I did it!

Yesterday I ran the London Marathon, and it was the best day of my life.

This is me, nervous but happy to be at the start line (finally)
I’m still on an absolute high, and even though I can barely walk and am finding it difficult to navigate stairs and the loo (slightly regretting not stretching out after the race), every ache and pain was worth it, because what I experienced yesterday was totally unique.

I barely slept a wink on Saturday night, and pretty much the whole week prior, but I was up early and ready on Sunday morning. I’d roped my housemate Toby in to coming down to the start line with me, and had booked a car to take us there. The car arrived and we made the journey from North to South East London, but all the roads were blocked off and we couldn’t even get close. After a few arguments and a pre race meltdown, we had to go to Mile End tube station and catch three trains to Greenwich Park. By this time it was 9.45 - the official start time, and we were still a 20 minute walk from the start line. Not an ideal start…

By the time I got there - along with a few other late-comers, the last of the runners were just about to cross the start line. So I whipped off my track pants and got in line alongside a man carrying a washing machine on his back, two rhinos and four bumble bees, already it was starting to become surreal. We started, and all I could think about was running slowly. Everyone had advised me to take the first half really easy, to save energy for the second half. So I tried to find my pace, but there were so many runners all going at different speeds that you spend most of your time (and effort) weaving in and out to get round people.

But, it was a beautiful day and the atmosphere was incredible. There were people lined along the entire route, which for the first part was mostly local families in their pyjamas sitting on their walls with cups of tea cheering. I saw church congregations yelling and even priest splashing holy water over the runners, about five brass bands, a steel band, a dancehall soundsystem and a crowd of people dressed as goblins and gouls – they’d even decorated their house too. I passed pubs full of people jollily taunting runners with pints of beer, I high-fived little kids as I passed them and I smiled and waved along the way, I had no idea that people would go to so much effort – both the runners and the spectators. It was so special and I wanted to take in every minute of it. I wished I could have taken photos along the way, but that was a feat too far.

Normally on a long run I go into a zone where I’m oblivious to almost everything else, but there was so much to distract you that I spent a lot of time reading the messages on people’s vests – I burst into tears three times just from reading them. I passed people with severe disabilities, elderly men and women, everyone. I was totally overwhelmed by the power human kindness and strength.

Crossing Tower bridge was a massive high.

It was at the half way point where I realized that the pace I’d set was slower than my ability, and that I had a lot more ‘fuel in the tank’, and needed to up-my-game if I wanted to finish in under 5 hours. So I sped up and was seriously ducking and diving amongst runners to get myself to the finish line.

Just about able to crack a smile...
I started feeling really sick and spent about 8 miles desperately trying not to throw up, I felt really empty too, so bit the bullet and took two carb gels (FYI they don’t taste any better, even when you’re desperate)

It’s true what they say about Canary Wharf, passing the faster runners is mentally quite tough – as they’re on mile 20 ish and you’re only on mile 13. Mile 18 was hard, but I don’t know if that was just because it’s supposed to be the all-feared ‘wall’, but it was at that point that I ate all the Jelly Babies I could swallow. By this point I never wanted to see another postcode beginning with E anything, all I could think about was the SW postcode where I was going to end up.

The next few miles are a bit of a blur. I just looked ahead as much as I could and ran. I passed two groups of friends at mile 24 and mile 25, and seeing them gave me so much strength and encouragment. At Embankment I was trying to tank it down the long straight road but my legs were tired and I must have looked exhausted! The last mile was pretty tough and I couldn’t have cared less about any landmark or spectacular site, all I wanted to see was the finish line. And I did – after 4 hours 45 minutes and 22 seconds of non-stop running I crossed the line, burst in to tears (again) and picked up my medal.

My official time
Looking absolutely knackered post race
I sat in the sun with my family and inspected my war wounds, I hobbled on to the tube with all the other runners and headed home. Then I went to pub with my trainer Brian and all my friends and had my first glass of wine in three months, and it tasted great.
This is an abridged version of the day, I could go one forever. But honestly, it was the one of the most surreal, but certainly the best day of my life. My time could have been better, but training for a marathon in 11 weeks is a challenge in itself and I completed it, and I’m happy.