Over a week has passed and I still do not know how to put the 24th April into words
I suppose the best place to start is September 2013 when I first found out that I had received ballot place into the 2014 London Marathon, excitement, disbelief, shock, I can still remember being at work & staring at the computer thinking WTF?!
I had entered the ballot with a group of friends most of whom had tried for many years to get a place in this world famous race, apparently your chance of being successful in the ballot is less than 15% but guess who got a place…. ME!!!
Unfortunately in the December of 2013 I found a lump in my left breast, tests in the January showed that it was benign but the lump needed to be removed & I wouldn’t be able to exercise for 8 weeks after surgery, which would mean the marathon possibly being snatched away at the last moment, so after a lot of sleepless nights & tears I decided to defer my place until 2015 & concentrate on being cheer squad for 3 friends that were running the 2014 race
Fast forward a year and many of you will know the story of my torn calf muscle leaving me in a cast for 3 months, missing out yet again & forfitting my ballot place (if you do not know the story you can read about it here) this left me being cheer squad yet again, this time for my husband and another friend
I am not sure if I even actually had a London Marathon dream but if I did its safe to say it had turned into a nightmare & in October 2015 when I was offered a charity spot by Diabetes UK I really wasn’t sure whether to take it or not. I had spoken to my physio and while my leg was better it still wasn’t 100% healed & the physios advice was while my leg probably could make the distance, it probably wasn’t the best idea to be considering a marathon so soon
I have always had a habit of only hearing what I want to hear when I speak to Drs, so of course I accepted the place and slowly I started to build up my mileage again, with runs at the Olympic Park, the Fords test track & the Roding Valley Half Marathon
Early February the niggling pains in my left calf started to feel a little worse & I was scared that with the increased mileage I might get injured again so I paid for a private scan, the results were erm, neutral, while my leg hadn’t got any worse since the November it hadn’t got any better which I was told under normal circumstances wouldn’t be good news, but considering I was 3 months into marathon training the fact that it hadn’t deteriorated further could be considered a positive.
Following a discussion with my physio it was suggested that I amend my training plan so that I was no longer doing a long run every weekend, as you can imagine that didn’t go down very well with me, I wanted to give my London Marathon training my all, I had races booked as part of my training, completing all your training is part of what makes you a marathoner
Looking at it now it was probably fortunate that fate intervened at the end of February with a viral infection that knocked me out for over 6 weeks preventing me from doing any running at all, at the start of April I was struggling to walk a mile let alone run 26 of them but 2 courses of antibiotics, a course of 6 B12 injections & another trip to the hospital for another breast lump (luckily it was just a cyst) 3 weeks before the race you would think someone was trying to tell me that the London Marathon & I were not meant to be
But the marathon had become my dream, I had been training for it for 3 years, I was in the worst condition of any of the 3 attempts to get to that start line I was 2st over weight and massively under trained but there was a medal with my name on it & I wanted it, I wanted it so bad.
The lead up week to the marathon I expected to be a bag of nerves, there was emails from the race organisers, emails from the charity, txts from my friend that was running re going to the expo and getting to the race & well wishes from friends and family I had made a conscience decision to try & not get stressed about the run up to the event & it worked, I took each day as it come, entering the expo & hearing the music that accompanies the BBCs coverage of the race was the first sign of me cracking, as I walked to collect my number the tears started, I was actually going to do this, 2016 the London Marathon was going to be mine!
After the expo we headed into London for some carb loading, we decided to head to Tower Hill in the hope of seeing the route being prepared and we wasn’t disappointed, the restaurant went to was right beside the 23 mile marker, Saturday was mainly spent eating, relaxing, eating, preparing my kit, before heading out for yet more food & the cinema with friends
I hadn’t expected to sleep Saturday night, I thought nerves would get the better of me but I slept like a baby, my alarm was set for 6.45am, porridge eaten, peanut butter on toast & a banana to eat on the train were prepared & we were off
Again I had expected the nerves to really kick in once we hit Greenwich Park, but we had timed our arrival to perfection, arriving just in time to pop to the loo (we nipped into a hotel on the way to the park they had generously opened up a few rooms for people to use) dropped our bags at the baggage lorries & headed to our pen
The week of the race weather forecasters had predicted snow, so Jemma and I had taken tops that could be dumped if we got to hot and disposable plastic rain macs to keep us warm at the the start, however when we arrived in the start pen it was warm, with lovely blue skies. More or less as soon as we arrived we heard the start gun over the tannoy, we were in the very back oh the final pen so there was plenty of time for us to get ourselves and our music ready, there were a few moments where I felt the tears start, in fact we approached the start line with me tearful hugging Jemma and telling her I loved her & thanking her for always being there for me & then we were off, we were together for around the first half mile and then split up as had always been our plan
The route surprised me, I expected it to feel a little claustrophobic, even when the 3 starts merged around the 5k mark I had more space to run than I had imagined, the first few miles were quite residential & well supported with people cheering us on, the first time I expected to see someone was around the 10k mark so just before the Cutty Sark, unfortunately I missed Julie an old work collegue there, again hearing from friends that had run before that missing friends and family can really mess with your head, I tried not to think about it as I knew missing Jason at Surrey Quays really might upset me, luckily before I knew it I was at the Cutty Sark, so that gave me something else to think about, enjoy the race take in the sights & soak up the cheers
(look both feet off the ground.. well almost)
