Finally… A recap of the epic day out that was the 2017 Virgin London Marathon.
After a sound nights sleep – Randomly I always sleep really well before races, which I know is a little strange. It definitely isn’t down to an excess of confidence, I can tell you that! Anyway, after a sound nights sleep I woke early (none of my usual scrambling to make it on time) and met a friend who lives locally so that we could bus it over to the start line together, this is when the nerves really set in.
The Lead Up
I knew all along that my preparation hadn’t been the best, despite help and guidance from one of the best in the biz, my lovely coach – also, the help of superstar run clubs, Adidas Runners and AR Collective. My body just wasn’t quite ready for the steep incline in mileage that I absolutely required of it in order to get me to the start line. I ended up skimping on speed work and strength training in order to just get the long runs done week after week (and survive the subsequent recovery periods). Every single long run, maybe bar a couple of the shorter ones, were utter hell and if not hell, then definitely not as enjoyable as my fellow soon-to-be marathoners were making them out to be. My hip flexors screamed and rendered me useless for days after the run ended, my muscles cramped, my plantars told me in no uncertain terms that they did not like this new ‘programme’. I felt ill and run down in the week leading up to the marathon which meant that my final 20 minute shakeout run felt more like the end of a mega long one and, according to my garmin, I would need at least 35 hours recovery time. To top it all off I also developed a wicked knee pain but yet… 24th April, there I was at the start line, along with 37,000 others.
We were herded into our start pen, faces around me telling stories of terror and excitement, most often both. At this point I felt pretty excited if I’m honest, most of the doubt had evaporated, I knew I was making it to that finish line – bar something serious happening. I had made peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to be quick about it and also that it was going to hurt, a lot.
10 minutes or so later and we’re off!
Those first few miles don’t feel real, it’s like it doesn’t sink in that you’re about to run a really, really long way until at least mile 5. Then you realise that you still have 21 to go – which, if you’re anything like me, will still be way longer than you’ve ever ran before – gulp.
Dan was out on the course along with my Mum and Dad who came down to London for the day and some of my awesome mates i.e the best cheer squad ever. I knew they were all going to be somewhere around mile 13 and it helped no end having that to focus on. I bumped into Dan and my friends first, stopped for a quick (sweaty) smooch (sorry Dan) and then continued on towards Tower Bridge at which point I found my parents on the other side. I’m not sure what came over me but as I leaned in for a hug I felt ridiculously overwhelmed and full of tears and emotion. I’m sure it wasn’t a particularly pretty picture! Ha! I think it was a combination of seeing my lovely folks and also knowing that the following 13.2 miles were going to be… shall we say, interesting?
I was right, from mile 13 it turned into a sheer slog. The route gets a bit grim and it stays that way pretty much until you’re back at the other side of Tower Bridge, mile 21. I got to mile 15 ok and then my hip flexors started their usual song and dance so I spent a lot of time stretching by the road side. I went to the toilet twice, partially just for a bit of a rest – yep, you will definitely sit on the seat mid marathon – I don’t care how much of a germaphobe you are, squatting is not an option! In this moment I decided to put my headphones in and give myself a stern talking to, all I had to do was get to mile 21 and not only would I see Dan again but I knew he would be holding a bottle of coke ready to save the day. The combination of music and mental pep talk meant that by mile 18 / 19 I had started to find my rhythm again. Going faster (relatively speaking, of course!) hurt less than going slower so I put my game face on and started bashing out the miles. Got to mile 21, grabbed that golden sugary elixir and off I went once more, feeling much better about the whole thing!
Only 5 miles to go, even I can manage 5 miles relatively easily, right body? 22, 23, 24 the mile markers ticked by until I bumped into the lovely AJ and we decided to run in together. Finish line in sight we even bashed out a little sprint!
The Finish Line
What a day! I crossed that line swearing that I would never do it again but less than an hour later I was recalling the sense of strength and purpose that I found around mile 18. I knew that despite the not-insubstantial pain, I felt strong towards the end – mentally if not physically. I could have carried on running way past that finish line, had I needed to. Throughout training I’ll admit that I doubted myself, both out loud and secretly in that nasty negative self-talk way, I genuinely doubted my ability to get the job done. As with most things, actually doing it reminded me that I’m stronger and more wilful than I know and that actually, those final few miles, are my favourite part. They make me feel alive and strong and like I can persevere through anything. Even writing this out I’m feeling excited to toe the start line again. So, my entry for the 2018 ballot is in and I’m in the process of finding a late season marathon to run, anyone fancy giving me a place in Berlin? (Hey, it’s worth a try!)
If you ran this year, how did you find it? I hope you’re still riding high from the glory and feeling like a badass!