Hayley's Blog - Coming to the home stretch

Hayley and the Challenge 26.2 Group after completing the Titanic 10K

Marathon fever is in the air. The London race has come and gone and the big event in Belfast is fast approaching.

As I live close to the Lagan towpath I am constantly reminded of my marathon challenge. When I get up in the morning and open my curtains I am greeted with the sight of runners limbering up for their long-distance runs. Before tackling the longest one of all, the Challenge 26.2 Group used the Titanic 10K as a warm-up race. We sailed through with full steam ahead and I was pleased with my finishing time of 54:52.

After finding a range of excuses to prevent me from completing the longest distance before the marathon itself, I decided it was time for the 20 miler. After persuading a few friends to accompany me on the run (I may not have told them the plan to run 20 miles until the day), we finally set off on Saturday – after finding every possible excuse to delay the start for a further few minutes – this involved comparing trainers and even double counting the number of jellybeans in our pockets.

Although many of my runs have been alone, I have been lucky to have such committed friends and family to support me through my training. The 20-mile run was enjoyable all-in-all but the second half was a real struggle. Up to 10 miles we were all feeling good, in fact better than good, great! The sun was out, all limbs were feeling in tip-top condition and we even spotted two kingfishers in the river. What more could we ask for?

After turning around at Lisburn Civic Centre to start our return journey, the tiredness starting to kick in. We had reached No Man’s Land and I had already used up all of my water. Mile 10, mile 10.5, mile 11, mile 11.5 – not there yet! Mile 15, “less than a 10k to go”. Mile 17, “longest run and sure feels like it”. Mile 18, “why did I add on that extra 2 miles?” Mile 20, collapse on grass. Many lessons have been learned from this run:

1) Always bring enough water and try not to drink it all in the first half.

2) Once you reach halfway start to count down the miles.

3) Jellybeans are essential suppliers of energy.

4) Asking “are we there yet?” does not make the distance any shorter.

Although my boyfriend Neil has already completed the Belfast City Marathon, his face went white when I told him we were actually running 20 miles instead of the 18 I had originally suggested. Neil is no stranger to the gruelling 26.2 miles, having previously completed three Belfast marathons. He signed up for his first in 2010 without much training for it. Although he completed it (one of these “natural runners” as I call them), he struggled and had to make a visit to the first aid tent due to dehydration. Second time round and more prepared, he completed the 2011 run in the blazing sunshine which was hard enough until the next year saw “hurricane-like conditions” (not that he is prone to exaggerating).

During the training runs it is important to practice wearing in new trainers, trying out the energy gels and testing out any new items of clothing such as a belt which I had to get used to on this training run. After the initial fidgeting during the first mile, I soon got used to wearing it and forgot all about it. Things that seem like minor niggles can become big issues on the day. It is also important to arrange a meeting point before you start where your family and friends can find you easily at the end. The finishing line will symbolise different things to different people. To me, if I get there, it will symbolise a lifetime achievement and I am going to make sure I try to enjoy every minute of it. Carpe diem. Seize the day - your own, individual marathon day.

CLIC Sargent Official Charity of The deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon.