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!