohol. I chucked it. I was angry, hot and tired. The next person to offer me water was questioned “is this really water?” and they said “but of course!” From then on I accepted water from strangers; I wasn’t to know it but I wasn’t to get any water from the course from miles 9 to 16. I will never know who helped me on Sunday, but I cannot say thank you enough. People were filling up bottles to give to us, children were offering to squirt us with water, people had bowls of ice cubes, hosepipes out offering to squirt us, cups of water we could sip on and pass on, jugs to refill our bottles; they stood there with suncream yelling as we approached “do you need suncream?!” and would then smother us and tell us how proud they were. The love and kindness of strangers will stay with me forever.

The route kept going through residential areas with pubs and music and more shouting and encouragement. I have to be honest and say from mile 10 ish when I broke to mile 12 at Tower Bridge, I majorly struggled. My brother Mark kept texting me “just following this long left hander you’ll be at the bridge” and so on. The seven hour pacer passed me. I stopped at one point near a Frankie and Benny’s to stretch my hip as they’d both gone (a problem from training…); my left hip popped (and the pain went!), my right didn’t change and grated with every step.

Somewhere in this section, I realised the physical and mental pain simply couldn’t be any worse than I was experiencing. I had two choices; to quit or to get on with it. I thought about why I was doing this, who I was doing this for, the financial support and sponsorship for Marie Curie and an email I’d received the week before the marathon from Simon Rowan. I kept going.

At mile 12 (ish) was Tower Bridge. The girls told me they were there, but I was almost over the bridge and couldn’t see them. I called one of them in a panic and I found they were just after the bridge. I saw them, we hugged, and I set off again crying. Then I turned the corner, and I can’t have gone that far. I remember thinking I’m nearly at mile 13 and Fi (Fiona Duncan) said she’d be there. I kept going and couldn’t see her. I thought she must have gone. Then suddenly I saw a green party and there she was, green Macmillan t-shirt, wig and all. I’m sure I screamed and she came running towards me shouting “I know I’m not supposed to be on the course but I’m so proud of you!” and I just burst into tears whilst she held me and I properly sobbed. She was telling me how proud she was of me whilst I just sobbed uncontrollably (I’m crying again just writing this!). I gave her Mum a quick hug, shook her boyfriend Wayne’s hand (I hadn’t met him before so thought he wouldn’t want a sweaty hug) and off I went again…

This section to start with was really good, because people 10 ish miles ahead were coming back down the other side of the street and they were shouting encouragement and my name. Then the streets became narrow, lorries were coming down to squash the bottles, I was on the pavement because the seven hour pacer had passed me. I felt so alone. I was weaving through people on the pavement, trying to focus on my Mum being at mile 18 but thinking how far away that was. I was trying to tell myself before I knew it I would be going down the other side of the road like other people and trying to work out how long before I was back at Tower Bridge…

Again, this section becomes a blur and somewhere in here I slowed down a bit and was asked by a woman also participating “are you ok Suze?” I said “yes, but there’s a wall there and I just want to sit down.” She said “we can’t sit down, we’ll never get up again, come on!” and off we continued. There was a really enthusiastic marshal around here near a hill, we kept passing stations and I thought can I just get on a train, nope must keep going. We were joined by a gentleman called Jake, we said hello, and kept going; left, right, left, right. I said to this woman (who by now I knew as Hilde) that my Mum would be at mile 18 and then (after what felt like forever) there she was, sat on a wall waiting and I waved and sped up.

It was somewhere in this Canary Wharf section that I started to see people with medals on walking back to hotels etc. I said well done to them, they said are you still going? Well done, keep going! And on it went. Mum said she would walk with us for a bit, and we got to mile 19. From here on in, it started to get harder to find the course; the mile markers were being removed, bottles were being swept etc. I felt disgusting by this point; the bottles being collected was horrible as they were squashed by lorries meaning flying obstacles (literally) and if a lorry did this at a lucozade station…well I won’t drink the stuff anyway, being covered in it and then attracting the odd wasp wasn’t pleasant. I thought about how it was my fault and my pace had slowed a little and things were unravelling, but I was still on to finish within cut off. People were messaging and being supportive but I couldn’t look at my phone; I felt I’d reached “survival mode.”

