The Highs and Lows of Running 100 Marathons
I’m still finding it hard to believe I’ve actually achieved 100 official marathons, it doesn’t feel possible that I’ve finally reached this milestone. I did my first parkrun in 2016, but didn’t start running properly until 2017 when I ran my first 10km at Little Bromley – but it all really kicked off for me in 2018 when I joined the FRR Family. My first race in the red vest was the Haverhill Half Marathon. Then later that year, I did the club’s One Lap to Ultra where I ran 22miles. That was the furthest I had ever run and in December my mileage increased again thanks to the annual club mileage competition (Dazza’s Dangleberries), so it made sense to test my limits with a marathon.
In December 2018 I had hoped to enter The Flitch Way Marathon on New Years Eve but it sold out before I’d gathered the courage to actually book it. So I booked to run my first marathon at the Great Barrow Challenge near Bury St Eds instead. It was called the Christmas Triple Tipple. (There were people who ran 3 marathons in 3 days, unbelievable to me then!) Only my mum and my husband Steve knew about it, oh and Dave Solomon saw my name on the start list, apart from that it was a secret!
It was a cold dull December day but I was in good company for that first time. Peter Woods and Daniel Clark were battling it out for something called the Le Jog trophy, what on earth was that all about?
I felt quite emotional running my first marathon, it was a big deal, it wouldn’t necessarily be everybody’s choice for a first marathon but it was perfect for me. There were times I was out running the route completely alone, and the route involved following orange arrows and hoping you didn’t get lost in the Suffolk countryside, anyway after that I was hooked! I knew from then on that I wanted to run 100 marathons, and I came home and immediately booked my next one in.
2019 was quite the year! I ran 40 events and 20 of them were qualifying marathon distances but things don’t always go to plan, I entered my first lapped event or 6 hour challenge called The Brightlingsea Challenge with some of my FRR teammates and there was knee deep mud on a part of the course which just got more slippery each lap. I managed 3 laps that day which was only 19 miles, not the marathon I had hoped for, although on terrain like that it can feel like further! My second marathon was at Haverhill. This was the first marathon I ran with company as I encouraged Jo Brooke (who had done all the training for Brightlingsea) to come and run it with me. It was a smashing day and we both enjoyed it. Our dear departed Ben Jacobs came second that day! Then I returned to Brightlingsea for my 3rd and 4th marathons, where the mud had fortunately disappeared.
Last year on my second outing at Haverhill Marathon, my friend Karen and I were joint first lady, 2 of only 3 ladies taking part in the marathon, it was a great experience for a slow runner like me to pick up a trophy.
It’s taken a while to work out fuelling, in the beginning I struggled to eat anything at all and gels don’t agree with me. I’ve also tried tailwind and active root, but over time I have found that a packet of salty crisps and a handful of sweets works best, and occasionally I like a bar of Kendal mint cake, or a cocktail sausage. More recently I’ve been using salt tabs, I still get reflux and sometimes nausea when things don’t go right but I do my best to keep going regardless of these difficulties.
So many marathons, so many memories. Each marathon has its own unique challenges. There’s been torrential rain, and hail. There was a freezing cold blizzard at my first Zigzag event at Horseheath and I’ve been sunburnt countless times (until Ali Ostler introduced me to the magic of P20) and just so hot I couldn’t run any more and ended up walking the last few miles. Sometimes when it’s been very hot I fuel with Calippos whenever I can find a shop!
Then there’s the terrain, Boston (Lincs) was way too flat, although I really enjoy running marathons around the running track, where I have also completed a 50k. There have been hills, lots of hills and mud glorious mud! Even with careful fuelling sometimes I struggle with reflux, my kit has chafed, my feet and hands often swell up and I’ve had countless blisters. I rarely have a full set of toenails, but the nitty gritty is, I just love getting out there on the start line, knowing there will hours of peace and quiet on the trails, not always knowing what the day has in store for you.
One of my favourite times was running 2 marathons in one day at Holland on Sea in June 2021. I was training for SVP 100km and followed this up with a high elevation marathon at the Larmer Summer Races at Larmer Tree Gardens in Salisbury, which had spectacular hills and scenery. All in all I thought I was well prepped for the 100k, but unfortunately had my first DNF instead.
