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A marathon challenge: part 3

A glimpse of Antonia's training schedule A glimpse of Antonia's training schedule

Sunday 29 March 2015 will be burned into my memory forever. It was my longest marathon training run to date – 21 miles - and my longest scheduled run before the marathon itself. (The idea being that the remaining 5 miles will be fuelled by adrenaline and crowd support – pfff).

The day was grey and drizzly. To start with. Well, that’s no big deal, I thought. For anyone undertaking a spring marathon, the first part of training is in the grimmest of dark winter months. So I set off, undeterred.

The drizzle quickly turned into pelting rain but, still, no big deal! I was already warm by that point and impervious to the damp. I made steady progress to the halfway point and felt pretty good. But the weather reports on the radio were becoming increasingly ominous: “check your travel before you go… most ferries aren’t running…”

Running along the Thames path in London is an exhilarating experience; there’s so much to see, and pretty soon – as I head east – the parts of London that I recognise (Greenwich, the O2, the Emirates cable car taking tourists and Londoners alike back to the ‘civilised’ north) slowly disappear and new sights present themselves. The Thames Barrier. The Victorian entrance to the Woolwich foot tunnel (blink and you miss it). The Royal Artillery Museum, beautiful in its Georgian splendour. London is glorious – simply glorious.

But nothing... nothing… could have distracted me from the pain of the next 10.5 miles. As I turned around to retrace my way back home: I was hit by a solid wall of gale. The elements were merciless. If I hadn’t been cursing into the howling winds I might have been impressed by their glory.

All hope of arriving home at 3pm faded as I had to stop every half a mile and try very hard not to weep. The 2pm news passed by… as did the 3 o’clock update. Another runner – also marathon training (it is not a coincidence that the only other people daft enough to be out were runners) – picked me up at 15 miles and ran with me for a little. She was coping a lot better than me and having someone so chipper meant I could hardly lag behind (and sneakily use her as a wind shield). But she left me at 17 miles and I had 4 agonising miles to go.

I’m not going to harp on about those last 4 miles. To say I wanted to die wouldn’t be an understatement. The gale was coming from all angles – no matter the twists and turns in the route, there was no particular direction to the battering I would receive. I watched as wheelie bins skidded across roads and as road lamps swayed threateningly.

I made it home just before 4pm. I had completed 21 miles.

Was that a successful run? I’m not sure. I didn’t really “run” 21 miles, for a start. That would imply I consistently moved my feet, left, right, left, right. But is the aim of this long run just to get me used to being on my feet for 3 and a half hours? Well, maybe. But I’d have much rather proved that I could do that by standing at the Globe, watching back to back Shakespeare.

The only thing I take away from this experience is that I ran 21 miles in the most apocalyptic conditions. The marathon can only be easier. Right?

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Catch up with A marathon challenge: Part 1 and A marathon challenge: Part 2

If I hadn’t been cursing into the howling winds I might have been impressed by their glory.

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