Monday, 14 April 2008

4 hours 7 minutes 54 seconds: Tired & Sore but Succesful!

I did it! I ran the London Marathon! I ran the whole way and crossed the finish line in a blaze glory at 4 hours 7 minutes and 54 seconds. I may have looked tired, I may have slightly resembled a wet rat, but it was one of my finer moments.

First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me through this journey. The mix of sponsorship for WellChild, enthusiastic encouragement and calming words of advice I received kept me inspired through training, showed me reason when pre-race nerves wreaked havoc with my sanity and yesterday helped me put one foot in front of the other over the entire 26.2 mile course. You guys rock, and you were my rock, so thank you!

They claim the London Marathon is the best in the world because of its mass fundraising appeal, smooth organization and amazing race day atmosphere. I trained for weeks in the name of WellChild and benefited from the Marathon Expo, pre-race instructions and Realbuzz runner blogs on the FLM website. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the race day spectators.

The crowds cheered us runners as a mass movement. They played music, handed out oranges and jelly beans and belted out positive encouragement over almost the entire course. Children offered high fives. I'd added my name to my shirt since I heard the crowd would cheer you on by name by doing so. I didn't expect at least 50 people to personally cheer me on; men and women alike shouted "Gooooo Tanya!" "Keep going Tanya!" "You can do it Tanya!," "Oh yeah Tanya!" These were the same people who sit silently on the tube or pass me on the street without a second glance. The ability of this marathon to galvanize a community spirit unlike anything I've experienced in the UK struck a real emotional chord with me. It was a similar reaction to how I felt when I saw an elderly couple taking pictures of each other next to the street sign across from my office window: something simple, genuine and good that sent a shiver down my spine. These moments remind me to enjoy the little things in life.

In amongst the masses, were some special spectators near and dear to me. I tried to make eye contact with those shouting my name, but somehow managed to miss Chris, Jeff & Becky on 3 occasions! I also apparently ran right by Chris' brother Tom, as well as Cristin & Sarah from work! I did manage to spot Emily & Linda (also friends from work), whose cheers and support sign spurred me on at mile 24 and gave me the extra push needed to get through Blackfriars underpass, which was quiet without spectators, full of runners walking, lit by creepy orange light and spelling pretty fetid from the gross males pissing out of the watchful eye of the crowd (not that this stopped them at other points on the run - nasty)!

I was a little apprehensive about running in such a big crowd, and starting so far back from the start line (I was assigned pen 8 of 9). When it came down to it, I didn't find the crowds or initial positioning too constraining. The first several miles were fairly congested, but the pack slightly thinned after that and you just got used to weaving around people and dodging empty (or half full) water bottles being tossed to the side of the road - sometimes they provided a welcome splash! Around mile 3 the red and blue starts merge onto the same course (the course start is divided due to the mass numbers) and the respective runners actually booed at each other! I think this might be a good spirited tradition, but I found it pretty bizarre.

Around mile 7 after the Cutty Sark I spotted Canary Wharf across the river and thought, "I can't believe I'm going to be running there in about an hour - ahh!" Then around miles 10-12, the cool, sunny day turned sour in classic April style and the heavens opened. It poured cats and dogs and then it poured some more. At one point it came down so hard I could barely see. I then realized that my sneakers and socks were completely soaked and that I was going to be running for 2 plus hours with soaking wet feet. The rain itself was fine, the wet feet were not so cool. But the runners all persevered, and the crowd cheered on.

Around mile 16 the spring in my step started to fade. I felt comfortable for the first half of the race, but miles 16 and 17 seemed to drag on and were definitely my low point. My longest training run was 20 miles, and while the thought of 3 more miles seemed reasonable, almost 10 more miles did not appeal. Lots of people started to walk and talk about "absolute agony" was rife. I just kept thinking that each step brought me one step closer to the next mile, and to the finish. The crowds were huge on this part of the course, which helped too.

At mile 20 the route headed back in the direction of Buckingham Palace (the finish) and this gave me a mental boost. The crowds on the Embankment brought me home, and as I approached the final stretch around the St. James' Park, the skies again opened and the rain pelted down to deliver me across the finish line.

