Where was your first marathon?
I did my first road marathon at Brighton Marathon 2011. My training mainly consisted of loops around the outer circle of Regent's park, gym, run commute to work. I didn't follow a training plan, or even knew much about running at the time. Fitting in those long runs before taper week was a struggle and emotional. I had started experiencing knee pain, I guess it was the so called 'runners’ knee' niggle. I remember running the marathon with a knee strap on each leg. In terms of fuelling, I used SIS gels and water, I didn't really know what sort of nutrition to have or how often to take it during the run. I used what everyone else did. Even drank the Lucozade orange bottles. I wore a handmade headband with feathers sewn onto it on each side, to channel my inner Hermes, God of speed, to fly through the course. That I didn't, although to be fair it wasn't a bad finish time either. In my head I was disappointed, I was hoping for 4-4.5hrs and remembered being in a bad mood. I had walked a lot, and experienced 'The Wall', and the race photos showed how much I hated life and was not enjoying the race. They even had an arch painted like a wall, where the runners would have to run underneath, so that didn't make it any easier on how I was feeling at the time. I finished in 4:51, I looked pale as a ghost, and felt like I was going to throw up or poop my pants. Driving back to London, we parked up and the moment I got out of the car I puked up my chocolate recovery shake. My post-race thoughts were, "I never want to run a marathon again!"
Where was your last marathon?
So, after 7 years I signed up to another road marathon. This time it was the Limassol Marathon and first time in Cyprus. A flat, fast race, great I thought. By that point I had joined my Never Stop London community, training outdoors as well as doing boot camp sessions at work and started doing a lot more trail running. I would say my running improved a lot, so I felt confident that I would do better on this race. It was hot at the time, so I wasn't sure how I would cope with the heat or what the race atmosphere would be like compared to usual UK marathon races. I gave myself a time goal, so I tagged along with the 4hr party bus pacing group. My main goal was not to walk. I had discovered that Lucho Dillitos were available in the UK, so that was my nutrition sorted during the race. A race belt stuffed with 2 Lucho blocks and a few Cliff shot bloks. My parents are from Colombia, and we would bring back packs of these guava blocks as I used to eat them when I was a kid. So, to my delight it was great I didn't have to travel far to get my hands on these blocks. My finish time was 4:15, a PB and I ran the whole way. Although I was so happy with my performance and beat my previous time, I still felt that road running wasn't for me. Pounding the tarmac didn't give me the same feeling as bouncing along on grass, mud and rocks and getting to enjoy the views from the top of the hills. I love being connected to nature running through varied terrain, fields, and woodlands, so I've not done another road marathon since 2018.
What would be your main marathon tip for a first timer?
Talk to other people who have run road marathons. Get as much insight into their experiences so you know what to expect and how to prepare. Have some sort of training plan lined up that incorporates more than just running on road - hills, mixed terrain, S&C exercises etc. It helps to have structure to your running routine. There are plenty of websites and books to read up on marathons if you're not able to have a coach. Also, practice nutrition early so you know what will work for you, and what running gear would be appropriate during the race.
Where is your dream marathon?
Tough question! I've most definitely moved away from road marathons since my last one in Limassol 2018 and doubt I will do another. I've transitioned to trail running and do ultra-distances now, however no matter the distances 25km, 42km or more I always choose trail events. In terms of location, I would love to return to Chamonix to race, or visit the beautiful island of Azores or Faroe Island.