- The day itself has arrived. The day that’s been in the planning for a nearly a year. The day that this blog has been all about. Weird.
I had an unexpectedly good nights sleep – only one ‘panic’ dream – and that was about needing the loo, digging holes in an earthy bank which then collapsed – but I don’t need to go into details!
Everything was ready – all I had to do was pick up the food/drink in the fridge (all on a list ‘just in case’) and go. I kept telling myself that bottom line – all I definitely needed was my number and my shoe tag. You have no idea how many times I checked I had those!!
Arrived at the leisure centre about 06:15 – slightly panicked that the coaches hadn’t arrived but loads of people were there already. Coaches turned up and we left promptly at 06:30. The membership secretary of Bracknell Forest Runners who had organised it all was wishing us all luck as she ticked us off – I teared up a bit (good start!) and she gave me a huge hug and said “piece of advice – don’t cry until the finish line – it f***s with your breathing”. Made me laugh!
Immensely simple journey to Blackheath to arrive for about 08:00. Walked to the red start and then started looking for Charlotte. There was to be an Asthma UK pre race photo at 09:00 so we wandered off to look for everyone. Didn’t find the photo spot but did find loads of other Asthma UK runners. It was lovely to put faces to names. Including Puffina – who told us where the meeting place was. Photo duly taken we went through the red entrance – and dropped our kit bags off at the baggage trucks. Very easy – at least it is if you read your number properly!! Then to the mother of all loo queues. But we had loads of time so it wasn’t a panic.
Was missing Laura – she had a blue start as she had a ballot place. We had been messaging before – and we would after. But the 3 of us being together through this – it was strange without her being with us.
By this time we were beginning to gather a little entourage of other Asthma UK people – those of us in pen 9 went to find our start place. Couldn’t believe the amount of people around us. We kept meeting up with other Asthma UK runners – including Louise who I met at Eton Dorney for the 20 miler. I embarrassed myself by asking where her partner was. She laughed herself sick and said he wasn’t her partner just another Asthma UK bloke she had met up with for the race. Embarrassed or what! But they made a lovely couple!!
Time gradually ticked on and we played ‘spot the outfit’ – there was some serious fancy dress stuff going on. I was most impressed by the rhinos – those costumes looked heavy and hot. We waved at the helicopters overhead and chatted with everyone around. Such a lovely atmosphere of excitement and anticipation.
Then the final count down – AND – nothing! we slowly shuffled forward – I was a bit twitchy that I hadn’t seen the 5:15 pacer. Then because of the way the line ‘shuffled’ we went past both the 5:00 hr and the 4:45 pacer – oops! It took 30 minutes to get over the official start line – but if felt like moments due to the general chit chat and laughs we were having. Then we were there. Hit the start button on my watch and my timer, and we were off.
I’M RUNNING THE LONDON MARATHON.
I really am. Now. This moment. with 40,000 other people. I don’t care about time, injury, pain or anything. The next 6 or so hours is going to be physically tough but I have no doubt what so ever that I will finish. I am not going to hit ‘the wall’. I have huge confidence that by the end of the day I will have achieved this. No doubt whatsoever.
Because of the amount of people, Charlotte and I are together for the first half mile or so – mainly because even though we were run walking different times (me 3:1 – her 5:1) walk speed and run speed were the same. But soon she began to pull away and I settled down to my own pace.
People were lining the route from the start. Several people deep. Clapping and shouting. It made me realise even more what I was doing – what a huge institution this is – and I am part of it. This is what I have trained so hard for the last 8 months or so. My training plan started for real in September – but a year a go I was training for the Bracknell half. And as I knew I had a place in May- ish – I wasn’t letting that fitness go. So from June to September I was running several times a week and attending B-fit and working on core and strength work. This has been a long time in the planning!
The crowd began to thin out a little. I was passed by the 4:45 pacer; the 5:00 pacer and then the 5:15 run/walk pacer. Either the pacer was singing or karaoke man was in the group! But joining in with them for a bit was fun until they pulled away.
I couldn’t tell you the areas we went through as my London geography is lousy. I know that after a few miles we hit an interesting area. Still loads of people – many still in their pj’s!
All the route had loads of supporters – as the crowd began to thin out a bit more – people began calling out names. Every time I heard my name I would acknowledge somehow – usually by lifting my water bottle in salute! I began to have a sore hand from high fiving loads of children – so I moved into the middle of the road so as not to disappoint anyone!
