I have waited a few days before I got to writing this blog as needed to let everything sink in. Better get yourself a cuppa as might be a long one!
This was my 2nd London Marathon and what another great day it was! Not all of it was easy (as you will read later) but I did it!
The marathon weekend started off with a trip up to the Expo on the Friday. I went on my own to pick up both mine & Mr Bs running packs. One, because we thought it best to still rest his calf as he’d had problems with it earlier in the week and two, saves on train fare!!
I arrived at the Expo around 11ish and although it was starting to get busy it only took about 10 minutes to get both packs & running chips before heading into the main halls of the Expo.
Vin had sent me his mobile number as he was also attending the Expo this day & said it would be great to meet up as we planned to be there around the same time. I sent him a quick text and he was just getting his running pack and then heading into the hall so took the opportunity to have a quick look around the clothes stalls, resulting in new jacket and top (not cheap!!). I got a text back saying he was over by the T-Shirt printing stand so found my way there. We last met up at the VLM 2014 so it was lovely to see his familiar face again and have a chat about Sunday and how we both felt. We had a walk around the stalls & took advantage of some of the photo opportunities on offer. As we both wanted to get back home quite early we didn’t hang around too long, which I was grateful for as I would have spent a small fortune on more clothes!! I said that if I managed to sneak into the blue start on Sunday with Mr B I would drop him a text so we could meet up before the start, it was then a hug goodbye and both went our separate ways home.
Friday night I laid out everything I would need for the weekend, checked it, checked it again and then checked it a hundred more times!!
We aimed to head up to London around midday on the Saturday so was nice to have a lazy morning packing & prepping. The new Bicester Village train station has recently opened just 5 mins walk away from where we live so set off with nervous excitement of the weekend ahead.
When we got to the counter to buy our tickets the lady asked us if we were running the marathon (I like to think it was because we looked like fit, honed young athletes rather than knackered looking old folk who had been training for 6 months!!) and if we were we were entitled to free train travel for the weekend. Result!!
As we were about to board the train we saw some friends also heading up so sat with them & of course it was mostly marathon talk. The husband John was also running and being supported by his wife Angela, he is almost 60 and a very experienced runner and gets in GFA, his finish time was 3:02 so a fantastic result for him and only one I could ever do in my dreams!!
We parted ways at Marylebone and we headed over to our accommodation. We had booked the Holiday Inn @ Regents Park for the weekend. It was the same package we had last time, with pasta dinner, runner’s breakfast and coach to the start line so hassle free!!
Once booked in we had a little wander up the road to look for the pub some friends had booked for the Sunday night, we were quite relieved to find it was only about 4 mins walk away!! I’m sure we would manage that!
The rest of the afternoon was just spent lazing around in the room watching TV/reading sorting running gear & bags out to take the next day until it was time to go down to dinner. More pasta, not the best I have ever tasted but it done the job. But the fruit cake & brownies were rather scrummy so topped up on those.
Back in the room more lazing was undertaken whilst watching rubbish TV, it was also lovely to receive lots of messages and texts (HD, Jim, Jenny to name a few & apologies if I have forgotten anyone) wishing us luck for the next day. These are always good to receive so thank you. Hollywood, your message on the Saturday evening made me blubber like a baby, but beautiful words.
By 10pm we decided to try and get some sleep and although the next morning I felt like I had slept well Mr B said that I was very restless – Oooops!!
Breakfast consisted of the usual porridge & toast and then final kit checks before heading off for the coach. In 2014 it was a bright sunny morning with the promise of lots of sunshine ahead but this morning it was drizzle, cold and damp so 50 odd runners climbed aboard dressed in plenty of layers nervously looking out the windows at the rain.
We arrived at Blackheath just before 8am and it was already buzzing (no pun intended) with hundreds of runners & supporters. As me & Mr B had managed to get into the blue start together in 2014 with the help of some kind steward we wandered off to the blue start to see what the chances of me getting in with him this year were but the security staff not as helpful this time so didn’t push it, and although it was disappointing as would have loved to have started together again we already had a meet up plan so didn’t stress about it. We wandered about for about another half an hour but then it was hugs and kisses and I headed back off to the red start and him to the blue. I forgot to give him Vins mobile number & tried to send it him but everything hanging on my phone as guess thousands using the networks!! To be honest it was pretty boring wandering around in the cold on my own, everyone was either in their own little world or small groups of people chattering together so glad the time passed rather quickly. I dropped my bag off at the truck about 9:20 and then went and stood in the mile long loo queue, I didn’t need to go at this time but knew I would need to by the time I got to the front! It was also nice as everyone waiting in the queue were chatty so the wait wasn't too tedious.
By the time loo visit was completed it was 09:50 so set off for pen 9, by now the excitement had really started to build up and it certainly was a fabulous atmosphere with everyone chattering to all the people around them, the normal “is this your first one”, “good luck” and “gawd it’s bloody freezing” & “wave at the camera as you go over the start”. It was also fun to see all the runners in their fancy dress…..the Wombles, The Minions, the bloke in the big ear!! I did feel a little bit sad as it was the first time I’d started an event without Mr B beside me, but knew it wouldn't be for long.