I asked Mum to text Matt (my husband) and my brother just to say I was ok, and then at about mile 19 Hilde said she wanted to stop. I told her no, we were getting to that finish, and from then on we held hands; only letting go to wipe the sweat from them every so often. The girls had called a few times and I knew they were at mile 23, I gave them my best estimate of time and told them to have a G&T or two and I’d be there when I could. We kept walking and walking, there were two gentleman and we talked about whether we should sing or what we should do to keep going. We learnt a little Bollywood dancing from one of them, Dipak. I moved my hips like he said, I learnt some arm movements. We exchanged greetings with people still sat in deckchairs drinking having been sat out all day. We had a heart to heart about why Hilde and I were each doing the marathon and what it meant. And Mum stayed with us, and said she wanted to be with us to the finish.

We reached mile 23 and the girls, and they said they’d walk with us to the end. We passed Tower Bridge and kept going, until we reached a tunnel and were told to take the Thames Path to Big Ben. In the middle of this, we found stairs – what a killer after that distance! I started adapting and singing football songs to keep myself going. Somewhere just before this my calf had “gone” and I gave in and took painkillers (something I hate doing!) and the singing was distracting myself, and I had reached the point that I didn’t care whether others enjoyed it or not.

Finally we reached Big Ben and turned right, and endured major crowd dodging on the pavements. My brother had called to check on me and had sent me a map to the finish as I’d said finding the route was getting harder. He’d also sent a long motivational text which I’d read to everyone (and cried again!). The course closing car had stopped and checked on us and stopped to check on us again, we told him we were getting to that finish line.

Finally, we could see Buckingham Palace. I tried to go onto the mall itself and asked two marshals if I could but they didn’t hear me/ignored me and walked off so me being me I decided to go under the barrier tape. I started off up the mall only for another official to start shouting “no you cannot go up there, it’s a construction site, you must come on the path!” so I went back on myself slightly and onto the path. I told Hilde (we were still holding hands!) that I wanted to run the end and tried to encourage her to join me. She told me to go for it on my own, she wasn’t running!

The phrase “finish line not finish time” is true and whilst I wished I could have finished on the mall, the fact Hilde and I made it together and worked as a team (with the huge support of many others including Mum, Jen, Sarah, Helena in person, lots of people via messages during the event, my brother’s texts, my Dad’s call 385 yards out which went something like “sod off I’m nearly at the finish I’ll call you later” and Riny and Martin’s motivational “nearly there video”) was something special.

And then, after all those miles and hours, I could see the finish line. I started jogging. I dodged people. I tried to open my legs up and run as fast as I could to that finish. Someone shouted my name. And then that was it, people were hugging me, a medal was put around my neck, and I finished the London Marathon.

To try and sum up some of my day, I’ve put a video together. It includes images and videos from the day, being overtaken by a minion, the spectating pony and more.

To view the video click here to go to YouTube.

Click here to sponsor me – thank you for your support!

A few images from my marathon:

 

Before the marathon – between my last test run and the actual start

I thought I’d split my marathon weekend into three posts; pre marathon, the marathon itself, and post marathon. So much happened and some of it seems a complete and utter blur. It’s all been a bit overwhelming and having intended to sit down and post yesterday, I didn’t do a thing.

So, from my test run on Friday night to the start… Saturday morning started fairly early saying goodbye to Matt who was off to be Chief Marshal for the Corbeau Seats Rally in Clacton. I found it hard saying goodbye to him but I knew he’d be at my hotel on Sunday night, there was just quite a big challenge between saying goodbye and saying hello again!

I got the train into London in the early evening. My plan had been to go in earlier and watch the full FA Cup semi-final but I had lots I’d wanted to get done at home too. I’d written packing lists and a to do list; I wanted everything to be as ready as possible with my kit bag (for the lorry and for post marathon), my marathon (bum) bag, my suitcase etc. I got into London and the first thing I found was the Southampton FC coach, before I jumped into a cab to the Crowne Plaza at King’s Cross.

I’d decided to stay in London as I thought it would be easiest, but it wasn’t the best stay (broken jacuzzi which was my pre-marathon relaxation plan, broken air con in my room and a window which didn’t open, broken kettle in my room, oddities with room service etc). They were full and I couldn’t move rooms so having spent the day ensuring I was properly hydrated, I woke up dehydrated on the day of the marathon. I’d taped my foot the way the physio showed me and could only hope it would last. I’d taken my own porridge pot, banana and raspberries for breakfast to ensure I was ready only to find the kettle didn’t work and it took half an hour for a replacement, making the morning a little more manic than planned!

