40. Mission Accomplished

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

6 hours 12 mins 55 secs and I’m a London Marathon finisher!

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29. Fight for it

Very often when everything is going right we don’t realise how good it is.¬†But then sometimes things don’t quite go right, in fact they feel like they are going very wrong. I’ve been fortunate that so far my training has felt like it has always been on the up, even if there has been varying degrees of improvement at different times. But now I’ve come to face the reality of training when it feels like it’s all going horribly. And this is the time when I spend entire sessions repeating ‘fight for it, fight for it’ out loud over and over to myself.

Gym 6 – I usually like doing the gym sessions as it breaks up pounding my poor feet on the pavement and gives them a bit of a rest whilst still being active and working out. I can’t say I think the gym and I will ever be best of friends, but our relationship is certainly better than I ever expected.

Run 49 – Time for the long Friday afternoon run – this week was 12 miles. Trouble was I was feeling physically exhausted from a very busy week, and with no let up in training, I was feeling the effects. I got ready to run, sat down on the sofa, and before I knew it I shocked myself awake having dozed off for five minutes. I really wasn’t feeling very up for a long run, but knew it had to be done and the light outside was starting to fade. I’d worked out a rough route, beginning with what has become quite a standard first 5 miles now – twice round a lap which is a long slow incline up one road and long slow decent back down the parallel road. I like this because it is familiar, which means I can mix up the last half of the route and make it more interesting when I need something different to keep me motivated. 12.13 miles later, and after 2 hours 22 mins 7 secs I was absolutely shattered but pleased I’d done it.

Gym 7 – Evening netball training meant a rare lie in, wahey! Was good to run about and do some sport with other people, having fun. Brings a bit of light relief to the intense isolated training I’m doing for the marathon.

Run 50 – Hills: This is what I wrote as soon as I got back from a 2.5 mile hill training session. ‘Ugh that was horrible on a whole new level. Whole body was a dead weight from the first step- and that was going downhill. Arms ached. Legs wouldn’t move, I had to drag them round. It was hideous. Felt like I had already run 10miles before I started. Probably didn’t help that I forgot to eat till I got to the door to leave. BBC weather was saying it was raining. I’ve never been more pleased that the BBC were wrong. Half way round I stepped on the edge of a paving slab and a ton of water came up and soaked my feet, contributing to the draining enthusiasm for the morning. Having said all that, the loop was longer than I thought it would be but felt shorter. Which is always a good thing. That was the worst I’ve ever felt running. Glad it’s over.’ Get the picture? Now you see why I spent the whole session saying ‘fight for it’. Somehow I still did it in 29 mins (though it felt like 29 hours), and averaged 11 min 38 secs – ironically, better than some other ‘easier’ runs.

Gym 8 – Thursday’s workout was frustrating as it felt harder to lift lighter weights. In my mind I would always be improving; I’d never get to a day where I struggled with something I previously could do. I soldiered on and got through it all, and just have to keep reminding myself that some days are going to be harder than others.

Run 51 – I was away at a work conference in Eastbourne over the weekend so the normal long Friday afternoon run became Saturday morning. It was a drop back to 6 miles, so I ran for 3 miles along the very windy South coast and then back again.¬†Regretted wearing a t-shirt under a long sleeved top to begin with, but by the end I was rather glad I had the extra layer. Gloves were a lifesaver – I usually get annoyed after two mins and shove them in my trousers, but again, I’m so glad I had them. Being the coast meant the route was pretty flat the whole way. I’ve not run that far with no breakfast before- not the best idea, won’t be doing it again in a hurry. I was able to get into a rhythm and stay consistent through it, averaging 11 mins 43 secs a mile over 6.5 miles. 1 hour 16 mins 31 secs later and I was ready for a cup of tea.

Gym 9 – As it was a match night for our netball team I did a gym session in the morning. I’m totally bailing from playing in a match until after the marathon – by which time the season is over, but I’m cool with that. Right now, my legs are too precious to risk injury! Was quite good actually, cycled for 18 minutes then did some upper body resistance. There’s something odd but relaxing ¬†about cycling on a machine whilst watching BBC Breakfast.

Run 52 – Intervals: 2.5 miles covered, but with some hard intervals in the middle. Again, ‘fight for it’ was on repeat.

