Well it’s been over two weeks since the big day, and I’ve very nearly caught up on sleep and food. So what was running the London Marathon like? In a word, amazing.
My Sunday morning started bright and early, with a large bowl of porridge and plenty of honey to get my sugar kick going. I am so grateful that my lovely friend offered to take me to Greenwich for the start, as it turns out her local station, Waterloo East, is harder to find than you would have expected!
However, once we got to Greenwich we simply followed the hoards of runners swarming into the park. After a final cereal bar and nervous phone call to my boyfriend, I dropped off my bag and headed into the start pens. Here I had a lovely chat and stretch with a few fellow runners, and before long we were slowly walking forward towards the start line, along with 35,000 others!
The first 10 miles went exactly to plan, running roughly 9 minute miling (which would lead to just tucking under 4 hours for the whole thing).
I carried on, with the run across Tower Bridge at mile 12 particularly exciting. I crossed half way in 2 hours and 1 minute, so nicely on track. By this time it was extremely hot, and I made a rookie mistake. I was extremely dehydrated, so I stopped to grab a drink of water. Unfortunately, rather than sipping sensibly, I gulped down 500ml of water, causing me to feel incredibly sick and to leaving me with a terrible stitch.
Miles 14 – 21 became a battle of the wills, with my legs feeling heavy, my chest tight and my stomach queasy. This is the hardest part of any marathon, when you go past your longest training run and you have to battle past your body desperately wanting you to stop and have a nice lie down. Luckily for me, at mile 18 my Dad was waiting to cheer me on and this gave me the push I needed to start running again after a long walk.
At mile 22 the course takes you back past Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, and I will never forget the feeling when you set eyes on the Tower for the second time. It was the first time in both my marathons that I truly believed that I could complete the course. An amazing surge of energy comes from the sight of those towers, and from here I ran the whole of the last four miles.
I spotted my Dad again just before entering the Blackfriars tunnel, and then it was just a matter of persuading my body not to give out on the most beautiful section, running along the embankment up to Westminster. I had started breathing incredibly heavily, and my legs were aching so much I was almost squeaking with every step. Those last two miles are amazing, the roads are packed with people screaming you on, calling out your name and cheering. As I ran out past Buckingham Palace and onto the Mall I got my first glance of the finish line. It was here that I burst into tears, I was actually going to make it!
After crossing the finish line you are herded to get your medal, collect your bags and onto Horse Guards Parade to meet your friends and family. I have no memory of this walk, only knowing that if I sat down I would not be able to get up.
Spotting my Dad standing in Horse Guards Parade set me off crying all over again as I collapsed into a hug. The wonderful people from Charlie Waller had provided a masseuse and I welcomed the bed and cold water, knowing I was drastically dehydrated. After a lovely massage I was able to hobble over to a nearby cafe for my traditional post race meal: crisps (for salt), tea (for hydration) and a massive pastry (because I’ve earned it!).
The marathon ended up taking me 4 hours and 35 minutes, and I am so incredibly proud. It would be a lie to say I enjoyed every minute of it, but I certainly would do it again.
It is the crowds that make London what it is. The people who are on hand with drinks, sweets, signs and words of encouragement, and without them I wouldn’t have made it. To the people who had my two favourite signs “I hear blisters are in this year” and “because 26.3 miles would be ridiculous”, thank you, you made me smile when I was in an awful lot of pain!
What’s next? Well, I need to write my MSc at some point, and then I’m doing RideLondon, the 100 mile cycling race around London and Surrey, in August.
Because you should always challenge yourself, mentally and physically. And I just wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t aiming for some new ridiculous sporting endeavour.
And whatever else happens, you’ve got to do what makes you yourself and, most importantly, happy.