The coach pick up was 0715 so I was downstairs just after 0700 and before I knew it I was on the coach heading to Greenwich. I was slowly eating my porridge on the way and chatted to a couple of other ladies on the coach. We were off-loaded and I walked with a lady called Katie to the start, including going through an arch made for us by strangers! Once in the start area we sat down, applied vaseline and sun cream, chilled out, dropped baggage at the baggage lorries, had our last pre-marathon toilet visit and then watched what was happening on the big screen. Then it was time to head to pen 8…

It felt like ages waiting in the pen to get going. Someone had hired an aeroplane with a banner behind it saying “Jesus Loves You” and just in front was a man with a karaoke machine which was a great singalong session to chill out. Only Jennifer Carty could call me whilst I was in the start pen from an unknown/un-recognised number and say “do you know who this is?” freaking me out before the call cut out…but eventually she texted me telling me who it was.

I sung the national anthem and then it was then time to start the shuffle forward, and forward, and forward… my marathon was about to begin!

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Visiting the Marathon Expo and the final (full kit!) run

So, this is it. The time is almost here!

Thursday evening saw me head straight from work to the London Marathon Expo at the Excel Centre. Every participant has to collect their number which was the first thing I did before having a quick look around (I only had 40 minutes between arriving and the Expo closing). I looked (and failed) for long shorts, picked up my number, goodie bag and a few other goodies, bought a couple of mementos and visited the Marie Curie stand. Getting there from the office meant driving through central London so seeing the road closure signs and various mile/km markers brought things home.

I managed to leave a message on the marathon wall as well, but ran out of time for a massage and to truly linger. It was however a great experience to visit and has made it seem so much more…real!

With the hot weather forecast, my original plan of running tights with shorts over them has been scrapped. I managed to get some knee length tight (cycling style) shorts today to go under my football shorts so, having my numbers and things as well, I wanted to do a full kit short run.

I only did 1km as I have done nothing during this tapering period (as I was advised after injury and having pushed back my last long run) but it was good to get out there. I was also trying a sun visor for the first time, had ironed my name on my shirt, used my kit/bum bag and had my number fastened to me as well as the new shorts. You can see in the below images I’ve had a few personalised things made up such as trainer tags and number holders too which I tried out.

The session was very short and sweet and felt good but the thing that really got me was a car full of women stopping next to me and cheering yelling “Go Girl!” What on earth is it going to be like on Sunday?!

For all the sponsorship, hugs, words of encouragement, everything… it really is a little overwhelming and I am so grateful. Now there’s just the little thing of 26.2 miles around London! It’s pasta and water from here on in…

Click here to sponsor me – thank you for your support!

Half marathon training distance!

So this was it, my final training run.

My original training plan had me going to 18 – 20 miles, but after some time off due to my foot injury I revised it to 15 miles as my final long run. I have to be honest and say I think this was my worst training session of the lot. I’d put back my tapering (cutting down on training) by one week, and decided to do 10km rather than push for 15 miles on the Friday, and moved my final long run to Monday (as I was off).

The training conditions were probably the worst I’ve ever experienced with strong winds and torrential rain. Mentally I think I found it the toughest session for this reason, I was a little apprehensive as to how my foot would hold up and getting soaked in the process wasn’t pleasant!

The funny thing is, my foot was actually fine. My hip was niggling and I decided whilst out to listen to my body and not push things on so I went to half marathon distance (13.1 miles) instead.

Mentally, I really wanted to get to half distance as a minimum. I was disappointed when I got back to “only” hit 13.1 miles but I think I have to look back at how far I’ve come in such a short space of time, and also remind myself that in the space of 8 days I asked my (previously low level of fitness body) to do 10 miles, 4km, 10km and then 13.1 miles and it did it, which is something.

If I can conquer that horrible session, that’s a huge massive mental hurdle for me! This coming week is about resting, sports massage and physio to be in the best shape I possible can. I’m now a mixture of excitement and nerves, as there’s not long to go!

I’ve had some lovely messages from people, both in the form of donations and also with emails, texts etc. I really appreciate all the support, and cannot say thank you enough.

Click here to sponsor me – thank you for your support!