As I was right at the back it took about 28 minutes to get to the start line, one lady near me was quite upset to see hardly anyone behind us, but I said I wouldn’t worry about it, you will soon start to overtake people & I actually prefer that as its less congested! It was also very moving to see pictures on the backs of other runners & why they are taking on this huge challenge for various charities. It was especially hard to see the pictures of young children & teenagers, just so sad.
I set off at a steady pace and straight away into the 5min run/1 min walk strategy that me & Mr B had planned. I thought I would look like a right saddo walking so early on but there seemed to be a few doing the same so didn’t feel so bad!
The first 3 miles went quite quickly & I was feeling good. As it was still a bit chilly I had kept an old fleece on but discarded it on the side of the road after about 2 miles and just prayed it didn’t rain! Me & Mr B had planned to meet up where the different starts merged which we thought was about mile 4 but just around mile 3 I saw him standing on the island in the road, he hadn’t seen me so shouted & waved furiously and then he was running alongside me, it was nice to have my running buddy back.
From the offset the crowds were yet again brilliant, cheering, music, shouting your name as you approached, encouraging you on.
We were soon ticking off the miles and then running around the Cutty Sark, the sun had decided to peep out from the clouds by this time so it was a beautiful sight yet again in the sun, another bonus about being at the back & less runners is you can really appreciate the sights better without barging into others.
Again more miles ticked off, I tried to take everything in as I ran along but sadly it doesn’t all sink in. I do recall passing by a band playing the bagpipes, as my Mum was Scottish this music was always very special to our family and she loved it, so listening to this as we ran by the tears started to fall thinking of her. A very poignant moment, the first of many that day!
I knew that Kathy was due to be around mile 12 so it was fab as we turned the corner to see the wonderful sight of Tower Bridge ahead that we saw the equally wonderful sight of Kathy in her orange top & wig cheering us along. We stopped for hugs, photo opportunities and then more hugs before we set off again. I know I recall last time Tower Bridge being noisy but boy it sounded 100 times noisier this time and it was awesome. What a moment!!
We continued on, more cheering, more music, just brilliant!! We were then heading down The Highway (I think that’s the road) when we heard shouting from the other side, we looked over and it was Jim, Hobs & Vicki cheering and waving so what a boost it was to see them as well although I then realised we had another 8 miles to go before we’d see them again! Then onto mile 14 and down into narrow street were we saw Angela (who we travelled up with) & more friends from my hometown, so yet again more hugs and off we went again. I knew all my fellow buzzers would be tracking us round and messages flying back and forth and couldn’t wait to read the thread that I knew would be there on FB - these moments really do help to get you round.
Yet more miles ticked off but we got to about mile 17 when I started to feel bloody awful, my right quad really started to hurt and I just felt like my legs had nothing left. I took another gel but it just made me feel sick. How we got through the next few miles I don’t know, it was a case of running, walking and shuffling along. I think the only thing that got me round Canary Wharf was the crowd as they were just amazing and the noise was incredible. More miles and we were finally heading back up The Highway where we knew Jim, Hobs & Vicki were. By then I was just shuffling/walking along feeling so grotty but thankful as knew we only had 4 miles or so to go! Tony thought he saw Hobs just up ahead but I said it can’t be as I remember they were further up, but then we spotted a woolly hatted supporter running by us and sure enough it was hobs cheering us along (a bloody brilliant sight) up to Jim & Vicki who had by then been joined by Kathy. And boy by then did I need those buzzer hugs, for you guys to stand there in that cold weather for as long as you did to see us all go by will remain with me forever so I thank you from the bottom of my heart, true buzzer spirit and support and I hope to return that favour one day. A few photos taken here (tried to upload but doesn't seem to work for me?) And with final hugs and a wave from the buzzers we set off again.
I think it was Vicki who said when I posted a photo taken there that I didn’t look like I’d just ran 22.5 miles but bloody hell I felt it, I just wanted to cry as felt so rough. Every part of my body was aching and I was getting worried as my left arm was starting to feel really heavy and my hand was swelling up, maybe I should have stopped to get it checked out but I thought I’d never get going again, which in hindsight was rather stupid after what happened to the poor chap David who sadly lost his life that day due to a heart attack (he will get mentioned again later).
We got to around mile 24 and I was finding it all so darned hard, it was a combination of run when I could, shuffle along when I couldn’t. My head was down and although I could hear the wonderful, fabulous crowd cheering us on I was in my own demon filled world just trying to get the job finished & just gave them a thumbs up without even looking at them so apologies to all you supporters. Tony was still by my side keeping me going and every now and again would ask if I was OK to which my reply was just ‘yep’ - I didn’t have the strength for much else.
