Monday, 14 April 2014

Race Report

If you just want the headlines - I did it!!! I completed the London Marathon in a long and tiring 6:42:13, but I crossed the line running and smiling.  Here's the longer version:

I got up around 6.40 and shortly after 7 was downstairs in the hotel having breakfast - an instant porridge pot, which I had brought with me, tea, toast and apple juice.  David and I left the hotel about 7.45 and travelled by underground and DLR to Greenwich, with him getting off the stop before to go direct to the Cutty Sark.  I ate the banana I had brought with me at about 9.30, in good time for the race start at 10.00

In deference to my predicted time, I was starting towards the back. It took 28 minutes of slow walking forward till I even reached the start line, but the timing chip attached to my shoe meant that "my" race only started when I crossed the line.  I started running just before the line, and I was away.  For the first several miles, my strategy was to make sure I didn't run too fast, which meant anything faster than 14 minutes per mile. So I counted 80 running steps (which I know from experience is about 30 seconds of running), then walked until my average pace came back up to 14 minutes per mile.

There were crowds lining the route pretty much from the start, and lots of clapping and cheering to encourage us along. In some places they were several deep, and in others they were more spread out, but there was hardly every a part of the route with nobody watching. I was very glad that I had ironed my name onto my shirt, as it was very encouraging to have people shouting "Go on, Barbara, you're doing so well!"

It was sunny pretty much all day, and I am very glad that I had thought to slather on the factor 30 suncream before setting off - and even so, I got some mild sunburn.  I'm also very pleased that I had brought some toilet paper with me, as there was none left when I needed a pit stop!

At 6 and a bit miles I realised that this thing looming up on my left was the Cutty Sark. Heading towards the river, people shouting "Go on, Barbara" and then I heard David's voice shouting "Go on, Barbara", and he was right in from of me, so I ran over and managed to lean across the double crowd barrier and give him a kiss, and then I was off again.

Mile 7 comes and there's a Cancer Research UK cheering point and they make a tremendous noise, and in fact many of the charity supporters are cheering all the charity runners, not just their own people. I got a bit choked up at that point. My Garmin beeps for 7 miles, while the 7 mile marker is not yet in sight, and it's at this point I realise that it's not an inaccuracy in either the course measurement or my Garmin, but  I am doing extra distance by weaving around on the road. Not deliberately, of course - when I can, I run on the blue line which indicates the proper measured marathon distance. But I am run-walk-running, so sometimes I am overtaking people who are running slower than me, and other times stepping aside to let them through on the shortest line when I am walking. I resign myself to the fact that when my Garmin says 26.2, I will still have a way to go.  I ended up covering 27.34 miles, according to my Garmin.

There is water available every mile from mile 3 onwards.  I take some about every other mile, and every 5 miles or so there is a sports drink instead. There are also a couple of carbohydrate gels offered as well as 2 I've brought with me, and the crowd offering sweets at regular intervals.   8 miles, 9, 10, and there are lots of people outside having barbecues and music blaring out from pubs and we run past a church where there's a priest in robes aspersing runners with Holy Water.  In Deptford there are people on the pavement outside the Methodist Church - a mainly black crowd, playing music and singing, and I shout at them that I'm a Methodist, but I don't think they heard me.

Mile 10 comes (on my Garmin) and my average pace so far is 14:20 and I'm quite happy with that. Mile 11, mile 12, and I'm feeling good and Tower Bridge comes into view. And I'm running across and there's Denise Lewis with a camera crew and there's no-one else around but she shows no interest in interviewing me, so I keep going. Off Tower Bridge and onto The Highway, where the route doubles back on itself.  The stream of runners coming in the opposite direction is much denser than on my side (they've done 22 miles, and I haven't done 13 yet) - so there are advantages to being slow, as I have much more room to manouevre.   I toddle along, passing and being passed by the same people, and this is the point when my quads start to feel a bit tired and crampy. Nothing serious, just they notice they've been working for a while.

I reach 13.1 miles - half way - on my Garmin in about 3:05, but it's 3:10 by the time I reach the official half way line.  We turn right off The Highway and into some narrow streets, and there's a guy handing out cakes and I have part of an apple Danish, yum. 14 miles, 15 miles, and I think to myself I've only got 11 to go, and I realise that I am pretty tired and my feet are sore and my legs are starting to feel a bit done in. And I don't know whether it's the heat, or the fact that this is all Tarmac whereas I've always done a fair bit of my running off road, but it feels as though this is tiring me more than the equivalent distance on my training runs. I have a bit of a wobble emotionally, because another 11 miles seems like a really long way given how I'm feeling, but then I tell myself that time doesn't matter, it's just a question of keeping going, and I can do it.

