Running London can be a daunting prospect, especially if it’s your first attempt at 26.2 miles. Here’s Lynsey Williams’ inspiring story of her journey to a Chi marathon…
Running club members encourage each other to enter the London Marathon ballot on the off chance they might be lucky enough to get a place. This was the start of my marathon journey; I was one of the ones who had a place in the London Marathon!! However…I had never run a marathon, was out with a recurring injury and didn’t even know if I wanted to commit to marathon training.
I had attended Blue Sky Running beginners & advanced workshops to help me manage injury earlier that year so I knew my best chance of even starting the training was the Chi running marathon schedule. But nothing prepared me for how tough it would be.
It started out great, I was actually running less each week than usual, but as the weeks went by the long runs increased, two hours running was putting me into unknown territory. Running was impinging on my life. The form focuses seemed to start as good intentions then evaporate in each run after about 15 minutes; I wondered if I was even Chi running at all? Niggles and twinges became magnified and the source of great anxiety. By Christmas I was convinced every long run would be my last. I wasn’t going to make it.
Then something remarkable happened! I stopped worrying about the end goal of the marathon, and started thinking about the quality of each run, enjoying the ride. A stretch of beautiful weather meant each Sunday run felt joyful in its own right. I began to think even smaller, stopping worrying about the end goal of each run and focusing on what was happening in my body right now…why not try a form focus, think about arm movement, maybe consider my posture, my lean. Slowly I realised training didn’t have to be based on striving; it could be a series of small running experiences.
By the end of January things were falling into place. Instead of being fearful of my niggles and twinges, I began to be curious about them; they weren’t actually getting any worse! I started to trust my body. The end of long runs was very tough, but I could focus on my form, relaxing tired legs and shoulders, focusing on my arms or core. I noticed painful sensations came largely from fatigue and it melted away when I rested and recovered, I began to trust this process.
By mid February I had run a PB in a ‘practice’ half marathon and race strategy was starting to become a consideration. I was drawn to Chi running advice: ‘never start a race faster than you want to finish it’. I wanted to finish London feeling good, at least to avoid the ‘never again’ experience. The last long training runs became an exercise in starting slowly and trusting that I would speed up. It worked!! I felt in control of using the energy and strength I had, and my confidence grew.
By April I had run 24 miles as my longest run on the Chi Marathon training plan, some runs had been missed, a sprained ankle had nearly finished me off, and I still didn’t quite believe I was going to do it, but inevitably Marathon Day arrived. My training indicated sub 4 hours was a tough but realistic goal, but I knew I needed to start slow and not worry about my finish time at the start of the race. I began in the 4.30 section, crossing the start at 10.20 am. So…3 hours, 57 minutes later I finished, wanting to stop running more than I ever have before, but elated and astounded too. I am thrilled to say I ran a negative split. My favourite statistic is that over the final 7.5 km I passed 1057 runners and only 78 passed me!
While I had never entered the ballot with a conscious desire to train for and run a marathon, I wouldn’t have missed the whole experience for anything. I have learnt more about my body and my motivations in the last year than ever before. Chi running introduced an enduring spaciousness into my running, within which I can relax, continue to develop confidence, and set new running goals.