U&R Superstars: Sara Lando rocks the Loch Ness Marathon – Part 2

Up & Running SuperstarsIn Part 2 of our interview, Up & Runner Sara relives her Loch Ness Marathon race day in glorious detail (here’s Part 1 if you missed it!).

11. Imagine someone made a cheesy movie montage of your Loch Ness race day – what stand-out moments would you include?

Walking into the mist at the crack of dawn to go to the busses, the city still asleep and people in running clothes silently walking towards the same direction.

A gazillion busses of all sizes and shapes waiting for runners. It looked like the scene in Independence Day where they ask everyone with a plane to join in the fight and the farmers and old pilots show up with the crappy little biplane. Short of a yellow school bus, I think they got every coach in 100 miles to drive the runners to the start line. I’ve never seen double deckers as shuttles before.

Nessie at the starting line

Stepping outside the bus after a long ride, into the Scottish wilderness and the scenery was breathtaking

Waiting at the starting line with Ale hugging me to keep warm, 500 miles blasting from the speakers. I was feeling weirdly calm and just happy to be there, soaking in the amazing atmosphere.

The bagpipes playing as we run past and people running with their arms up in the air.

And then there are little photographs that are stuck in my head, like the wee ginger kid on his bike following runners and smiling, the man holding a Scottish flag, standing on his truck and blasting Scottish music from a boombox, the couple running in memory of their daughter, with the mother who was obviously way too thin and way too sad and as I ran past I started hoping she would be fine and not just for the race. The guy running the whole marathon holding his girlfriend’s coat. The old man running next to a very young girl he just met, talking about his 30something marathons, saying “you just have to ease into it, that’s all”. The volunteers, random strangers high fiving me and the feeling of total overwhelming gratitude because they took the time to stand there and cheer as I pass by. Ale checking on me from time to time, to make sure I was still fine.

Starting line

Then we had our little perfect poetic moment: we were running in perfect silence, just the sound of feet pounding the pavement and the heavy breathing of a man in font of us and -without notice- I burped. It was a tiny burp, but it was so clear and unexpected that Ale immediately looked at me and, seeing the surprise on my face, he completely lost it. He started laughing and I laughed because he was laughing and after a while we had to stop for a second because we were both completely out of breath and unable to stop laughing.

I would include a couple of times where I was tired and the water station where I couldn’t manage to swallow my gel (I wasn’t feeling well the days before the race and I was trying to make lemonade, as they say). I definitely would include these moments even though I have hardly any recollection of them, ‘cause they always look good in a montage.

All downhill from here

The moment we entered Inverness and I could spot faster runners walking around with their medal and cheering for us. Seeing that chunk of metal dangling filled me with greed. I wanted mine so bad! (There I was screaming at a poor guy “I want that!!!!” Fortunately he just smiled and didn’t think I was going to mug him)

As we approached the finish line we could spot our Amazing Up & Runner Supporting Crew and they were screaming and cheering and I screamed on top of my lungs “I’m still f****ing running!!!!” and we crossed the finish line together and it was all I wish it would be and a bunch more.

And then my movie montage would end with me sitting on the football field, right after the race, moment before our friends joined us and the celebrations began. Just sitting there, with the weight of the medal around my neck and the feeling of huge accomplishment and happiness beaming from within.

12. Can you sum up sixteen long and gruelling weeks of marathon training in ten words or less?

An amazing journey in self-discovery.

So close to the end

13. Do you have any wisdom for runners considering taking on the marathon?

Just because you can’t run a marathon now, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. A marathon is a totally achievable goal. I don’t mean that it’s easy, because it’s not, or that you can just wing it, because you can’t, but if you’re willing to put the work into it, you can do it. You’ll have to plan around it, and you’ll have to make it a priority, which might mean having to pass on a night out with friends if you’re planning a long run in the morning.

Only worry about the workout you’re about to do and ignore what’s coming next week, because it’ll always seem too much. But it won’t be, because next week you’ll be a different runner.

Enjoy the process. The final race is just the crowning of the whole thing, but you’ll find out that the feeling of accomplishment at the end of some of those training runs is as satisfying.

14. What’s next on your running agenda?

First of all I need to get better. I caught a string of viruses (people with small kids: how don’t know how you manage to live normal lives. Those critters carry the most insane diseases known to man!) and I had to pull out of an half marathon I wanted to run last month.

My first goal is to break 2 hours for my half marathon, enjoy the shorter distance for a while and then pick another marathon and hopefully that’s just going to be the beginning of a lifelong relationship with long distance running. Ale is training for his first trail ultramarathon, but I think I’ll gladly pass, for now.

Winners are grinners

15. Two months after the marathon, how are you feeling about the experience? Has it changed your self-image in any way? Any physical changes?

Not huge ones, but I think something happened in a more subtle way. These days is less about the way I look and more about the stuff I can do with my body.

I might be starting to see the occasional white hair and the lines around my eyes are still there after a good night sleep, but I definitely couldn’t do what I can do when I was 18!

And there’s this feeling of having done something big and measurable, that will stay with me forever. You cannot “unrun a marathon”: whatever happens, I’ll always have this to remind me I can endure anything, if I set my mind to it.

16. Did you ever know that you’re our hero? We are so proud of you!

Well… that’s a bit weird, since you two are mine!!! Thank you for making a runner out of me: the most amazing things happened in the last couple of years and I owe it to U&R!

Thank you again Sara for sharing your big day. You can find her on Twitter and her website.

  1. Philippa
    Wow. What a superstar. You make me want to do it all over again! I agree with everything you said, particularly this: "you cannot unrun a marathon". It is an achievement that stays with you always. Even though mine was nearly 3 years ago now (gulp!) it still remains one of the biggest and proudest achievements of my life. No matter what else happens in my life, I ran that race, the London marathon 2011. It can never be taken away from me. The same with all the other races I've done. And I love that about long distance running :)
  2. PK
    Sooooo proud and happy for you Sara! I always knew you were destined for amazing things, ever since that fab U and R weekend at my place after the 5k course. You were a great cheerleader as I whined and stropped my way round a measly 5k! xxxxx
  3. SusanD
    Wow, Sara, I just loved reading about your marathon. WAY TO GO! As a fellow alum of the first UaR class, I must say that your tenacity and thoughtfulness has stayed with me. I am so glad running continues to be a friend to you. Amazing work on the marathon! (And may I also say some of your lines I have stolen and recycled and passed on to my kids, chiefly: "I could build a nuclear reactor if there is a YouTube video explaining it step-by-step." I hope I am rightly attributing this to you in my brain. )