Philippa Cates, Author of ‘The Marathon’ talks to Virtual Runner about the inspiration behind her book.
I had never wanted to run a marathon (run 26.2 miles for goodness sake, that’s utter madness..) so of course when I got offered a place in the London Marathon 2017 with Diabetes UK I immediately said yes. That’s runner logic, right? Actually, I didn’t say yes straight away. I ran a half-marathon race (before breakfast), and then said yes. I felt great, excited, fit, nervous and umpteen emotions in between. It was the end of October 2016 and the Countdown to Marathon Day had begun.
The next morning, I woke up with excruciating pain from a nasty middle ear infection. For several weeks, I shuffled about feeling very sorry for myself, my head wrapped in a scarf and hardly able to speak. The only place I ran was to the medicine cabinet for more painkillers.
By December I was pretty much recovered and started thinking seriously about fundraising, mileage and trainers. I still had plenty of time – after all, the marathon was ‘next year’. At some point, half a tooth fell out and I vaguely joked about my body starting to fall apart now I was over 40..
I began January 2017 tired and hung over and with the very sobering thought that I would be running a marathon THAT YEAR. I also discovered a lump in my breast. I was scanned and all seemed well, but when biopsy results came back showing high suspicion of malignancy, I went into panic mode. Week after week different tests, scans and biopsies were carried out while conversations with the consultant progressed to include the word ‘surgery’. In between, I kept running, gradually increasing the mileage each weekend, hanging desperately to my training plan in the hope that all would be well.
And amazingly it was. After the biggest scare of my life to date I was told that the results had been ‘false positives’ and I was, in fact, totally fine. I put the whole sorry episode behind me and started March with renewed drive to train hard and reach my fundraising target. I was nursing piriformis syndrome and hamstring issues, a consequence, I believe, of not looking after myself properly during ‘the scare’ period, but I was still able to run, and entered a 20-mile paced-race – the longest distance I had ever run. But I had absolutely no idea about nutrition while running long distances and totally messed up my first experiment with gels. I crawled to the end of the 20-miler dehydrated, exhausted and very sticky, and took nearly a week to recover.
The rest of March was spent trying to perfect the art of taking on fuel while moving and by my final long run at the beginning of April I had it pretty much sussed. All I needed now was a Sherpa to carry everything.. The kids prepared me my last training run ice bath and I reached my fundraising target. Spring arrived.
Then disaster struck. Ten days before the Marathon my foot started to feel a bit stiff. I wrapped it in an ice compression sock and rested. I must have done something wrong – when I removed the sock the back of my ankle and lower leg were completely frozen and by the next morning I had an enormous freezer burn blister. I couldn’t put my foot in anything except sandals and, unable to run or swim, I took tapering to a whole new level. On the Thursday before the Marathon I tried to fit on my trainer and attempt a jog, but it was far too painful. The GP, checking for infection, said “there’s always next year” and I spent the evening crying into a pint of beer.
Writing this now, I can hardly believe it myself, but the day before the Marathon my leg suddenly felt better. I managed 3 miles round the block without issues and arrived home shouting “I’m back in!” By the time I got to the start line the next morning, the blister tightly wrapped in Compede and Rock Tape, I could not have been more delighted. I wasn’t nervous anymore. I couldn’t be, I knew how much I wanted to be there.
So where does The Marathon book come into all this you ask? I spent many a long run thinking about all the challenges of training for and running a marathon and after all my hiccups along the way decided to make something humorous and light hearted of it all. I started drafting rhymes in my head to distract myself from the miles left to cover, and so The Marathon book was created. I hope you enjoy it. The Marathon book is available from https://philippa-cates.my-online.store and www.amazon.co.uk The Marathon audio book can also be ordered through https://philippa-cates.my-online.store and will be available on Audible soon.