If anyone comes to see me at the marathon and I’m looking like I’m loosing the will to live (which could well be for most of the way round) just shout at me. Don’t worry, I’ll fight for it the whole way.

14. Just another manic Monday

It’s been a bit of a manic week this week,¬†and running hasn’t quite felt as organised and structured as previous weeks. It’s bound to happen many times through this whole training process – in fact, there will probably be more ‘manic’ than ‘normal’ weeks. The rhythm of work and social life continues, in whatever capacity that is, and running has to fit around it; it won’t be taking over my life until it either becomes necessary (to find enough time for longer runs) or an enjoyable benefit (carb-loading – always comes back to food). Life goes on.

Run 22 – Tuesday’s run was only a mile long. It was the first time I was totally gonna bail from running due to rainy weather, but then realised for the first time in my life that I literally HAD to go for a run. Even if it was just 10 mins down the road, I had to get out and do it. I never thought¬†this would happen. Oh, how things have changed. Because of my¬†indecisiveness, I left the house late and so only had time to fit in a mile. And it’s a good job (or because) I ran a flat route that my time seemed considerably quicker than the first mile I ran all those weeks back in September. 9min 59 secs. Come on! A great encouragement in the miserable weather.

Run 23 – Nice standard run on Thursday. 2.5m, who’d have thought I’d call that a standard run a few weeks ago? Pace was good,¬†especially¬†considering for the next few weeks Thurs mornings will be extra early because of a work¬†commitment – and I’m not amazing at getting my brain in gear in the mornings.

Run 24 – This had to happen on Saturday due to being away over the weekend and when I had free time. I was in beautiful East Sussex countryside, joined by Guest Runner 3. We looked at a sketch map of possible paths around the area and just headed off out ready to make up a route. We began heading slightly downhill and along a nice flat path, and all seemed dandy. But not for long. I am eternally grateful to GR3 for being there, otherwise I would¬†definitely¬†have walked up the epic hill we¬†encountered¬†after half a mile. Looking at the stats on Run Keeper, we made a total elevation of 381 ft in this 4.25 mile run, with 167 ft of it being climbed in half a mile. I thought I was going to collapse – the only thing that kept me going was knowing that GR3 was behind me and if I stopped I would end up on the floor rolling back down the hill, taking her with me. Not cool. We ran ¬†nearly all of the route along roads with no paths, hoping for the best and praying we could run quick enough round bends that we wouldn’t cause an accident (don’t worry mum, all was fine). We somehow clawed back an average of 12 min miles which was what kept me going in the second half – even with all my moaning, we had a great run and were rewarded on the way back with a gorgeous sunset over the hills. I’m still convinced we ran way more up than down. We’ll be back there in March, and will probably run again – though I refuse to do that ridiculous hill. GR3 ¬†called it ‘good hill training’, I called it ‘heart attack hill’. Not happening.

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Making the longer run on Saturday meant Sunday was a rest day, and to sync with my training, so was today. Tomorrow I’m back on it. And I can’t wait.

10. Breathe in, breathe out

The past week has seen a few first and second helpings, though sadly I’m not referring to any food related incidents.¬†Fortunately the storms wern’t as bad as anticipated which was good, but that just meant my running route was clear and I had no excuse not to run.

I’ve been joined for parts of runs by two different people, and it was great to have them both there – not only to help me keep pace but also just as company to encourage each other to keep going. Interestingly, both of them run with headphones in, but as I find them (the headphones, not people) incredibly¬†annoying flapping around, I just talk or sing to myself. A lot of it is motivational chat to get me up an incline or counting down to the next landmark. So if you see me running (which some people have!) and I look like I’m talking to myself, I probably am.

BIG NEWS! I’ve also met a milestone in terms of distance. I’ve now done my first, second and third 5km runs!

Run 14 – Eeeeeek I actually ran 5km, in just shy of 40 mins!¬†It was an odd feeling; I hadn’t realised I’d actually done it. I decided to increase the distance a bit at the start of the week to build it up more, and so ran a bit further than usual. Then it dawned on me I also had to run back again, so it was further than planned, and when I got back to where I started I only had 0.1 mile to go before it was a 5km. I ran round the car park a few times and made it just long enough. Bingo! I was quite excited afterwards, as it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to go a bit further, and so decided to stick at this regular distance for my runs before work. I’m not gonna lie, you do feel good knowing you’ve been for a (not very) casual 5km run before you really start the day.¬†I told people afterwards that I hadn’t realised I’d done it, which provided some amusement and I was told to just think of the marathon as a 10km but just a bit longer and I’ll do it without realising it. Well, it might work…?!

