You know that feeling, when as a little kid you just simply could not sleep in case you missed Father Christmas coming in your room and leaving presents for Christmas Morning? Well that was exactly how I felt on Saturday night, a nervous bundle of excited energy just about ready to burst at the seams. Despite heading upstairs for an early night, it was getting on for 11pm before I finally settled and stood any chance of getting some sleep. When I woke though, at what I assumed could be only moments before my alarm went off I sat in anticipation of that annoying iPhone chime. When it didn’t come after a few minutes I decided looking at the clock might be a good idea – hmmmm, 2:30am. Still a little too early. With three hours still to go I tried (and failed) to get a little more sleep.
Filled up with porridge, Mum, Dad and I got in the car and headed to Hastings to meet the bus laid on by their running club – Hastings Runners. Dropped off at Blackheath, we left Dad on the coach to go get his breakfast and commence his cheerleader duties. I was supposed to be seeing him again at approximately the 13 and 22 mile marks. Mum and I headed to the Blue start, the atmosphere was building nicely as we laid our ponchos on the dewy grass and sat ourselves down, the big screens showing people who didn’t necessarily seem to be ‘all there’, I guess as we were there to run a marathon the same could be said for any of us! Toilet queues weren’t so bad as I thought they may have been, and not long after the wheelchair start went off we headed to the bag vans to hand in our belongings, and headed to the start pen.
All the way back to pen 9 we strolled, as I saw the blue disks highlighting the 11min/mile pace group that runnersworld provided. These were the guys I was aiming to stick with for a 4:48 marathon time. As Mum and I ditched our fleeces over the fence what should I see infront of me, but a red ‘Slinn Allstars’ T-Shirt. Could it possibly be, with probably 10,000 other people in the Blue starting pens, that @MellieMelC had just strolled infront of me? Indeed it was possible! It was lovely to meet a fellow twitterer, and proof (if it was needed) that we are real people behind the avatars! Some nervous chatter ensued (well at least from my side it was) as the gun went off and we slowly eeked our way along the road towards the start line. In the end I crossed the line 12 minutes after the gun had gone ‘bang’, and I set off comfortably with the pacing group.
The first three miles were fairly uneventful in all honesty, crowd support was nice but not overwhelming, and the pace was pretty easy – I was concentrating on holding my heart rate as low and steady as I could. We were hitting the mile markers perfectly – almost bang on 11 minutes. At about the third mile, the first water station loomed into view and, caught up in the rush of it all, I ended up infront of the pace group a little. Still easing my way along at no great pace I felt comfortable without them. That was until the Red and Blue starts merged, and before I knew it – I was running with the 10 min/mile group from the Red start – this confused me a little, and I wasn’t able to work it out so I decided to stick with as it felt OK to do so. Big Mistake! As I started to lose them I became more than a little disheartened, and the sun was really starting to break through now.
At about 10 miles I was really starting to struggle mentally with the heat – as it baked down upon us there was no respite at all, very little shade on the course, and I was trying to talk myself into running just one more mile at a time. It was at about this point that my tussle with Mickey Mouse began. When I heard the shouts for Mickey Mouse, my head was fried – how was being beaten by an oversized cartoon character? Bizarrely, for the next 10 miles, we would constantly be overtaking each other. Just as I was about to give up, and slow down to a walk we rounded a corner, and there, right in front of me, resplendent in all its glory – was Tower Bridge. It rose magnificently above the crowd, and having read about the feelings of awe, and the support that comes from running across the bridge, there was no way I was stopping yet!
But on the other side? Well, that was a different story all together – crossing the bridge had taken it out of me and I slowed to a walk. At about this stage I was suffering from cramps (of a sort) in my stomach – I was being careful not to guzzle drink down and taking gels at intervals as practised in training, but my tummy wasn’t happy. In fact I was in a bit of a daze approaching the halfway mark and with my head down, didn’t even realise my Dad was at the side of the road until I hit his hand and heard him laugh. Spurring me on to raise my pace to a slow trot again I headed off towards the docklands.
Not far into the docklands area I was walking again, not aided by dodgey stomach pains – but the problem was my feet. I could feel a beast of a blister forming on the side of my left foot, but the real issue for me was the sensation that was in the process of losing (at least one) toenail on my right foot. The pain was worse than any toe pain I had suffered in training (and I spent at least one month in ill-fitting shoes). By now, the heat was on our backs, and in the cramped streets air was proving hard to come by. Each time I tried to up my pace again, I found my chest struggling to get any oxygen in, and I was coughing pretty hard – still hadn’t shaken off the cold which had kept me from work all of last week. When Mel passed me at probably mile 14(ish) it was nice to see a friendly face again as she whizzed past me, pausing to say hello. She spurred me on a little, but it wasn’t to last long! Slowing to a crawl again, I happened to see my Mum jogging past me on the other side of the street. I tried to catch up, assuming she hadn’t seem me, but as she disappeared into the distance I figured it was better that she didn’t know how much I was struggling.
And so began the story of the next 12 miles, hobbling along as best I could – with the wonderful crowd cheering me along all the time. The showers provided by the marathon were a God-Send on such a hot day, and I tried to keep myself hydrated with water and lucozade available from the tables, and tucked into my supply of jelly babies – although kids were handing sweets out along the route. I am pretty sure its OK when done that way round :-)
As I came past the Tower of London, at about the 23 mile mark I was really struggling, my mind was giving up on me, and body might as well have just gone home! But as the road drops round and down to the Embankment the crowd was immense, so many people lining both sides of the street, climbing high up the pavements, and stairways into buildings – and the noise – was like nothing I have heard before, just an immense wall of sound was hitting me from all angles, and despite all that – I could still hear, as I tried to pick up the pace, people calling out my name, spurring me on, telling me how well I was doing – and I’m not going to lie, I had to fight back a tear at that very moment – because it was then that it became clear to me when you hear people talk about the crowd keeping you going, well that was the moment I fully appreciated it!