I find running very meditative and when you set off to run a marathon there are times you are just plodding away in the zone. You just have to keep moving, putting one foot in front of the other. Much of the experience is down to your head and the strength of will or sheer stubbornness to keep going no matter what. After a few marathons time becomes irrelevant, there are plenty of amazing runners who can make it look effortless, for me it can be a hard slog, but I do enjoy it. It’s character building, I have a lot of resilience. Back in March at Endurance Life’s East Sussex Marathon my legs were rubbing together in the cold and were chafed sore and bleeding, I wasn’t ready to give up though, if you can make it to the end within the time limit and you want to finish then do it.
Choosing your 100th Marathon….
Having run my first marathon at the Great Barrow Challenge, which later evolved into Suffolk Running Centre (SRC) I have returned there over 30 times now. I’ve run most of the routes and plenty of doubles and trebles there too and enjoyed them all. It was good news in October 2022 that when Glen and Julie of GBC decided to retire, my friends at Zigzag Running took over all the routes and enabled running events to continue at Barrow.
There aren’t many of the Barrow routes that I haven’t run but there was one called The Gallops which was a full out and back route that heads out to the racehorse training grounds at Newmarket. For the last 2 years events in my race diary had clashed with the running of the Gallops.
When I saw it on the Zigzag race calendar for the 16th September this year I pencilled it in for my 100th and worked all my other races around that. Leading up to your 100th the biggest worry is injury. I’ve been very lucky over the years to escape injury and have only had a few niggles… This all changed in August when I had a flare up of plantar fasciitis while we were on holiday. I ran my flake (99th) marathon at Gravesend with Saxons, Vikings and Normans to celebrate my friend Karen’s 300th Marathon, the heat has really been getting to me this year and we did get slower and slower and had to walk the last 2 laps, then I had Coastal 10 booked in the week before my 100 just to keep my legs ticking over. I woke up the day after the Coastal 10 hobbling around like an old woman, I was very concerned about how I was going to run 26.2 miles on Saturday.
Lots of calf stretches and gentle running got me there.
It was a fantastic day, possibly a little too warm for my liking, and my friend Karen came in an evil gorilla costume that was a bit warm for running in. Zigzag called the race The Lucky Horseshoe and just to make it more fun I’d found myself a horse costume to “ride” all the way to Newmarket.
Zigzag always have a great selection of cakes available for when runners have finished and, on this occasion the biggest cake was decorated for my 100th! Steve (my husband) had a banner made and my friend Charlie who is an incredible marathon runner (who has run over 630 marathons) made my commemorative badges. The course was lovely, a mixture of road and trail. I’m so glad I ‘saved it’ for my special day. It was lovely that so many people and friends from FRR came along to run and wish me well. My foot was sore, but I made it out to the turnaround at Newmarket in a decent enough time. Things slowed down a bit on the way back as they do sometimes and we also stopped at the pub for a drink!
People always ask about my favourite marathons and medals. I’ve always found it hard to pick a favourite, they have all had their own highs and lows. I have met lots of other multi marathoners along the way too. As for the medals I’ve made a slideshow here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CxUlIecoski/
There are some fabulous designs amongst them. Bev from Hare and Tortoise has designed some of my favourites, the biggest medal in my collection is from their Rayne Revival Race which got delayed because of covid. It has got the names of everyone who ran it, on the actual medal.
Another 100 marathons? We will see! I’ve already gone on to complete 2 more and there are plenty of challenges around to keep me interested in running. The 100 Club have special patches for running marathons in 50 Different Counties and for 100 Ultras.
I’m looking forward to running Wendover Woods in November as it’s a part of the country I haven’t visited before and another County to tick off the list!
I’d really like to kick this plantar fasciitis in the butt and run 10 marathons in 10 days next year.
I’ve also got Edinburgh Marathon booked for next May and hopefully one day I might even get to run London and a marathon or two overseas! Even if I don’t go abroad there are so many more marathons near and far around the UK and Ireland that I would like the opportunity to run. I want to keep going for as long as my health allows. I’ve met plenty of older marathon runners, age is no barrier to carrying on, and I will keep running marathons for as long as I can if I still enjoy it. Back in 2020 a local runner from Halstead in Essex called Andy Wilmott completed his 800th marathon at the age of 76 at Barrow, so there’s plenty of time for me to clock up a few more!