I recorded a podcast today and it includes lots of marathon chat. Please hop over to my other blog if you’d like to listen. Link below…
Sunday 13 April 2014, 10:18am
I crossed the start line at 10:18am! This in itself felt like an achievement. The hard part about running a marathon is really the hours and hours of training in awful weather. So just being there, was a huge win. The atmosphere was amazing. From mile one, people were shouting my name and spurring me on (putting your name on your vest is a must!)
One of the most amusing things to happen during the first half mile (and I remember this from my race in 2007) is that lots of men and women rush off to the side of the road for a wee! It’s a combination of nerves and over-hydration. I had to do this last time – this time I am proud to say that I did not!
During the late stages of my training I’d decided to take a run/walk approach to the race – run a mile walk a minute (and repeat). This was mainly because I’d only trained up to 17 miles and I felt that I would maintain my energy better this way. However, my race strategy went out the window on the day! I felt really good for the first 3 miles. I was running at a good pace (11 minute miles ish) and my calf felt OK. I felt pretty good for the next 3 too, so I kept going. And the next 3! I think, in the end, I did about 10 miles without any walking breaks and even after 10 I only walked for a minute or so. I was running really strongly up until the half way mark averaging 11 – 11 1/2 minute miles. My half marathon time was 2:33:32 – I think this is a personal best for me!
Between miles one and 3 I became aware of a runner who was singing karaoke all the way round. This was great! All of the runners around him started singing along. There’s nothing to take the pressure off than a little karaoke on the run!
There was an Anthony Nolan cheer point at mile 4.8 (Charlton) and Kate and Simon where there, cheering me on. After that they headed to Tower Bridge which is around the half way point. Unfortunately they just missed me on Tower Bridge. Running over Tower Bridge was a highlight nevertheless – the atmosphere was incredible.
During the first half of the race I think I really nailed my hydration strategy. It was a hot day. I drank at every hydration station (there was one every mile from mile 3 to 25 and some of those were Lucozade – there were also 2 gel stops). I drank roughly a third to half of every bottle I picked up although some of the water ended up on my face, neck and hands. Without meaning to talk “toilet” again, I did not have the urge to wee during the entire race (other than through nerves during the first mile) so I took this as a good sign. I was slightly concerned with how much my fingers swelled up though. I did contemplate going to St John’s but actually I’d suffered with swollen fingers on long runs before so I decided to grin and bear it (as well as occasionally running with my hands in the air, which admittedly looked bizarre, but anything goes in a marathon!)
The next Anthony Nolan cheer point was at 14.5 miles and unfortunately it was too close to Tower Bridge for Simon and Kate to get to in time. But the other volunteers cheered me on.
I kept going until around 17/18 miles and that’s when I realised I was in new territory. I had never run this far before in one go. And it hurt. There was never a point when I felt out of breath. I settled in to the run quickly and easily. But around this point everything hurt from my shoulders to my toes. In particular, my hips really ached and I was pretty sure I had a blister on my right toe.
Seeing Kate and Simon at mile 18.5 (Canary Wharf) give me a huge lift. I stopped for a few moments to say hi and stretch my legs. I gave them both a kiss and then headed off. That lift kept me going for another couple of miles but things slowed down considerably when I passed 20 miles.
Funny story – I am not quite sure at what point this happened but I became aware that someone was shouting “run big bird” and “yeah well done big bird” in my direction. Then a few other voices joined in. How rude!! Whilst I am not the shape of a traditional runner, perhaps, I think calling me “big bird” was a little harsh… It turns out that a fancy dress runner was behind me, dressed as Big Bird from Sesame Street! Whoops!
Anyway, back to the race report. Miles 22 to 26 were hard. REALLY hard. Before the race I swore I’d not eat anything handed to me by a stranger (I ate half a peeled banana) and that I’d avoid the gel stops as I’d not trained with gels (I devoured one in the late stages of the race) – but plans change! I was lacking energy and needed a boost. It was a strange type of tiredness. I was never out of breath, I was just in pain and lifting my feet was getting tougher and tougher.
