I am not sure how long I have wanted to run the London Marathon, but it has been a part of my life for a long time. Every April seeing it would inspire me, but usually I would do nothing about it. My brother did it, and a couple of other people I know, but I hadn’t. Then I got a ballot place. I was over the moon! But my training was pants and I wasn’t in the right place physically or emotionally. My brother persuaded me to defer and it was probably the best advice he has ever given me. So I started back up running in the summer with a view to the Marathon in April and this time I would complete it.
My training had gone well, in that I completed all my sessions. The only negative was that my long runs were not as long as advised, but I still managed a 19, 18 a couple of 16 miles. I had lost weight and was probably fitter than I had been in a long while.
So my journey was a long one. It also was an unforgettable one.
We arrived in London at Saturday lunchtime and the plan was for me to go to the Expo and my family to gad about London! The Expo was fantastic-so much stuff but I can see how people can be sucked into spending a long time there. I went back to my room and relaxed and got my things organised for the next day. I had dinner in the hotel and my family came back half way through it, having had a wonderful time in London and quite possibly buying half of it!
I had a reasonably good night sleep and had a shower before breakfast. The hotel had put on porridge and bananas as an extra, but I stuck to my usual Weetabix and banana and toast with Nutella. I was surprised to see some runners tucking into sausages, bacon and eggs!
A quick goodbye to my girls (husband and son asleep in another room) and walked the few hundred yards to the DLR. It was packed with runners and their families. I headed to where my charity was meeting but they had gone so I went along with the crowd to the park.
Once I had found the Blue Start I dropped my bag off, queued for the loo (only took a few minutes), grabbed a coffee and just sat on the grass watching the coverage. It was a warm morning, which did worry me, but for the moment I just enjoyed it. Soon it was time to make my way to my pen (pen 9-the party pen allegedly!) and I was waiting with everyone else, getting slightly nervous. However someone made me laugh as she offered her daughter a cereal bar and then offered me one!
Gradually we started to move forward and it was 10:18 when I crossed the start line. It had begun!
My plan was to follow a run walk strategy of run 30 seconds and walk 30 seconds. I did wonder if at the start I should run for a mile or two as it might be a little crowded. But watching everyone I realised that starting too fast would be the problem, so pretty much immediately I went to run/walk. Very sweetly another runner asked if I was ok and I explained I was doing run/walk. I did see a runner pre mile 2 getting attention and my heart went out to him. The crowds early on were great and I remember thinking (stupidly I know) the noise will die down and so will the heat! The noise was patchy at times but more of that later.
I had a quick pit stop and then carried on. Things were going fine but I do remember thinking-when does London start? The red start merged with us and I think they must have taken longer to get through their start as there were definitely faster runners trying to overtake us. I was asked by a gentleman if I had seen a jigsaw piece! Quite a normal question in the context! Also there were some rhinos and they got massive cheers-it was great being close to them!
Then it was nearly mile 6 and I knew that there was the Cutty Sark, as well as a cheering point for my charity. That was fab. I found out later that I ran past my brother, totally ignoring him! I was concentrating so much on running!
The next few miles pat well, no real issues at all. My mile splits were getting slower and I knew I was unlikely to break 6 hours. But I kept going with my RWR strategy. I was totally blown away by the crowd offering so much food. The support you expect, but there were so many bowls of sweets on offer that I need not have taken my own jelly babies. It was so appreciated.
Then there came a real ‘wow’ moment. I turned a corner and there was Tower Bridge. It was as good as everyone said. I felt like an Olympian going across and it was a real boost. I knew that soon after Tower Bridge I should see my family and so I started to concentrate on the crowd.
But just before mile 14 I made my biggest mistake. I stopped for the toilet. I needed to go and there was no way I could have waited until the end, but I queued about 15 minutes. I watched so many people go past that I had passed, like the marching band, Paul the oldest runner in the race and the rhinos. I was really deflated running off and found it hard to get back in my rhythm. It was great to see my dad, step-mum, brother and cousin, and then about 200 yards down the road (around a corner, so they didn’t know each other were there!) was my husband and children. Again it was a real boost although the next part would be the toughest part of my race.
I don’t know why I found the next part tough. It wasn’t physically, although my toes on right foot hurt and I did have an ache in my right leg. Despite the heat I wasn’t overly hot and bothered, and I made sure I drank regularly although not too often. I felt like I had energy, and mentally I was OK. I kept on convincing myself that my strategy was working. Well it was.
Putting this into context, this was a dip. It wasn’t a crisis, and I had been through worse on my long runs. But at 18 miles I puicked up a bit. I realised it was 8 miles to go and last week I had done an 8 miler. Then at 19 miles I saw my family again and that was a massive boost.
I was concerned that I had not done more than 19 miles in training as I approached mile 20, but I need not have worried. I was feeling stronger. I made a decision that at mile 23 I would carry on with my 30;30 strategy if I was ok, would walk if I was struggling, or increase my run segments if I felt strong. I felt very strong. I managed to get a Lucozade from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain which was great and then ran through a very motivating tunnel! But the Embankment was my favourite part. The crowd were going wild as the runners were so close and they made sure we all knew! And I felt close. This was the London that I had thought about and it was every bit as amazing as I had imagined.
There was a little part running through the city and then there was a sign 600 metres to go! A marshal came to run with me for a few paces but then there was another sign 385 yards to go! Then a few steps further and it was the sight I had dreamed of for so long; that I used to motivate myself so often-the Mall.
It was shorter than I expected and before I knew it I had crossed the line arms raised. A few steps and my tag was removed and a medal was placed around my neck. I must admit at that point I got a little emotional and when I had my post run photo I kept my sun glasses on!
I then collected my bag and started to head towards the meet and greet point. I finally hit the wall! I felt tired and weak and just wanted a sit down. I spoke to my husband and couldn’t work out how I was to get to where he was! Fortunately moments later my children came bounding up, and I felt a bit better. When I realised how close the car was I was fine and by the time I reached the car I had perked up! It was then a chance to catch up with their day and scoff some of the food!
It was a sensational day-everything I could have hoped for and more. The time was slower than I would have liked but I would not swap it if it meant I finished as well as I did. The crowd was amazing, and I grateful to everyone who shouted out my name, offered their support and sweets! My family have been so supportive that I was pleased that they appeared to have had a good day. Would I do another? YES PLEASE!
All the best,