Well, 2 and a half weeks ago I was sat on a street off Trafalgar Square, pint in hand, celebrating the fact (in somewhat of a daze) that I’d just run the London Marathon. I’ve not written about it sooner because I’ve been waiting for an evening when it all had sunk in, when it felt real enough to talk about it. That’s still not happened, but I thought it had been long enough and time to sign off the marathon mission blog.
I guess the starting point is that I did it! The weather did as expected and hit the roof, so I’m fairly sure everyone who set off had their plans scuppered and possibly their times affected as a result. I did it in 5 hours and 26 minutes, which I can assure you is a long time to be running through London! It was a beautiful day though, sunny and the streets were filled with people who were so excited to be watching. I’d heard so much about the spectators, everyone saying how they really carried you, and I remember thinking at 22 miles, I’ve done my job now, please do yours! And they really did, I stayed really close to the right hand side as this is where I said I’d stay for spectators, so I was close enough to high five people (mainly children at their insistence!), and because of this I seemed to get a lot of direct eye contact and loads of support. I can’t believe how much people cared, they really genuinely are willing you along, and it makes such a difference.
The drive down on Friday was all nice and relaxing, was great to be with Niall and Mandie and have someone else to ask all the inane questions you’ve got going through your mind, by Saturday I was a wreck. We went to watch the Burnley match (as you do when you’re in London for the weekend on the first glorious weekend of the year), and I couldn’t sit still. Luckily I got to speak to Mum, who assured me she was nervous too, about which tubes to get on. Which was reassuring! Then Rick rang and managed to calm me down and make me laugh, by suggesting a couple of early glasses of wine would be just what I needed to take the edge off. So I didn’t do that! We had a little wander round Greenwich and saw where we’d start and the 6-7 mile section round by the Cutty Sark. They’d started putting all the mile markers out by this point and by now I just wanted to sit myself down in a beer garden, have a Peroni, and forget that I’d signed up for this ridiculous event.
The day went pretty quick despite the nerves, the Macmillan pasta party was a really good event, I nearly started crying when we signed in, every time anyone asked me how I was feeling I started getting emotional – which to be honest I’d been expecting to happen all week. There were a couple of speeches, a guy who’d run for Macmillan 14 times, and Sue, the events coordinator who was running it for the first time. That helped put a bit of perspective on it, they talked about how much we’d raised, and how everyones game plan probably isn’t exactly where they’d like it to be, which I think calmed more nerves than mine. Then before I knew it we were walking back to the hotel along the river, Shard glistening in the evening sun, all very pleasant, apart from the panic running through my head that I’d forgotten something, and I wasn’t going to manage to get my chip on, and what about this and that, when really I was over prepared…I’d taken 2 pairs of trainers for gods sake. I don’t know what I thought could possibly happen to the pair I run in, if they were lost or damaged it would surely be in the same incident of theft or fire that ruined the back up pair?!
Anyway we had an hour at the most luxurious hotel I’ve ever stayed in, complete with bathroom that was glass panelled so you could still watch TV, and should have cost us £475 a night but actually cost us £560 for the 3, including transport and breakfast. Deal? I think so.
Then, amazingly, I slept like a baby. Woke up at 5, chilled, rested, calm as fuck. So calm it freaked us both out. I literally had a wash, put my gear on, had a champions breakfast, went and got my kit, had a poo (as if on command), then got on the bus. Chilled. About half way through the bus journey I really needed a wee, and then the calmness disappeared. The greatest day of my life was being ruined by an over full bladder because every bit of marathon information I’d read had told me to spend all morning sipping water or I’d die on the route. Well it wasn’t quite that severe, but it definitely said keep drinking. Well noone else was drinking continually from the moment we left, so consequently noone else on the bus was plaiting their legs and snapping at their boyfriend, they were all casually chatting about how this was their 4 millioneth marathon and they’d like to run it in 12 and a half minutes, and ooh isn’t the weather lovely.
No it isn’t, its going to be boiling, I’m either going to dehydrate to death, over hydrate to death, but neither of those if I don’t make it to the starting line without my bladder imploding.
We spent 45 minutes queueing for the toilet when we arrived – no sitting around soaking it all in with Chris and having loads of photos, 45 mins of me hopping from leg to leg repeating ‘It’s not moving an inch Chris. Not an inch. Not one!’ It finally moved, and we meandered over to the red start area and said our goodbyes. I was getting more emotional but nowhere near how I expected. I guess I was just overjoyed that I’d not started the race covered in bodily fluids, despite the fact I’d probably finish that way.
It went pretty quickly to 10am then. I got lined up in my zone pretty near the front, which seen as we were right at the very back meant at least I’d have a chance of not getting wiped out by the fancy dressers. Got chatting to a couple of women, one who was much less prepared than me, which made me feel much better. I clearly didn’t enter into the comeraderie of the event did I…
Then it was 10, and we were edging our way to the start line, which I finally got over at 10.21am. Still no tears, but we were off. I don’t have the time tonight to describe everything, but what an experience. The crowds in South London were brilliant, people had come out on deckchairs, on balconies, the guy with his huge speakers blaring out dance music clearly on it from the night before with a megaphone – what a legend! The gospel singers outside the church in Lewisham, the dirty old man in a proper dirty old man flasher mac in the park where I went for my first wee of the day, the pubs in Woolwich who’d all started having parties, and knowing that I’d see Chris at mile 6, my first spectator about an hour in.
