On Sunday 23rd April 2017, 40,000 runners took to the street to run one of the biggest races on earth – the Virgin London Marathon. There were first timers (like myself), seasoned marathon runners, walkers, costumed runners, younger runners, older runners and in all shapes and sizes. I was so anxious before I started – this was my first marathon – would I make it?
Myself and my friend Michelle travelled up the day before to the expo. As it was my first marathon, I really wanted to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy every minute! The expo didn’t disappoint and is an absolute haven for any runner – stalls full of trainers, running info, races, running freebies, and so on! I dragged my poor friend around to pretty much every stall – picked things up, tasted things and had my face painted with the union jack! I also managed to catch up with some Twitter friends and then as if my day couldn’t get any better, I bumped into PAULA BLIMMING RADCLIFFE! (who is totally lovely and was ever so sweet with me grinning and talking to her like a love sick puppy). I was pretty much on a high after that and it well and truly set me up for the Marathon.
Marathon day – Nerves set in again. I also woke up extremely tired due to 3 hours sleep. Doh! I had my normal regime of two bagels with peanut butter, a cup of tea and a banana. I was surprised to see other runners having a full cooked breakfast! Michelle and I then made our way to the Blue Start Line. As you can see from the photo, I am finding it difficult to smile!
It was absolutely freezing when we got to Blackheath Park and we laughed at other runners with little shorts on (turns out, it was a really warm day and I was wearing far too much and I had to take my underlayer off at mile 18). Soon we were informed to get to our pens. I caught up with a couple of team mates which was lovely and I was like an excitable puppy. Considering the amount of runners there are at this massive event, it is SO well organised – and probably more organised than some of the smaller local races I have been to.
START LINE – There were so many nervous and anxious runners at the start line – I gave a couple of girls in front of me a massive hug as they were more petrified than me – I didn’t even think that this was possible. I begrudgingly took off my fluffy fleece which I had purchased from a charity shop a couple of days before and gave it to one of the marshal’s. I felt anxious but amazingly calm. I think it was because I knew there was no pressure. Before we knew it, the sound of the klaxon sounded and we were…not off… 15 minutes passed before we actually started moving!
Mile 1 – 3 – So mile ONE, my knee condition (runners knee) started playing up. Marvelous. (this seemed to get worse and worse and I had lost my paracetamol). I also needed a pee at mile one, I thought it was nerves – it definitely was not – it was more likely to be the cup of tea we had whilst we were waiting to start. Unfortunately, this then entailed a 15 minute wait in the queue for the loo! At mile two, Michelle and I decided to say our goodbyes with Michelle screaming ‘GO, GO, GO’ at me! The best part of this part of the race was at mile 3 when the red and blue pen’s joined together – 40,000 runners all in it together – totally amazing. I think I grinned a whole lot during the first part of the race.
Mile 4 – 12 – At mile 6 we ran past the first major landmark, the Cutty Sark – it was amazing to see it in all of its glory. At mile 12, another amazing landmark -the Tower Bridge. Nobody had warned me here that there was a bit of an incline… I started panicking thinking that my legs had started to struggle. This wasn’t the case at all… The crowd really were amazing here and the noise was completely deafening! I expected the bridge to be small but it was the width of the M27!!! Coming off the bridge, you turn right and see the super speedies already 7 miles ahead of you, running in the opposite direction towards the start line. This is where you could lose it psychologically if you are not prepared. Luckily the crowd is electric – more jelly babies anyone?! Here is a great place to spectate as you get to see your runners twice.
Mile 13 – I frantically looked for my sister who was on the opposite side of the road to which we had planned!! I had to cut across about 20 runners to get to her. Quick hugs and a hello and I was off again…
Mile 14 – 20 – Running though Canary Wharf is notoriously quiet, however I can honestly say there were hardly any parts that were quiet on Sunday. I think this was the toughest part of the race for me without a doubt, I just couldn’t get my rhythm going again due to the amount of runners that were stopping and it completely messed my head up. At mile 16, I was actually wondering how long I had left – I must have spent a mile wondering how long I had left. My brain was completely frazzled.
Mile 20 to 26 – I weirdly had an out of body experience during this time and my body felt like it didn’t belong to me. I’m not sure if this was dehydration or just my body trying to block the pain of my knee. All I can remember is looking at the pavement and feeling like I was dreaming.
Mile 26– The Mall. Were do I even begin? I literally cried from the top to the finish line. I felt like everything I had trained for, the last 4 months of 6am Sunday mornings, the tears, the injuries and the pain of the run had all come down to this moment and the relief is absolutely incredible. I didn’t see the bandstand of people, people around me or the photographers… in my mind the London Marathon music was playing, however watching the footage back, it was actually – Billy Idol – White Wedding! I must have been completely out of it! I ran over yet another red mat and relished the fact that I had just completed the LONDON MARATHON!
After the Marathon I met with my sister and Brother in Law and we decided to go to Canary Wharf to miss the crowds. All was going swimmingly until Rich (my Brother in Law) expected me to walk up 50 stairs to the top. A kind stranger had heard the commotion and witnessed me trying to get up the stairs backwards and kindly gave me a fireman’s’ lift to the top!!!
My afterthoughts on the London Marathon – The sights of London were stunning and I pushed on as the miles kept flying past. I never hit the wall that day, although the second part of the race were very stop and start due to the amount of people walking.
I’m not going to say it was easy, but the crowds and atmosphere carry you through – although the thought of eating another jelly baby turns my stomach. :0)
Despite being exhausted the endorphins had taken over my body and I felt incredible – it took me at least 4 days to come back down to earth. The experience I had was simply unforgettable. A marathon is not a walk in the park by any means, but I think the positive memories have taken over the pain my legs definitely felt the next day. The marathon journey is a tough one – its mentally tough and physically tough and it’s not for the weak willed. What a journey is was though. It was probably one of the best days of my life. I finished in 5.28 but like Martin Yelling has wisely pointed out -‘Time, positions & performances don’t define you as a person – character does’.
Now when does that ballot open?!?
May your runs be long and your injuries a few.