Up until this point I had been watching my pace for the current mile, to make sure I wasn't going too fast. But since 10 miles, I have been over 14 mins/mile. I decide to stop watching my pace as there is no chance of accidentally going too fast, but if I watch my pace I may be tempted to make myself go faster. So I switch over to the timer/distance screen, and also turn on the walk/run alert. That external signal is going to save me needing to count my running steps, and also make sure I take walking breaks which are neither too long or too short.

15, 16, 17, and here's another CRUK cheering point and there's David with them. He asks me how I am and I say my legs are a bit tired and someone else says it's all mental and I can do it, which of course I can. So, another kiss and I'm off again. 18, 19, and I've run further than I have before, but I am starting to get a little bit confused - the mental impact of physical tiredness, I think. I am losing track of whether I was following the distance on my Garmin or the course markers, and I forget exactly how many miles I've done.  But the important thing is just to keep moving. It's getting harder to break into a run when the Garmin tells me to - it is starting to hurt - but I keep on doing it.

21,22... There's supposed to be a CRUK cheer point here, but I can't see them. And then I see Fetchpoint - a cheering point manned by other members of the running website fetcheveryone. They supply me with face wipes, snacks, hugs and encouragement to keep going.  It takes a special sort of person to hug a sweaty incoherent runner!!  Just a little further on I pass 40K, and there's David again at a CRUK point which has been abandoned by everyone else, and he says "See you at the finish!"

The shouts from the crowd have mostly been supportive and encouraging, but every so often there is some smart Alec (who has probably never run a mile in his life) saying something "witty".  Most of the way round I just ignored them, but as I get more tired, that gets harder.  A few people cross the road without much consideration for those of us who have run a very long way!!!  23, 24 along the embankment.  
  Most of the people around me are walking now, most of the time - and whenever I break into a run there is an extra cheer from the crowd.  I'm not sure whether they think I have done it in response to their shouts, when in fact I have done it because my Garmin beeped.  25 miles, and I know I'm going to finish and I get a bit emotional and sob a couple of times, but then I keep going. And Big Ben comes into view and it's a bit further away than I'd like, but then it isn't and as I turn into Parliament Square I turn off my run/walk timer and I'm just doing this now.

Into Birdcage Walk and I've thought about running all the rest of the way but that seems too hard but I am running more of the time now. There's a sign that says 600m to go... 400m to go.... and I think I will run the last 200m but I turn the corner and it says 385 yards to go, and I think that's a bit much to run. So I take one last walk break and then start running just before I reach the monument in front of Buckingham Palace and someone shouts my name, and it's Sandra from Thinking Slimmer, and I wave and turn into the Mall and a marshall says "You've done it" and there's the finish, and I'm almost there and I'm there and I press my Garmin and I've run the London Marathon!!!!

I collect my medal, have my timing chip removed, collect my goody bag and kit bag, and make my way to the meeting point.  I want to do nothing so much as sit down, but I simultaneously want to keep moving to avoid stiffening up. I have had plenty to drink, including sports drinks and carbohydrate gels, but not much food.  We make our way back to the hotel, I have a shower, and put on my Finisher's T-Shirt.  I feel well enough to walk (gingerly!) the few minutes over to St Pancras Station, where we have our first proper meal in twelve hours.  David, bless him, has been on his feet ever since leaving me on the DLR, and has also not had anything to eat more than a few sweets.

So, that was the London Marathon.  I knew it would get hard towards the end, as it meant running 8 miles further than I ever had before. It became hard rather earlier than I had anticipated, and that presented a challenge in itself, because it made me doubt my ability to finish.  But in the course of the training I have learned so much about self-belief and motivation. When it got hard, I reminded myself of all the reasons I wanted to do this, and told myself I could, and I kept going until the job was done.  The reasons I wanted to do this were partly about personal achievement, and partly about raising money to defeat cancer.  And so far, I - or rather, you and people like you - have raised over £4,300 for Cancer Research.

The day afterwards I am naturally somewhat stiff and will be for a few days.  But it is not as bad as I had feared - some people find stairs almost impossible for a few days after a marathon.  I saw lots of runners being treated for blisters by the St John Ambulance, but my feet are fine.