What a journey. I felt proud of my personal accomplishment, proud of my fundraising, proud to have taken part in the goodwill of the day. My legs are sore and feet are blistered, but every step was worth it.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

I'm NOT dreaming of a white marathon...

Glistening & pristine, snowy mornings where the trees, rooftops and my laundry line are decked in tiny crystals of splendor usually bring a smile to my face. It may mean Southeastern Trains will be running two hours late and I know that the untouched white blanket before me is likely to quickly morph into brown slush. But on the rare occasion that I encounter this scene, I focus on the immediate beauty of it all, especially if it's the weekend where I can go out and enjoy it.

Today when I opened my curtains and took in the growing white crust on all in sight, I had a different reaction. How was I going to run in this?! Does my life now revolve around this marathon? It's now one week before race day and for the moment I think that it does. I had planned to complete my last distance run of 10 miles, dressed in race kit and prepped by a full warm up to get me in the groove for next weekend. Quickly sticking snow was not part of that equation!

I bundled up in gloves and warm running clothes (not my race kit) and decided to forge on regardless, mad woman that I've become! When I ran my 20 mile I faced some light snowfall, but this was a different ball game. A cold wind whipped the snow into my face and eyes, hindering visibility and soaking into my clothes. After only a mile, I started thinking about turning back. I was annoyed and conflicted by an urge to just push it versus worry about catching a cold or slipping over if it became more icy. But I was a machine, and this was my last chance to get in a decent weekend training run.

At that moment a familiar silver Audi began honking as it approached me on the opposite side of the road. It was our car, and there was Chris, winding down the window and motioning for me to get in. I scurried across the road and jumped in the passenger seat.

"It's nasty out there," I said.

"Yes, that's why I was driving around in search of you," he countered. "It's getting cold, and probably icy, and there is no way you should be running in that. You don't even have a hat on." I didn't. Oops. Thank you Chris!

So we drove to the gym and I ran for 40 minutes on the treadmill, without my ear phones and access to the TVs. I'm spoiled that all gyms offer that feature, and really can't stand just running in place on a machine for any length of time. But I ran on, in prep for this marathon. And I was warm, instead of wet and freezing. So all in all, it worked out for the best.

Who would have thought last Friday was a beautiful, warm, Spring-like day? It's supposed to be cold here on Monday and Tuesday before warming up later in the week. I hope it does, because a snowy marathon really doesn't appeal. I guess I just have to keep my fingers crossed for cool, bright conditions.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Teetotal in Soho on a Friday night

Yes, I am currently teetotal and yes, I was out in Soho last night. Considering Soho on a Friday night is pretty much synonymous with post work drinking, I thought this might pose a challenge to my "I will not drink any alcohol in the two weeks leading up to the marathon" pledge.

For those that may not be familiar with the term teetotal, you may now realize that it means abstinence from alcohol. I don't think I'd heard of the term until I moved to the UK, and I originally assumed it might have something to do with the British love for tea. It made sense to equate teetotal with a decision to drink tea in lieu of any alcohol... something now tells me that is not the case, however when I just had a quick look on Wiki the etymology of the word was vague to say the least.

Anyway -

It was my colleague's 25th birthday so my office went to a cute cocktail bar in Soho to celebrate. The cocktail list looked yummy and it made me really want a drink. Now those of you that know me know that I don't need alcohol to talk!, or to enjoy a social night out. But after a long week of work, when faced with an extensive cocktail list, I felt weak. A gin and tonic would really have taken the edge off the blaring music too.

But I was strong in true athletic spirit, stayed on the water and had a fun night. I don't mean to sound mournful. I'm really not an alcoholic. In fact, my going out has been at minimum over the last couple of months. It just goes to show the strength of temptation emanating from the festive Friday spirit of Soho! Maybe that's why everyone there is always so drunk! My favorite spots from last night include a guy shoved face to the wall being restrained by two cops who didn't seem to be talking to him but holding him in one position (maybe holding him up?) and a young couple the middle (not the side) of the sidewalk shamelessly making out while people staggered around and into them. They didn't seem to care or notice.

