It’s over, I’ve done it!
It’s mid Monday morning, and this time 24 hours ago I was lining up to start the London Marathon. And what a day it was! So much happened so quickly yet slowly at the same time. Lots of you kind people have been asking how it was and want to know all about it, so I thought I’d attempt to write about what I can remember of the day from a runner’s perspective…
A day in the life of a London Marathon runner:
5.20am – First alarm goes off. Oh goodness, it’s today. I don’t know what to do with myself. Quick twitter/FB post with the link for people to track me round the course. Right, no more phone use, I need to save the battery for RunKeeper.
5.30am – Second alarm goes of. Time to get up. Head downstairs to the lounge where all my kit is laid out ready from the night before. There is a ridiculous amount of stuff – a lot of ‘just in case’ things. I grab my clothes I’m wearing for the race and go and get changed.
5.50am – Breakfast no 1 – Alpen. Milk isn’t the easiest thing to transport so I save the dry breakfast for later.
6.10am – Final check I have everything. There’s probably something I’ve forgotten, but I’m sure I’ll manage. I have my Primark matching tracksuit on from when I was 14, ready to leave at the start just before we get going. I never want to see it again.
6.15am – Mum gives me a lift over to Sutton to get the train. Ashtead can’t manage trains early enough on marathon day. It’s pretty warm out already. Flip, forgot sun cream.
6.45am – Arrive at the station, and get my ticket. I have all the train times written out but they don’t seem to be showing on the screens. Bewildered, I stand looking aimlessly trying to figure out what to do, when I hear ‘are you going to the marathon? Come with us’ and I’m thankfully whisked away by three girls who are clearly much more organised than me.
6.55am – Sitting on the train with my new running friend Kate and her two friends, we chat away about how we ended in this mad situation. She had applied five times before finally getting a place this year. She’s aiming for 4.5-5 hours, so I’ll let her get on with that by herself! Turns out we are both in pen 9 at blue start. Amazing.
7.30am – Still on the train. We decide that if Mo Farah happens to not make it to the end and we pass him, we have to take a selfie.
7.45am – Working out what we need to do at the start. I declare that when we’re there I basically need to ‘sort my life out’ and empty the contents of my bag out.
8.02am – Change of trains and we are joined by hundreds of other runners. It’s a total mix of people; ages, backgrounds, reasons for running. I love it.
8.25am – We get off the train at Blackheath and are immediately greeted by marshals directing us to the start area. I’m impressed at how well organised it all is.
8.32am – We head over the hill and are met by clear blue skies and excited crowds of people. I suddenly have a brief moment of panic as I wonder what on earth I’m doing.
8.35am – Time for obligatory selfies with Kate and friends before we leave them and enter the start area. Point of no return.
8.40am – Wandering round the start area, we head for the toilets. We head in to the ‘female urinals’ and make a quick turn around – not happening. Speedy exit, and we manage to find the port-a-loos. Much better. We make the most of very short queues.
8.50am – We spy out a patch of grass to sit down on, and promptly make ourselves at home. The large screen to our right shows people sitting around, chatting, flicking between crazy costumes. The guy on the PA chats away. Then a pre-recorded message from Mo Farah for all the runners is played. And I quote, ‘Good luck today. Go big or go home’. Thanks Mo.
9.00am – Breakfast no 2 – honey granola bars. A bit dry to eat so I have water with it. Except not too much water or I’ll need the loo half way round, and I don’t want that.
9.15am – Time to sort my life out. Things I didn’t realise I’d packed came flying out as I started loading up my pocket, getting my phone arm case on, packing in energy gels, and sorting out my head phones. Kate has suncream, what a star. Tutu is on. And it certainly isn’t coming off easily, it’s what I call, ‘snug’. No, tight.
9.20.am – Calls for getting our massive red official kit bags to the baggage lorries are repeated over the PA. Should probs get our stuff handed in or they’ll go without it. Again, epic organisation is in swing as bags are put in sections according to runner number.
9.25am – Texts have been flying in all morning. Am so grateful for all the support, but trying not to use my phone. Sorry for not replying everyone!
9.30am – Toilet time again. Queues are now 30ish people long, but moving quickly with an abundance of port-a-loo’s available.
