It has taken me much longer to write my concluding post than I had planned, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks riding high on the wave of being an official London Marathon finisher. I have re told the story to countless people, re lived it in my head several times a day and have enjoyed some real down time for the first time in months. It’s official, I now have a social life again and whilst I am enjoying this there is twitch of excitement in looking for my next challenge; I’ve already purchased my first pair of trail running shoes and have a book of routes to start working my way through so I won’t be out for long.
The day itself…
At 8am our taxi arrived to take us as close as possible to the start line and having been up since 5am going over every detail of the day ahead with a text from the race organisers before 6am warning of very hot weather and how to look after yourself in the heat I felt a mixture of huge excitement coupled with a shot of trepidation at what lay ahead. I have never trained in such warm weather so this was a little bit of the unknown for me and on race day obviously this is not ideal however the day was finally here and I wanted to really make the most of the atmosphere.
Only on marathon day could you justifiably walk the streets of London consuming a vat of porridge from a tupperware container! Even just walking the relatively short distance to the race village the heat really hit me and there was no need to be wearing any extra layers to keep my muscles warm pre race. However watching someone be swaddled in a furry wombles costume at 9am helped me to put my own situation into perspective, I’d been having palpitations as I had only trained in three quarter leggings and so didn’t want to try out new shorts on race day.
I had a few photos taken before I went into the village and then waited to have my bag put on a luggage truck and queued for the infamous pre race porta-loos (all the glamour)-the queues being akin to that of the busiest day at a Theme Park for a newly opened roller coaster. This was perhaps a blessing though as I then didn’t have lots of time waiting around on my own, I grabbed a bottle of water and got into my pen and chatting to some other runners. We watched the action unfolding on the big screen, as this year they had a wave start for the different starts. Nothing prepares you for that build of adrenaline, excitement and anxiety as the countdown begins and you wait for the moment you have trained for over the last six months, it’s a really surreal moment.
Our moment came at around 10.15am and very slowly but surely you could see the first few pens starting to move out, this was it. Support from the beginning was huge and the crowds didn’t disappoint, I just had to keep telling myself not to get carried away and to slow down. At this point, I took my headphones out and made the most of the atmosphere generated by the crowds. The first bit now is a bit of a blur and to be honest it’s hard to separate probably the first 10 miles in my memory. The crowds got bigger and bigger as time passed and lots of people had PA systems set up from their balconies, shouting out support and blaring music from their houses to keep motivation high. Again it can only be acceptable to be slightly inebriated and to be shouting and in some cases screaming at the top of your lungs at passing runners on marathon day (all very friendly and really showcased some authentic London communities in the most eccentric ways).
The heat was really becoming really challenging and I stopped at every water station (mindful not to take on too much water; more runners die from over hydrating than being dehydrated- though it’s really difficult to fight the urge to take a big gulp of water when you’re so hot), shower and fire station – who had kindly set up their engine hoses to douse passing runners. Every drop was pure bliss and gave me that little kick to carry on! So many members of the public had plates of sweets, goodies and treats to hand out and although lots of runners were taken ill on the course due in most part to the heat, they were so well looked after by the public, the amazing St. John’s ambulance and other runners that you really felt part of something very special. When there’s so much talk of division and unrest all over the news it’s so refreshing to see communities come together like this and really buy into supporting people in something so positive.
I had promised myself I would take time to take all the sights in and soak it all in as I’d said this would be something never to be repeated. Other than having no recollection of seeing the Cutty Sark (don’t ask), I really did and even managed a few photos along the way. I remember hitting Canary Wharf and being totally overwhelmed with the noise and the sheer volume of supporters who were lining both sides of the road, bridges over head and every square inch available, it was incredible and I got really choked up at this point. After this point I hit a bit of a bad patch as my lower back totally seized and I couldn’t walk let alone run so there were a fair few miles of running and then stopping to stretch out but in the blistering heat and with an injury anyway I knew if I wanted to finish I had to listen to my body. Every time I stopped, members of the public were asking if I was ok and did I need anything which in itself gave me the strength to get going again. It was a bit monotonous for a while and towards the end I wondered if I had enough in me to keep going. I don’t think I really hit the wall as I’ve heard some people describe but I definitely really struggled in the last three or four miles and I kept trying to smile away the grimace that repeatedly made an appearance all over my face! Honestly the last few miles felt never ending and at times I wondered if I was moving forwards at all and not just up and down but then I saw the houses of parliament and knew as the crowds grew yet again I couldn’t be far off.
I saw the 800m marker and this was by far the hardest section of the race as your so nearly there but it felt a million miles away and every 200m felt like another 20 miles. Coming past Buckingham Palace was magical and I knew my husband was at the finish line somewhere – I so desperately wanted to see a familiar face that I slowed down to see if I could spot him. I looked in the stands both sides of the road and then saw him, screeching his name out repeatedly until he clocked me and with a few waves to the camera used my very last ounce of energy to sprint over the line before bursting into tears at the end; elated, exhausted and absolutely overwhelmed by it all. The culmination of 6 months of training, diet, early mornings, fatigue, injury and excitement all gone in a matter of hours.