This photo of myself was taken exactly a year ago today.

Other than the devastating fact that this was taken in Mallorca (rather than the rainy London I find myself in right now), the next and slightly bigger blow this photo gives me is that I no longer look like that.

This photo was taken ten days into my first (and so far only) round of Whole30. Whole30 is a very quick and very effective method of achieving quite dramatic body composition results (if that’s what you’re after). You can find the reasons I took on the original challenge here, but looking at that photo I would say that my body is in the best aesthetic condition it’s ever been in.

But like I said, it doesn’t look like that anymore. I’m not saying I am now overweight by any stretch of the imagination, but in the past year my body has changed more than it ever has done before.

A couple of weeks ago, one hot afternoon (I think we’ve had at least one hot afternoon so far this summer), I came home and changed into my favourite pair of denim shorts. Or at least I tried to. I’ve lived in the same pair of stripy Abercrombie & Fitch denim shorts every summer since I bought them in California five and a half years ago. They are (or rather, were) perfect – short, but not too short, slouchy but not too boyish, light but far enough away from white. And now I can no longer do them up. They fit like hot pants and the button does not do up. I could have cried.

Last week, I did an online Nike order that included a pair of training shoes, a vest and some jogging bottoms. The trainers fit (thank GOD), but the clothes to which I’d just waved an “I’m always a small in Nike” to the laptop screen were tight. Later that week I begrudgingly made the trip to Oxford Circus to swap both items for a medium.

The final nail in the coffin for my hope of still being a size 8 came in the form of a carrier bag full of clothes from my friend Felicity. There have been many a time where I’ve raided Felicity’s far-more-stylish-than-my-own wardrobe, but not one single item in the stash would fit me now. And the clothes were so nice *cry face*

Now, I’d much rather own clothes that fit than clothes I don’t feel comfortable in, and I think the idea of owning something you’ll ‘slim into’ ridiculous, but it’s all just been a bit of an odd realisation.

I wrote about feeling body unconfident in September 2011, and I hate to admit I sort of feel the same way again now.

I really shouldn’t. In reality, my body is the strongest it has been in a long time. I cycle everywhere (as my thighs can verify), I’m running consistently good times at parkrun, I go to 1Rebel, strongdem and yoga regularly and tomorrow I genuinely believe I have a very real and very achievable chance at a 10k PB.

So I’m annoyed. I look at this photo of my improving toned arms and I’m proud. I’m confident about a race I’m running tomorrow and I’m glad. I look at my strong cyclist legs and I like them. I’m going to classes I never would have dared set foot in.

But the fact I have half a drawer full of crop tops that won’t be making reappearances this summer still gets me down despite all those things and I am really annoyed about that. Being strong and fit and healthy really should be enough.

Yesterday I ran the London marathon.

Despite the fact the medal is laying less than a metre from me, when I look at that sentence it still doesn’t seem real.

Yesterday was an absolute slog and an absolute blur at the same time. I ran for 5 hours and 17 minutes – that is a bloody long time, but there are big stretches of the race I already don’t remember.

To say that I enjoyed running the London marathon would be lying. And I hate that that’s the case. I’m sorry to anyone who would’ve run it and loved every step. I hated every minute of training for this race – once I got injured and I couldn’t do many of my long runs, the whole thing just made me really stressed out.

Yesterday was hard. I had been having stomach ‘issues’ in the few days leading up to the race and on the day itself they didn’t go away. I ran from 8 mile onwards with my stomach constantly cramping. From half way I had to adopt a walk/run strategy as it was so uncomfortable. Stress does funny things to your body.

I wouldn’t have got through the race without two people – Stephanie and Michelle. Steph was with me at my house before the race, made my breakfast, taped up my knees and escorted me to the start. She was then at 14.5 miles, exactly where I needed her and got me round the bleak Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf section and in to mile 21. She was my marathon saviour.

Michelle then took me from mile 21 to the finish, and was pulled out by a lovely and understanding marshall with 400m to go. She took me through the miles where I just wanted it to be over and reminded me to just take it all in and enjoy the moment – “smile, you are running London”. By this point, I was much happier walking, so we did. We walked a lot of the Embankment stretch and she helped me appreciate the spectacle I was a part of.

For the first 8 miles, I was flying. I was tucked in a few metres behind the 4:30 pacer, I passed through 10k at 1:03 and I loved running around Greenwich and Cutty Sark. But after that, it was just tough. After a loo stop, I never really found my rhythm again. There were several moments where I did not know how I was going to make it to the finish line. But somehow I did.

I’m really, really glad I’ve run the London marathon. I’m so grateful I got pulled from the ballot and I’m over the moon I got to experience my hometown run from the other side of the fence.