That said, the mile markers came and went quickly and soon I was at mile 24.5, Embankment, and the last of the Anthony Nolan cheer points. It was great to see Kate and Simon again and everyone was shouting “nearly there” and “less than 2 miles to go”. I plodded on, interspersing running with accidental walking (I cannot ever remember making a decision to walk – my body took over).
Mile marker 25 passed (it was amazing running past the London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament). I was on the look out for mile 26 but it never came. I’d forgotten this. The metres and then final yardage get counted down. So The Mall arrived sooner than expected! I am pleased to say I ran down The Mall and threw my arms in the air when I spotted Buckingham Palace and the finish line. I could not believe it.
I crossed the line in 5 hours 37 minutes and 54 seconds. I was THRILLED with this time (not least because it is an hour and a half faster than my last marathon during which hubby got injured). I could not believe how close I was to my ambitious prediction.
After crossing the finish line you feel in a bit of a daze but there are loads of volunteers there to help you find your way. Someone cuts your chip off. Someone hands you a goodie bag, and the best bit is that someone puts your medal over your head. They don’t just hand it to you, it is presented! I loved that bit! I hobbled over to the kit bag lorries, grabbed my bag and made my way to the Anthony Nolan reception. I was greeted outside by a lovely volunteer who held my bags for me and helped me up the stairs. I was then greeted by Anthony Nolan Chief Executive, Henny Braund, who gave me a massive hug. After that I was handed on to another lovely volunteer who helped me find Kate and Simon. It was so great to see them both and they were really proud of me.
After that it was time for a massage and food (both were worth running 26.2 miles for!) I also had my official Anthony Nolan photo taken (below).
Then it was home time and I took a well-deserved shower.
I still cannot quite believe that I did it. The best part is that I have smashed my fundraising total. I’d aimed to raise £1850 but I have now raised over £2500. So many people have helped be achieve this crazy goal, I have named just a few below (apologies if I have missed anyone out – I am still euphoric!)
- Simon – hubby – for SO MUCH SUPPORT. This is the last one, I promise… well, the last London Marathon in 2014…
- Kate – for supporting on the day and taking care of me before and after the big day.
- Mandy – for being a generous sponsor and also all of the incredible sports massages she gave me.
- Stuart – for showing me the way with Chi Running and motivating and inspiring me.
- Jen – my sometimes running buddy.
- Kimmo and Jo – for helping me organise my fundraising horse race night in December 2013.
- To my friends and family – for resisting the urge to moan when I have not been able to go out or see them because of running commitments.
- Everyone who has sponsored me.
- Everyone who has asked me about my progress and not said a thing when I’ve chattered on like a real running bore.
- The incredible Anthony Nolan volunteers – they are so professional and inspiring.
- My lovely iMake followers for being so supportive and generous.
- Anyone I’ve forgotten – sorry!
My aim after this race is a simple one. It’s to keep running. After my marathon in 2007 it took me a long time to want to run again. This time is different. I am already thinking about my next run. Who knows, I might even keep a training blog going! Hmmm we’ll see. Watch this space.
Here are some photos, you can find more on Flickr. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version and then scroll through. Enjoy!
Sunday 13 April 2014
The big day. I woke up at 6am feeling refreshed and ready (although still achy in the left calf). I ate a bacon sandwich and a couple of slices of Soreen for breakfast and started hydrating. Then it was time for a quick shower. It was only really when I started putting my running kit on that I felt a little nervous. Hubby attached my running chip to my shoe, then we did a final kit check. Simon was carrying all sorts of things for me (blister plasters, tissues, lip balm, energy bars, energy sweets… etc!) Around 7.25am, we set off. Kate, Simon and I took the train to Maze Hill (I had free travel that day – I just had to flash my running number) and we walked to Greenwich Park.
At the Red Start gates I had to say goodbye to Kate and Simon as after that point, it was “runners only”. This was around 8am; the race started at 10am. It suddenly occurred to me that I should have brought my knitting with me! Rookie mistake.
Here’s me and Kate at the entrance to the Red Start:
I made my way into the start and did a little orientation. It was great to see runners of all shapes, sizes and ages. Everyone was friendly but a little on edge (understandably). As this was my second marathon I knew that the toilet cues would start forming soon, so that was my first stop! (Sorry, there is a little toilet talk here…!) It wasn’t my only visit either! I actually spent a large part of 90 minutes queuing for the toilet as I went 4 times! I think I’d slightly over-hydrated but I was also nervous. Still, I met some nice people in the queue and we exchanged marathon stories. I noticed that there were female urinals set up but today just did not feel like a day for trying anything new!
