Tag Archives: thames meander marathon

Thames Meander 2017: Period Chat

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.

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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.

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Credit to Rhianon

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.

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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.

Thames Meander Marathon

Indifferent. That is how I felt about this race. I couldn’t say I was particularly looking forward to it, excited or even scared, perhaps marathon fatigued after three last year. I don’t know if this was because I was busy working the days before rather than resting up-perks of a race being on a Saturday…not. For a while, I had just wanted to get this race out of the way, so I could take some time off running, burnt out, run down, string of injuries and high stress with studying and working meant I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this race as much as I did. I had a deep tissue massage mid week to try and alleviate the stiffness and soreness in my legs, but if anything it made me more sore, and made my leg look like this:

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The race was a combined marathon and a half, with us marathoners setting off 30 minutes before the half, but going on a slightly different initial loop and then going back past the start. I thought I had never run in this part of the world before, but once we got going I realised I had run this route on my London 2 Brighton ultra last year!

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It’s a lovely route along the Thames path, a mix of trail and road, and thankfully as the weather had been good it was pretty hard packed. When I did the ultra last year it was completely flooded and very muddy. It was a small field of under 300 runners for both races, which was a nice change from big city races, I always enjoy the atmosphere and the chat with other runners in smaller races.

After a few miles the fastest half marathoners started to overtake us, the path was fairly busy with other runners, cyclists, walkers and later on near the rowing clubs absolutely heaving with people and rowing boats- it was actually like an obstacle course in places. It was well sign posted though so easy to stay on track, although I saw quite a few half runners go way past the half turning point and have to turn around. After about 8 miles the half runners turned back and we were off on our own, I always had at least one person in sight in-front and behind me, we were like a steady stream of individual runners, exhanging a nod or quick hello.

I felt absolutely shit for the first 9 miles, my legs were heavy and sluggish, I was trying to figure out and understand what was going on with them, I’m hoping some blood work later in the month will help me discover that, as they just don’t feel right. I was really concerned that it was going to be a long, tough slog, although they started to improve from mile 9 onwards. I didn’t listen to music or anything at all for the entire race, preferring the peaceful sound of the river beside me.

After massively overdressing for the Brighton half and the mild temperatures lately I went for minimialism, but I was absolutely freezing, I didn’t wear gloves, and I was absolutely numb. There was a horribly bitter headwind, and I had to audibly say I was freezing to myself so many times.
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I had my Garmin, but I ran the whole race on feel, not trying to hit any splits or anything like that, just pushing harder when I felt decent, and easing back when I didn’t, looking at my pace post race, it was incredibly consistent. I felt solid the entire way through the race, I never felt like I was pushing the pace at all, in fact I felt like I ran the whole race in a very controlled way, I hesitate to say I ran it well within myself, but on reflection (as usual) I felt like I could have given it a lot more, but I wanted to enjoy it, and that is what I did.

At one point around 18-19 miles, a lady came past me who I remembered from the Rail to Trail Essex, it was nice to catch up with her and have a good chat for a bit, and it gave me a bit of a boost. She was actually the only person who passed me from about the 8-9 mile point until the finish, I passed a lot of people in the second half though, which gave me a boost.

My legs were gone from about mile 21, they were getting even heavier, but I was determined to not stop at all through this race, not even for a second, and I didn’t want to blow up in the final quarter like all my other marathons. I did slow in the last 6 miles, but not considerably, in fact my only miles that weren’t under 10 mins were the last 2. The last 6 miles were tough, I had to break it down into how many parkruns or part of a parkruns left.

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I finished in 4.15.26, I didn’t realise I was so close to sub 4.15 or I might have found a little extra in the legs for the last 2 miles! I was more than glad to be done though, crossing the line to a beautifully chunky medal. My brother turned up on his bike to watch about 3 mins after I finished- I should have run a bit slower haha.

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I loved the race, although I hesitate to call it that, it was more like a glorified training run, with a bit more chat and banter. I enjoy running alone and running in beautiful places, so I enjoyed the route, but it was a big change from the big city races if that is your thing. I like that it was less crowded, flat as a pancake, had amazingly well stocked aid stations along the route-including loads of fruit/cakes etc at the finish-and very well organised. I would definitely recommend it, and they run it three times throughout the year I think, although maybe not as your first marathon.

I’m not sure I will run another marathon this year, I had all these grand plans to do an ultra, but honestly I enjoyed my running so much more when I was just doing the run streak and not training for anything. I’ve had more injuries during this training, a load of health issues which I’m trying to get to the bottom of, and I just think my body is telling me to take a break for a while- I can almost guarantee I will be doing the opposite of this in two weeks time, but I need to be sensible and just go with how the body feels, time to rest up for a little bit!

Ending the Streak

Yesterday I happily ended the running streak. Without any goals or end in sight, my aim was to keep running as long as I was fit, healthy and enjoying it. Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve had a minor calf niggle which I suspect is just from overuse, and I’ve been feeling pretty drained, and struggling to fit everything in. Hence why I decided Sunday would be my last streaking day, 61 days and 253 miles in the bank.

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I have loved the structure, order and time running has given me, time not only with nature and my thoughts during the run, but the time during the rest of the day when I can be much more productive due to the fact I have been out running.

I have noticed that I’ve been a lot happier on a day to day basis- endorphin high. I have to say yesterday and this morning before I went out for a run, I was incredibly snappy. Running makes me feel good, it makes me happy, and I’m glad to be able to use it to boost those feelings.

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Credit to Leah.

Initially I was really struggling to keep weight on-despite eating everything in sight during the streak-particularly when I was doing at least 5k a day, but now my appetite has gone through the roof, and I am in a permanent state of runger as my marathon training has increased my weekly mileage. I’ve managed to nourish my body with my favourite Vegan whole foods, and I have no doubt that they are largely the reason for my quick recovery, and reason I could continue the streak as long as I did.

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I was in a bad place with running post Berlin, I had run 3 marathons last year but none of which I had properly trained for, missing the majority of training with injuries and winging two of them on max long run mileage of 13 miles and doing the other one as a late training run for the ultra. I felt like despite getting round Berlin, I was not in good running shape both physically and mentally. The streak has massively increased my endurance, and speed and I am back in a place where I feel extremely comfortable during my runs and am enjoying every step. I smashed my 5k PB during the streak and I have no doubt that it was due to the consistent practice of running every single day, plus a little bit of speed work along that way.

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For me this was all about setting an intention, forming a habit, and for the last two months I have succeeded in doing that. Running became a part of my day, I didn’t think twice about it, and it has made for a very enjoyable few months. I am now dropping my runs back, as I need to make sure I reach the Thames Meander start line fully fit and ready to go, the streak has given me an excellent base and start to my training, now I just need to keep that going and stay fit with just over 7 weeks to race day.