So at the start of this year I signed up for the first Fort William marathon, then twisted Beth's arm to come join in the fun, which makes a change because it's normally the other way round!
The months soon passed and I had to make my 16 week training plan. I did some research about the best way to train for a marathon and eventually found a formula that I hoped would suit me. I knew that I would not be able to cope with a purely running orientated plan as I firstly didn't think my body would cope and secondly I would find it really dull and boring. I decided to make a plan around 3 runs a week (1 x speed, 1 x tempo, 1 x distance) and cycle my bike at least 2 or 3 times a week too.
This plan worked well for the first 4 and a half weeks and I was finding it fairly enjoyable and I think I was getting faster. Then one day when just out for a walk with the dog I stumbled on a tree root and felt a very sharp pain in my glutes. Had to come straight home, couldn't even walk it off! Although panicking about it, I still had plenty of time to get it fixed.
A few trips to the physio later and I was back, still a little sore and very cautious. I had tweaked old, almost chronic injuries, a tight piriformis muscle in my butt and slight tendonitis at the insertion of my hamstring into glute. Happy days!
So my plan was changed accordingly to suit my injuries. I cut out the speed sessions as going fast was out of the question. I upped the miles on the bike and reduced the miles on the trails for a few weeks, then as I improved I upped the running miles again.
I was training on the fantastic trails round and about Innerleithen so they were quite tough miles, quite a lot of elevation on fire roads and single track. However a combination of new trainers and the hills possibly contributed to me getting sore achilles, mostly the left one.
To say I was getting a bit depressed about the whole thing is an understatement, a few tears and tantrums were had but I wanted so desperately to complete this challenge. I hate to fail.
I soldiered on, ice baths for my feet, topical ibuprofen, anti inflammatories and pain killers became my friends.
The training went on though and the date was looming large. My positivity was growing, I can achieve this, I will achieve this.
Then 12 days before race day I woke up with a slightly stiff back, nothing unusual really but this one decided not to disappear and steadily became tighter as the day wore on. Panicking I texted the wonderful Gillian (friend and physio) for help and guidance. I was thinking the worst scenario, as my back has gone before and taken months to recover fully. She assured me that this may not be the case and not to give up hope just yet.
After some intensive physio sessions, more stretching exercises and 8 whole days of no exercise I tested my body on a 3.5 mile run 2 days before race day. I managed, it felt terrible and parts of me hurt but I was certainly going to go and give it the best shot that I could.
The roller coaster of Fort William did not stop there though, more bumps were to come.
It was initially planned that my parents would come and dog sit for us so Alistair could be our cycle support on the route, but like my training plan it also had to be changed. My Mum had taken ill and so therefore could not make it down. The hotel we were staying in was not pet friendly so what would we do? The only way was if we took Bdog and one of us would sleep in the car with him over night.
Upon arrival at the hotel I mentioned the situation to the hotel reception just to check that they wouldn't mind a guest sleeping in their car park. The gentleman was most helpful and with a whispered voice said that we could sneak him in after the owner had gone home for the day. Phew! Happy days for Bdog and Alistair.
Sunday race day was on me it was now or never. Beth and I were both fairly anxious at the start, it was my first and Beth's second marathon. The route on paper looked good but not really knowing the lay of the land that well, it was more of a "will just have to wait and see" kind of route. The weather might play a big part in the enjoyability of it. As it turned out the weather was near perfect conditions for running and unusually for Scotland this Summer, it stayed dry.
The route started at Nevis range and for the first 12ish miles followed a mix of fire roads, single track and roads. The scenery was spectacular and had to remind myself to lift my head and look around. The next 6 miles took us along the side of the Caledonian canal, again very scenic but this for me was the hardest point. The terrain was flat and seemed endless and because the small field of competitors had now been spread quite wide it was fairly lonely.
Having only run in training up to 20 miles the last 6 was going to be an unknown quantity, but apart from my legs starting to seize up, I felt ok. Every time I passed a mile marker I let out a little cheer, and said to myself "not far to go now". I plodded on trying to keep my legs going at a steady rate, but the last 4 miles was uphill so had to dig in hard.
Entering back into the Nevis range and following part of the X-country bike path I could feel myself getting quite emotional, all the blood, sweat and tears was eventually going to pay off. Not long after the 26 mile marker I rounded a corner and saw Alistair cheering me on. I smiled and cried at the same time, he was a very welcoming and lovely sight to see.
Crossing the finish line I have never felt so much relief and joy all at the same time. I had made it, Fort William had been conquered. In fact it felt like some of the best running I had done in a while.
With my medal round my neck I waited to cheer Beth over the line and shed a few more tears when I saw her round the corner and head toward the finish line. Another challenge completed.
As the title of this post suggests I found this a difficult challenge as my body was fairly uncooperative at times. As ever I am thankful to the people and dog in my life who help make things possible.
The day was topped off perfectly with a stop at Tyndrum for gluten free haddock and chips and a few glasses of champagne when safely tucked up back home in the comfort of my jammies.
Bdog going on a road trip.
Near Glen Etive.
Mmm never been here before.
Dinner outside in sunshine.
A calm and beautiful day at Fort Bill.
We can rebuild her!
Tears of joy.
The last few metres.
The red mat of joy.
I love you.
All that for a tee shirt.
And a medal.
Where's my Mum?
As always big love to all the Galls who make any weekend a great one, to Alistair chief photographer and supporter, Bdog for licking away all my salty sweat and Gillan for her amazing magic physio hands.
All photographs copyright to A. Dow and C. Gall.