But I’m also content knowing that marathons aren’t for me. I’ve run two and although I’m proud of myself for doing them, I have no desire to do another one anytime soon. Maybe that will change at some point in the future, but right now, no.

I’m really thankful I knew I loved running before training for this race. If I had been through all the training and running the marathon in isolation, it would have put me off running for life. Running a marathon is hard. And it’s really quite far. I can’t wait to just stick to halves.

Today I feel a bit dazed and a lot broken.

I’m so glad it’s done.

———-

Massive shout out to everyone who I saw on the course:

Sarah in Rotherhithe and then right at the end

Angharad from my work

Laureen and Lawrence in Bermondsey

My mum at mile 13

Gosia who had loads of balloons for me at Tobacco Dock (so sorry I didn’t see you!)

Charlie who managed to get my attention from the other side of the road

Vicky for the hugs in Canary Wharf

Kiera, Beki, Becca, Jen and Elle – the TNR ladies at 23.6 who gave me a boost for those final couple of miles

Leeanne for the call out over the megaphone at the final corner

And of course my amazing Run Dem family at mile 21 – it was a total blur of noise, tears and confetti but knowing you had my back made my race

To say my training hasn’t gone to plan would be an understatement. The furthest I’ve run in the last few months is 15 miles, I’ve probably averaged less than 2 runs a week and ever since my knees started hurting in the last couple of miles of the Brighton half back in February, I’ve been confused as to how some runs can be awesome whilst others leave me crying in pain. 

If it wasn’t for a brilliant run at the Berlin half a fortnight ago, the likelihood is I wouldn’t even be contemplating trying to attempt a marathon on such shoddy training. But it was such a good race and I’m feeling a massive confidence boost from how strong I felt throughout. I definitely finished with more to give… how much more that could have been I have no idea. 
  
Having missed so many of my training runs, I’ve (sort of) made peace with the fact that running London isn’t going to be the speediest or most pleasurable experience. My knees will hurt, I’ll feel knackered much earlier than I would’ve liked and I may well have to call on the offers of help I’ve had from friends. 
I was never going to set any records, I mostly just want to keep up my New Years resolution to always run happy. I’m going to try and remember this for as much of the race as possible. I keep going back to the feeling of how lucky I am to have a ballot place in one of the world’s greatest marathons. 
  
The next two weeks are all about ensuring I am as well as I can be on race day. Being well rested might end up being my biggest asset – it sure as hell won’t be being well trained. Good food, lots of sleep, no booze and some gentle miles are in store over the next fortnight. Keeping calm in the face of growing hype all over my social media feeds will be enough of a challenge as it is. 

What do you do when your first attempt at a marathon was so delicious in every way that the second time around is never going to live up to the pain, the dedication, the journey and the joy?

Despite a much sought after ballot place for London being in my possession, I just cannot find the passion to train for this thing in a way that’s going to mean I’ve done the best I could have done.

Scared I’m on the verge of wasting a precious opportunity, I have only five weeks to try and salvage my training. A whole month of lost mileage, angry knees and sore glutes has passed and I am left with a seriously damaged belief that this is even possible.

26.2 miles is a terrifyingly long distance at this point in time, but it is LONDON. There is no way that this isn’t happening.

Today I’ve woken up easier and clambered out of bed quicker than I have done in weeks. It’s brilliant that even on an early Monday morning (on Mondays I start work over an hour earlier than the rest of the week) it is now pretty much light when I open my blind just after 6am.

Spring definitely sprung in London this weekend, and with it brought the short shorts out for the first time in several months. After years of insisting I’m a cold weather runner, I’m beginning to think that my enjoyment of a run is in fact directly influenced by the number of pieces of clothing I’m wearing (i.e. the fewer the better). I’m looking forward to testing this theory.

Although my mileage isn’t completely back on track after this week, it has been a marked improvement on last week’s write off. I’ve run four times, although three of those were only 5k or less. On Tuesday, I ran only a couple of hours after leaving my colleagues in the pub (I won’t be drinking pint or two of pale ale the wrong side of a run again). And Saturday’s parkrun was probably the most hungover I’ve been whilst running and definitely the closest I’ve ever been to vomming in public. Can you see a pattern here?!

After a night of no wine (!) and a full 8 hours sleep, I got up on Sunday morning to tackle 18 miles. The first 11 were run on my own (the longest I’ve ever managed solo) along Regent’s canal before meeting Stephanie in Hyde Park. By the time she appeared before me, my knees had already decided I wasn’t going to make it all the way back home, but stopping after 14 miles by Embankment and diving straight into a giant latte felt like progress nonetheless.

On Friday, I fly to Barcelona for a long weekend, and I’m already excited about clocking those 18 miles on Spanish soil. The Estrella at the end is going to taste so good.