London. One of the big 5. I didn’t see any leopards or lions but Blackheath was as hot and dry as a savanna. It’s done. It is no longer happening, It has finished. As for existing, I’m only just starting to feel like I am again. Socially acceptable? The ballot has opened and it will of course be crazily oversubscribed. (Yes, of course I applied again! I feel cheated right now)
Saturday 21st April up at 4 am. Had that ‘what if I miss my alarm thing’. Jumped into the car at the back of 5, turned on the lights, turned up the tunes and off. Totally reminiscing back to my youth listening to Radio 1 dance tunes at full volume and driving about empty roads in the middle of the night. Here we go!!!!
Parked up and headed into the airport desperate for breakfast. Fired through security and went in search for the culinary delights of the airport. Decisions decisions, bacon roll or croissant. A bacon croissant would have been the preferred option but almond was all that was on offer. The breakfast of an athlete! As I stood in the queue I tuned into a couple behind me discussing how many bananas the guy had been eating recently. “In preparation for the marathon” he told his girlfriend.”And all that pasta too” she cooed.
I can’t sleep on planes. I can barely sleep in my own bed at night. We hadn’t even taken off and the guy beside me was snoring his head off. So I woke him up. Kidding, but in my head I did. The in-flight magazine had an article about Mo (seriously if you need me to put a surname in here you’re reading the wrong blog) so I had a wee perusal of that and I think it was at about this time that I had a very weird feeling. Am I feeling a bit emotional I wondered to myself. What’s that about then?
Airport to Expo. Slick and quick at early o’clock on a Saturday morning. Wow! No queue at registration for my number. It’s real now. I wandered through the expo collecting freebies and tasting samples. Tasting samples as in energy gels and protein bars not what you’re thinking. At the stage I took a seat. The man announced that he’d like to welcome a professional athlete onto the stage. My heart started racing. Luckily he didn’t mean me and I carried on chewing on some energy stuff and headed off for more freebies then lunch. A slightly more nutritious lunch. I say slightly but it did include a bagel with smoked salmon and avocado.
By this time my rucksack was digging in and I’d walked about 6000 steps, it was supposed to be a rest day. Time to go! Onto the train. There’s a story to the train journey but it’s one for another time. Arrived at Canary Wharf and headed for the hotel. Dumped the bag, checked out the view of the many building sites next door which reminded me of ‘Man on Wire’ and headed out to meet husband. There he was ambling along the road.
The next main priority was working out where to go for dinner. Back near Canary Wharf Tube we chilled out outside a bar. They were offering 2 for 1 cocktails. Now any other day and I would have had both but today, alas nothing but a softie for me. That was a hard task. I think the guy took pity on us and gave us our drinks for free. ‘Spirit of London’ and all that mate!
Dinner. Pasta. Why not? It was ok. I could’ve done with another three portions but hey it’s carbs so that’ll be good for tomorrow. Build those glycogen stores. Back at the wonderful fairly new Novotel we headed to the 38th floor bar. Wow! What a view! Very enjoyable with a camomile tea I must say. Through the smog you could see the mast of the Cutty Sark, the Shard, Tower Bridge and even The London Eye very faintly. We mapped out the route as best we could and I headed to bed early doors. No rock n roll lifestyle for me tonight. Gutted!
Sunday 22nd April. Race day. Race, ha ha ha. I just want to finish uninjured. It’s 7 years since my last marathon. It took me 4 hours and 15 minutes. I walked, well dragged myself the last four miles as throughout the run my hips decided to come out of place and do the twist. Then there was the birth of my son. I’ll not go into that and it’s impact on my body. Would hate to be responsible for putting people off having children. In preparation for this I’ve been to physio (a lot) and Personal Training once a week to build strength.I’ve learned loads and spent…too much but has it been worth it?
Transport is free to runners. The sun was shining and it was relatively warm at 8am as I headed for the running DLR. Thanks for not striking guys. ‘See you at the letter H’ I said to my husband whose plans were to go for a swim, catch Mo at a few places and have fun in London. I wasn’t bothered about him cheering me on, I knew it would be relatively messy and I was feeling weirdly emotional. The train was crowded but there’s always room for one more. I squeezed in with my new pal from the platform. In all honesty quite a few more people could’ve got in. If this had been in Shanghai we could’ve doubled the passengers. At this point everyone smelled of suncream and deoderant so it wasn’t offensive. In the race however…
Blackheath is a massive field. How well organised was this!!! Puts Edinburgh to total shame. Dropped my bag off, grabbed some free water, stayed out of the sun in a large tent, long toilet queues but these were fast and they handed toilet roll out even though they were all well stocked ( I tried a few). The atmosphere was electric! I wasn’t prepared for this. I’m not one to get all emotional and nervous but for some reason that’s how I felt. I tried chatting to a few folk but everyone seemed to be feeling exactly the same. At this stage I’d planned on doing a Facebook Live but decided now wouldn’t be a good debut. Staying out of the shade as long as I could I headed to my pen around 10am just as the elite athletes were setting off. I’m sorry to disappoint as clearly when you realised I was at the Blue start you presumed you were reading the blog of an elite athlete. They were in pens 1 & 2. I was in 4.