And there he was at mile 6 grinning away with the Macmillan guys. What a boost, and I only had to get to mile 13 before I saw him again. Wrong! 20.5 miles before I saw my next fan. Oh my god. I started feeling it at about 9 miles, which surprised me because I’d forgotten that I generally found running hard anyway, and thought I’d breeze round to 20 then automatically burst into tears at the mile marker then be in great distress, pain but great triumph for the last 6.2. No. It started hurting where you’d expect it to, about 10 miles in, in the hottest weather I’d run in for years. Consequently the middle 10 miles are a bit of a blur. I remember coming round the corner onto Tower Bridge and it surprising me because I thought I had another mile to go, and grinning all the way over whilst looking for Sophie and James, and then round the corner on the Highway, looking for Chris. It’s a bit disheartening at this point because you’re running parallel with 22 miles and you realise what a bloody long way you’ve got to go, and you’re in the car crash section with the people who have been walking since 2 miles in, tweeting, texting, suffering, readjusting their Elvis and Storm Trooper costumes, and you’ve got about 3 hours to go. Sweet Jesus.
Anyway after that you go into the East End and the Isle of Dogs and the business district. I probably found this the hardest bit, I resisted the loo at 12 miles but had to stop at 14 as it was spoiling my mental state and potentially about to cause a problem, so I stopped and ended up queueing for 15 minutes. By this point I had absolutely no expectation that I’d finish in 5 hours, I knew noone would be at the cheering spots at the time we’d planned, if they’d managed to get there at all, and I just decided that I’d get on with it as best I could. Having been to the toilet I figured I could finish it now without going again, and if I get sipping water I probably wasn’t going to combust. I whizzed down another energy gel and was on my way.
This bit was pretty boring, the Macmillan cheer points were a bit limp (though I think I was expecting random spectators to give a bit more than they did, think they’d just nicked Macmillan t-shirts), and by this time it became clear that I don’t love running, especially not for more than 3 hours. Luckily there was a right turn and a bit of a downhill and two things happened that boosted me a little. The Rudimental song came on, which I didn’t know it at the time, but is now my London marathon anthem. Its a dance anthem at the moment (god I sound such a dick) but I’d heard it in the run up that week and knew that if I heard it on the way round I’d definitely speed up. And sped up I did, right down the hill to the man giving out melted Jaffa cakes and back into the city. I knew by then that it couldn’t be long before I’d see the gang, and that the end was nearly there, especially as the dreaded 20 miles passed. This was all new territory now – no idea how I was going to cope from this point in.
Then someone was shouting my name, in a manner a lot more frenzied than your average spectator, and Kirsty’s there at the side of the road in Poplar, clutching Jelly babies and Victorias Secrets bags and cheering my name. That was it then, last 6 miles, no problem, lets go. 22 miles, I can see the Macmillan cheering point on my right, and I can just about make out Chris’s camera lens, then I see Jason, then Imke and they’re all there! I just started screaming and turned back round and saw Ailsa and Dan at the front side of the group and then it was all OK, the last few miles. I sped up, started overtaking people, was having random strangers shout my name and tell me I was looking strong, I LOVED this bit. Running along the river with all the sights and all the encouragement, and then before you know it you’re rounding the bend at St Pauls onto Horseguards Parade, and its the home straight. I’d still not seen Mum and Paul at this point but I didn’t need to worry, about 800 metres before the end I heard more frantic cheering and they there are, somehow they’ve wrestled their way right up to the barrier (probably because the race was nearly over!) and are cheering and Mum’s crying and I’m still less emotional than ever! I’ve been more choked up at radio jingles than I was on the entire day, it was bizarre. I think I must have had such an emotional time with my training that the day just happened.
Then the end was in sight, I was on the Mall and under the gantry and then someone was cutting my timing chip off and giving me a medal and all I had left to do was find Mum and Chris under the B as rehearsed and planned. I had a photo taken and tried to find the changing area but to no avail, by which point my legs were giving up, so I doffed off at the side of the road, put my new bobby dazzler Adidas marathon jacket on that Chris had bought me at the Expo and then went and sat on a bin bag under the B.
I seemed to be there for ages, but then suddenly I saw Chris’s trainers and him, Ailsa, Dan, Kirsty and Lorna emerged and picked me up off the floor, found Mum and Paul, took me to find the kids, Jason and Imke and Dave, who it was lovely to see after nearly a year, and Dan led the party to the pub. Somehow, I exceeded my own expectations, and managed 5 pints without even fading, until we got back to our hotel with Ailsa and Dan a few hours later and a comfy warm chair made my body give up. By 9.30pm I was in bed waiting for room service of Peronis and burgers, the supper of marathon runners. Slept like a baby that night too.
And that, as they say, was that. It didn’t sink in then, and I honestly don’t think it has yet. No matter how many people have come up and congratulated me, and sent cards, texts, facebooked me, rung me at work, I still don’t actually believe that it was me that day. I hope it will at some point because when it does I’ll be really bloody proud of myself.