2018 was a successful year for me and brought many highlights with it. I feel like I have achieved a lot this year, from my first marathon to personal bests across all distances up to the full marathon. I have added new medals to my collection, but importantly I learnt a lot about myself, both mentally and physically. Despite nagging mental doubts, I have managed to achieve things which I never thought possible. Running has helped me to transform my body in terms of weight loss and appearance, but also my mind as I am mentally stronger than I have ever been. All of the below events and challenges have helped me to grow this year. Each of them have given me confidence or motivation, helped me to battle my mind when things got tough, and gave me a hunger and desire to want to do even more.
My first medal of the year is also my proudest moment to date! Completing my first ever marathon in London. This was a dream come true! I really wanted London to be my first marathon so that I could enjoy the atmosphere. With it being my first marathon, I didn’t want to stress about finishing times. As long as I crossed the finish line, I would be happy!
I was very under-prepared for this event! To my dismay, it also turned out to be the hottest London Marathon on record. I’m not going to lie and say that I loved every minute of it. Far from it! There were times when I felt like quitting. I hurt in places I never knew I had. It was so hot and I started to struggle before I had even reached the halfway point.
With the sheer determination of not wanting to let everyone who had sponsored me down, and stubbornness of not wanting to quit having spent a lot of money to stay in a London hotel, I pushed on. At one point, just as I approached Tower Bridge, I resorted to creating a Facebook live video. This is something that I had never done before, but I really needed to take my mind off how much I was hurting and how hot it was. My Facebook friends were able to see my live-stream and leave live motivational and encouraging comments for me to read along the way.
Eventually I made it into the final mile and I knew I was going to get my medal! I crossed the line in 7:03:07, which I was disappointed with. Don’t get me wrong, I was overjoyed just to have finished, especially given the fact that I had only started running in November 2017 after being a couch potato, but I felt like I was capable of more. Finishing my first marathon gave me the kick that I needed to start being consistent with my training. Just 3 days after completing the event, despite vowing never to run one again in my live video, I had registered for my next marathon attempt!
Wolf Pack 20k Challenge:
I love animals, but especially wolves. As soon as I saw this medal design I knew it was a perfect way to keep me motivated and reward my training efforts.
This was a virtual event through Awesome Virtual Running where you could run, swim or cycle 20k to achieve it. You could also do a combination of the 3 and complete it as a triathlon. Originally I did debate the triathlon option, however I’m not confident with my swimming. I also didn’t fancy cycling around the streets. Instead I ran the 20k distance and received my medal in the post a few days after submitting my evidence.
This was a pretty spontaneous 10k as I only registered 2 days before! My cousin had entered it earlier as her first 10k, so I belatedly decided to join her. I really wasn’t ready for this event! I had been recovering from an illness and was not race ready. I wanted to beat my personal best, which was 1:13:57 (Lichfield 10k 2017) at the time. Unfortunately, due to the lack of training and not being fully fit, I finished in a disappointing time of 1:15:23. It was probably my least favourite 10k to date, but it was nice to be at the finish to see my cousin complete her first 10k event.
My first half marathon of the year took me back to Nottingham where I had completed my first ever 10k event back at the start of 2017. The weather had been atrocious that day and I had never felt so cold! Luckily the weather wasn’t so bad for my half marathon, in fact, I even ran in a vest top. It was a bit chilly but the rain held off mostly, with just a little drizzle in the middle. The goal was to improve on my first ever 2017 half marathon time of 2:59:47. Deep down I was hoping for sub-2:45. To my surprise, I finished in 2:42:53. I was over-the-moon and couldn’t quite believe it. I thought that if I was to achieve sub-2:45 it would be close, so 2:44:50 or similar. There had been a few tough hills along the course. This led me to wonder whether I could improve further on my time.
Black Dog 20k Challenge:
Just like the previous 20k challenge, I was drawn to this medal firstly due to the design! I thought I would reward my training efforts as I was going to be running two half marathons in two weeks. The best part about these virtual challenges is that a percentage of the profit goes to selected charities, so I get to reward and / or motivate myself whilst also donating to charity.
