I signed up for the 2017 Manchester Marathon at the same time as I signed up for the Birmingham Marathon for that year, in a frenzy of excitement after completing my first marathon in Reykjavik in August 2016, as soon as Birmingham was announced. Unfortunately, the operation I had to have last year coincided (in its original date) with Manchester and having decided going into surgery three days after running a marathon was not the best prep for recovery, I deferred the place.

I ran Birmingham in October 2017 (report here) and was hoping to start in on my training almost immediately, keeping things nice and long on the long runs and fit on the rest of things in the six months between the two.


I picked up a slight injury running Birmingham (not my fault but the organisation meaning I had to run in the gutter for the last 7 or so miles, avoiding the poor half-marathon runners who were coming through) but some physio from the wonderful Fotios later and I was ready to go. My friend Bernice is doing London next weekend but had a holiday to contend with, so we had a similar schedule. As before, other friends joined us for parts of our long runs, which was really motivational and helpful.

The training went really well. I started from a base of 10 miles on 31 December and was ready to build up from there. I was soon doing 20 – 25 – 30 mile weeks with a lower week every four as I try to do. It’s SO much easier doing a subsequent marathon than your first, as you have learned lessons and also you’ve already done all the distances and know how to do your fuelling on long runs so there’s less to worry about. I was able to concentrate on keeping strong and also not coming out of a cracked rib or an operation meant I was starting strong which made a big difference. I was able to do many more tempo runs in the week, where I’d push myself to run faster than normal for longer than normal, got in all my yoga classes and felt so much stronger. Doing a 25-35 mile week most weeks seems optimal for my immune system as Mr Liz got three colds October-February and I had one day of sniffles all that time.

I had some lovely runs in Penzance when we were down for a holiday in January, including a 15 miler around Mount’s Bay and a 7 miler where I ran across the causeway to St Michael’s Mount! (picture)

We had some super runs, really fun, I felt strong, the pace was decent for even my long runs and I was heading for a PB in Manchester. It wasn’t easy – a lot of snow and ice made me have to move runs or do very tentative slippy runs, and some quite hard officiating duties at cross-country races etc (I’m training to be an Endurance Official) meant I had some quite hard runs tired – although that’s good practice of course and good for the old resilience.

The last long run was a case in point illustrating why I don’t want to do any more spring marathons. It was supposed to be on Sunday 18 March – 23 miles. All good. I was at the Midlands Road Relays in the snow on the Saturday, please stay just like this, no more … woke up on Sunday to thick snow. So instead of doing the long run on Sunday I had to move it to the Tuesday afternoon. Long story short, I didn’t digest my lunch, it didn’t help fuel me, nor did my gels and drink, I had awful stomach pains that only wore off after 19 miles … at which point leg cramps happily arose! Argh! So that was not fun and was 21 miles only. I then did a recovery run the Thursday and a 15 mile first run of taper on Sunday 25 March as planned. However, that gave me a 40 mile week and it turns out …

The taper

I went into the taper feeling so well, much more energetic than the last two marathons. But I’d felt a scratchy throat on the Saturday, enjoyed my 15 miles as part of Bernice’s last long run, and then on the Monday came down with a cold. OK, fine, race day is 8 April, I’m not going to do much running, just one more taper run, I shrug off colds quickly, I’ll be fine.

I was not fine.

The cold dragged on. It never went to my chest but stuck in my throat – I had laryngitis for a few days with no voice at all. I was so tired and couldn’t run without coughing. I took vitamins, flu pills, fruit juice, ate well, stayed in and warm and it would not shift. The week before race day I could not decide what to do. The Saturday, when we were due to go up to Manchester I realised I had a good chance of not finishing if I started. I would hate to do that when I could have made an informed decision. And being a marshal and official I would hate to use up their time when there might be someone with a sudden problem to look after (I am only considering my own decision here, I don’t have anything to say about people who might have run feeling like this, that’s up to them).

Race day

So I pulled out of the race and race day saw me sat sadly on the sofa watching my friends run round on the tracker app. Oh dear! However, I had a nosebleed (turns out you shouldn’t use those nasal sprays TOOO much) at the exact time I would have started, and there’s no way I could have run a marathon that day, even though I was feeling well enough for normal life, so I had made the right decision.

Forming in the back of my mind, though, as I looked for other marathons and discovered they were on days I couldn’t do or had cut-offs I couldn’t manage, was to not waste the training. Could I do an unofficial marathon the next weekend, around the local area, with a few friends to accompany me?

The “race”

My friend Sam was also unable to run Manchester with the same cold. So I asked her along …

Dave, Jenny, Liz, Sam, Erdington Six Ways

So Sam and I started at 8am in Kings Heath. Dave Johnson was first to join us at Acocks Green bus garage and we were quite fresh then. Stechford Baths saw Jenny Louise Boylan Drew join us thanks to finding us in the car, and we set off again. I used the loo in a tile place because needs must when marathoning, I had some stomach pains first half of the run but nothing too bad. We ran to Erdington along the 11 bus route, including my favourite under the M6 bit. Jenny left us after the second M6 bit, massive thanks to the Boy for the cheering on.

Trudie, Dave, Sam, Liz, Grace and No 11 bus, Acocks Green Bus Garage (photo by Trudie)

We slogged on through, we got lost at one point somehow but spotted Dave across a car park. Tracie Clive beeped us several times and leapt out of a hedge to say hello! Yay! Another break at Stechford then Trudie Marie and Grace Garner were at Tesco Swan, hooray! Grace did Manchester the weekend before and ended up doing 16.6 miles, however many of them a lot slower than her normal pace. Getting slower and more painful but we pushed on up the hills. Goodbye to Dave at Acocks Green, a wonderful 13.3 with us and we were very grateful. He also helped us to “collect” sightings of furniture which was our inadvertent theme of the day. We carried on, ooooh it hurt. A break at my house to collect drinks, have a bite of a banana and a fresh hanky then loop and loop around Kings Heath, just following Trudie and Grace who both saw us to the end, epically, even though they had to run further than they’d intended.

Trudie, Grace, Liz and Sam with MEDALS

We went into the local park for the last 1.4 miles, my watch had failed at mile 19.47 but we’d done a SUM (wrong) and we knew how much we had to do on Trudie’s watch. A bit of Jeffing (walking and running) but not too much, some sobs here and there – after all both Sam and I missed Manchester with a cold virus so we weren’t completely better, and had not run much. Round the park, through the pond area, Trudie cheering us on, Grace sweeping us up, and we were DONE and Trudie had medals for us. her husband Dave kindly gave me a lift home. Training NOT wasted. I had to add Trudie’s file to mine but we definitely did 26.3 miles. WHEEE! A real team effort.

Lessons learned

Next marathons are easier than the first one.

It’s easier to go into marathon training having some miles in the legs and fitness.

Long-distance runners are bloomin’ resilient.

I need to carry on doing marathons. I’m not done with them yet.