I have gone along to Surrey Quays for so many years as a spectator it was weird being there as a runner, over the years it has gone from being a quiet part of the course as far as spectators are concerned to a busy spot (actually the whole route was pretty busy) but luckily I spotted Jason straight away and headed over and stopped for quick hug and kiss
The viral infection I had suffered during March and my low B12 levels were already starting to show, I had hoped to get to around the 16 mile mark before the fatigue or any niggles kicked in but they hit me much earlier than I expected, luckily I had come prepared, dextrose, jelly babies, shot blocks and gels, I had enough fuel for 2 or 3 runners but it looked like I was going to need it all myself
At mile 10 a surprise and very welcome hug from Julie of Too Fat to Run fame (If you haven’t heard of Julie go & check out her page to find out more about her fantastic campaign to get more people running)
Just after seeing Julie I stopped for a quick Paula ie a pee behind bush (the loo queues are ridiculous) & as I started to run again I felt a pinching in my right butt cheek, I tried to run it off but it was surprisingly painful, Mile 11 Jason popped up again, check out my Instagram to see a video clip of me running over for another hug & a kiss, just after seeing him I came across a few TEAMDUK runners so I ran with them to the approach to Tower Bridge where we hit out first Diabetes UK cheer station
When you hear about people running the London Marathon Tower Bridge is normally one of their favourite points & usually I love running over the bridge but this time it was just to crowded & I couldn’t wait to get off the bridge, I had friends around the 13 mile marker so I wasn’t sure if they would be on the bridge or just after but there were just to many people, I was actually glad when I got to the 14 miles and I could stop looking for them and just start focusing on running again
Going along the Highway I expected seeing the faster runners on the other side of the road to be a hard point but something weird had happened, usually when I run my brain is constantly doing maths, I have done a 1/4 of the race a 1/3 of the race, half of the race but this time I didn’t care I remember thinking at the 14 mile point that I still have to do almost half the race again but rather than fear there was acceptance, Mile 15 & Julie who I had missed at the 10k mark popped up so another welcome hug received there, hugs from your friends and family really do seem to give you a boost & recharge your batteries
Mile 16 was the first time that I had slipped below my 5.30 marathon pace, I was 30 seconds slower than I should have been at that point, but again rather than panic or get upset as I knew it was only likely to get worse I just felt, I have ran 16 miles, I have felt shattered for the last 8, had a sharp pain in my butt for the last 6 but I have kept moving forward, so I couldn’t be disappointed
I decided at mile 16 to try and eat half an energy bar, OMG I literally spent a mile trying to chew something that would normally only be a few mouthfuls, this saw me hitting mile 17 4 minutes behind schedule & was where I stopped thinking about my time, the next few miles saw us hitting Canary Wharf, I loved running around here and the miles seemed to pass quickly, before I knew it we were at the 20 mile marker and honestly if I had had to have stopped there, I would have stopped happy & satisfied with what I had accomplished, I remember running through mile 20 passing a pub with Jamiroquai Space Cowboy playing and stopping for a few seconds to have some water a few jelly beans and a bit of a dance with a stranger
Mile 21 I had been something I had been looking forward to, the support of Cheer Dem is well known at London races, not only do they cheer on members of their own running community Run Dem Crew but they also support all other runners, there is a stretch of road that they decorate with giant heads representing members of their crew that are running that day, I had banked on some virtual cheers here to recharge my batteries but while there were still people out, it wasn’t the powerful noise I had experienced at other races & that was the one & only part of the course that I come away from feeling flat
(I didn’t take any photos on the course so I thought I would share my marathon nails)
Mile 21 – 23 were probably the dullest of the route, I had started to feel a little sick (to much sugar) & I couldn’t wait to get onto the home stretch, getting to mile 23 felt like coming home, I have walked and run along the embankment more times than I can remember, I just had that tunnel at Blackfriars to deal with and then we were on the home straight
Just after Mile 24 Jason appeared again, along with about half a dozen friends, quick hugs all round before moving on, it was hard to motivate yourself to run along this stretch as most people were walking so I made a deal with myself run 2 lamposts walk 1, & very quickly I was at Westminster just as Big Ben struck 4pm.
I knew the Diabetes UK team had a cheer squad here so I literally went around the corner skipping and whopping much to their delight, having the whole team erupt into cheers and shouting my name gave me the boost to get me along to Birdcage Walk, again this became a run walk as I wanted to preserve energy to run along The Mall, with 385 meters to go I reached for my phone to try & film my last few steps, its weird how your legs suddenly have the energy to keep moving when the finish line is in sight, all to quickly I had crossed the finish line, it seems strange to say all to quickly when you have been running for over 5.5hrs but thats honestly how I felt, it didn’t feel like it had taken that long, the wall that people had spoken about had never hit (actually it did about 8,30pm in the pub but thats another story)
I had done it, I had completed the London Marathon & had the medal to prove it, only one thing to do, hit the pub for dinner and drinks with friends
Would I do another marathon, I am not sure, I would love the opportunity to try the distance again, but with a marathon you pin all your hopes and dreams onto one day & there are so many things that are out of your control that can go wrong & I am not sure I want to put myself through the emotional aspect of marathon training again, its not like a 10k where if you need to cancel there will probably be another race locally the following weekend, that said the lure of the ballot caught me, so I guess I am leaving whether I will run the London Marathon again in the hands of fate
Have you ever taken part in the London Marathon, what was your experience? or has reading this inspired you to apply for a ballot place? Entries to the 2017 ballot are now open, you can click here to apply… Good Luck!!