9.45am – Eeeeeek. Heading over to pen 9 (sounds like herding sheep, which it pretty much is). Once we’re in, we’re in.
9.50am – Brief chats with other runners. So many charities represented. Chuckling at some of the mad costumes. I have a golden apple behind me, Scooby Do to the side. Time to put Deep Heat on my knee, hoping it holds out for a while.
10.00am – Go! Well, for the elite men at the start, anyway. We don’t even hear it. Everyone just knows that the race has started and it’ll be us going through soon.
10.04am – We start moving forward. This is it. People are dashing from the start line to the toilets and back. Clothes are flying everywhere as people throw off their top layer that was keeping them warm. It’s tricky trying to dodge round mountains of hoodies and trackies.
10.16am – I cross the start line. Except for I don’t actually know what time it is I start as I fail to look up. I’m frantically trying to get RunKeeper to start so I can record this. But it doesn’t work, I get frustrated and give up. Time to resort to music. Playlist goes on shuffle. Mumford and Sons kicks in, and I feel better already.
10.20am – Settling in, and smiling at the lovely people who are standing outside their houses cheering. Toilet stop on the left already, and there are queues. I just hope I don’t need the loo later on. I run through my first legal red light of the day.
10.28am – Mile 1 marker. Hang on, how long did that mile take? I have no idea. Then I realise I have no clue what pace I’m doing. I’m so used to RunKeeper telling me constantly and adjusting to what I want to be at, that I have no idea how fast I am going. But then I have to decide if I’m going to go as fast as I can until my knee gives up, or to slow down and try and get round with more running, but slower. I opt for number two.
Mile 2 – We’re joining up with the red start group now, and everyone is together. The crowds start to get bigger.
Mile 3 – Someone at the start said ‘I know it seems harsh, but don’t high-five every kid you see. You’ll go insane.’ I’m so thankful for this advice. It means I can stay focussed. And if I don’t high-five anyone then it’s fair. Sounds mean as a children’s worker, but sorry kids; any other day, but not today.
Mile 6 – 1 hour 4 mins I think. Is that quicker than my usual 6 miles? I have no idea, I can’t work it out. There’s the Cutty Sark. Love running round this bit, the crowds are mad.
Mile 9 – First time seeing supporters. Mum and Dad are there on the corner by the traffic lights. Time for paracetamol for knee pain. I’ve never taken it so quickly.
Mile 10 – This is a long mile. Really long. Random people shouting my name makes me smile, keeps me going. Right from the start I’ve had music playing, but even with head phones in I can hear them.
Mile 12 – Come on. Almost half way. Here’s Tower Bridge.
Mile 13.1 – HALF WAY! Right, I can do this. Oh no, that’s the 22 mile marker on the other side of the road, and there are lots of people going very fast in that direction. Focus, I’ve got a while yet.
Mile 14 – Left knee (the one giving me grief the last few weeks) is finally giving in. Decision made – if I’m going to get round to the finish, I need to walk. It’s heartbreaking – I was so determined to run the whole thing. That was until my knee issue. I’ve run 18 miles without stopping, why do I need to stop at 14? Frustration. First few steps of walking are strange but a bit of a relief as well. I’m not going for time, I’m going for finishing now.
Mile 15 – Pretty bad. Hard work, I swear these miles are longer than the previous ones. The sun is pretty strong, and the heat is getting to lots of the runners. I try and stay on the side of the road with shade as much as possible.
Mile 16 – Mum and Dad keep ringing, they’re around here somewhere, but I think I’ve missed them. Annoying, but it made me keep running – you don’t want to get to supporters when you’re walking.
Mile 17 – Joe just rang, interrupting Ant and Dec singing ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ to me. I’ll forgive him.
Mile 18 – Mum and Dad are here again, I don’t see them but they shout at me. I’m walking (cardinal sin when seeing supporters). My feet are killing. Re-tie shoe laces tighter, so much better. Why didn’t I do that before? Why didn’t I check them at the start? Dad is pouring water over me. ‘Mind my phone!’ I cry. Time to re Deep Heat the knee in an attempt to make it through. A bit further on and Jill, Reb and Nessa are just on the corner in front of the steel drum band. Woohoo! Massive ‘GO MIM’ sign hanging over the barriers. It’s amazing what seeing supporters does for you. Quick selfie and time to go. Lyd, Mike, Sus and Joe are just further up. I spy them and run over. Another compulsory selfie and I’m off.