After my success in the Robin Hood Half, I decided to enter the Great Birmingham Run. I was hoping to achieve a sub-2:40 time, however I wasn’t sure how my body would cope with running another half marathon so soon after my last. The event took place 2 weeks after the Robin Hood Half, meaning I didn’t have time to train or really improve. I spent most of the first week after the Robin Hood event recovering. My longest run in between the 2 events was 6 miles. Before I knew it, race day had arrived!
The weather was abysmal… it rained almost the entire time! Not only was the weather a stark contrast to 2017 when I completed this event as my first half marathon, but the course had also changed slightly. Despite the horrible weather conditions, there was still a high number of spectators along the route. I finished in 2:33:29! This felt like a great accomplishment for me. Granted, the route wasn’t the same as my 2017 attempt where I finished with a time of 2:59:47, but still, it was a great improvement in time. This was also a big turning point as I started to set my sights on running a sub-2:30 half marathon and promptly registered for the January 2019 Gloucester Half Marathon.
I was aiming for a sub-1:10 10k but when race day came around, I was less than optimistic. The weather was cold and dreary. I hadn’t expected anything different for a December event. Nevertheless, it still put a bit of a dampener on things. The course was 2 5k laps and was an off-road event. The route consisted of pavement, mud trails, rocky roads and some hill climbs. This was the first ever 10k that I had really considered dropping out of!
I wanted to quit at around the 3k mark. The course was really muddy. The rain had eased off but it was still wet and slippery. Running in road shoes instead of trail shoes also didn’t help! After convincing myself to continue past the 5k mark, I ended up jarring my ankle on a rough rock piece at around 6k. I gritted my teeth and pushed on, desperately wanting to see the finish line. By the 8k mark I realized that I was on course for a sub-1:10 finish, but I couldn’t afford to let my pace drop. The last kilometre was tough, but I knew that as long as I didn’t slow to a walk, I would hit my goal. In the end I completed the 10k in 1:08:17. I was proud of myself for not only achieving my goal time, but for also not quitting when I really wanted to and when things weren’t going my way.
My last event of the year, but my first ever 10 mile event. I entered this as part of my training plan for January’s half marathon. The idea was to try and run at my sub-2:30 goal pace (11:25) for the entire 10 miles. My secondary goal was to run the whole distance without any walk breaks; my previous longest run had been 9 miles on the treadmill. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hit either goal, but set off in the hopes of at least hitting one.
Starting at 10:30am, the weather held out for most of the day, with just a slight drizzle at around the halfway point. I approached the 6 mile marker and felt strong. So far I was on target to hit both of my goals. Reaching the mile 9 marker was a real turning point. I had now surpassed my longest ever non-stop run with each step. My pace increased as I knew that I was into the final mile and coming up to the home straight. I pushed on all of the way and even managed a sprint finish! My finishing time was 1:48:39, which resulted in an average pace of 10:52, even quicker than my half marathon goal pace! This gave me a lot of confidence and made me realize that sub-2:30 was now a very realistic goal after seeming almost impossible back in 2017.
The 10 mile distance is a bit of an oddity to me though. It’s challenging but not as rewarding as a half marathon! It sounds a lot more impressive to say “I ran a half marathon today” versus “I ran 10 miles today”, despite there only being 3.1 miles (or a Parkrun!) difference. With that being said, I enjoyed the event. It was well-organized and supported. There was also a lot included for the price: a technical t-shirt, medal, and goody bag. I would consider running it again, however I think I prefer the half marathon distance.
What can I say…? Another wolf medal! I have been training consistently and increasing my weekly mileage, so I signed up for another wolf orientated 20k virtual run. I find that virtual runs can be a great way to stay motivated and reward my hard work. Having not entered many events this year (most of them coming in the latter half of the year), I thought I would reward myself!
I may not have earned the most medals this year but the majority of them came with some special memories. My favourite medal of the year has to be my London Marathon medal as it was my first marathon and my greatest achievement to date. Only a few years ago running a marathon would have seemed beyond impossible, but now I know that my mind and body are capable of more than I ever thought possible. This realization has allowed me to train more and push myself harder, leading to new personal bests across all of my race distances (5k, 10k and half marathon). I look forward to pushing on and earning more medals in 2019 and beyond!