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Half marathon training distance.

Another two sessions (4km and 10km)

There’s a saying which is “nothing new on marathon day” and everybody knows you should have really broken trainers in before the big day. Due to my foot injury I was told I had to change trainers which is not ideal at all, but it was the best option and advice given my foot issues.

I went out and did 4km in my new trainers (in torrential rain!) just to try and break them in slightly and all was ok. I have also started “lock lacing” which is a technique to stop them from slipping which has also helped.

Having done 4km midweek, it was then time for 10km on Friday night. Ideally I would have gone further, but having had a sports massage in the week and various aches and pains I decided to balance the need for distance versus listening to my body and still getting out there. I completed my 10km (see below) and then had a quick shower, change and headed off to marshal on a 12 Car, so a busy afternoon off from work!

The plan now is to do a long session on Monday, and then just keep doing regular short distances before the big day itself. Not long to go now at all!

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10 miles – Easter Sunday

Having managed my 5k test run after injury, Sunday meant it was back to a long session. The physio had said I couldn’t go any further than 10 miles so that was what I did, all around Aylesbury.

It was a relatively slow plod but it was good to get the miles under my belt and not suffer too many adverse affects foot wise. It was all taped up and twinged but nothing as unbearable as it has been.

Plan is to get to anything between 13 – 15 miles before the big day (original plan was 18-20) and keep doing the shorter sessions to get miles in my legs. I’m not able to jog/run as much as I was pre-injury so things have slowed down but at least I can still train!

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5km post injury

After nearly three weeks off and a clear x-ray, the physio treating me said I could do a test 5km on Good Friday.

I was a little apprehensive but took painkillers before going out (something I never do, but was told I should!) and my foot was all taped up. I got out there and whilst it was niggling things felt ok. My legs felt heavy and tired so I really need to find somewhere for a sports massage – three people I’ve used have closed/are ill and not working so I’m struggling a little to find somebody.

I took my normal 5km route and my splits were ok so I decided to keep pushing on. To get back and find I’d set PBs for everything bar the 400m was really good. It means “Long Run Sunday” is on so fingers crossed!

Just two more long runs planned and a major adjustment to my training plan after this injury is not ideal but it is what it is. In the meantime I’ll keep up with the taping and RICE (Rest Ice Compress Elevate) to hope my foot keeps me going.

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Physio session – countdown to Friday!

Tonight it was time for my second physio session. My foot isn’t right but it is definitely better than it was.

I went through various tests again, had ultrasound treatment and have been re-taped up. I’m allowed to do 5km on Friday (to give myself more time to rest) and depending how that goes, Sunday (my allocated long run day) will be anything from nothing to 10 miles. The countdown to Friday is on – it will be good to be back out there!

I’m booked in for more physio next week, and depending how things go this weekend, we’ll make my marathon planned; original plan, original plan with some tweaks or having to walk the whole thing.

Fingers crossed for this weekend and 22nd April, I will do this!

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Down but not out!

Some people have spotted I haven’t posted for a while, and the simple answer is… I’m not allowed to train!

Having done just over 11km a couple of weekends ago, I felt good. Two days later, on the Monday evening, I went out and did 5km; it was the quickest time I’d ever done with PBs for 0.5 mile, 1k and 2 miles and some other “second best” times.

Unfortunately doing that, I hurt my foot. I’m not sure when or how, but ever since even just walking or weight bearing has been painful. With the marathon so close, I had it checked out by my GP who sent me for an X-Ray to check there wasn’t a stress fracture. That came back clear, thankfully, and I was recommended to go to a physiotherapist.

I’m now seeing a physio twice a week but not allowed to train in the meantime. They’re not sure what’s wrong, but I’m having ultrasound treatment, have some stretches and exercises to do and have my foot all strapped up.

The physio, whilst unsure what the injury is, is happy there’s nothing too serious wrong but there’s clearly something not quite right. They’re happy they will get me to the start line and have told me just to be prepared that I may have to walk all/most of the marathon, but that I WILL complete it! Until then, I’m listening to their advice and have called many local gyms to see if I can get a one month gym membership in order to cross-train in the meantime! It’s really frustrating but I have to accept some of my aims in terms of running/times etc may have to be put on the back burner.

I’ve said it before, but many thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far – I really do appreciate it.

Click here to sponsor me – thank you for your support!