I can’t remember what point further along we heard our names being called again but I looked up and it was my wonderful friend Mandie & her daughter Lucy (my god daughter) who also came to support us in 2014 and that was another much needed boost and I just fell into their arms and started crying as it was so lovely to see them. They kept saying it’s only another mile or so and to keep going, so keep going we did.
I don’t think I have ever felt so relieved when I saw the mile 25 mark and knew it wasn’t much further to go, I was still in a dark place emotionally and still hurt everywhere but I knew all you guys would be willing us on, pinging messages via FB and it was that thought that got me through as I could hear you all in my mind shouting me to that finish line. And of course the reason why I was putting myself through all this was also in the forefront of my mind, my dad, stepdad, Rory and my Mum, I was taking strength that they were all watching over me willing me home. It was such an emotional moment but think I was even too tired to cry at this time!
We then hit mile 26 and I saw the 800 meter mark (it is meters or yards – why can I not remember that!), then it was 600, then 400 & then the 385 sign to the finish. Finally the finish line was a few meters ahead of me so left index finger raised for the One in a Million photo and across the line I went. A hard difficult 26.2 miles but I got the job done. I said in my previous blog that I had a finish time in mind and that was to try and get under 6 hours, sadly I didn’t make that but still finished 3 minutes earlier than London 2014 (and around 30 minutes quicker than Brighton) so a new PB for me, not by much but still a PB!!!!
I don’t think you can ever beat that moment when that medal is hung around your neck; it makes all the hard training and the pain on the day so worthwhile. A few pictures taken by both official photographers and on our own phones (although not allowed to stand in front of the Marathon Finisher sign when taking our own photos – bah humbug!!) and then off to the bag collection. Thankfully this was really quick as I was starting to get cold so at least I could put my warm clothes back on. Tony had to go to the right side to get his bag & mine was to the left so I had a few minutes to myself shuffling down to the end where we said we would meet back up as nearer the way out.
I sat down to pull my tracky bottoms back on and then everything just overwhelmed me and I just sat there sobbing, I sobbed for my Dad, my Stepdad, my Mum, Rory and even our little doggie Megan who we also lost in December. A whole year of tears just came pouring out and I just couldn’t stop them. I knew they would come sometime and guessed that today would be the day.
Thankfully people are used to seeing others cry at these events so I didn’t look too out of place sitting there blubbering away, and I actually manage to raise a little giggle when I tried to stand back up but it hurt so much I had to sort of roll over on the ground and get up that way. Tony found me a few minutes later and we started to head off to the British Heart Foundation after reception but Mandie & Lucy were just round the corner waiting for us & to be honest I was just so drained & cold I just wanted to go back to the hotel have a hot cup of tea, shower and change to go out & eat. We decided on getting a taxi back as I couldn’t face the underground, sadly lots of others seemed to have the same idea and empty ones few & far between and although I could hardly move I was like Mo Farrah when I saw a taxi with a light on & made a dash for it, no other bugger was getting that one!! I would have literally wrestled for it. Thankfully once back at the hotel my arm started to feel better and my Hagrid hand started to do back down, I'm not sure what caused that so if anyone has any diagnosis please let me know, also should I get it checked by a doctor??
As I mentioned earlier Lucy had booked a table just along from the hotel so that was a welcome very short walk. They said that after we saw them the first time that they moved onto the Mall to see us home but I was so focused I didn’t hear them screaming at us. I must have been waving at the queen as knew she was looking out for me! The meal wasn’t the best I had ever eaten but I was so hungry I would have eaten scraps off the floor. A few celebratory drinks of Prosecco and by then me & Mr B were starting to flag so headed back to the hotel about half 9.
So then it was time for reflection of the day. Yes it was a hard difficult run, in fact I think it was the most difficult one (even Brighton) & during some of it I was wondering what the hell I was doing there when the demons hit but no way was I ever going to stop & give up, even if I had to crawl across that finish line, I was there for my lost loved ones and I wanted to do them proud. So I may have been beaten both physically and emotionally when I crossed that line I certainly wasn’t down! And although I went through all that pain & discomfort it was again one of the most amazing days of my life & will remember it with good memories rather than painful ones.
To all my fellow buzzers, once again thank you for all your support throughout the last year & on the day, knowing you were all there in the crowd or at the computer willing us along it helped me so much to achieve that goal of being a triple time marathon runner.
I’m sorry this blog is so long and sure many of you have fallen asleep by now but wanted to get it all down in words so thank you for your reading patience.
My final word is for David Seath who sadly lost his life on Sunday, such an awful tragedy to happen to someone who is trying to do good for others. I went straight to his Just giving page to donate when I read this in the news and reading his last post on the day before was just so very sad. He was chuffed to bits to have passed his £200 target, I just hope he knows how much his heroism has raised for Help for Heros now. Just dreadful for his family & friends to come to terms with but they must be so very proud of him. May he RIP.
p.s. I tried to add some pictures but doesnt seem to be working!!
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