Not long after that we were headed through a tunnel, with no crowd support at all, and a few bodies collapsing to the floor in heaps, I was flagging again. And from here on out I was walking to the finish – and I was going to finish, just thinking about the wonderful people who donated money to sponsor me on this effort ensured I was going to finish.
There was shade along the riverside, which was welcome, but with no breeze there was still very little air around and all around me were suffering. Despite counting the miles down, it was the turn on to birdcage walk that made me realise quite how close I was to the end as the signs began to count down the meters. At 800 to go, I was still in no mood to run – there was no way I felt I could make it all that way. At 600 I considered it, but knew I’d just crash out before the finish. With 400 meters left of the the race I picked my pace up to a jog. As we rounded the corner to see the Queens pad, I crossed under the barrier telling me I had just 385 yards to go, the crowd noise picked up and I could hear the commentator spurring people on. With the finish line in sight I started to pick up the pace, as I ran I was picking people off in the finishing straight, and I could hear people calling my name. To me I felt like I was sprinting the 100meters, to spectators it probably looked like I was ambling towards a bus, but it was incredible as I crossed the line.
To say I was overcome by emotion would be a lie, I was tired and disappointed at being an hour beyond my finishing target. Hell, I’d been beating myself up about it for the last 10 miles! I was proud as I bowed my head to be awarded my finishers medal, and stood grinning from ear-to-ear infront of the photographer to take my picture with it.
The collection of my kit and goody bag was simple enough, but two heavy bags and a long walk up the The Mall did not make for a happy bunny, and as the Police shut the large gates through Horse Guards Parade I was even less impressed! I nearly lost it completely when I couldn’t find the Farmers Club, where my charity after-party was happening. With very sore feet and legs, and my shoulders spasm-ing wildly out of control I was just about ready to sit on the floor and cry – until that is, I saw some friendly policemen on their push-bikes, and they pointed me round the corner.
Showered, and fed I waited in line for my massage – only to be told the guys were about to miss their train back to Birmingham and had to leave. So, body still aching I headed outside and met up with Mum and Dad, having phoned them from someone else’s mobile after mine died whilst tracking the run on endomondo. We walked to the bus pick up point at Blackfriars bridge, Mum and I discussing how disappointed we were with our times. It turns out that not long after passing me, Mum had had some troubles herself and struggled too – but still set a PB, and I am very proud of her!!
And when we got to Blackfriars? Well, the bus had left without us! Bloody marvellous! Still, it came back having not long left and we headed for home. Sat on the bus I desperately wanted to revel in the wonder and amazement that is the satisfaction of having completed the 26.2miles of a marathon – but I struggled and saw only the disappointment in having felt so horrendous, having beat myself up so badly on the route, and having not had a massage afterwards!
I was already planning the next one, because now I have something to beat – I have knowledge of the beast, and with better focus to my training I will be able to overcome it. And I simply cannot wait! :-)
I had some great, supportive messages from friends on twitter when I finally got my phone switched on, and I want to thank them all for that!! You guys have been a wonderful support network in the build up to the big event!
Yesterday I travelled back home from Bexhill, and my faith in human kind was restored. When I got to the station my train leaving St. Leonards (12:35) was rescheduled for 13:05, super start! But, there was another at 12:53 so I could get that one – until that merged with the 12:35 and became the 12:58! In order to make up for the time lost, south eastern decided to avoid a couple of stations, but sadly it still wasn’t enough – I got in to London Bridge at 14:18, my train from Kings Cross was at 14:30. According to my mornings research – the tube journey between those stations was 11 minutes. Somehow, I didn’t think it would happen – and, it didn’t.
When I finally arrived at Kings Cross, I hopped on the first train to Darlington – a mistake I was about to regret! As the train pulled out of the station the conductor welcomed us onto the bullet train, informing all passengers that they must have the correct ticket for their seat reservation and that no other tickets were allowed. So for the next hour I sat, stewing over how much this was going to cost me. I had bought the tickets with a newspaper offer for the bargain price of £11. When I checked on my phone the cost for a ticket on this train – I was quoted £137. Uh-Oh!
Finally the conductor made his way down the train, and as I nervously fumbled for my tickets and handed them over he was about to stamp them when he turned to me and said “you are meant to be on the the 2:30 train, this isn’t valid”
“ummm, but, errrr, the woman at the barriers said it would be OK” (she hadn’t, I hadn’t even mentioned it to her) “because, well, my first train was cancelled, the second was delayed, and…..” I paused, “and I’ve had to run across London this afternoon to get here with blisters on my feet.”
As I finished that sentence, and prepared for a fine the gentleman took one look at my T-Shirt, patted me on the shoulder and simply remarked “well done for finishing”, as he continued down the train! And there I was, left to sit in my seat next to the horrendously fat woman, basking in the glow of my 2011 Virgin London Marathon Finishers T-Shirt and the effort that had gone into receiving it! And the way it had just paid me back!!
Well done to everyone who completed the London Marathon! It was an amazing experience, and it wouldn’t have been the same without you!