Three weeks after London my brain has finally managed to process it all and I’m able to put fingers to my iPad.
There are so many words that can be used to describe it but the one that sticks out for me is “overwhelming”. I really had no idea what to expect when we drove down a couple of days before, in fact my expectations were totally blown away by reality.
The build-up starts when you trek across London to the eXcel Centre to pick up your race number, timing tag, information and then enter the crazy, mad world of the Expo. As a runner you can only pick your number up from the Expo and that means thousands of people are squished into the carriages of the DLR all heading to the same place and all looking as petrified as each other!
The Expo is a noisy, hustle, bustle of stalls and displays promoting all that is fab in the running world, where else can you sample every type of energy block known to man after spritzing yourself with magnesium spray and playing with the latest running tech?! The kids had an amazing time trying all sorts of different bars, foods and activities which saw them turning their hand at chucking balls, taste testing protein bars, making videos and leading us to any competition we could enter (more on that later). I must say that having 2 polite children worked wonders as their Expo swag haul was pretty impressive at the end of our visit!
The day of the marathon loomed impressively on the horizon and after visiting the Expo suddenly felt a heck of a lot more real than it had before, the hardest thing was settling the nerves and trying to remember that I could run!
My biggest worry for race day ended up not being the running but getting to the start line, as a woman that hates crowds and lives in the countryside I ended up in a city in the midst of big crowds of people! Arriving at Greenwich we poured out of the station and just followed the mass of people heading up to the the red start at Greenwich Observatory, I’m sure the park was beautiful but by this point I wasn’t really taking much in!
Unlike any other race I’ve done only runners can enter the starting area so it was a quick goodbye to the family before flashing my number and gaining entry to a field of toilets, runners and starting pens. An important thing to note is that the loo queues weren’t as bad as expected and there was loo roll in abundance!
The benefit of being part of a team of runners meant that you weren’t alone and after bumping into each other in the loo queue we were able to stick together and head towards pen 9. This was where we waited and waited, got excited when the starting gun sounded and then waited another 27 minutes until we were finally at the start line, stepped over the timing mat and started our journey.
The run itself still seems like a blur, we started off running downhill which surprised me, even though we’d walked up a big hill to the start, for some reason I didn’t think there’d be any hills in London! We passed a man running backwards, a man singing Karaoke whilst running, a running telephone and numerous other sights. The first few miles passed quickly as we chatted, weaved our way past people and tried to follow the magical blue line showing the most accurate route to achieve 26.2 miles of success.
The strange thing about running the marathon is that you really don’t take in many of the sights around you, I only saw the Cutty Sark because you have to run round it (and Aenghus texted me to tell me I was at the Cutty Sark!) and you have to run over Tower Bridge so you see it, other than that I really can’t remember seeing much. Tommy asked me today if it was amazing running past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, to be honest I was more excited as I was in the final mile at that point and my poor brain couldn’t compute things at that point!
Whilst I ran, the family hopped on and off tubes and trains in an effort to see me, at each point it was a surprise to hear them scream my name and gave me the chance for a quick hug, kiss and then off I went.
I’d read so much that said the Isle of Dogs was hard as it was quiet and there was no atmosphere, but nothing could further from the truth, it was busy, bustly and lively with supporters cheering everyone on. In fact I really enjoyed the Isle of Dogs, I didn’t enjoy the point from Tower Bridge to the Isle of Dogs where you are running alongside runners who are at the 22 mile mark and you’ve not quite made it to 13 miles, it was definitely tough watching them and seeing them grimacing they headed towards the end knowing you had a long way to go.
As you get closer to the end you start to see more and more people suffering, people walking, people on phones calling loved ones for help and support and it’s then that you realise 26.2 miles is no easy feat and it was the point when my hours and hours of training paid off. A marathon isn’t conquered on the day, instead it’s conquered by following your training plan, respecting the distance and sacrificing things to follow your training plan. Do you see a theme here? Stick to your training plan or else you’ll be buggered!
Mile 23.5 to 24.5 was horrific, it was at that point that I had to shake myself and keep going, a really good friend of mine who runs marathons regularly told me the race doesn’t start until mile 23 and she’s right, God she’s right. Whilst my pace didn’t slow that mile felt like it was taking forever and was the point where my training took over and I kept going. Coming out of the underpass I was grateful for the hills I run up and down every week as others around me struggled.
Making it down the embankment I knew I was near to the end and can’t tell you how it felt when I saw the 800m’s to go sign, those signs counted down in units of 200m’s until you arrive at the big fountain by Buck House and the Mall. Turning into Mall “Together in Electric Dreams” started playing and I ran those final metres singing along to, what has now become, my marathon song. And that was it, I passed over the timing mat and remember asking someone if I’d actually finished, followed the crowds (all I seemed to do was follow the crowds all day!) to get my medal, get my goody bag, took a minute to realise what I’d actually done, found Tommy and the kids before heading to the Cancer Research UK party and then home.
A PB I’m aiming to improve on when I run the New York Marathon in November! During our many competition entries at the Expo we not only came back with all that swag, I also won a VIP place in the 2017 New York marathon plus travel and kit, which means 2017 will be a 3 marathon year and one I’ll never forget! It also means I’ll keep blogging about training, long runs and general marathon musings. My next post will be about training for Edinburgh when you’re experiencing the post-London blues and your legs don’t want to run!