Thank you so much for helping me on this journey.  It has been a roller coaster!!  When I signed up for the marathon, I estimated my finish time at around five and a half hours, based on the pace I had been running in training. Because of the injuries and the training I lost, I ended up taking nearly six and three quarter hours.  But I have completed a marathon - something only 1% of people ever do.  That is something no-one can ever take away from me.  Thank you for all you have done to make it possible.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Final Preparations

We will be off to London very soon.  Every item of kit I'll be wearing on Sunday has been thought about and chosen with care.  My route from the hotel to the start is planned and timings worked out. I just need to put things in my case, ring for a taxi, and then we'll be off.

At the moment, I have butterflies in my stomach and a sense of nervous distraction.  I am hoping that in the next 48 hours an air of calm will descend - because I have really done all that I can do.  The training is done.  It is enough to get me round in one piece, as long as I am sensible in my pacing.  I have practised that in my two runs this week - holding myself back at the start.  I want my average pace to be no quicker than 14 minutes per mile, and certainly no individual mile faster than 13:30.

In a way, I am now on a conveyor belt that is moving its way slowly and inexorably towards the start line.  I have made all the decisions that are to be made, now I just move on with the consequences.  It reminds me a little of the events of Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday - this Sunday. Once Jesus had entered Jerusalem, a train of events had started which were going to end with his arrest and death.  He had opportunities to run away, right up to his arrest - but he didn't take them, because he knew what he had to do.

I can pull out, any point between now and Sunday morning, or indeed during the race itself.  But I'm not going to.  A few people, when talking to me, have emphasised how hard it is, how painful.  Now, I don't like pain!! I would rather avoid it if I could.  But if I can't, then I will go through it - that's all there is to it.  I have made my mind up - I have set my face towards London.

I continue to be amazed at the support and encouragement I've received, and also the donations from far and wide.  I am losing track now, but so far the fund has reached over £3,900.  When I set my target as £2,500, I thought how cool it would be if I actually reached £2,620 as that would be £100 for every mile I run.  I'm wondering now if I could actually double that.  And it's not me- it's everyone else, being so generous, and also telling their friends and families and posting it on their facebook and twitter.  Some donations have come from people I have never met, and it's amazing.... this thing has taken on a life of its own.  I am a passenger.

So, my part now is just to get out there on Sunday and do it.  And I will :)  If you are following my progress via the marathon website, you will be able to see when I cross the start line, and get an update every 5K.  As a ball park figure, each 5K should be taking me a bit less than 45 minutes - at least to start with.  Chances are I will slow down later in the race.  I could go faster at the beginning, but that would be a bad idea!

So, it's almost here.  I have a few things to get together, my bag to pack, and then we'll be off.  See you at the finish!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Nearer and Nearer Draws the Time

Only two runs this week - but seeing as my long run on Monday was 18.2 miles, I am happy enough with that.  The cheque from the Brass Band evening has gone off, and together with other donations received, the total so far stands at £3,492.50.  With two fundraising events still to come and several sponsor forms still in circulation, I think it's now reasonable to think in terms of eventually reaching £5,000 - double my original target, and a totally amazing outcome.

So, Monday.  I decided that rather than run on the Southwell Trail again, I would use my gym as a base instead.  This would save me the 10-minute drive either way (or rather, replace it with a 6-minute walk), which I felt has contributed to post-run stiffness.  The gym gives me a locker to store water and supplies, and access to a toilet (important on a 4.5 hour run!), while avoiding the temptation to bail out early if I came back home to refuel.  The downside of the gym compared to the trail is that the terrain is not as flat, so I did rather more ascent than I would have done.  With that in mind, I am quite content that I only just got over the 18 mile mark, rather than getting close to 20.  It took me 4 hours and 40 minutes, and the last half an hour was quite hard.  I used the walk/run timer on my watch to prompt the switch of pace, and I was definitely more reluctant to break into a run over the last couple of miles.  But the important thing is - I did it.

On getting home I did a good session of stretching and used the foam roller, then had a warm bath.  Whether it was the walk home, the bath, the foam roller or something else, I can't be sure, but I was significantly less stiff following this run than the 17 miler two weeks ago.

I took a full day's rest on Tuesday then crosstrained on Wednesday.  I intended to run again on Thursday, but was unwell during the night, so took another day's rest instead.  My second run of the week, yesterday, was only 4.5 miles - but it was very enjoyable, and at this stage, it is enough.

