26.2 for PANDAS
I ran a marathon on Sunday. 26.2 miles. It has been such an overwhelming experience from start to finish that I just don’t know where to start!
September – Before the marathon.
I don’t always like myself very much, I rarely think I’m good enough – for my family, my husband, my girls, my friends, my job, my dreams and aspirations. I’ve been reading, studying and researching ways that I can find peace with myself, finally feel good about myself and then when I’d been volunteering for PANDAS for a year I saw that one of my fellow volunteers, Catherine, had got into the London marathon 2016 – I felt envious, I have always wanted to achieve something like that, I have often watched bits of the London Marathon and thought how amazing it would feel to achieve something so epic. Like somehow it would validate my existence, something I could be proud of (other than my beautiful girls of course), something purely for me. I decided to do something completely bonkers and apply for a charity place running for PANDAS. I didn’t tell anyone I had applied as I didn’t expect to get it. I got it. I was beyond excited and terrified! I had that niggling anxious voice in my head telling me I was kidding myself but I tried to drown it out, I knew I wouldn’t give up because if I did I felt there would be so many people telling me ‘I told you so, who did you think you were kidding?’
September – April: The Training.
The training was H.A.R.D. I found many new ways to feel guilty as I ran in the evening rather than spending time with the girls, my husband was doing all the cooking whilst I was out. To begin with as I ran my 3 mile and 4 mile training runs – I hated it, that annoying voice in my head kept on doubting how I would ever get to run 26.2 while I struggled running 3! But very gradually I started to see progress. By Christmas I had hit 8 miles which felt like such a long way and I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Not a lot of running happened over Christmas so In the new year, I re-grouped, taught myself about nutrition and went to see a running coach. I began to increase my mileage and signed up for my first half marathon. The half marathon was very tough, both mentally and physically. I hated so many people being better than me, running faster, overtaking – mentally I was not in a good place during this race which made it so much tougher. I was back at school feeling self conscious and crap compared to all the sporty types that were speeding off – there were parts of this race that I felt very alone and as I crossed the finish line I didn’t feel happy or proud I just wanted to cry. I couldn’t imagine running double that and felt angry with myself for ever thinking I could. I was really disappointed with my time once I realised that I had finished within the last 100 people and spent days after feeling depressed and anxious about the marathon.
Anyhow, I continued to chip away at the distances – I loved my 16 mile run and began to feel like perhaps I could get through the marathon.
A couple of weeks later I got up early on Sunday morning and headed out for 8 miles. At 8 miles I called for a friend, had a banana, refilled my water bottle and we set off for another 10 miles. at 13 miles I really started to flag. It was awful, the doubting voices in my head started up and I couldn’t fight them off – my friend was the only reason I managed to finish that run. I felt nauseous, dizzy and depressed. How could I possibly run another 8 miles on marathon day? The negative, berating voice was back again.
To make matters worse I had calf strain, so that 18 miles was the last run I actually did before marathon day! During the final 4 weeks of my training I saw two sports therapists, one of whom, Donna, works for PANDAS and was absolutely amazing. It was fantastic to meet her in person and really feel the support that she was giving me! Catherine and I had many chats about training and mental states, I am so incredibly grateful that we were able to share this experience together. Catherine recommended an amazing book about marathon training which really goes into the psychological side and gives loads of tools on how to use positive self talk and affirmations to make yourself believe that you can get through those 26.2 miles. So that last few weeks where I should have been tapering, I was trying very hard to get my negative thoughts and emotions under control, it was the hardest part of all the training. Also because of my calf strain I had to make a decision – to run or not to run.
I posted the following on my Facebook page:
This week I have had a really shit decision to make – run and risk making my leg worse or don’t run and let everyone including my self and PANDAS down – especially all you lovely people that have so generously donated already!
I have been a bitch to live with but after a long chat with Mr T. I have decided to get to the start line next Sunday and give it my best shot. I may not be able to complete the marathon but I’m going to give it a bloody good try! I have only run 3miles in the last 3 weeks so I feel massively unprepared but I’m not giving up!
At PANDAS we support our ladies through postnatal illnesses and tell them not to give up hope so I won’t give up either!!!
Once I had made the decision to get to the start line and just get round as far as I could, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. That was it – I’d made a decision now I just needed to put all my energies into getting my head into the right state of mind.
So I did it. It’s done. I loved the whole experience! It went well, I used my techniques of positive self talk and I soaked up the atmosphere. There is nothing that I would change about it. I felt humbled by all those people challenging themselves for charities close to their hearts, for own personal reasons and all those spectators cheering and encouraging, handing out jelly babies and oranges, children getting involved and the general street party atmosphere. I spent five and a half hours in my own mind which isn’t always the place that I want to be but I proved to myself that day that it can be ok in there and I should probably go there more often!
I thought a lot about how running the marathon could be likened to the advice we give to those we support at PANDAS and how I overcome my own anxieties. Small steps, perseverance and positive self talk along with support from friends and family.
I thought about another amazing PANDAS colleague and friend, Amy, who is running an ultra marathon this year. Amy ran 26.2 a couple of weeks ago as a mere training run! No spectators, finish line or medal – I found that very humbling and massively inspiring.
I thought about all the people we support at PANDAS, how I was once a PND sufferer and all of their individual journeys.
I thought about Eddie Izzard running his 27 marathons – I am in awe of his determination and passion to do something he believed in.
It was an amazing feeling crossing that line on Sunday! Seeing everyone’s messages of support on Facebook afterwards. I don’t have huge amounts of self belief and rarely feel myself to be ‘good enough’ so this whole journey has been a massive mental journey for me – but I got there – and I feel stronger for it. I also feel overwhelmed by the amount of friends that got behind me on this, several even saying I was an inspiration! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be an inspiration to anyone!
Until next time . . .