We’re off. Start the watch, stop the watch, has the strava beacon worked? No. Oh well there’s the tracker. I reminded myself not to go too fast and to enjoy every single minute. Even though I knew there would be many minutes. I wasn’t prepared for this. From the word go there was not one single gap in the crowd. Everyone was shouting out my name and giving high fives. This is awesome!!!! For the first five miles I could not stop grinning. Maybe that’s where all my energy went. I passed the Grenfell Firemen and wished them well and spoke to a few other folk. I love having a wee chat to people about what they’re raising money for and giving them encouragement. I passed an older lady who was a something or other doddler…nothing doddling about you love, you’re flying! I met loads of other Scots by chance. I had a lovely chat with a man running for Prostate Scotland and a lady from Dundee who was running for a Diabetes charity. At this point I decide to keep an eye on my pace and slow it down. Note to self at this point: This is comfortable, really comfortable and there is zero hamstring twinges (which had bothered me throughout the latter stages of training). I feel really really good so I’ll not go too fast. I’ll keep it at 9:30 / 9:45 a minute until around mile 13 then I’ll slow it down to 10s even 10:30s. And so I carried on.
Now, I’d visualised the course for months so I was prepared for the other starts merging and indeed there was loads of room when the Green starts appeared. There wasn’t much to see though. As it became slightly busier some woman decided to try to barge through a tight space. Most people were very polite and gestured to let each other move forward or into spaces. Not this woman. Oh no, she was elbows out. It didn’t quite work out for her as she got caught in peoples’ legs and went down. Then someone stood on the abck of my shoe which came off. At least he was able to grunt an apology and it didn’t cost me first place in the race.
The Cutty Sark!!! First landmark!!! Yay!!!! The whole course was really busy. At mile 11 something happened. I hit the wall! At mile 11!! This was not in my game plan. I went to pieces. In my head my thinking was outrageously ridiculous. Laughable. ‘I’m going to have to finish’ I thought. ‘But how would I get to the finish. I’m unable to get there. I’ll have to keep going. Now husband said if I hit the wall I need to pick up the pace. But I’m not even running??’ At this point I think I was walking towards leaving the course but couldn’t see a marshal and then I saw my legs totally shaking. It was all quite freaky but I realised my thinking was not quite right so I decided to walk to mile 14 to get a gel. Now I had emergy beans in my back pocket but clearly they were for later on so why take them now? Doh! Then Tower Bridge miraculously appeared.Hell yeah! I had to run. This is where there are TV cameras and interviews and stuff. And it’s pretty damn cool. I think I was probably seeing a different picture to reality at this point but I carried on regardless and somehow got to mile 14.
Mmmm yummy gel! Boak. They’re so disgusting but I had the whole thing and washed it down with some water. I’d had some Lucozade sport earlier and had totally regretted it although I’m sure it was important. Did it help? I doubt it if I hit the wall at mile 11 and considering I’d had a hydration drink on the way to the start.Doubt that helped either. These things are a sham I tell you, a sham!!!
Oooh I’m running again. My watch was showing between 9:30 and 12:30 a mile. I don’t really think I knew what was going on apart from questioning why people were cooking spices as the smoke was going in my eyes! I think Canary Wharf was possibly downhill. I knew Mile 18 was where I’d been staying and I focused on that as well as my next planned intervention – a caffeine gel at mile 18. With memories of Edinburgh I was well looking forward to this bad boy! After mile 18 I felt like I was running round a concrete jungle. I’m not sure if it was some kind of ringroad. It was messy. By this point I was realising that people were dropping every five metres or so. It was like a cheap computer game. I remember signalling to a marshal that someone had gone down and he nodded his head as he moved towards them as if to say ‘yeah, another, this is getting boring now’. Hello mile 18, hello caffeine gel, hello why am I still returning to walking? It was ok but didn’t have quite the same impact as before. I’d realised from mile 11 that it was a case of finishing in one piece. If it meant walking then that’s how it would be. I was soaking. Blood, sweat, tears, who knows? so just as well I’d trained in the snow, rain and wind. But it dried quickly. I feel bad taking water to partially drink (as ‘too much is as dangerous’ they kept saying leaving everyone confused) and using the rest (drink, drain, drop) to drench myself and cool my wrists and head (I avoided showers so I didn’t get wet squelchy feet or get cold water shock!) but I feel bad knowing that later on they ran out of water. How could they run out of water??
Aiming for the next gel station at mile 21.5 was my next task. I usually break my run into segments and find this works. It was only 3.5 from here, a slightly long park run. I can definitely do that! Someone shouted ‘suncream’ and I thought, ‘crikey, I’ve been out in this for hours I’d better put some on’. My brain was clearly all over the place still but it was a sensible idea.The woman who’d offered the cream took one look at me and said I had loads on my face. Are you kidding me? I’ve been out in this basking sun for a good four hours, I’m fair and I sweated every millilitre of everything out of my body hours ago. Begrudgingly she allowed me some but as I stood there I wondered what I was actually doing and why I was wasting precious time as I really needed to be at that finish line. I had a plane to catch!
