Now I’ll let you into a little secret – I always get nervous at the starting line. It doesn’t matter whether the race is a Parkrun or a crazy ultra, the adrenaline starts pumping around half an hour before the start meaning I have to visit the loo at least once. And at this year’s first Trailscape marathon in Newport, Essex, I had to deal with the both these pre-race nerves and living in the knowledge that I hadn’t run more than 16 miles in the past four months.
To put it bluntly but hopefully not too graphically, I was cacking myself (and no, not literally).
I’ve been running for long enough to know that it wouldn’t be easy. You need to prep your body and mind to run a marathon. While I can always tell myself that I’m ready, I know deep down that it may have repercussions. Tight hamstrings, heavy legs, the feeling at mile 20 that you simply can’t go on. I was kind of ready to have to battle through all those feelings and put my mind over matter.
Whatever happened and however I felt, I was going to have to finish this race as it would be the confidence that I needed post my injury.
It’s hard to explain but when you’ve been in a traumatic accident, it really affects your self-esteem. You start to question yourself and your abilities. Doubts begin to surface around whether or not you can run as you are no longer able to jump out of bed and do a quick 10K sprint. Hell, even a 5K feels tough sometimes, and boy oh boy it’s so frustrating. You could choose to move on and try something else or face it head on. And the best decision for me personally is to show that this runner is not ready to hang up her shoes quite yet by jumping right back on the horse.
And by horse, I mean a marathon. It may seem crazy, especially since I was completely unprepared. A four-month break with a few short runs and two-week holiday in India are not exactly the best recipe for marathon training. But I enjoy the challenge and wanted to see what happens, where I am on the fitness scale. Indeed, I’d use this maraFUN to set myself a benchmark and remind my body what it feels like to do 26.2 (well it was 26.8) miles. Of course, it helped that the marathon of choice was a very beautiful trail race.
Having run the inaugural race last year, I knew it was a well-organised event but this year’s Trailscape Rail To Trail in Newport was better than I remembered. Think picturesque fields with the morning mist rising, all the shades of autumn and mud, lots of mud. With checkpoints on the way to fuel yourself around the two laps and plenty of fine company, it was the perfect re-entry back to running.
I may have accidentally fished out the wrong Salomon trainers from the shoe cupboard on the Friday evening the night before, which created an ice rink effect on the muddier parts of the course, but I loved the round and back two laps of the pretty Essex countryside.
As for the battering to my body, well, it wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised considering all the factors. I expected to be at that grumpy stage – somewhere between discomfort and pain in terms of my legs – at mile 20 – but it was my feet not my pins that were giving me grief, and this was all in the name of fashion after I stupidly wore ill-fitting shoes during the week. The day after even I didn’t feel much strain and happily cycled into town.
So what did I learn from my first Trailscape Race of the year and first real race since my injury?
- Face your fears head on as their never as bad as you think they are
- Jump back on the horse
- Accept the challenge
- Choose a race you’ll enjoy
- Pack the right trainers
- Enjoy the beautiful English countryside
Have you ever been injured? How did you feel at your first post-injury race?