A week from now, I will be in my hotel in London, digesting my pasta meal, preparing my kit, and hoping for a decent night's sleep.  I am warned that nerves may well interfere with sleep - but I should at least rest.  Between then and now, I have a very busy week - isn't that always the way? I plan to run on Monday - about 5-6 miles, crosstrain on Wednesday and have my last pre-marathon run on Thursday. 3-4 miles on Thursday will be plenty.  The hard work - well, most of it - is done, and all that is left is to do what I have been preparing for.

I intend to enjoy myself!  I am watching the weather forecast like a hawk (I want it dry, but not too warm).  I am rehearsing my mental strategies and motivational self-talk.  I am reminding myself, whatever I do, NOT to go off quickly, and to take my walk breaks right from the very start.  And I am remembering all the people who have supported and encouraged me... the ones who have donated.... and the ones who have suffered/are suffering from cancer.

We are almost there, folks.  On the day, you can follow my progress by going to the Marathon website  and clicking on the Runner Tracker link which will appear on the day itself.  Then search for my name or race number (35972) and you will see the time that I cross the start line, and every 5K, until I reach the end.  Keep on watching, and say a prayer (or two) for me, to help me get to the end.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Girding My Loins

Three runs this week as intended, although the total was pretty low at a measly 11 miles.  The fundraising total now stands at a stupendous £2,970.50, although in fact there is £375 to add to that which was raised at a Brass Band evening at one of my churches last Saturday - I just haven't got the cheque in my hand yet!

I did a very pleasant 5.5 miles on Monday morning, and afterwards removed the tape from my leg.  It really has done a good job of keeping my knee comfortable and enabling me to run.  I noticed that the skin which had been underneath the tape was a bit dry and slightly red, perhaps not surprising as it had been covered for almost two weeks. I decided to let it breathe for a couple of days and then go back to the physio later in the week for some more.  However, when I contacted him, he said he had run out of tape and was expecting a delivery on Thursday.

I cross-trained on Wednesday (beat my time for 5K on the rower by almost a minute), but when I phoned on Thursday, discovered that he still didn't have any tape.  I started to become a bit anxious about my long run on Monday - I thought I would be OK to run short distances without tape, but not at all confident about the 18-20 miles I want to do as my last long run.  On Friday morning, I went to the gym and did some work on the bike, then decided to risk a little run on the treadmill.  This went fine, but I limited it to 30 minutes.  Then later in the day we went into Nottingham and I bought my own tape from a running shop, and applied it last night in the way I had seen the physio do twice.  It's probably not quite as good as having it done by a professional, but I did feel a difference with it on, and went round parkrun very comfortably this morning.

So, to mental strategies.  I have prepared myself a Mile Guide to the London Marathon route - a short phrase or two for each mile, telling me what to expect.  The idea is that I can memorise it (I am most of the way there with that) and I will know what is ahead.  On the day, though, I need to concentrate on running the mile I'm in, and not worry about the ones left to run, or how many have gone before.  And from the various books and articles I've read, and from my experience of training, I have a list of strategies to help me.

Some of it is about positive mental attitude - people who approach an experience with confidence and expecting good things usually do better and enjoy the experience more, than those who approach it with negative expectations.  I know running a marathon is tough - but if I dwell on it being tough, it is likely to seem tougher than it needs to.  So, I am practising positive things to tell myself about it.  Things like:  I can do this, I'm strong, I'm fit, I can keep on going.  And I want to do more than finish - I want to enjoy the experience.  So I'm going to be telling myself that this is good, that everyone is there to support me, that I'm having fun, that I'm proud of myself... and then again, that I can do this, I can keep going.

When it gets tough - and it will - I shall tell myself that I've come this far, I can push through, I can keep on going, I can get to the finish, I'm strong, I'm fit, I'm determined.  There are those Bible verses I mentioned months ago, especially - I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  So many people have told me they are praying for me, and I am sure that will make a difference.

But before that day, there is one last hurdle to jump - and that's my last long run on Monday.  I want to get past the 18 mile mark, and if I manage the same pace overall as the 17 mile run, that will take me to 4:23.  I would ideally like to get to 20 miles, but I need to set a cut-off time, and I think that needs to be 4:30.  So, we'll see how we go.  I need to remember that my absolute top priority is to stay well enough to run, so if I get any significant pain, or niggles that don't ease off when I slow down, I will cut the run short.  I haven't come this far to get injured again two weeks before the day!

