If you aren’t interested in all things periods, I suggest you probably skip this post, but I think it’s something we need to talk about, and the issues it brings up need to be discussed. I’ve talked about my period issues previously on the blog, and I just think it’s important to discuss how much of an impact it can have on peoples lives, and obviously for this post, their running.
On Friday afternoon the day before the marathon I was totally laid out with period cramps, nausea and close to vomiting a few times, it’s safe to say my preparation wasn’t ideal. Annoyingly my period had come two days late, meaning the marathon would be the second day of my period-when my flow tends to be heaviest. It’s rare but not unusual for me to get cramps on more than the first day of my period, so I just thought I would see how I felt on the morning of the race.
I wasn’t actually feeling too bad in the morning despite a restless night of sleep, and headed over to Kingston to start the race. At 10am, we were under way, on a short out and back past the start and heading up the river from Kingston to Barnes.
I ran my marathon PB at this race in 2015, so I was familiar with the course, conditions were a lot different this time around though. In 2015 it was freezing cold, but on Saturday summer had suddenly arrived, it was muggy, and hot, not the easiest of conditions for long distance running. I always tend to overheat during my period too, so I was feeling very sweaty and hot early on in the run.
I felt really comfortable and the first 6 miles ticked by in no time, I was enjoying the run, scenery and chatting to other people in the race. It’s a smallish race, but I was never completely alone at any point in the race, so it still has a nice friendly atmosphere. After going through 10k in under 55 minutes, I felt like I should probably slow down a bit even though I was still feeling comfortable, this was after all a training run, and I was a bit concerned about the heat.
The race features a half marathon distance too, and they turn back at Kew, which left us marathon runners to continue on to Barnes. At Kew the lovely Rhianon came to join me for a few miles, greeting me with a big cheer and Welsh flag. We chatted for a few more miles before she left me to go on my way. At this point, I could feel the first inclination that something wasn’t quite right, and you can see from my slowing mile splits, where I started to feel quite unwell. The period cramps and pain and nausea started to come on from around mile 11, and got worse by the mile.
At the half way turn around point, I was as far as possible from the start, and without any money/bank card on me (stupid), I realised the only way for me to get back was to run it or walk it. At that point the pain was coming in waves and still somewhat bearable, but by 15 miles, I had to keep stopping hunched over at the side of the road, the pain was so bad I was nearly sick and I was wobbling all over the path at this point. I called the OH in tears about how unfair it was that I have to suffer with this. I tried to carry on to the next aid station, but the pain kept coming in waves, so anytime I jogged for a bit, it would exacerbate the pain and I would feel so much worse even when walking, or just stopping.
I tried to get some painkillers at the aid station-which I know is totally not recommended during endurance stuff but I was desperate-but they didn’t have any and I stopped in a pub on the route to use the toilet, I then had to make a decision on what to do. Lots of runners were passing me and giving encouragement and a kind few checked if I was OK, I just wanted to have a massive sign that said: “PERIOD CRAMPS!!”.
I couldn’t walk at this point as I was doubled over in pain, and I realised after 17 miles and with 9 miles to go, that it wasn’t physically going to be possible for me to finish the race. If I continued further I was getting further away from any road or place I could try and get back from, and I just didn’t think it was worth the risk to continue. I had to make a decision to leave the course, and I got an Uber back to the start to get my stuff- Thank god for Uber, the only thing I could do after not having cash/card on me.
After getting some painkillers at the HQ and sitting down on the train home, I felt so much better, and kind of annoyed that maybe if I had continued it would have passed and I would have been OK, but honestly I couldn’t take that risk. I know in my heart I made the correct decision at that time, and though it would have been nice to finish and get the medal, it just wasn’t meant to be on that day. On the bright side had the race been a day earlier I wouldn’t have even made it to the start line, so at least I got 17 miles in the bag, and 8 of which I was extremely happy with. Running a 2.02 half during a marathon was not to shabby for me at all, and I think on a better day health wise I would have destroyed my PB. It’s all useful training, but I am never running another race within the first few days of my period.
I previously would have felt really down and upset about this race, and the DNF, but I think dealing with this every month puts things into perspective. I’m not able to nail my training every single week of every month, and I think managing to run 55 miles that week while suffering from extreme pain was pretty decent. For me, my period does effect my running massively- even the next day I still had minor cramps and GI upset that cut my run short. The advice to exercising when you have cramping drives me nuts, if you can exercise with menstrual cramps, then they probably aren’t that bad. I have an extremely high pain threshold, and on no occasion has exercising ever improved my pain, and it’s actually made it a lot worse.
This isn’t much of a review of the race, so in brief, the course was a little muddy initially, but mostly pretty hard packed in general. It was well organised as always, and it was good that they’ve taken out the really busy section in Barnes past the rowing club as that was like an obstacle course past all the boats and rowers last time. If you want a scenic, quiet-ish, trail marathon that’s flat as a pancake, I would fully recommend it. They run the race three times a year also so plenty of opportunities to do it.