The Holy Grail of Marathons; The Virgin London Marathon

Posted on: 02 May 2019

…….and what I now call my Heinz Marathon; well it was marathon #57 for me!  Henry Heinz thought 57 was a lucky number so he began using the slogan ‘57 Varieties’ in all his advertising, even though back then in 1896 Heinz were already manufacturing more than 57 products, with more than 5,700 today!   So #57 was lucky for Henry and it was also lucky for me!

Like most of the running population I was part of the commiserations contingent when it came to the VLM ballot results in October last year, a consistent annual reoccurrence!  As always there then follows various competitions to win a VLM place where the odds are really no different to that of the ballot, so I never gave it a second thought when I entered one on the Holiday Inn Facebook Page where I had to comment why I liked running and post a picture of myself.  So I was actually rendered speechless when at the end of November I received a message from Holiday Inn saying I had won!  I was still sceptical, I mean who wins Facebook competitions, and then at the beginning of December I received a link from Virgin London Marathon to complete my race entry information; it was true then I had actually won a place!    It was also the prize that kept on giving, not only had a won my marathon place but I also had Holiday Inn overnight accommodation the night before, breakfast, coach to the race start and a New Balance top with my name printed on it!  I have to say the Holiday Inn #restandrun package, which you can just book (it doesn’t include a marathon place though!), was absolutely brilliant and if I was lucky enough to run London again I would certainly consider booking it.

So fast forward 4 months and after successfully following a 3 run per week training plan (which I have blogged about previously) race weekend loomed.  Training had gone brilliantly, the only issue I had was that my last long runs had been a little earlier than I would have liked due to my little 2 week sojourn in Sri Lanka!  I knew I had done the training, certainly had the experience but I thought my stamina may start to wane in the last 8 miles or so; ‘The Proof of the Pudding is in the Racing’!

Come race day, and after a good nights’ sleep, I was successfully deposited by the coach in Greenwich.  There were a few of us on the coach who had won various competitions so we were all lucky enough to have been allocated the Green Start.  The Green Start only has about 2,000 competitors; a mixture of runners like us, some good for age runners and an eclectic mix of fancy dress runners hoping to achieve official Guinness World records; I think most of us have seen the video of Mr Big Ben trying to cross the finish line!

Each start has big video screens up showing all the various race starts as well as what’s happening in the other start areas; I had my few seconds of fame which was snapped by Nicola in the Blue Start and I still am unsure what I was finding hysterical or perhaps I was just hysterical!

Finally my time to start my race came and at 10:36:11 I crossed the start line; my London journey had begun!  My plan was to see if I could get to the halfway mark in around 2 hours and then see what happened!  Not much of a strategy I know but I really wasn’t sure what I was capable of, however I did know that a PB would be a miracle as was getting under 4 hours for that elusive good for age time!  So I just ran by feel and I felt good; I and was running steady, just taking in the atmosphere, loving the crowds, the fabulous bands and the superb signs; ‘pain is just French for bread’ was one of my favourites!   The first landmark of note is Cutty Sark and I loved it; one of my oldest memories of watching the London Marathon on TV is the footage of runners here and here I am!

After then Tower Bridge is the next landmark and it was as emotional as ever, running across always has been and still is a poignant part of the route for me and probably most runners; I was grinning like a Cheshire cat with a tear in my eye!  Over Tower Bridge and then a right turn with the next landmark being the Realbuzz cheer point on the other side of the road, I made sure I was as far over as possible and waved and shouted like a lunatic; what a boost it was to see all the Buzzers and their amazing support.  Now it was the countdown until I would see them again at 22½ miles.

I passed the halfway point in 02:01:27 so I’d achieved part one of my plan but I knew I’d definitely be slowing down in part 2 of the race, however in my mind the countdown to the finish line had started!  The crowd support was outstanding, London really does know how to put a party on and it was like the largest street party!  I passed Chris Evans and said hello and I think I probably passed and saw other celebrities but not being a fan of soap operas, reality TV or actually owning a TV put me at a slight disadvantage of actually recognising anyone!  At 18 miles I started to feel weary and took my first walking break and told myself that I could take my next one at 20 miles or the closest water station where I did briefly stop for water but then pushed on to the best cheer point in the world!  It’s not often you cheer when you see a speed camera, but I knew by this camera I’d find the Realbuzz cheer point and what a boost everyone was; thank you so much you were just what I needed!  Sweaty hugs all round and thank you Dave for refilling my water bottle where my hands had stopped working!  I may have stopped for around 3 minutes but to be honest without that boost I think the last push would have been more of a stagger and a crawl! 

Now revitalised it was the final push to The Mall.  The crowds were getting deeper, the noise was intensifying and the weariness of my fellow runners more apparent!  I kept on smiling and just focussed on one foot in front of the other, past The Houses of Parliament and finally the 800mtrs to go sign was in front of me; great I thought until I worked out this was in fact still another half a mile and my watch already said 26.6 miles!  600mtrs to go and then 400mtrs to go, I could sense Buckingham Palace ahead and that final turn into The Mall; the glory stretch!  Finally I turned into The Mall and it looked even more special than I remember; Union Jacks lined the stretch, the crowds cheered and the 3 finishing gantries beckoned me.  I originally headed for the middle gantry but even in my tired state I decided it looked a bit busy so my finishing photo might not be great so I veered off to the left and crossed the line, arms aloft in 4hrs 19mins 33secs and 27.16 miles after crossing the start line (I might have followed the racing blue line for the 1st half but it was impossible in the 2nd half; lots of swerving was involved!). 

I might have been in pain, needed to sit down but I loved it, every single minute of it!  The London Marathon delivered again.

Having gathered my thoughts, my bag and my sense of direction I set off to our rehydration meeting point.

I would have loved to have finished in a sub 4h 10m time but with the break in training and running nearly a mile further than I needed it was a huge ask, so  actually I am absolutely thrilled with my time.  It was in fact my 12th fastest marathon time!  Of course I’ve already submitted my application to be disappointed in October; my ballot entry is in!

A big thank you to everyone who sponsored me and raised much needed awareness for Fibromyalgia #BecomeFibroAware; to date I have raised £474.90 which has far exceeded my expectations.  My motto of 'I will rule my Fibromyalgia, it will not rule me stands true'; I am not beaten yet and I will carry on running marathons for as long as I can!

Without a doubt the Virgin London Marathon is still Britain's biggest street party! 

If you like stats here are my race day ones!

Finish details

Place (Gender) - 5852 out of 17,737 runners

Place (Category) - 525 out of 1,577 runners

Place (Overall) - 19835 out of 42,549 runners

Finish Time - 04:19:33



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