Around 9.15am I started stretching and had a little jog, then I took my kit bag to the lorry. Incidentally this is such a well-organised system. You are given a kit bag with your running number on. Anything you wear to the start that you do not want to race with, you put in the kit bag. It’s then transported to the finish for you. There are lorries with numbers on – you just go to the right lorry and collect your bag. My knitting could have gone in there!
At around 9.30am I headed to the start zones and got lined up. The start was divided into 9 zones – the really fast runners go in zone 1 and the slower runners are at the back in zone 9. I was in zone 9. It was at this point that I started feeling very nervous, but equally, I just wanted to get going. I was becoming increasingly aware of the temperature. The day was going to be a hot one!
As you can see, everyone else behind me looked pretty nervous too!
At 10am there was some sort of movement and excitement. Had the race started?! It was hard to tell. Then we started moving forward. It was just a slow walk… but we’d definitely started! According to my official times it took me 18 minutes to get the the start line! But when I did, I hit “go” on my GPS watch and that was it. I was running my second marathon!
Friday 11 April 2014
Hubby and I flew to London on Friday 11th April 2014 and then made our way to Charlton, where The Lovely Kate lives, and where we were staying. It wasn’t too complicated, even for an island girl like me (we don’t have trains!) Just a train from Gatwick to London Bridge and then a quick change to head to Charlton. We had a great view of The Shard (I love that building!)
We made ourselves comfortable in Kate’s lovely new home and then headed off to the Excel Centre for the Marathon Expo. This involved taking a cable car across the river (time for a cable car selfie? Sure!)
I registered at the Expo and was given my running number and tag. The tag is a little chip you secure to your trainer and it enables you to be tracked and gives you official splits and a finish time. Everything was becoming quite real…! Gulp!
While we were at the Expo, Kate and Simon recorded this fabulous video to support me:
We met the Anthony Nolan volunteer team on their stall and, as I expected, they were really nice and welcoming. They loaded Kate and Simon up with goodies to help them support me and we chatted about the cheer points and what our plan for the day was. I was invited to add my target time for the 26.2 miles to the team’s board. I put 5 hours 30 minutes (knowing full well that this was really ambitious and really, I’d be happy with anything between 6 and 6 hours 30 minutes!)
At the Expo I picked up a marathon sports top (which I have been wearing for most of my post-marathon recovery) and the 3 of us discovered a really nice craft lager called Frontier. Yes, you read right, we went to a celebration of all things healthy and sporty, and we discovered a new lager…
We were a few hours behind schedule so unfortunately I was unable to go and meet the lovely folks at Love Knitting as originally planned. This is another example of my over-ambitious planning!
After an exciting, busy day, an early night was called for. So we did just that!
Saturday 12 April 2014
Arrrggg… the day before the ACTUAL DAY. We’d purposely planned to get the Expo done on the Friday so that Saturday could be spent relaxing.
At this point I was starting to feel a little anxious because, since Thursday, my left calf had been hurting a fair bit. So much so that I had not been able to run all week. It was making me nervous. We’d picked up some ice-packs from Boots the night before (a midnight pharmacy hatch – ingenious) so most of the day was spent icing and knitting. I also drank lots of water and ate a scary amount of carbohydrates!
Early evening arrived and we set off for the Pre-Race Pasta Party organised by Anthony Nolan at The Gherkin (another of my favourite buildings in London).
It was nice to see the volunteer team again. We enjoyed double helpings of pasta (Kate and Simon included, they were sympathy-carb-loading) and then went home. I needed a good night’s sleep…
Please watch this – it features 2014 marathon runners who have had their lives saved by this charity. I’m proud to have been part of this team of 500 runners.
I am exhausted and achy but thrilled with my time. Thanks to everyone who has supported me. I have been genuinely touched by people’s messages and generosity. Full race report to follow here when I have recovered a little! I’m home on Tuesday so it will probably be later in the week.