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Stevie and Fiona’s New York Marathon Journey

The feeling of elation and exhaustion was indescribable! We picked up our medals and felt like Olympians.

We both had good reasons for signing up to The New York City Marathon challenge - breast cancer had touched our lives in many ways. The debate was whether to do it in 2016 or 2017; life is too short so 2016 it was.

We’d reached our 50s, had never ever done anything like this before and were nowhere near our peak of cardio fitness. So this was going to need some serious planning and facing up to what we were each good (and less good) at. 

Our biggest hurdles were finding the time to train and managing past injuries collected over years of doing the latest keep fit craze (we started in the Jane Fonda days of stripy leg warmers and feeling the burn!). Good organisation, a sense of humour and dogged determination to get to the Finish Line would prove to be our strengths.

The Planning

As with all good plans, research and planning are key. Stevie relaxed on a beach with Nina Barough’s book “Walking for Fitness” (highly recommended) whilst Fiona did what she does best and organised us. We were amazed at how Nina’s week-by-week training schedule with matching calendar invites helped create time we didn’t realise we had.

Armed with Nina’s hints and tips, a training timetable and some understanding of what we needed to do the next step was to get the right gear. Off we ventured to shop for socks and shoes – not just any shoes but Power Walking shoes. We each tried on several different shoes, with our new running ankle socks (trainer socks give you blisters!) and picked the pair that felt most comfortable. Our Apps (“Map my Walk” to check our speed, distance and calories; and “Footpath” to plan varied routes of the right length) were loaded and we were finally ready.

Feet To Pavement

Shoes on, we started our training in May. Yes, ok some would say far too early as you only need 12 weeks to prepare for a marathon but we decided on a much slower build up and it proved ideal for us. We Walked twice a week together (come rain or shine) and cut ourselves some slack if we couldn’t make that Walk. Fiona would often switch her heels for Walking shoes and Power Walk between meetings in London (great look!) and holidays gave us time to recharge the batteries.  

In June, we were fortunate to get some tickets to Wimbledon and were amazed how those few weeks of training came into their own as we overtook the crowds of people sauntering to and from the tube station. We realized that the ability to Walk quickly is a life lesson... beating the queues as you land at airports… we were first through immigration at JFK!

Stretch, Stretch and Stretch Again

We kept up our weekly yoga (and pilates) classes and added in a daily stretch routine (only 10 – 15 minutes). Nearer race day we introduced hill climbing which was great for cardio and stamina. But we learnt the hard way – in weeks where you can do nothing else, make sure you stretch. Otherwise your physio becomes your best friend!

The Decorated Bra

 

Well, we both ignored the thought of wearing the bra as long as we could – at our age, could we really do this? In public? Answer: Absolutely - be bold. We were so pleased we put the effort in otherwise we’d have felt so disappointed on the day standing next to everyone else in their fabulous bras. Just make sure you test your bra out (ideally before and after you decorate it) before the big day.

The Marathon Weekend

We left Manchester on the Friday morning – nervous, anxious, excited... what was in store for us? Arriving in New York that evening we got to the hotel which was buzzing with marathon runners from all nations. Keen to be fresh for the next day we scampered to our room for an early night. The next morning, we were up early for the 5km dash and met up with all the other Power Walkers taking part. We all Walked together up to Central Park and once assembled took our tops off to reveal our bras – what a stir that caused! Several group photos later and all those self-conscious feelings and shy inhibitions had disappeared. Other racers approached us to have pictures taken and throughout the race we were congratulated on our efforts for this worthy cause.

Buoyed up by our first ever race experience, it was time to go and get our Marathon pack. With 50,000 people taking part in the Marathon, New York was buzzing. We expected queues but within 20 minutes we had collected our race cards and T shirt (a now prized possession). We realised we needed gloves (our hands were freezing during the 5k dash) so we took the opportunity to look around the exhibition then sauntered back to our hotel, keen to conserve energy for the next day. That evening Nina gave us a full briefing and then it was off for a delicious pasta dinner and bed.

Race Day

We were up at 5am, buzzing and keen to get started. The start line was on Staten Island and our journey would be by coach to the ferry terminal, then across the water to the start area – views were fantastic and the weather was with us – cool and sunny… happy days. Everyone was in good spirits so despite the waiting around for buses the mood was upbeat. We eventually got to the start area; warm layers off, a quick photo shoot again (we were getting accustomed to the looks and cheers). Our minds were on the race ahead. Having woofed our Weetabix on the journey, we were ready.

Finally, we were over the start line and away we went ... wow those views over the first bridge were awesome. Then we were met by crowds of cheering people. We had written our names across our chests (one advantage of just wearing a bra) and the crowds shouted our names; this support continued all the way around – incredible! Roads were closed, bands were playing as we entered each district; Staten Island; Brooklyn; Queens; Manhattan; The Bronx… we saw New York like you will never see it unless you do the Marathon. What an experience!

Over the Finish Line

The last few miles were tough but with encouragement from bystanders, the last few jelly babies, our dark chocolate treats and a reminder as to why we were doing this we crossed the Finish Line. The feeling of elation and exhaustion was indescribable! We picked up our medals and felt like Olympians.

 

Wrapped in our foil blankets, a rickshaw took us back to the hotel for a hot bath and warm food – would we be able to walk in the morning? The answer was yes; we were fine and all the training and stretching had paid off. We were encouraged to wear our medals for the team breakfast and ended up keeping them on until we left the city the next day.

We were congratulated wherever we went and spotted by fellow Marathoners as they also wore their medals with pride. Hilary and Donald were in town for Election Day so it was a frenzy. The weekend had been a whirlwind and we still couldn’t believe we’d done it. What an experience and we had memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Managing Our Addiction

If this has whetted your appetite and you are thinking about doing it – our advice is sign up! We have no experience of any other Marathons but we were told by everyone we met that New York is one of the best. It was the most fantastic experience and well worth the effort. But be warned... Power Walking is addictive… it can seriously improve your health and well-being. We are now hooked and Power Walking is part of our lives.

 Our Top Tips

 Recognise your strengths and manage your weakness

  1. Get the right gear (comfortable socks and shoes are essential)
  2. Load up your apps – MapMyWalk and Footpath are highly recommended
  3. Regular stretching -  really was essential as we discovered when we didn’t do it
  4. Include complimentary exercises – pilates and yoga worked for us
  5. Get your snacks right – for the longer walks we snacked every 6 miles to keep up our pace
  6. Drink a pint of skimmed (must be skimmed) milk immediately after a long walk (say 12 miles+) as it puts back all the nutrients – no idea how it works but it does.
  7. Date to self – have a training plan and ring fence the time in the diary
  8. Find a support network – physio, chiropodist, family and friends, training buddy(s)
  9. Tell people what you are doing – write regular blogs, get some cards printed, get people interested  
  10. Take donations where you can but the 3 weeks prior to the race was the optimum time
  11. Train hard – race easy
  12. Embrace the bra, decorate and wear with pride
  13. ENJOY IT!!!

Stevie and Fiona

Join us this November at the world famous New York City Marathon... make this the year you unite with us against breast cancer and help make a difference. 

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