It has not even been a month since I hobbled my way down the Mall and across the finish line on that hot day in April, and yet now it feels like nothing more than a dream. Talking with some of the other LCF marathon runners last night at our post-race celebration event, it became clear that this is a feeling shared by many. Some people put it down to the somewhat surreal nature of the day whilst others blamed the extremes of heat and emotion, but I think that it is also because of the popping of the marathon bubble. For three months the marathon completely takes over your life; dictating what you eat and eating up your free time and to suddenly finish the race and leave all that behind feels like stepping out of a particularly energetic dream. The 24 degrees Celsius probably also had something to do with it!
Waking up at 7am on the 22nd April was an exciting and very scary experience. I took my time to get ready, making sure that my shoes were tightly tied and my race number was secure, and headed over to Greenwich. I didn’t even speak to anyone that morning until I bumped into Sasha, one of our other runners, as we squished onto the DLR. Finding her was a wonderful coincidence because the atmosphere in the starting arena was incredible and it was great to have someone to share it with. There were people sitting and stretching in the sun, music was playing (a rousing bagpipe rendition at one point!) and huge electronic screens showed the progress of the elite runners who were already racing around the course. Standing in my start pen surrounded by thousands of other runners gave me an overwhelming sense of being a part of something amazing, and yet it was also an incredibly solitary and determined moment. As the pens ahead of us set off, I felt more and more impatient to get going until finally, at about 10:25, I crossed the start line.
Running those 26 miles was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Nothing quite prepared me for it. I began to tire at about the 10-mile mark which worried me because I hadn’t been tired at 10 miles since early February! The heat just sucked the bounce from my legs and I became very aware of every single step. What the heat took away from me though, it gave back to the crowds who were INCREDIBLE! People were dancing on the rooves of bus shelters, playing music from their balconies, handing out all sorts of bits of food (thank you to the lady who offered out cucumber slices at around mile 17), singing, dancing, and calling out my name whenever I looked like I wanted to stop. The crowds carried me through the race, especially so when I saw the many friends and family who came to support me – including the LCF staff who were camped out at Bermondsey to cheer us on!
I finally finished in 5:02 – a time which was far longer than I was aiming for but, given the extreme heat, one I was happy with. I crossed the line with Sasha, who had caught up to me in the last 800 meters and we stood, swaying a little as we collected our medal and bags and posed for photos against their huge photo wall. I finished the day celebrating with a meal with my family and friends and was crashed out fast asleep by 9pm.
Celebrating with our other runners last week brought all of the excitement and pride flooding back and it was great to be able to find out how the others had found the day. Despite the difficulties and the heat, they had all been bitten by the marathon bug and entered the ballot for next year, some signing up for Brighton too! I’m going to take a couple of years off before trying to shave those two annoying minutes off my finish time, but you can bet that I will be there next year to cheer the rest of them on! We finished off our evening with a round of shots and being asked to leave the pub as we were the last ones there and the staff wanted to go home!
My whole marathon experience was amazing from start to finish and I can't think of any other way I would rather have finished it.