After a week of tapering (less running to conserve energy for the big day) and carb loading (definitely my favourite part of the marathon training process!), the alarm went off at 5am on Sunday 26th April and boy, did I feel sick with nerves! We got up, showered and, after feeding Beany (who was very disgruntled at such an early alarm call) we practically shoved porridge and banana down our throats before the taxi arrived to take us to the station.
All the trains were free for runners, which was great – no need to worry about tickets and money! We met another runner at the station and got chatting to him and then my pilates teacher turned up; she was marshalling at mile 19 and a half, so it was nice to see a friendly face and this took the nerves away a bit on the train ride.
Charing Cross was rammed with marathon runners and the train out to Blackheath was packed: a lady commented that I looked terrified, probably because I was! Getting off the train and following the mass of people was quite astounding, it was like going to a concert but a lot less fun!
Me and hubby were at the Blue Start so after queuing for the loo, we sorted ourselves out with everything we needed for the run, put our trendy bin bags on to keep warm and handed our bags over to the guys on the trucks. It really is amazing that these guys look after 35,000 bags and each runner gets their possessions back safe and sound at the end – such a fantastic system!
We had a bit of an emotional goodbye; hubby was in a zone 3 up from me as he was faster but neither of us wanted to leave the other! However we went to our respective zones to wait for the mass start. I was a little disappointed actually, as I imagined we would be lining up in a tree lined avenue like you see on the TV but that was the red start where all the charity runners go – ours was just lining up on a path in a field! I had decided I was going to follow the 5 hour pacers that Runners World magazine provide, so I waited for them to come close by and then started following them towards the start.
We were off! I was actually running the London Marathon and there was loads of supporters all along the route quite early. I don’t think it did any harm starting from the same line as Paula Radcliffe but she was a tiny bit faster than me though 🙂
The first 8-10 miles shot by, I kept up with the 5 hour pacers quite well and was fairly comfortable. I had bought an iPod shuffle to listen to but really didn’t need it, everyone around was chatting away and the crowd support was immense. I just kept quietly behind the guys trying to keep my pace and my breathing steady. I managed not to get too caught up in the whole atmosphere and remembered to take my energy gels at miles 5 and 10, and was sipping water and Lucozade Sport throughout. I had four points that I was looking forward to: The Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf & the Embankment. The Cutty Sark at mile 6 didn’t disappoint although I’ll admit I got quite excited when I saw a Nando’s next to it!
They always say on the TV that Tower Bridge is halfway but it’s not; halfway is about 0.5 miles further on and it passed without much reaction really. I tried not to think about the fact that I had to do it all over again. At this point I was still with the 5 hour pacers and feeling pretty good about that at least. Miles 13 and 14 passed without incident but then on mile 15 I really started feeling it. I was struggling and had to make a choice: try and keep up, or sacrifice my 5 hour dream time and slow down to conserve energy for the last 10 miles. The latter won and I slowed down and watched the pacers run off. I was feeling a bit upset as I had to accept I wasn’t gong to get my dream time and these guys had been my company for the last 3 hours, now I really was alone and hadn’t seen anyone I knew along the route either!
At about mile 16 and a half I had to walk; I was a bit teary and I think a few supporters could see it as a few people called my name. I thanked each one; they didn’t know how much that meant after 16 miles of nothing. I made a deal with myself to walk a mile then run a mile, but trying to start running again after seizing up was blommin’ hard! I must have looked quite special at first as my knees didn’t want to work but once I got going I felt okay so that’s what I did from mile 16 to 19: walk, run, walk, run. Seeing the people dressed in rhino suits pass me was quite demoralising but I knew I had to conserve some sort of energy as there was still a way to go.
I was running through mile 19 when I saw my Pilates teacher and I leapt on her! To see someone I knew felt so immense at that point and we hugged so hard which really gave me a boost. I got to mile 20 before starting to walk again and then the pain set in; my hips were so sore that they felt like they were on fire. I stomped through miles 20 and 21 and then saw my parents in law and my best friend in quick succession. That helped but, inside my head, I was starting to think about giving up. I really didn’t think that I could carry on as my hips were causing me so much pain and I was doubtful at that point that I could even walk the last six miles.
Then I got a tap on the shoulder and a lovely lady in a Guide Dogs vest said hello and explained that she had been trying to catch up with me for the last couple of miles. She asked if I was okay (I was looking pretty miserable) and I had a bit of a wobble saying that my hips were hurting and I didn’t know if I could do this. She was my saviour and offered me ibuprofen, admittedly I popped one out and it fell on the road but I took one and within 20 mins I felt a lot better. We introduced ourselves to each other (her name was Anna) and agreed to run the last four miles together. So from mile 22 we set off at a jog and those last four miles were the best of the entire race for me. We chatted the whole way, encouraged each other and saw more friends and family who I took the time to go and hug along the way. Running down Embankment was everything I hoped it would be: the support was immense and when we ran down Birdcage Walk and saw the ‘385 yards to go’ sign just before turning into the Mall and seeing Buckingham Palace we were euphoric! We ran the last few yards hand in hand and crossed the finish line together.
It was so hard – the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life – but I don’t regret it one bit. On the day I said ‘never again!’ but I have already talked about what I would do differently next time 🙂 I finished in 5hrs 25min in the end so I only have to knock a minute off each mile and I would hit my 5hr target: watch this space!
To date I have raised £1600 with Gift Aid but I know that there is more to come and it will be split evenly between April Lodge and Guide Dogs. April Lodge will be getting an extra £250 from my work, who agreed to match what I raise up to that amount. I hope I did you all proud and I want to thank you all for your support and the donations, it’s been a brilliant journey from beginning to end.