I remember cheering my dad as he crossed the line of the London Marathon when I was just a child and dreaming about the day that would be me. As I grew up that dream never left me, as year after year I applied in the Ballot for the Virgin Money London Marathon.
As I watched the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon I thought about the chance I’d have of completing it and gave the ballot another shot, deciding to keep entering the ballot until I was 40. Then last June my friend Nickie encouraged me to do a C25K app to get me running, which I guess is important if one day you want to run a marathon.
I was enjoying the programme and progressing with my running when the “You’re in” magazine dropped through my door. The next few months passed in a bit of a training haze. I followed a beginner programme from the Virgin Money London Marathon site and went between weeks of no running due to Endo flare ups and flu, to being able to run just over 8 miles. Which ended up being my longest run before I took the start line.
The excitement for the Marathon really began at the Expo when I collected my number, which I shall write about in another post. It all started to feel so real as I realised I really was going to run the London Marathon.
The day before I took to the start line I carb loaded on pasta, drank electrolyte drinks and made sure my body was as ready as I could get it. With my alarm set for 5:30am, my kit was out, my number was pinned on my vest, my timing chip was laced onto my trainer and my porridge was out ready for the morning. I got pretty much no sleep through the night and leapt out of bed the minute my alarm went off.
In a flash I was dressed, out the door, in a taxi, then train and finally in Blackheath completely swept up by the Marathon crowd heading to the start line. It did not feel real at all. I wanted to capture as much as possible, yet I also wanted to be in the moment as I was pretty sure this would be my one and only Marathon.
After what felt like a million toilet trips and an hour stood in the starting pen, suddenly we were moving towards the start. As we turned the corner to see the start for the first time, I was struck by how I was part of my dream now, doing something I’d wanted to do for over 30 years, something I wanted to tick off my life list before I turned 40 and something that was absolutely bloody nuts!
The heat was already rising at a crazy rate and I was instantly thankful for taking on extra fluids before the run, even if I did have to stop for the toilet before I’d even reached a mile.
The first 5 miles were hot and steady and full of supporters cheering us on. After 5 miles I was really getting warm, I was feeling heavy and full of lead already and was extremely grateful when a kind crowd member held a small bag of sweets out to me. They tasted amazing and got me to the next water stop. Each water stop I approached was starting to look very empty, and then mile 9 my worst fears came true, they’d ran out of water. Kids were picking up discarded bottles from previous runners and holding them out to those that needed to take on water, but I just couldn’t push myself to take one. This is really where the crowd showed their support, on discovering we were not getting water at the water stations people began to run out of pubs with jugs of water, people had hooked up garden hoses to help us cool down and a family had bought up a shops stock of rocket lollies which I certainly think was responsibly for me staying cool enough in the first half.
I started to count the miles by the empty water stations, teens with megaphones shouted apologies for there being no water as supporters stood with carrier bags handing out whatever water they had with them. Luckily I was able to grab water from the few stations that had some left and rotated between sipping and pouring it onto my head and neck to keep me cool.
There were many times the kindness of strangers got me through the run. At three different points I allowed three different people to cover me with suncream, which actually prevented me from even the smallest amount of sunburn. Children stood with trays laden with warm sticky sweets that I grabbed by the handful to keep me going and many voices yelled my name willing me to keep moving.
Then I hit mile 11 and when I say I hit it, it really felt like I ran smack bang into a heap of trouble. My whole body suddenly went cold, I couldn’t feel my lips and I started to feel like the pavement was rushing up to meet me. I felt like I wasn’t going to be standing much longer and struggled to the barriers in the middle of the road. I held onto the barrier, convinced it was the end of my Marathon. As I counted to 30 I became very aware of how unwell I felt, I breathed deeply and told myself to dig deep and move. I knew the act of running on my own was leading me into a dark place, as us runners at the back of the pack don’t see as big a crowd as the front runners in some of the residential areas, so I turned to my pre-made Marathon playlist to pick me up.
A couple of songs in and I had to call Clara, I was upset and talking gibberish and just hearing her voice helped push me on. I managed to get some water on board and started to come out of what was making me feel like passing out. The music really helped lift me as I sang along to various motivating songs. Then Tower Bridge was before me and my parents were waving at me. My mum passed me a frozen bottle of water (life saver) and I was suddenly overtaken by a car telling me that I had to continue on the path. But I was determined not to move to the path until we really had to and I pushed on. As I passed over towards the end of Tower Bridge I spotted Clara and M waving a “Go Mama Go” sign. It was the push I needed as I grabbed Clara’s face and planted a massive kiss on her lips before running off towards the halfway point.
To be continued in part 2.