My final marathon (I think)

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Well, I did it.  I completed my second marathon (those are actually words I never thought I would say in my life. Ever)

It was a truly amazing experience.  New York was fantastic and I have to say that I thought the Americans would be better at the support and cheering.  But how wrong I was. London totally stepped up to the mark today and exceeded my wildest expectations.  The crowds were amazing the whole way round.

I travelled to Waterloo from Earlsfield with the lovely Sally – so nice not to have to be totally on my own.  Then we both went our separate ways to our different starts at Waterloo East.  Even the train staff were fantastic, wishing us luck over the tannoys.

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The Shard seen from Waterloo East station

Walking towards the starting area from Blackheath station

I arrived at the starting area with what seemed like ages of time to kill, but it soon went really quickly.

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Waiting at the start

Waiting in the pen

Waiting in the pen

I was not overjoyed to see the weather forecast this morning….

IMG_1768Great for the spectators, but my worst nightmare realised!  Having trained for four months in snow, ice and sub zero temperatures this is not what I needed.

Chatted to a couple of other girls lining up in the pen as we waited for the start.   We didn’t hear the 30 second silence that was held for Boston at the back but we talked about it! Everyone had their black ribbons on too.

And then before long we were off.  Running through areas of London that I don’t know but amazed by all the support even at the early stages of the race. There was so much to look at that the first six miles passed relatively uneventfully.  My Garmin started beeping at me at mile 4 because the memory was full!  I spent about half a mile trying to reset it whilst running and eventually had to switch it off and start again so my timing was all out from then on.  Then at mile 6 I had to make a loo stop which took about 5 minutes because of the long queue, but I’m glad I did it there because then I felt much better.

Shortly after I caught up with George who was leading the 4:45 pacing group I had been hoping to run with.  I said hi and ran with them for about a mile but found it really difficult as the course was crowded and it was hard running in a packed group at that pace.  So at Cutty Sark I went ahead. I had a great few miles, the highlights being seeing the Breast Cancer Campaign cheer point around mile 8 which was a huge lift, and  Tower Bridge around mile 12 where the crowds were so loud it was deafening.  Then it was the half way point.  I had no proper idea of my time, but subsequently found it was 2:20 – quite slow I know (but that did include my loo stop) and I was trying to take it easy because of the heat.

Then it was into Wapping and towards the Docklands.  I was really hot by Tower Bridge so entering the Limehouse tunnel was such a welcome relief and I took the opportunity to have a sneaky walk while I cooled off a bit.  It seems that this is the place to do this because loads of people were walking when they were out of sight of the spectators!

The next few miles were pretty hard as I felt so hot.  I saw my friend Jess and her daughter Emily finally – I wasn’t sure where they were going to be so had been looking out for them but it was still a total surprise when I suddenly saw them! I was so grateful to them for coming out to watch me as it makes such a difference. I’m not sure what mile they were at!  The course started to weave and wind through the streets at that point so it was very difficult to keep track of where I was.  The heat was really beginning to get to me and I felt really nauseous the whole time. I think I drank too much water but I felt thirsty the whole time and didn’t want to end up as one of the roadside casualties I saw being tended to by the St John’s Ambulance.  After seeing Jess I had a good few miles, then around mile 17 I had to walk again for a bit.

There were a few shower points along the way to cool down which was lovely.  And at fire stations the lovely fireman were hosing people down which was a lovely welcome relief!  I was amazed at the amount of people handing out jelly babies, sweets, bananas and pieces of orange.  I had one delicious juicy quarter of orange at about mile 21 which was exactly what I felt like.  I never ever want to see another energy gel or drink another lucozade in my life!

The crowds were amazing, shouting encouragement at you when you were walking so it was impossible to walk for long, but even a few minutes walking gave me the boost I needed.  From then on I managed to run about 2 miles, then walk for a few minutes.  I was longing to get back to Tower Hill where I knew it would feel like the home stretch.  When I rounded the corner there I had been walking a bit and then I saw mile 22 and knew that I could do it.  I started to run and felt so much better.  The crowds got noisier and noisier along the Embankment. My legs still felt great and I had no pain in my hip – the area that had been giving me so many problems during training.  But the nausea was still there but thankfully the weather had clouded over a bit by then so I wasn’t in the sun any more.

I had been trying to calculate my time but my maths was all over the place.  As I approached Big Ben the clock was striking 3 and as I had crossed the start line at 10.05 I knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere near my target time but equally I  knew I was going to finish and it felt amazing.

The last mile is the longest mile!  Past Parliament Square… And then you see the ‘800m to go’ sign.  My addled brain was trying to work out how far that was in miles! Running up Birdcage Walk was amazing as the crowds were just so loud but the finish line was still not in sight.

Then the feeling of turning into the Mall and finally seeing the finish there – FANTASTIC!

I crossed the finish line at 5:01 feeling so sick! But absolutely delighted that it was all over.

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Hideous photo!

London was amazing. The crowds were totally inspirational – the home made signs that make you laugh on the way round, the kids (and adults) high giving along the way (I even high-fived Colin Jackson on the Embankment!). The organisation was fantastic and everything went so smoothly.  The marshals at the finish, and the whole way round, were fantastic.  I was handed a medal, had my timing chip cut off my shoe, ushered to the area for the official photograph and then handed a (heavy) goody bag.  I didn’t even have to queue for my kit bag.  Once I had put on a few layers and sat down to recover for a bit I made my way to the Strand for the Breast Cancer Campaign post marathon party in a hotel which was nice. It was great to have people to talk to after the finish and the highlight was definitely the lovely leg massage!

Then a taxi back to Ruth and Tim’s for a lovely hot shower and some refreshments, a delicious dinner and bed!

What I had been craving for the last few miles!

What I had been craving for the last few miles!

Now I’ve ticked that box – something I’ve always wanted to do.  I have to admit to thinking on the way round “this is not that bad, I could do this again”…. (No, I won’t. Honest Gov).

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