I was running well and ahead of my markers. Then the sun came out! Boy was it hot. I was very aware of all the advice about not over hydrating – so I drank to thirst – but I was really thirsty!. I had my tracker bars with me and nibbling on those as I had practised. I didn’t have to worry about jelly babies because almost every other child on the route had a plate of sweets of some sort (to be honest – I never want to see another jelly baby every again!). Someone even had home cake to offer (she did say I could spit it out if I didn’t like it!)
The route meandered its way through London. Every now and again I would pass, or be passed by an Asthma UK runner. We would chat a little bit – ensure each other was all right – then one of us would move off. Several times someone would run past me – for me to overtake them and so on. The same with the rhinos! At one point I passed 2 of them together – but they soon got me back again!
Around mile 8 and still on target. Began to feel that I may need the loo. I had seen the huge queues for the loos up till now – and was trying to balance the thought of not going – but I was feeling a bit stomach crampy and though I thought it was probably psychological (I hadn’t needed to go during the 20 miler) I thought I wouldn’t risk it. Fortunately I noticed a small sign outside a barbers shop that offered a loo for runners. So I dived in there and found a queue of about 5 people. Result! However – the 5 in front took their time and so I was in there about 15 minutes. Still quicker than some of the others – and it got me out of the sun for a bit.
Whilst in the queue I had texted Ellie to say I was now a bit behind time – she replied to say that she and Molly hoped to catch me around mile 11. I was then desperate to see them and counted off the miles until I got there.
As I rounded a corner I could see Ellie jumping up and down about 50 yards ahead of me. I was so excited to see them both – my first ‘proper’ supporters!! I ran over and gave them both a rib breaking hug. They said how proud they were of me – and again it hit me just what I was doing. I reluctantly left them but I knew that Steve & Matt were going to be in another mile or so before Tower Bridge. We had planned which side they would be on so I was looking out for them by the Asthma UK cheer point. I didn’t focus on the cheer point as I was so keen on seeing my 2. They were slightly further on but I spotted them. The picture at the top of the blog is from then. As you can I was over the moon. Steve tried to say something but his voice cracked – and that really set me off. After more bear hugs with Matt practically lifting me off my feet – I was off again.
I kept telling myself to enjoy every second. That this could never be repeated (I certainly never intend to run another marathon – but even if I did – I would never have another first one).
Hearing my name being yelled out again – I realised that this had some power behind it so they might actually know me! It was Lesley from work – I was so excited to see her too. Big hugs – lots of snotty dribbling (me not her!). The I saw Jane and her husband Andy. She is the one who is directly responsible for me being this side of the barrier. We had come to see Andy run it last year when I was fired with such enthusiasm. Jane had run it a few years previously and was so infectious in her excitement I had sent off a couple of charity applications that very night without thought (fuelled by alcohol). Next morning I though ‘nah’. But only a few weeks later I was offered the place with Asthma UK. Well wasn’t that a start of a journey!
Tower Bridge – how can I describe going over that? The whole thing was just getting better and better. So many people were stopping to take selfies – I didn’t. Something I partially regret – but hey. Then came the part that everyone warned me about. Where you turn right – and see a deluge of people coming at you the other way. I saw the 4:15 pacer come towards me and felt a bit deflated. But then I saw an Asthma UK man who yelled across at me that I was doing brilliantly – then other Asthma UK people went by and would yell or wave or thumbs up.
Not such a pretty area – but great fun. Lots of pubs with ‘happy’ supporters outside. Yelling and clapping – some had funny signs up (although I don’t see how ‘Arsene out’ related in anyway!).
I wasn’t expecting any family now until around mile 25 alongside that cheer point so I ‘dug in’. I was still enjoying every moment – but then the back of my right knee ‘pinged’. Hmm. Then my calf twinged so I slowed a little. Double hmm. Then I dropped my water bottle so I stopped to pick it up. Why did I do that? The whole course was strewn with bottles, gel packs both full and empty, orange skins and banana peel – so why did I stop to pick up the water bottle? Anyway – my right foot then cramped up badly. After a few steps that disappeared but then the right hip went. This was the one thing I had been really afraid of. I had been having some ‘hip flexor’ issues according to the best sports massagist ever – Rosemary – and I had made it worse by the long drive to Pembrokeshire and back the week before. As both my back knee and hip were hurting together I decided that it was my ITB band that was complaining. I changed my run ratio to 2:1 and struggled on.
