Client Story: Mandy’s First Marathon

My running journey from 5 km to 42 km

Written by our running group participant, Mandy Bolton

The journey
I joined HBF run group in January 2009. I had ran socially prior to that and participated in the odd 5 km fun run, but I wasn’t a regular runner. I also had no knowledge of technique, pace, training or racing. Over the course of 2009-2010 I learned running technique, followed the training programs and built up my running distance. I ran my first half marathon in October 2009, with a further two in 2010.

On Sunday 3 July, after two and a half years of regular running as part of HBF run group, I ran the Gold Coast marathon! I never thought I would be physically capable of running 42 km, let alone even wanting to, as it is a really long way! I had really enjoyed the challenge of the half marathon and I was keen to try a longer distance. Maybe not twice the distance, but I thought I would attempt the training and see how I went. The commitment to train for a marathon commenced in late January this year and it has been a long journey and one of the hardest things I have ever done.

The training and preparation
Jodie prepared a 22 week training program for me and I made the commitment to run four times per week and to push myself at run group during the interval training sessions. I also had regular massage (every 2-3 weeks) and physio sessions in the 6 weeks prior to the race to manage a quad niggle. I also listened to the advice of Jodie and my physio and scaled back the training in those last weeks to manage the injury, rather than strictly following what was on my training program no matter what. I also tried to eat a good diet, get plenty of rest and I did my best to lay off the alcohol!

My race goals
As the race drew nearer, and my niggles weren’t progressing to injuries, I started to believe that I could be at the start line on race day. Following that my next goals were: a) remain injury free in the weeks leading up to and during the race, b) finish it, c) complete it in under 4 hours, d) complete it in under 3:45.

3:45 was my stretch goal and I didn’t think I would be able to achieve that one, especially since I had to scale back my km from 60-70 km/week to 45-50 km/week to manage my quad niggle. I was concerned I hadn’t clocked up enough kms and done enough speed work to maintain the pace required to break the four hour mark.

The race
I had practiced with carbohydrate gels and hydration on my long runs so I thought I had that covered and I knew what music I was going to play (I won’t embarrass myself here but those who know me know what that was)!

At the race I stood between the 3:45 and the 4:00 pacers with the goal of keeping the 3:45 pacer in my sights. The first 20 km felt good and I hadn’t started fatiguing or feeling any niggles and I was comfortably keeping up with the 3:45 pacer. My mind was also staying focused so I decided to step it up and move past him and then reassess at 25 km if needed. I still felt good at the 30 km mark and I saw Mary (from our run group) in the crowd which gave me a pep up.

The crowd enthusiasm was amazing as you ran back past the start line for your final loop. My name was on my bib so lots of people were yelling my name in encouragement and kids were lining up to slap my hand as I ran past which was a great feeling. The 32-36 km was the loneliest part of the course for me as the crowd could not access this section of the course and all you wanted to do was reach the point in the course where you turned back around so you knew that you were on your way home. I was starting to fatigue a little bit at this point but I stayed on pace and my legs and mind stayed with me.

I was aware of every step in every km for the last 5 km. At that point I knew I could make the distance and 2 km out from the finish I felt the tears and I just stayed focused on moving along. The crowd at this point were yelling and cheering and encouraging you to keep going.

I crossed the line in a net time of 3:38:11, well under what I aimed for and even dreamed of and finished in the top 11 % of all female finishers. Wow!

What got me through
Attending a run group and training as part of a team made a huge difference. I really don’t think I would have managed a fitness goal like that solo or had the commitment to even start. The running advice from Jodie and the encouragement from everyone at run group and my friends has been amazing and really appreciated.

How I feel now
Absolutely amazing – even with all the muscle soreness! It’s still very hard to believe I have ran a marathon and that I was able to achieve such a good time. Growing up I was average at the sports I participated in (e.g. netball, badminton, modern dance) and was the one that got the encouragement award for showing up every week and trying!

I feel very lucky to have ran a marathon and that my running has continued to improve and I am achieving my running goals. I’m now going to give my body a well deserved rest and my running goals in the short term are to improve on my 10 km and 21 km times and perhaps attempt another marathon at some stage – maybe international!

Thanks again for everyone’s support, it really does feel amazing – the running high!

HUGE congratulations to Mandy for her fantastic result.  As many of you will know, such a time is rare for a first marathon!  I commend Mandy for her commitment to her training program, for looking after her nutrition and recovery, and for playing it safe and seeing her physio.  The Marathon takes a lot of dedication and hard work and a little bit of luck too that the body holds up ok.  Well done to Mandy on a stellar effort!


If you’d like to achieve your running goals, join us for our Running Program starting soon.