Having balloted the London marathon for years and years (lost count now) and not got in, I decided to start entering every competition under the sun. How surprised was I when a couple of months before VLM I got a message to ask if I would still be interested in a place? I was already running Brighton but I jumped at the chance. How could I say no to this once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a dream since before I could even run a mile to run London. Isn’t it everyone’s dream?
I was really excited but it wasn’t long before the nerves really stated to kick in. It was like preparing for your wedding day or some big exams or your driving test. I was petrified. The closer it got the more nervous I felt. I could barely eat the week before when I was supposed to be carb loading.
When I got to the Expo I bumped into a man who was obviously as lost as me in this ginormous building. Hey you look like a runner he said. I’ve no idea where I’m going though. So we bumbled along together to find our running numbers. Him excited, me nervous. Chatting about what we thought it might be like. When I saw where we’d pick our numbers up my stomach fell through the floor. I’ve got to run 26.2 miles tomorrow I thought. The fact I’d already done it the previous year and broken myself made this reality seem even worse. I wished my fellow runner friend good luck and we parted ways.
I was given my bag and number and entered ‘the Den’ of other runners. Some grinning, some green and some just completely lost. The Expo is like some weird running bazaar. Every nook and cranny a cornucopia of goodies to seduce you into buying something.
I headed straight for the KT Tape stand. Buy some tape and get anything strapped for free. Anything? Well I got my knee done, just in case it gave me any grief. 26 miles is a long way. I headed over to the Aftershokz stand as just a couple of days before my headphones had split. The guys there just swapped them for a new pair. Amazing customer service. I picked up my goody bag and looked around, well the best I could in the masses of people. Saturday at the expo is busy. As I was looking Natalie and her family arrived and I headed over to meet them, shortly followed by Emma. They were also running the marathon and we certainly utilised the photos opportunities at the expo J
I headed back to my friends house at Bricket Wood who looked after me for the whole weekend. She cooked for me and made sure I was well looked after. I laid my marathon stuff out for the morning and tried to have an early night. I am not sure I actually slept at all.
In the morning we drove to Euston and parked up. We took a tube to London Bridge and I said goodbye to Paula. She’d let me know where to look out for her and I shuffled off with thousands of others onto a platform. I had to wait for a couple of trains but finally fitted onto one and got to Greenwich with plenty of time to spare. I wandered up a big hill with thousands and thousands of more people. It was surreal. Were this many people really running? I dropped my bag off at the baggage buses which worked like clockwork.
The obligatory queue for the loo ensues where I met a lovely girl. It was her first marathon and I think she was as nervous as me. She made me feel slightly less nervous. I discovered Natalie and Emma weren’t far away so went to say hello before moving onto the starting area. There I met some other lovely ladies. We chatted about charities, why we run, weeing yourself whilst running and other equally funny things for about 45 minutes until the start zone started to move. We wished each other good luck and edged very slowly to start. There was just not telling when the start was coming up as there was no line of sight as there were so many people.
Suddenly I was running over the start I still couldn’t get my music to start, then I couldn’t fit it in my flipbelt, then a gel flew out of my flipbelt. Arghhh. This was a nightmare. ½ mile in and I finally managed to settle in to some sort of a rhythm and started to smile at the ‘go Helen’ and ‘Come on Helen, you can do it’.
I felt really good for the first 6 miles. I helped a girl struggling who had got caught up in her headphones, I held her water bottle for her whilst she sorted herself out. She thanked me then I ran on.
Around mile 6-7 was the biggest shout of ‘Come on Helen’. There was a stretch where I could hear nothing else for around a whole mile. All I could hear was my name. Person after person, encouraging, shouting, clapping. I had goosebumps and I was close to tears. It was awe-inspiring. The crowds in London are just phenomenal. I can’t imagine the support being that great anywhere else.
After mile 7 I felt my thighs ache already. I realised that this was going to be tough. I was really looking forward to the momentous moment of running over tower bridge and it didn’t disappoint. It felt amazing and I bottled every moment of it. I breathed every ounce of it. What an amazing feeling.
But by mile 13 I was exhausted and already mentally drained. I was looking forward to seeing some familiar faces. UKRunChat had said they would be just after the bridge and I desperately looked out for them but there were thousands of people. Rows and rows and rows deep. It became clear to me that I wouldn’t find them. My mental demons were beating me down and I was getting slower and I knew it. I kept on and in my head I fighting a losing a battle. Just one more mile I was telling myself. I saw the welcome face of my friend Paula at around mile 19 and this gave me a boost to carry on just a bit further. Her smiley face jumping up and down. So proud.
By the time I had done the loop back around onto this straight I was done, I knew I had to walk. My knees, my thighs, my ankles were hurting. But more than that I think my head had gone. I knew I could’ve beat my PB had I carried on running but I was so exhausted I just didn’t have anything left. So I walked for a mile. I saw my friend Tim on the St John’s Ambulance and Pip from UKRunChat. I shouted to them my knee had gone. Shortly after I met a girl who was also walking and we teamed up together. After a rest I kicked myself up the backwards and thought what are you doing? I persuaded my new running buddy Becs to run walk with me. So that’s what we did. I saw Paula again at about mile 22 with another friend of mine Mark. Becs left me at mile 24 and decided to run the whole way back. I didn’t have the energy so I ran back from mile 25. The amount of voices shouting at me to run kept me motivated, it kept me going right until the end.
The sheer exhilaration of finishing a marathon just cannot be expressed in words. Disappointed in my performance and my time, yes. But marathons are hard. London is hard it’s busy and it’s very hard to pass people. I went out too hard and tried to pass too many people and didn’t have enough energy left. I finished in an ok 4:34:35 and I made it onto the telly J
A great goody bag and a fab t-shirt (although even the size small was too big for me) and my most favourite medal to date. Although the most expensive post race photo costs ever. Initlally £85 and then a drop to £65 for download only. I have finally managed to get them in August for £59.95 minus a 33% discount offer, so hold on if you want those photos.