The build up to Stirling was nerve wracking. I was struggling to concentrate on anything other than Carbs, marathon chat and not developing the flu. What I most remember from last week is a lengthy discussion with Tony from Get Scotland Active. It was more like a hypnotherapy session which I often get for free from Tony. Friday’s nerves were starting to interfere with my working day so Tony sat me down and we worked out a strategy for the Marathon.
Iain picked me up a 6am. I set my alarm for 5am got up and had a cuppa and some porridge. I am not a great morning person so tried to keep food simple. I made myself a packed lunch the night before as I knew I would feel hungry as the morning unfolded. I packed my five gels for the Marathon (four I intended to take and five was to be on the safe side) and some skittles. We then set up to collect the rest of the gang. I was really mindful of trying not to be negative especially not to the others. We collected Joanne, David and then Jude. I loved the fact Jude was standing waiting with her Costa coffee. We both love our morning Costa’s and rightly so this morning should be no different. We stopped for a toilet break and I purchased my latte. I got a funny look from Iain but I assured him my body would go into distress if I didn’t get a little kick. We made our way to the bus terminal which was already busy and it was just before 7am. The bus journey was pain free but we all got separated which meant the others got a little rest from my chat!! I immediately started chatting away to folk who were really worried about what they had let themselves in for. I was in a good place so tried my best to put them at ease with the situation. We got dropped off at the start of the Safari Park and I gave a few nods to our animal friends who were probably wondering what was going on! I noticed my friend Arthur and got a big hug I also heard someone shout on me and it was another friend Graeme ‘G Man’ from Twitter another massive hug to calm the nerves. I also noticed two of my uni friends who I haven’t seen in over 10 years. It was so good to see them they looked petrified! I offered them some advice which was not to start fast- one day I might take this advice on myself:-)
I must admit the toilet situation was not the best although the queue did go in quick as Joanne,Jude and myself gabbed away and I literally kept eating. We decided after we had finished to return to the end of the queue and wait again. This passed the time for us as we finally made our way to the Start line. Jude,Iain and David went off to start while myself and Joanne decided to go to the toilet again. We were in the white wave so had 10 minutes to spare. It was frantic at this point so we decided to make our way into the woods since we are such classy chicks. All sorted and ready to go we joined our wave. Joanne got really emotional but I knew she had nothing to worry about I was just itching to go. We started taking the usual selfies and got chatting to a few cracking guys from Hamilton behind us. The traditional Scottish songs came on which I thought was a lovely touch and even my iced heart was starting to melt.
The race started and the atmosphere was electric Joanne and I were chatting away when we noticed Lynn who we had run a bit with this year. She joined us all the way to 5k when we reached Doune. Joanne started to edge forward but I glanced down at my watch and noticed I was 27 mins in and slightly faster than what I wanted so I deliberately hung back I glanced at Lynn and noticed she looked down at her watch too. ‘Jen go for it!’ she said but I was not going anywhere. I told lynn I was happy with the pace so we got chatting again. The people of Doune did not disappoint and I honestly struggled not to start dancing to the music, the atmosphere was outstanding. Lynn and I stuck together until 10k when I glanced down at the old Garmin again and at 54 mins I was too fast. We were approaching a water station so I reached over to get my water and noticed Lynn speeding up. I told her to go for it as I slowed down to take a gel and some water. Did I need it? Well Lynn looked at me as if I was committing a crime but that was my strategy so I wanted to stick to it. I watched as she faded into the distance but I was very comfortable chilling out for a bit. We approached Dunblane and were greeted by hundreds of spectators who were handing out sweets, fruit and massive cheers. I couldn’t get over the way strangers were shouting my name ‘you have got this Jenna’ and ‘stay strong Jenna’ were the words that continued to stick in my mind as I tried to high five as many children as I could. I remember reading an article saying you should try and conserve energy and try to Limit this as much as possible during the first half of a run in particular but I was loving it and felt on top of the world. After Dunblane I noticed the four hour pacer not to far ahead and I wondered if Joanne and Lynn had possibly overtook him as I couldn’t see them at all. I started chatting away to a lovely lady called Linda who I recognised from races. Its funny how you recognise a persons running style and it turned out we had run most of the same races this year and last.
Linda and I stuck together as we approached Bridge of Allan and even more people out cheering us on. I slipped away from her at this point as I got a bit carried away by the support and the wonderful crowds. As we made our way towards the university I noticed runners going in the opposite direction. I heard an almighty ‘Come on Jenna!!!’ it was David, I cant remember what I shouted back but it was loud as I almost burst a poor guys ear drum to the right of me! He took it in good spirits and hung on with me as we climbed the hill at the University. It flattened out before climbing again but I felt good as I broke 20km. I still didn’t feel like a gel but it was in the plan so I got it down my neck and made my decent downhill taking back some speed I lost on the uphill. I made it half way in 2 hours 1 minute which is exactly where I wanted to be. My strategy was to put some music on at this point to give me a little boost as I understood the support would fade a little until we reached Stirling. That worked well for me as I completely zoned out and enjoyed some uplifting tunes. My stride felt good my body felt great and my lungs felt fucking amazing as I took in the country air. I was in that much of a little bubble that I forgot to look out for the Wallace monument! I noticed my pace was creeping up a bit but nothing I was concerned about I was enjoying my run and that was the main thing. I got to 16 miles and I recall seeing a Vue Cinema ahead. This must be something to do with my work as I have no idea why seeing a Vue Cinema has any relevance to anything but welcome to the world of Fitness Rewards. As I approached the cinema I noticed two familiar faces from Glasgow, it was none other than ‘The Runbetweeners’ Legends Jack and Kenny. That gave me a big lift as Jack shouted ‘looking Strong Jenna!’ Strong was one of my buzz words you see and how I wanted to feel at the end of my run.
