As a build up to my report below I thought I would first give you race in numbers:
35,000 - runners entered
7,100 - money I've raised to date
6,038 - runners needing medical attention
640 - number of my muscles hurting at the end
78 - minutes it took me to complete the last 6 miles
20.5 - distance I hit "The Wall"
18.9 - temperature on day
3 - the number of clouds I counted before the race began
1 - times my name and the PCUK team were mentioned on TV
1 - times I fell
0.9 - toenails lost on day
0 - number of times I will run again
So much for the mild weather on Sunday! It was a blistering day without a cloud in the sky when I first arrived at Grenwich Park. This was going to be hot so I took onboard more than enough fluid to give myself the best start.
Everyone prepared themselves with the usual stretching/jogging/lubrication and general OCD behaviour by checking that you still had everything you had checked for 2 minutes ago just in case the fairies had come along and stolen them. Then we all moved in to the starting enclosure. Not long now and still no sign of any cloud cover. The gun went off and 10 minutes later I crossed the line and started on the 26.2 miles between me and The Mall. Everything was feeling pretty good.
Half a mile in my race took a change for the worse. As with so many others who took on extra water a comfort break was needed not long after the gun went off. I dashed towards the ditch, stopped too quickly and the long wet grass (dew I hope) took both feet from under me and I crashed on my coccyx and tumbled into the ditch. I felt the jar - not good. I stretched out as best I could before starting off again. This could hurt later I thought.
The first few miles are all about survival as I tried to find space for my feet and avoid any discarded clothing or dropped items. I saw one girl stop to pick up her water bottle only to take out the girl behind who had no chance of stopping - at least my tumble was on grass and I didn't have 15,000 people steaming up behind.
I would be seeing Laura and the girls, my brother and mum & dad around 11/12 miles in Bermondsey so there wasn't much to think about for a while and I soaked in the atmosphere and counted the number of Rhinos (four) as I passed them – hoping they wouldn’t be catching me later on.
There was no Cutty Sark just a load of boarding and several narrow bottlenecks when everybody started falling over each other again. Best avoided I thought and took the cautious route.
As I approached the family I could feel my hip and lower back with each stride and whilst not too painful it was certainly not helping my running. I spent a minute or so with family and took the kisses and cuddles with me as I made for Tower Bridge. There are a few standout moments and this was one of them. It is a great feeling to cross Tower Bridge and know that the South London leg is over. Not long after I passed the half way mark and received a boost from the PCUK team at 14 miles. I ran the first half in 2hrs 10mins, slightly slower than normal.
The next section was all about grunt and effort – if there is a dull and tedious section of the marathon then heading out of Canary Wharf to the tip of the Isle of Dogs and back again is it. These are the miles that time forgot and a number of people hit the wall. I was feeling it in my legs at this point but pushed through as best I could, my pace slowed. By mile 19 I was in pain and just after 20 miles my legs were feeling like concrete blocks and my hip and back felt punished at every step – I hit “the wall”. I had to make the decision of walking briefly and sorting myself out or risk not finishing at all. Walking, even half a mile, would mean missing my target time but this was no time for pride. With the sun baking down I took on another bottle of water and started a half mile of walking and stretching. This helped clear the legs down and got me going again.
From then on I was able to run/shuffle a little easier. The pain had reduced or perhaps I just didn’t notice it any more and I was pretty much zoned out. Between 21 and 23/24 miles I had no idea how far along I had gone. What I did know was that Laura and the others were waiting for me past Big Ben. I could just see Big Ben round the corner of the river and it looked a long way away.
“One foot after the other. That is the only way to go now” I thought.
I hazily remember the likes of London Eye gleaming in the corner of my eye but by now I was fixed on the road and continuous roar of the crowd. I had long since ditched the last of my energy gel as it was triggering my gag reflex rather than getting me going. Jelly Babies became my energy fix and I have to thank all those on the Embankment for fuelling my new addiction.
Big Ben, yes, Big Ben! There’s the turn. I held back the wave of emotion that had been driving me on for the last mile and new that somewhere up ahead was everything and everyone I was running for.
But where exactly were they? I had received a call to say they were along the straight by the balloons. How far along and the colour of the balloons had been lost in my haze and I started to look from side to side just like a tennis fan following the flight of the ball. 3/4 of the way up there they were. More kisses and cuddles (my 2 year old Amelia was not impressed with ‘wet daddy’ at this stage, Isobel wanted big hugs) and I pushed on. I must have only 1,000 meters to go. Birdcage walk gave me a lift but not to my running pace and once we turned the corner to the Mall the finish line beckoned. I completely missed my brother and father & mother with 200 meters to go but I could only see the finish line now.
80 meters to go and I think the announcer picked up on my pain as he called out for me to keep going. In my mind I ran faster, in reality I was still shuffling along the best I could but I knew I had done it and everything that hurt over the last 26 miles left my mind as I crossed the line and thanked the Lord that I would never have to do that again. Ever.
My unofficial time was 4.48 – 18 mins over my target but on such a hot day I was just happy to make it round.
Photos to follow.
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