Time is short.  Someone asked me this morning whether I was feeling excited, nervous, or terrified - and the answer, of course, is all three.  On Monday morning, I need to go out and sort of forget that I am aiming to run close to 20 miles, and just stay in the moment.  I can rehearse my Mile Guide to London, I can practise my positive statements - and I can think about all the kind, wonderful and generous people who have accompanied me on the journey so far.  Thank you.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Positive Signs

Only two runs this week - but they were both fairly long, and added up to 25.8 miles.  Having now received a cheque for £200 from my friend's fundraising event a few weeks ago (thanks, Helen) and with other donations in hand, the total now is a tremendous £2,817.50.

So, to the running.  I decided to switch my first run of the week from Monday to Tuesday, so did some crosstraining on Monday instead.  On Tuesday my target was to run for up to 2 hours, and in order to give myself the best chance of doing this, I wanted a flat route.  I also wanted to never be too far from home, as if the knee became a problem I would need to walk home.  So I did most of the run on a flattish circular section of Boundary Wood.  My knee grumbled a bit on the way to and from the wood, as I went up and down the hills, but it was absolutely fine on the flat bits.  I did just over 2 hours, covering 8.8 miles.

Later that day I went to see the physio.  Only after I told him about my runs did he divulge that, on the previous week, he was expecting things to go one of two ways: either a steady recovery, or a rapid decline! Running would reveal whether the injury was minor, and able to heal without surgery, or.... not.  Happily, the 2-hour run indicates it is the former.  He gave me some more ultrasound treatment, renewed the taping, and sent me away.

Yesterday I set out for a long run, with the aim of exceeding 4 hours, if possible.  I did this on the Southwell Trail - firm and flat!  I completed 17 miles, in 4:08.  That, in particular, was a massive confidence booster. It was only in the last half an hour or so I began to feel tired.  By the end, I was glad to stop, and later in the day I was, not surprisingly, stiff.  Today, however, there is only minor stiffness, and my knee is fine.  This is a very good sign!

In the coming week I plan on three moderate-length runs, plus some crosstraining, in preparation for my final long run, which will be two weeks before the marathon.  I do not need to do the full 3-week training taper which is usually advised, because I have not been doing the amount of mileage I had originally planned, nor any speed work.  I will gain more from doing one last long run - hopefully this time exceeding 18 miles.

I will also be doing plenty of mental preparation in the coming week - but more about that next time.  The day is drawing near!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Your Running Number: 35972

This morning's post brought the second Marathon News magazine, which includes the registration form I will need to hand over in order to receive my official race number, which is 35972.  I understand that there is a live "runner tracker" available on the day, which will enable you to follow my progress along the course, and you will need my race number to do that.  Today also brings good news on the running front, despite my having run barely 6 miles this week. Fundraising - so close to crossing the line, with today's total standing at £2484.50.  I know there is at least several hundred pounds to come, in the form of the proceeds from several fundraising events, and whatever is out there on the sponsor forms which are on notice boards here, there and everywhere.  But wouldn't you love to be the person who goes online and makes the donation that takes me across the £2,500 line?

So - running.  The physio said, try a run before I see you again.  I went to the gym on Wednesday, intending just to do strength and crosstraining.  But after 15 minutes on the exercise bike, I kept on glancing across at the treadmills, and couldn't resist.  I moved across and programmed the treadmill for 10 minutes of walk/run intervals.  I was very cautious, starting with just 15s of running out of each minute, but gradually stepped up until for the last few minutes I was doing 30/30.  Admittedly the running was very slow - but my knee felt fine. Emboldened, I programmed the treadmill for another 20 minutes and started again.  This time I had only been going a couple of minutes when my knee started to feel uncomfortable.  I considered pushing through it, but decided caution was more sensible, so I terminated that run after 5 minutes, giving me 15 minutes altogether.

The following day I did crosstraining on the rowing machine and bike, then yesterday, David and I went for a long walk. We parked at Bilsthorpe and walked almost the full length of the Southwell Trail and back - 13.4 miles round trip, with a lunch break in the middle.  I found that if I strode out (i.e. walked too quickly), I would get a pulling sensation at the back of my knee, but otherwise it was fine.  The total duration was a shade over 4 hours.  Afterwards, I iced my knee as instructed - but in fact my injured knee was fine, whereas my "good" one ached a bit.

