London 2022 – The Invite
Where do I even begin? So on the 18th August I got a DM from the Muslim Runners organisation asking if I wanted a place in London 2022 after I had shown interest in a post the month before saying they had some additional entries available. My initial response was “No thank you”. My longest run in 2022 up to that point was only 10k, there was no way I could run a marathon with just 6 weeks notice, right? I said as much but got a reply back saying that’s fine, but there is an option to walk it and an 8 hour time limit. That got me thinking!
I asked my more experienced running friends for their advice on what I should do. To get a ballot entry for London is impossible with it being one of the worlds major marathon, an opportunity like this doesn’t come along often, if ever! This is a marathon that was on my bucket list.
I took onboard all the advice I was given, reminded myself that maybe this is what I needed to do to get out of the rut I was in. Since my difficult experience at the Manchester Marathon in 2021, I didn’t think I was ready for a 2nd marathon yet. I struggled so much on that run that I could barely stand anymore after I crossed the finish line.
I was supporting ladies in my community on their running journey, but was neglecting my own. I gained 2 stones in weight in a considerable short amount of time. I wasn’t physically ready for a half marathon, let alone a marathon! Running was feeling harder but I still went out and did it because I loved the way it made me feel after. I am not an athlete, I am just a regular mother who enjoys running.
I went back to Muslim Runners and said yes. I had 6 weeks to train myself to that distance. I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy feat. But after Manchester I remember the feeling of accomplishment and how proud my children were of me, and that for me was the reason why I said yes and decided to put myself through that again. I suppose it is a bit like childbirth, it is a painful and often tramautic experience but you soon forget all of that with your next child!
In my head I was planning to slowly up my distance and get to 13 miles but a very good friend of mine whose husband is an experienced runner, told me how many miles I should be doing every weekend for my long runs to get marathon ready. He said I needed to go out and do a 10 mile run that first Sunday! I could just about manage 10km, I didn’t think I would be able to get 10 miles in but I did. I was so proud of myself and it gave me boost I needed and the reminder that I could do this.
This was his recommended training schedule for my long runs which I followed for the few weeks I had left before the Marathon and I am forever grateful for his advice:
- Week 1 – 10 miles
- Week 2 – 13 miles
- Week 3 – 16 miles
- Week 4 – 20 miles
- Week 5 – rest
- Marathon week – 26 miles!
Another lovely friend then offered to do all my long runs with me, at my pace. She is an amazing runner, I couldn’t believe she was ready to spend many hours with me pounding the streets but she did. There was no way I could have done it on my own
On the Saturday of the marathon weekend, hubby and I set off early at 6AM to get to the Expo at the London Excel to pick up my race bib. There were trains strikes that weekend so we had to drive down. Luckily we got there quite early so there were no queues to collect my bib. We took some pics, had a wander around the stalls, bought the most delicious flapjacks ever (flapjackery.co.uk) and listened to a couple of talks. I was slightly disappointed with the amount of people at the expo who thought my husband was the runner and not me. This is something that I’ve had to deal with quite a lot, people look at me and make judgements. Whether it is the hijab on my head or the size of my body that makes them think that I am not a runner I have no idea. What does a runner look like anyway? We all come in different shapes, sizes, colour and run at different paces. At the end of the day whether you take 3 hours to run a marathon or 7 hours, you are still covering the same distance – 26.2 miles!
After the expo, we travelled to Victoria and I joined The Running Channel shakeout run at the Puma pop-up shop. We ran through Hyde Park and surrounding areas and at the end of the run we were treated to manicures, pedicures and a sports massage. Oh and a pair of personalised Puma sliders and a fantastic T-shirt – thanks Puma!
After that, it was time to head back to the hotel in Ealing, carb load and put my feet up for the rest of the day.
Surprisingly, I had a good night’s sleep. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy the run. We made our way to Blackheath, where my wave start was. It was lovely to see a couple of familiar faces in the 1000s of people waiting to start their run. I had no expectation of time for this marathon, I only had 6 weeks to train, I was 2st heavier this time so my goal was just to get to the finish line, soak up the atmosphere and not put any pressure on myself.
I was in Blue, wave 15 and a large group of runners gathered at the funnel. We were led to the start line and then began running once we reached the start gantry. I set off really well, I felt strong at the beginning and wasn’t bothered about the other runners overtaking me.
However by the time I was approaching mile 9, I was starting to feel unwell. I had period cramps but pushed through till I got to mile 13 and then had to take some painkillers. I had to take a lot of walking breaks which was fine, taking walking breaks doesn’t make me any less of a runner. I called my husband at around mile 15 to say that I needed something savoury to eat. I was a bit sick of having gels and sweets by then.
I saw him again at mile 19 where I was feeling quite deflated and just tired. My whole body was aching especially my thighs, they felt super heavy. He had brought some crisps which I scoffed in the quickest time and they were the best thing ever – really salty and just what I needed after all the sweets. After a pep talk from hubby, I was motivated to get going again. This helped me immensely. Last year during Manchester marathon, I didn’t see him until the end of the run. I honestly didn’t think how much impact it would have on me to see a familiar face and how much it lifted my mood.
I kept thinking about my friends that were tracking me, my girls who were waiting at home for my phone call to say I’ve finished. I saw every type of runner – different ages, sizes, costumes! We were all being cheered on by the most energetic crowds. There were people giving out jelly babies, chocolates, drinks etc. There was music from an orchestra, dhol players, and fantastic energy from everyone watching. It was lovely to have my name being called out by the lovely Liz from my running club as well as others. I went past a few more familiar faces. As I was approaching The Mall, I saw the sign that showed we were 385 yards away, so close yet so far.
The finishing line was in sight and I pushed through to finish strong in 6:01:01! Smashing my PB by over 30 mins and relegating Manchester to history! How is that even possible?
A little advice
What I’ve learnt from my experiences from both marathons:
- Warm up and warm down is crucial
- Eating good carbs and drinking plenty of water is essential especially the week leading up to the event.
- Don’t introduce anything new or different on race day/weekend! That includes food as well as kit.
- Train your mind as well as your body – I love using tools such as visualisation for this. When you are out on your training runs, visualise yourself crossing the finish line with a smile on your face. Practise this many times.
And that was my London marathon 2022 journey. Would I do another marathon after this one? I would love to, God willing. Watch this space for 2023, maybe I need to start thinking about an ultra marathon!