Run 15 – I was a bit late starting so it had to be a bit of a shorter run, It was hard work to get started, my legs felt tired and it was starting to spit with rain but I’d started so was committing to the cause. I met guest runner no.1 at the top of the road and¬†definitely¬†found it easier to keep a steady pace.

Run 16 – 5km number two. ¬†Second guest joined in the fun for a mile or so. Wasn’t a bad run, but I always find the Friday afternoon run a bit harder. Probably a combination of running two days in a row, and that I’ve already been busy all morning. Having said that, it was cool in the air, so nice to run in. It was a bit touch and go as it had been raining earlier in the day and I couldn’t decide if it would hold out long enough for a dry run. Fortunately it did; Friday is certainly my¬†preference¬†over Saturday, so it was good to get it in.

Run 17 – This morning was the third 5km of the week, and I felt a bit more prepared in knowing what to expect. That was until I saw two people I knew, both within a minute of starting. I did that thing where you try and speed up when you see someone you know to look like you’re going faster/more efficiently/more Olympian-esque than you really are, which is rarely maintainable for a few seconds after passing them and then you go back to normal. Trouble was, I sort of forgot to go back to normal speed, which was a bit of a fail as I was running up hill. I got to the top and suddenly realised why I’d found it harder than usual. It was pretty chilly with more of a wind than previous days, and I’d had gloves on – these soon came off after warming up so quickly. I kept going the rest of the way at what I think was my normal pace, but having sped up at that initial bit, it actually bought my average time down to 12 min 14 sec, and I shaved 2 mins off my 5km time. Maybe I should have people I know stationed around for me to see so I keep the speed up! (hint hint – please do come and line the streets of London on April 13th and make lots of noise!)

So all seems to be going well and on track so far. And the fact that it’s raining outside right now and I know I don’t need to run tomorrow morning makes it all the more satisfying.

8. The long and winding road

Okay so my running route currently isn’t¬†particularly¬†winding, and it’s beginning to feel not as long either. Which I suppose is a good thing, as I’m either getting more comfortable with the distance or I’m going into auto pilot and blocking it out when I start running. I am however quite pleased with progress…about 2.3miles is a standard run now, looking to increase this over the next few weeks. If a 5k is 3.1 miles, it’s not too far off – less than a mile away! Wahey! It’s all about the little steps.

Here’s an update on the last week’s worth of training:

Run 10 – This was a good run, looked cold out so I had an extra layer on – I knew not to put a jacket on this time, so went for a thin top. Not doing that again. I really should learn – unless there is snow on the ground, don’t layer up! Within minutes I’m over heating; absolute fail. Apart from that, I enjoyed it.

Run 11 – I ate and drank a bit more than usual before the run, and my stomach sounded and felt like a washing machine about to take off. I dread to think what people thought as I ran past them. It was hard to pace it in places, but overall was good averaging 13min 12sec. Breaking the 12min mark will come soon – I’ll make sure of it.

Run 12 – Friday’s run was the longest yet, at 2.5 miles, extending the usual route to loop through the cricket ground and add a bit more distance. It was good to hit the target, and it felt a bit of a milestone. Looking forward to building it up.

Run 13 – This morning’s run took a bit of a pep talk to get myself going. Gale force winds were battling at my bedroom window through the night, and when my alarm went off I was not looking forward to going out in the cold. However, after a ten minute delay psyching myself up, I made it out. And it was actually really good. It was a bit of a game battling against the wind, and it was quite nice being kept cool! I compromised on how long the run was with the fact that I had¬†actually¬†gone out in it at all (and due to faffing I’d¬†successfully¬†limited the time I had to run). Though I have to say, if I had had longer, I would have kept going, I really quite enjoyed it.

So I’ve broken the 1 month barrier since starting on this marathon mission! Oh goodness, it’s going pretty quickly, and suddenly April will appear. Eeeeeek. It’s good though, I’m still on track for 10km by Christmas. It WILL happen!

I’m just glad I’m not meant to run in the morning – I can do wind, but gales¬†equaling¬†those of ’87 don’t sound quite as fun.