48 hours later, and it all feels pretty surreal. Months of thinking about little else, talking about it an awful lot and worrying about it even more and it is suddenly all over. Did it really happen? My aching legs and sun scorched face tell me it definitely did! So here’s my take on it all, a non-road runners experience of the biggest road race in the world
We arrived in London on the Saturday, a pretty effortless journey, we drove to Stanmore and jumped straight onto the Jubilee line to Canning Town. From there, a short sunny walk led us to the Excel. We expected huge queues and hordes of people, but I got my number and tags within about 5 minutes of entering the Expo and then had time to wander around and meet my fellow Harriers for a nervous pre-race natter and team photo. From here we made our way to our accommodation, a very kind friend was putting us up within walking distance to Blackheath which was a huge relief. A fun ride on the Emirates Airline cable car (highly recommended) but then a lot of walking. My first huge mistake which I knew was totally the wrong thing to be doing but for one reason or another, that was the way it went.
Fast forward to the morning of the race. It was warm, did you hear? Clear blue skies and not a cloud in sight made for the hottest marathon on record. When all your training has been in freezing cold snow and rain this really was far from ideal. A gentle stroll to the start line with my boyfriend Jam and our hostess with the mostess Sian gave me about an hour to prepare before the start. The masses were already filling Blackheath and after a few photos and encouraging hugs, I made the solitary walk into the Championship section. After visiting the surprisingly fresh loos, getting ready and dropping my kit bag I quickly located some fellow Derbyshire runners for a bit of morale boosting, always nice to see a friendly face. That hour passed very quickly and we were soon amassed on the tarmac, a stone’s throw behind Mo Farah and the other elite men. A once in a lifetime chance to be in the same race as these amazing athletes, and at that moment I was so glad I had taken that chance to take part.
Queenie set the claxons going and we were off! I did what everyone tells you not to, went a bit too fast. Despite this, the first few miles of the race went pretty well, I was aware of the heat which was way more intense down on the street and took on water at every station. Seeing Jam and the rest of the cheer squad at around mile 11 in Bermondsey was a great boost and spurred me on. However, soon after this and at exactly halfway, everything changed.
Soon after Tower Bridge my race became a run/walk. There’s no denying I was gutted. I’ve run further with no trouble plenty of times, but my body was failing me, a combination of the heat and poor prep the day before. A highlight of this section was coming down the switchback point and hearing an almighty roar from the spectators and fellow runners, as just on the other side of the road Mo Farah sped by followed by the other elite men. A fantastic sight to behold, but then also the realisation that I still had to get to that point of the race myself and it was still a long way to go. By mile 20 I was at a snail’s pace and thoughts of a decent time were gone, it was now all about getting to the finish.
People were keeling over left right and centre, the marshals and St Johns were rushed off their feet dealing with exhausted, cramping bodies. I’d stopped being able to eat as I just felt so terrible, which then just creates a vicious circle. There was no fuel in my body at all and my run turned into a slow and depressing walk. The 6 miles that followed were a total mental and physical battle. Keep going. Don’t stop. All this build up and planning. You have to finish. Don’t quit now or it’s all for nothing.
Mile 24. I stopped, sat on the kerb, head in hands. Can I do this? The lovely ladies of the St John’s ambulance came and lay me down in the street with my legs in the air and made sure I was ok. After a few minutes the chap behind me vomited in quite explosive style, time to leave. 2 more miles, I could do this even if it meant walking the entire way. Those were the toughest 2 miles of my life. The tears welled up and the crowds did their best to cheer me on but I was barely able to muster a smile let alone raise my eyes from the floor. I heard one lady saying “she’s gone” and she was right, there was nothing in the tank and the only thing keeping me going was the thought that I didn’t want to have wasted all those weeks of effort and disappoint all those people by pulling out.
Mile 25, 1 to go. Never have I been so happy to see a mile marker. I didn’t notice the Houses of Parliament or Big Ben. All I could see was broken runners and a sea of water bottles and empty energy gel wrappers. Soon enough the sparkling gold of the Queen Victoria memorial came into view and around that bend so was the finish. From somewhere in the depths of me I managed to break into a slow jog towards the line. The tears flowed again as I dragged myself over and to the smiling faces of the volunteers handing out medals. I’d made it, well over an hour longer than I had wanted but I’d finished. Unbelievable relief followed.
I totally underestimated running a marathon, and it nearly got the better of me. Yes I trained and prepared, but on the day it was harder than any run I have ever done before. Hats off to everyone around the world who has done one or even tried to do so. London was an amazing never to be forgotten experience and despite the agony of the day, there was also so much positive to take from it. The support from the public was unreal, a non-stop wall of sound all the way around. My friends were amazing at keeping me going and giving up their time to support and encourage me. And I’ve learnt I can push myself to do things when everything about my very being is screaming QUIT! There is absolutely no denying I am gutted with my time, but the achievement of the day was making it to the end. As my mum said afterwards, if I can do that I can do anything and maybe she is right. Will I do another? Probably not….but we’ll see.
Happy running x