Around that time I reconsidered missing my drink for the night - who needs a £6.50/glass buzz when there's so much free entertainment for the sharp eyed taking!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Pasta with Ketchup

I read that in the couple of weeks leading up to a marathon, it's important to increase your carbohydrate intake, particularly in relation to your protein intake. So that's my plan!

Tonight my cabinets were starting to look pretty bare, but fortunately pasta is one provision that I always have in stock. So I decided to reconnect with a favorite, back to basics meal that my grandma used to serve up during an afternoon visit to her apartment in Queens: pasta with ketchup.

Call me crazy, but I've always enjoyed this combination. My grandma gave me the taste for it at an early age, much to the horror of my many Italian friends. "Don't worry," I'd tell them. "The ketchup is not supposed to be a substitute for tomato sauce and it tastes good!" I'm certain that my friends never believed me.

So tonight I loaded up on a carb heavy pasta and ketchup dinner - simple but delish! The question remains if it will fuel me well for my pre-work run tomorrow....

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Move & Use

Move & Use.....coined by one of my nearest and dearest, this short and simple catch phrase infuses inspiration into my day to day. For those not on my wavelength here, it basically means, "get off your ass and apply what you've got!"

I am a thinker. But ideas only get me so far and I could often benefit from a bit more movement. Take this blog for example....where are all the gems of observation I promised? Not that it mattered much before now, because following this post I'm actually going to share this blog in hopes of recruiting a small, but existent readership. I'm moving and using.

I'm moving and using on many fronts in fact. As you may know, on April 13 (in 11 small days) I am running the London Marathon. My first marathon! I've been running since I can remember and first thought seriously about a marathon back in my Boston days of running around the Charles. Then there was that fateful day of the 2002 Boston marathon - my dear friend and I decided it would be a bright plan to run the last mile or so of the marathon route (which passed our apartment door) in order to take in the atmosphere at the finish line. So I grabbed my sneakers, she grabbed her roller blades and we were off, only to find the route was still cordoned off and spectators were cheering me on like a superstar, and booing my friend like a heartless cheat! We managed to break out of the barriers before the finish line, thankfully. I'm now ready to reach the finish line in good faith.

I'm running on behalf of children's charity WellChild, so if you haven't yet sponsored me and would like to, you can at I'm around £350 off my fundraising target of £1500 so please support me if you can. WellChild is a small, grassroots charity that provides nursing care for chronically ill kids, support servies for their families and research into childhood illness.

Re the race itself, I'm respecting the distance; 26.2 miles is no breeze and I've been training like a mad woman...or maybe like any responsible runner would do! At times I felt like a mad woman going for a run in wet, cold, dark conditions before work, which is why I'm loving the longer, lighter days post daylight savings and my discovery that running during my lunch hour is a great way to train and clear my head.

How am I progressing? My body has become a little machine that charges on in rain, snow and sun for great lengths...15 miles, 18 miles, my personal peak distance of 20 miles (during which I faced all of the above weather!) that I completed in just over 3 hours. I'm aiming to finish the run around 4 hours or just under so I appear on target but it all depends on how I feel on the day....

Some of my best discoveries so far have been:

1. Runners Need - it pays to be fitted for sneakers and seek advice from a proper running store. I got some excellent shoes and training advice from the Liverpool Street Store (

2. Go Gels - I'm not totally into the isotonic drink/power bar/etc. type things, but I kept reading about the performance enhancing effects of carb gels so I thought I'd try one out on my 20 mile run. I had it around mile 17.5 and surprisingly it wasn't too sickly sweet, didn't make me want to throw up and did give me a little boost. I had the orange flavor.

3. Friendly runners raise my spirits and add a spring to my step :) - Since when do passers by around London smile or say hello as they rush past you on the street? People are more likely to run you down as they go about their regular business but I've encountered many fellow runners that greet me with an encouraging smile, nod or hello. It's a show of mutual respect and support. And it's refreshing.