Today, I decided to attempt an actual run out of doors - it was a beautiful, if breezy, spring afternoon.  I wore my Cancer Research UK T-Shirt to train in for the first time.  I programmed my watch to show me only time, so I would not put on pressure on myself about the pace at which I was running.  I didn't use the walk/run timer, simply ran for short periods, with short walks in between, according to how I felt.  I had been going for just over an hour, and was within half a mile of home, when I started to feel a bit of discomfort in my knee.  It was quite minor, though, and I was able to continue with a bit of running until I got home, having run/walked 4.95 miles in 1:12.

So there we go - it is hardly speedy!  And there is a lot further to go.  But the signs are encouraging - especially the fact that I improved from 10 minutes to an hour before I started to feel any discomfort, in the space of three days.  My next run will be on Monday, and I'll see how much longer I can go before I start to feel discomfort.  Then when I see the physio on Tuesday, I'll discuss with him what my strategy should be for the 4 weeks that remain.  Ideally, I would get 2 more very long runs in - at least 16, preferably 18, and ideally 20 miles.  But we are into the art of the possible, weighing up the benefits of doing that training (psychological as much as physical) against the risks of aggravating my injuries.

A massive thank you goes to all the people who have encouraged me, especially since this latest setback.  The easiest thing in the world would be to say, I'm injured, I'm pulling out.  If I were a serious athlete chasing a fast time, that would be the only sensible thing to do.  But I'm not - I'm an ordinary person, trying to do something crazy, and do some good in the process.  It won't be fast.  It won't be pretty. But if it's physically possible for me to complete the course, I will do it.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Blue Peter Approach to Marathon Running

Last week's running total was just under 22 miles spread over three runs, the longest of which was 8.7 miles in 2 hours.  The fundraising total now stands at £2,432.50, and I've been promised a cheque for at least £175 from a fundraising event run by a friend the week before last - so the target is already reached.  Amazing!!!

Now, the observant among you may have noticed that this blog is late.  I would normally write it at the weekend - but this past weekend I was feeling distinctly downhearted and didn't know what to tell you.  I mentioned last time that my knees were rather sore after the 15 mile run.  Last Friday I ran round Carsington Water in Derbyshire - a lovely 7.5 mile circular route of undulating trails.  The plan was actually to go 1 3/4 times round and meet David (who was walking round once in the opposite direction) at the Visitor Centre for lunch.  This would have given me a run of 13.5 miles, and then a 1.5 mile walk together back to the car.

Instead, I called it a day at one lap - because in the last mile or so, my right knee had become distinctly uncomfortable.  By the time David joined me at the car, I was in pain, limping, and very discouraged.  When we got home, I iced my knee and called the physio.  The pain subsided after a couple of hours, but I knew, when I was honest with myself, that something wasn't right.

I have seen the physio this afternoon.  The verdict is that I have a small tear in the medial meniscus of my right knee.  When he said that, I expected the next sentence to be "and you will not be running a marathon", but instead he said "and we are going to get you round that marathon".

So, I have had some ultrasound and electrotherapy, which will be repeated next week. I also have the magic tape around my kneecap, slightly altering its position - and as I walked back to my car, I could feel it making a significant difference to how my knee felt.  I am instructed to try running before I see him next week - cautiously, in a spirit of finding out how much I can tolerate.  After I run, I have to ice my knee (even if it feels fine) and then put a tubigrip on it.  I have another sequence of strengthening and stretching to do, and instructions to use my foam roller on a regular basis.  I have the promise that he will tape my knee for the marathon itself.  And I have hope.

Back in the day, every craft activity on Blue Peter started with a wire coat hanger, cellotape and sticky-back plastic.  It does rather feel as though my body is held together with those at the moment - not so much finely honed athlete as meccano and rubber bands.  I knew the marathon would be hard.  I knew the training would be hard.... but I thought the difficulty of the training would be about discipline, running when I didn't feel like it (I've had a little of that), going out in bad weather (I've been very lucky on that front) and dealing with a few aching muscles (I've had plenty of those) and blisters (I've had none of those).  I didn't anticipate having to nurse my body through injuries, trying to do enough-but-not-too-much training.  I didn't expect the emotional ups and downs - believing, then losing hope, but keeping going anyway.

When I get that medal round my neck, I will know that I have earned it.  I will have earned every penny of sponsorship.  My reward will be the satisfaction of knowing that I did everything I possibly could to do this - I owe it to the people who have already donated (rather than waiting until I've done it before paying up!) to try.  But the real winners will be the people who, in the future, will get earlier diagnosis and better treatment for their cancer, and longer life as a result.  That's something worth working for.