I made it past mile 16 happy as larry. The streets were starting to get busy with support and I realised that I must be near the city. I remember turning to my right and noticing people on the other side of the road. Welcome to the loops I thought to myself. I remained positive as I knew I would see my family soon. As I made my way up the high street I took my music out to get a lift from the crowds. It was so busy at this point and I felt a bit overwhelmed, I didn’t see any of my family as I watched carefully where I was putting my feet. The cobbles had arrived and that’s all I needed was to break my ankle 18 miles in. There was my negative thought! I recognised this instantly and tried to turn it into a positive but I couldn’t see any of my family and felt I was getting a bit tired. I thought people looked a bit spaced out and there was a lot of folk walking. I realise now they were at the end of their journey. I would be telling a massive lie if I said this didn’t affect me as much as I was trying to remain positive. I noticed a water station on my right hand side as I climbed a slight hill at 30k this was perfect timing for my third gel. I looked down at my watch and I was at 2.56.51 another negative thought as for the first time I was not were I wanted to be. I continued on and I heard my name being called it was the girls from my club and I was delighted to see them! I slowed down as they gave me a kiss each and trying to be the inspiring coach that they think I am I powered on. Seeing mile 23 pulled my mood down furthermore as I realised that would be where I was the next time after I did another loop. I think that was my darkest point! I kept moving slowly until I felt like I was going downhill. Come on Jen gather speed use the hill I told myself all the way to the daft underpass that I thought was a shambles. I tried to plug my music back in but it was not happening! WTF was I going to do? Panic kicked in and I needed something so I reached for my miniature packet of skittles from my flipbelt. I noticed an older man really struggling in front so I started chatting away to him and offered him one of my gels. He was really grateful and I suggested he stop and take it and have a drink. This is exactly what he did and I felt accomplished that I had maybe helped someone out. I told myself that the skittles would be kicking in and I didn’t need music after all as I didn’t run with music this year. That worked for a bit as we made our way towards another hill which I thought was uncalled for! The area started to feel familiar as I realised I was on my second loop. I ran towards the crowds again and heard the uplifting music. I noticed the most beautiful little face from the crowd and it was my daughter Lexie and my dad. My dad grabbed me and kissed my cheek. My eyes filled up but I didn’t want to stop so I gave him a ‘greeting faced look’ and kept going. Now I was approaching my friends again and with some tears they were like ‘come on babe you can do this stay strong!’ there was my word again so I kept pushing towards the downhill. I noticed Scott McCue ahead of me but I couldn’t catch him and noticed him heading to the left towards the finish. I also noticed Lynn pass me too I was gutted because I thought she was ahead of me and I could have really done with her help on that second lap! I turned my head to watch the runners finish and noticed my friend Iain. He was shouting and cheering on me saying well done. I screamed congratulations to him as I passed (well I might have said a bad word too) I was on my last loop three miles to go. I am going to put it out there now the last loop was mentally challenging and I genuinely believe if this had been slightly flatter and less boring I would have had a better ending to my Stirling Marathon experience.
A very slow plod towards the underpass for the last time and as I made my way into a residential area that I now felt like a resident in as it was that familiar. I noticed the 4.15 pacer overtake me. I didn’t have anything in me to push my pace on so I decided that I just had to keep moving to a sub 4.30. As I made my way into the busy centre again I realised that my dad and daughter had left. I powered up the last hill and made my way to my friends. I heard an almighty scream ‘mum’ I turned to my left and noticed it was my son Daniel! I blew him a kiss and kept going as the end was near! My girls were clapping and screaming like mad ‘Last bit Jen!’ and I started to speed up. I was going for it now all the way to the finish and I wondered where this energy was coming from and maybe my skittles were now hitting me? I steered left and made my way to the finish not slowing down as I passed runners on the way. I had a strong finish and raised me hands in delight. I looked up to see the 4.21 something and I was delighted. I was Strong!
I stopped and heard Joanne shouting on me, she was breaking her heart crying. I gave her a massive kiss and cuddle and made my way to collect my goodies. I then noticed Iain towards the end of the finish line. I stopped to congratulate him as I made my way out of the finish area. We noticed Arthur standing too so stopped to give him a hug and congratulate him on a PB. I was super chuffed for Iain and happy he didn’t feel disappointed in his time. Iain has massive potential and I feel its a real shame this guy wasn’t picked up at a young age. Iain has been injured and probably shouldn’t have did Stirling I am excited to see what a fully fit Iain does a marathon in. We walked round to get Joanne and by this time she was struggling to stand up. We had another hug and I told her how amazing she was doing her first Marathon in 4.08. I was bursting with pride for us all. I asked Iain if he had seen David and Jude as I was hoping they too got exactly what they deserved. I made my way to get a massage and meet my family with almost a 40 min Pb under my belt I was satisfied. I know there is room for improvement so this will be my next challenge;-)