Mile 19 – Ahhhh there they are. Sam is up on a plinth with the camera and I can see him waving. Mel, Lizzie, Hannah, Oli, Sarah and Joe are all at the barriers, so excited. Sam gets a pic of us all, big hugs all round, lots of cheering. Hopefully see them a bit later. Text from Toby saying I’d just run past him. Oh no, rubbish. Will try again later.
Mile 20 – Come on. Only a 10km to go. I’ve done this so many times before. A guy on a PA says, ‘they’ve run 20 miles, they all look exhausted, come on crowd, let’s cheer’. Yep, we are.
Mile 21 – This is where I saw everyone running in the other direction earlier. Now it’s my turn.
Mile 22 – Toby is right by the 22 marker. No missing this time! So good to see someone I know. I moan about my knee and how when I walk it’s harder to get back into the running rhythm. He says to just keep running slowly to keep it going. Round the corner and I hear ‘Mim’ louder than the crowd usually shout. What? Mel and Sam are there again! It’s on a wide corner so we were all running on the inside, but I head over to them, boosted by the surprise. Woohoo more excitement and I’m off again.
Mile 23 – Thanks Tobes, no more walking from now on. Head in the game, let’s do this.
Mile 24 – Head into Blackfriars Tunnel, greeted by huge lit up balloons and loud music pumping out. ‘Fight for it, fight for it’ is going round and round my head. Not gonna lie, it’s Palm Sunday today and this reminds me of telling the Easter story to year 6’s a few weeks ago. We told them how Jesus came in to Jerusalem to crowds cheering and shouting…was it something like this?!
Mile 25 – Mum and Dad again. Quick stop, and off I go. Past Westminster, looks pretty cool in the sunshine. There’s a line of runners on the right who are being massaged, two are on stretchers covered in blankets, poor guys. It’s a funny thing, the people you least expect to be injured and struggling can end up in the worst pain. I think a lot of people have been caught out by the heat, I’ve drunk far more today than I have ever done on a long run before.
800m – Come on, almost there. People are limping, bent over, doing all they can to get to the end.
600m – So close. A marshall shouts encouragement to two girls clinging on to each other as I pass them. ‘We’re almost there’ I say, encouraging both them and myself. Round in front of Buckingham Palace, I say hi to the Queen and I take a cheeky selfie whilst still running. I take my headphones out. I want to run up The Mall and remember this bit.
Finish – What’s that? The finish? THE FINISH! I’VE FINISHED! ‘You can stop now’ the marshall says as I keep going. Oh yes, I can stop. First thought: I didn’t need the loo at all, winner. I’m handed a goody bag, and someone comments how we are given such a heavy bag to carry after just running 26.2 miles. My timing chip on my shoe is cut off and the medal is placed around my neck. Oh, the medal. Proof that I have actually done it. It doesn’t quite sink in. Over to the left the official photographers are taking pictures. I do my practised pose – thumbs up. On a bit further and I hunt out my massive red official bag. I’ve been handed it before I’ve even got to the barrier. These guys are pros.
I make it to the end and out to find my amazing support group, and hear my name being called. It’s Toby, he happened to be walking past whilst trying to find the others. He takes my bag, what a star. We head over to ‘M’ in the far corner of Horse Guards Parade and are greeted by cheers, hugs and much celebration. Out comes the awesome cake Lyd has made and it’s devoured. Photos galore, I feel like a celeb. Well, I have just finished the London Marathon.
Huge thanks to all the bands that were playing, people out cheering, the woman who gave me an orange quarter which was the best thing ever, and all the supporters who came up to cheer 🙂
If I’m honest, it is all slightly surreal, and as much as I tried to take it all in, most of it is a blur of everything at once. I hope this captures a little bit of what it was like. Thank you all for your amazing support over the last seven months as I’ve trained for the London Marathon. Yesterday I ran it – and I have the medal to prove it 🙂
6 hours 12 mins 55 secs and I’m a London Marathon finisher!