At mile 20 there was a big Asthma UK cheer point – I was delighted to see them and high 5’d as many as I could (not all were willing!). I was so focussed on them I almost didn’t see Ellie and Molly! I was sooooo pleased to see them when I wasn’t expecting them. More huge hugs and ‘we’re so proud’ I realised that actually I am doing something which is making my whole family proud of me. That’s a thing in itself! I explained to them that I was having trouble with my knee and so would be slowing down. To which they replied that it didn’t matter as long as I was still enjoying it – which I was.
After I left them I dropped my ratio to 1:1 but every time I tried to run my entire leg went into spasm. So I dropped to a walk to have a think. What is more important? A time that I have probably gone over anyway – or taking in every moment with pleasure? So I decided on the latter. I would fast walk to the end, accept it and milk it for every second.
So that’s what I did. It was like a triumphal home coming. As I turned into the Embankment – the crowds really picked up again. I noticed that when I acknowledged people shouting my name they became even more excited and would shout louder, or even start chanting my name. I think the whole of the Embankment I spent with my arms in the air acknowledging my crowds! The side of the road, on bridges and balconies. This is what footballers and athletes must feel like when they drive through crowds on open top buses after amazing wins. But this was all for me!
I started to look out for people just before the mile 25 point – and I saw Jane and Andy again. Jane ran towards me up the middle of the road for about 50 yards – and promptly burst into tears giving me the most enormous hug. Andy stood there taking photos saying ‘I’m really sorry’ and shaking his head. We said goodbye as they couldn’t stay to meet up at the end. But I was so grateful that they had come.
At mile 25 I spotted the final Asthma UK cheer point on the right – all yelling and screaming my name. Then I saw Matt & Molly, more hugs, telling me I was so nearly there and I was going to make it.
I was so impressed that people were still out in their thousands. especially for us slower ones. I went over to accept some jelly beans from one little boy and asked him if he had been there all day – ‘feels like it’ said his dad.
The one and only time I have been happy to take sweets from strangers and throw rubbish in the road!
I then came out of a tunnel for a marshall to tell me I had 1400 metres to go – I had to ask him to repeat it ……. is that all? 3.5 times round the track. I can do that! Then 800m sign, then 600m. Then it was 365 yards (why did the units change – sure someone will tell me sometime!) Round the corner and into the Mall. I’m damned if I’m going to walk over the finish line – I’m running from here and if my leg goes then someone will carry me! Steve and Ellie I knew would be in the Grandstand – they were so close to the finish. I yelled that I wasn’t going to stop I was going to finish – and then passed through the finish line. I wanted a brilliant over the line photo – but I didn’t know where to look – there were so many cameras. What the hell I just carried on grinning.
The medal and the congratulations, the photos, the goody bag, picking up my kit bag all happened really quickly and in a blur. I cant tell you how I felt during that time – because I genuinely don’t know.
When I came through the ‘system’ I was met by a lovely Asthma UK man who carried my stuff up to the Institute of Directors and handed me over to a lady who took me inside. Then a blur of people in Asthma UK tops. Haven’t a clue what they said – I think I just hugged everyone. I know someone mentioned the blog and how much they liked it. But I couldn’t tell you more. I couldn’t find family and I was confused – I was swept up by another Asthma UK lady – I know that I’ve met her before but sorry I cant remember her name (hugged her too!!) who took me round the different rooms until there were load shouts and screams when she quietly withdrew. Charlotte practically knocked me off my feet (puppy/speed – have I mentioned that before?)Huge hug – tears – snot, dribble the works. Then Lesley. Then Madi. Then Tim. I then met the rest of Charlottes’ family and friends before I realised they weren’t my family! At which point my phone rang and Matt said they were on their way. A few minutes later they all arrived too. Continued snot and dribble.
The next hour was a weird dream sequence of massage, pasta, video interview. Followed by tube, train, car and home.
I cant tell you right now how I feel. Because I think I’m still processing it all. The whole day was a complete sensory overload. I wanted to write this today (the day after) because I’m afraid that bits of it will disappear into anti-climax. It hasn’t yet – but I feel suspended from it. Some of the official photos have been published – in nearly every one I am happy to say that I have a huge grin on my face. My over riding ache is not my legs or my hip – its my facial muscles!
I’m going to leave it a few days then write another blog. Perhaps it will have sunk in by then.
YESTERDAY – I RAN THE LONDON MARATHON