21.5 and my last gel. I can’t even remember having it. By now I could see my hand trying to break through the crowds trying to grab a bottle of water. Failing and trying again. Got one! It must have been around this time that I saw the topless runner who was, well running. If that wasn’t suspicious then I don’t know what was. The crowds were getting larger and noisier. At this point I just wanted everyone to shut up. Why did I put my name on my tshirt? I could barely lift my thumbs to give a thumbs up anymore. The reality probably was that they didn’t even move it was more in my head, willing them to go up.
I was a sight but it was only in the final few miles that I began to see the famous sights of London. The Shard and London Eye then finally Buckingham Palace and the Mall. The last few miles were truly the hardest miles I’ve ran. I had been under the impression that, ‘the crowd will carry you’. Well that didn’t happen. ‘It’s just a mile, run’ I kept repeating to myself like a broken record. Replaced by ‘it’s just 600metres, run’. Ah, there’s my husband waving. I was running but it really didn’t feel like it and the finish was not getting any closer. I knew people at home were watching so there was no way there would be tears or any of that nonsense. Luckily the guy in front did a leap and a sidekick like the guy from Mary Poppins and it made me laugh. Good timing dude! Smile, you’re on camera!
The medal. Hooray, the medal. I just wanted to take it off, it was so heavy. Loads of people were stopping for official photos. Not I. I kept walking. Luckily the baggage area didn’t take the 40 minutes it suggested. Again, no queue. Out I went and to the large letter meeting point I’d arranged to meet my husband at. He had one thing to do. Meet me there. Was he there? Of course not.
I wandered around the very large red letter saying his name to the air.Nothing. He wasn’t there. I knew I needed to rest against something so I leaned against a ledge at the Cavalry Museum. Suddenly I didn’t feel very well at all. I’m not one to be like this so I knew it wasn’t a good sign. I put my head between my legs and realised this wasn’t going to do anything. I turned to the lady on my left who was sitting on a chair sunning herself. She was at the door to the Museum and I could see the sign saying there was a Private Function on. However, needs must. “Excuse me, may I stand inside the doorway in the shade just for a second?” I asked politely. Although in hindsight if this is how I was feeling perhaps I came across in a slur. But it was flipping obvious what I’d been doing. “It’s a Private Function” she said. A couple sitting across in the half-shade offered me a space beside them but I shook my head as it was too late. I went down onto the gravel on my knees then hands. The Lady in the chair moved her feet out of the way and just looked down her nose at me. The couple got up and came to help me and supported me to where they were sitting. Mobile connection was poor but I managed to reach my husband via text. Well kind of. He had gone to the baggage area to try to help me as I ‘looked burst’. That’s great honey but it’s not where we arranged to meet and you didn’t alert me to the change of plan! The couple proceeded to call him on their phone and after looking at a photo of my husband the man went to find him. I think my description of tall, lanky, ginger and balding was a winner as he came back with him within a few minutes.
Time to fly…. Straight to the Tube, over to Victoria, grab the bags, Gatwick express. A quick ‘Dundee shower’ and brief change (literally) then time for the quickest burger ever at Jamie Oliver’s. Jamie Oliver had announced that Medal holders could have free main course at his restaurant. Unfortunately this wasn’t being upheld at the airport. I think they took total pity on me though and very kindly gave us 20% off. Happy days. I ordered a pint and savoured every mouthful. It was absolutely delicious and well bloody deserved. Then we ran out of time and had to walk / run (a bit like the rest of the day) to get the plane. Gutted to be leaving half behind! Before we knew it we had touched down, were in the car and had arrived home. Time to get ready for work tomorrow. I hung my medal up beside the others. It’s much bigger than the rest. Cue size jokes.
My finish time was 4 hours 51. The highlight was finishing. The lowlight was being overtaken by an Emoji Poo. The ballot has opened and I’ve entered. I’m going to try again as I’d like to go back and do this justice. My wonderful husband suggested my next challenge to be a marathon without any walking.. The incentive of raising funds for Richmond’s Hope & Juno really helped when things got tough. I’m very very close to raising £5k…just a few £s away!
My splits worked out as (according to wonderful Strava)
Mile 1-10:30; 2 – 9:38; 3 – 9:29; 4 – 9:33; 5 – 9:56; 6 – 9:56; 7 – 9:53; 8 – 10:02; 11 – 10:18; 12 – 10:43; 13 – 11:46; 14 – 11:23; 15 – 11:07; 16 – 12:14; 17 – 10:50; 18 – 12:41; 19 – 10:53; 20 – 10:58; 21 – 12:09; 22 – 12:30; 23 – 12:22; 24 – 12:04; 25 – 12:53; 26 – 11:26
even more impressive is the amount of calories burned…