As soon as I received confirmation of my registration for the Thames path 100km I started to panic. Yes – I had done several 100k’s previously but I had been fit, skinny and trained. I was now 3 stone heavier, with very little confidence and nowhere near as fit as I had been. I knew I had two choices, I could either get out there and start to train or admit defeat, which is not me. Easier said than done though. In the past I would run at any hour, run through town with the public staring, I could not have cared less in the old days. Suddenly I felt self-conscious of how I looked, I felt I no longer had the runners physique and, in my head, I felt I looked like I did seven years earlier when I started running in the first place. I knew I was still 5 stone lighter than those days but once I got a thought into my head that’s where it lingered! I kept on reminding myself though that although I may have lost fitness, I had not lost my experience. I knew what to expect. I knew how to train and what to pack and carry with me during the run.
Tony, my rock, was with me as ever. He kept reassuring me that I would finish and was at every checkpoint along the way. At the start, I got the usual pre-race butterflies once I saw the crowds of people.
I set off bright and early. I had picked Thames path as I knew it was a very flat scenic run. Even though I was much slower than previously, I loved being out there, running to each checkpoint. The views were amazing. I loved seeing all the beautiful houseboats, the people boating on the river, the gorgeous swans swimming alongside me as I ran.
Even though I was slow, I ran and rarely walked. I actually felt fit, much fitter than I had believed myself to be. At the 50k point I remember feeling so happy. I had no aches. My hand was swollen but pain wise I felt good.
Panic struck during nightfall when my headtorch suddenly stopped working. I had only packed spare batteries, not a spare torch. The batteries had actually burst open and the torch was unusable. I felt I would have to withdraw but thankfully another lovely runner very kindly lent me his torch, I was so welcome – he really did save the day.
During the night stage I ran through London itself, passing the hoards of party people, all shouting and cheering as I ran past. At one stage, loads and loads of fireworks were let off on board a party boat and I just sat on the riverbank and took in the sights. I felt so happy and felt like I was back where I belonged.
I would love to finish this blog by saying I crossed the 100k finish line, but unfortunately at 86k, my right knee suddenly gave way and I could not even walk. I had suffered a meniscus tear in this knee 4 year earlier and I remember the surgeon saying I would be back one day for a tear repair. I knew straight away it was the old tear. I couldn’t walk, never mind run. I was in the middle of a farmer’s field about 12am, all alone and could not believe what had happened. I rang Tony in tears, telling him exactly where I was. He agreed to drive to the nearest road and would try to come and get me. I also of course phoned the organisers to tell them. They agreed I would be taken to the following checkpoint where I would withdraw from the race. To say I was upset would be a massive understatement. This race was meant to show everyone, and most importantly myself that I was back running. I couldn’t see it at the time but looking back now I feel very proud. I know 100% that had I not hurt my knee I would have definitely finished that race. As it stood, 85k was still a fantastic achievement.
I went home the next day with a 50k medal. Not the 100k medal I had intended to win but I told myself Thames path is unfinished business and I’ll be back there this year with every intention to cross that finishing line.
That was 6 months ago. I’m slowly getting back to my old ways but I am still a long way off. Next week I will discuss making a come back after an injury and how I have learned never to give up. I may not be the size 10 skinny runner I once was but she’s in there somewhere and I vow she’ll be back soon!