London marathon 2019 - race report

2 May 2019, 16:34

Last year I got sick for 5 months with multiple viral infections and needed chemo to get rid of the last one, and then it took another 6 months to rebuild my immune system after the chemo. As a result, I couldn’t really stand up for more than a few minutes during that time, let alone run, so I had to DNS or defer every race I cared about.

I started off this year with a sold two months of training in attempt to rebuild what I’d lost in 2018, but then I got ill again for the whole of March. So I was left yet again having to DNS The Big Half, and cram the rest of London Marathon training into the 4 weeks I had left, which I absolutely couldn’t have done without my long-time coach, Barbara at Energy Lab. Even with her expert guidance, however, I was nowhere near back to my usual fitness level come race day so I knew that this year would be my slowest marathon ever. But it was also oddly freeing as I’d never run any of my six previous marathons without chasing some sort of time or qualification.

I also did some soul-searching from my sickbed and realised that being ill every Spring was something I can no longer avoid (despite my best “crazy germ lady” efforts!) and I needed to change my life to work around being ill every Spring rather than being frustrated and disappointed every time my body let me down and got in the way of my ambitions. So this London marathon would be my last for a long time, and I’ll be concentrating on Fall marathons in the future, since I can quite reliably train over the Summer. And if this is the price for being alive the past ten years since my bone marrow transplant, then I have to accept that.

VLM kit flatlay

If this was going to be my last London, then by god I was going to enjoy every second of it. This was my only goal for this race, and I achieved this and then some. I can honestly say that I enjoyed EVERY single step of this race.

I ran with a massive grin on my face from start to finish.

Unlike my other marathons, this never got tough, and I never had to “dig deep”. I ran easy and chatty up to 25k with a friend I made along the way (Hi Mark!), stopped to soak up EVERYTHING at Run dem Crew‘s cheer point at Mile 21 as I knew it’d be my last chance to feel the energy and love, and I even picked up the pace for the Embankment, passing everyone in the last few kilometers to sprint across the line.

Tower Bridge selfie with Mark
My new friend, Mark, and I at Tower Bridge

I ran this marathon, like all my previous marathons, in gear I’d made myself. Specially, I used the Active Leggings design from my “Sew Your Own Activewear” book, shortened to above the knee with an added back waistband pocket to bring the pocket count up to a whopping FIVE POCKETS! I had plenty of room for my phone and battery pack, Gu and Torq gels, Shot Bloks, and chewable SaltStick Tablets (I’m a very salty sweater and I find the salt helps me even more than the gels!). I finally ditched my hated Brooks Pure Flow shoes for distance running (good riddance!) and a month before I’d bought some Merrell Bare Access Flex shoes to use instead, and I adore them! It’s really difficult to find a barefoot-friendly shoe (wide toe-box, lightweight, zero-drop) with just a little bit of cushioning for longer distances on the road, but these have really ticked all the boxes for me.

High five at Mile 21
Photo credit: Rich Williamson

I also had the pleasure of trying out a new product, ChafeX, which I’d ordered from the States after I’d seen it mentioned in ultrarunner Stephanie Case’s brilliant Barkley Marathons race report. It claims to change the outer layer of skin to prevent chafing and blisters, which intrigued me. I’ve always struggled with blisters on the balls of my feet and big toes, and it’s been especially bad this year for a variety of reasons, meaning I’d get horrific blood blisters (and regular blisters) in much shorter training runs, even through KP tape or Body Glide. Even though I only got to apply ChafeX the day before and the morning of the race, it worked like a freaking dream (they recommend starting three days before your event, but it only arrived in the post the day before)! Honestly, I’m so impressed and so pleased I took the risk of trying it out anyway, as I didn’t get a single blister or hot spot on the bottoms of my feet, which is as close to a miracle as I’ll ever see! I only ended up with a blister on the upper inside edge of each big toe, which is entirely my fault as I forget to apply it there!

Hug with Charlie at Mile 21
Photo credit: Simon Roberts

But seriously, not having pain from hotspots or blisters was such a contributing factor of my enjoyment of the race – it meant I wasn’t wincing at the impact or rough road surfaces later on in the race, and it meant I wasn’t changing the way I ran to make landing on blisters less painful, meaning I had absolutely no muscular niggles or pulls or cramps, either. Happy feet, happy Melissa!

Confetti at Mile21
Photo credit: Annie Clarke

I had an absolute BLAST, and it was the happiest I’ve felt in a long, long time. My body may have been through the unimaginable, and it may let me down more often than I’d like, but my body is meant to be running long. This may be the last you’ll see me on the other side of the barrier at Mile 21, but it won’t be the last you’ll see me with a big grin on my face and a marathon medal around my neck.

Virgin Money London Marathon, 28 April 2019, 4:11:15 (Personal Worst and PROUD!)

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  1. Job well done! So proud of you!

    — Mom    2 May 2019, 19:48    #
  2. Well done Melissa!

    — JenL(NY)    2 May 2019, 23:14    #

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