London, you certainly never disappoint.
For anyone that has ever run London, you will understand that there is simply no event like it. I can’t describe what it is, but is really is something special.
This was my third London Marathon and the one I felt the most prepared for.
In 2014 I ran for Children with Cancer UK and had the best possible time, finishing in 3 hours 54 minutes and 20 seconds. I loved every minute of it!
In 2015 I trained again, but 6 weeks out landed myself with a stress fracture and had to pull out. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much!
In 2016 I decided to take a rest.
And then in 2017 I came back fighting, achieving a Good For Age time of 3 hours 44 minutes and 29 seconds.
I had my sights on 2018 and I did everything in my power to make it my year!
Unfortunately, this years race did not pan out as I expected and I will never forget this race for various reasons. It was certainly a race of two halves, and I experienced every possible emotion out on that course…
Ahead of the race, I was excited. Before the start I was barely nervous. I was eager to put my training to good use and confident that I was capable of a good race. I had had a solid 16 week training block with no major set backs or injuries. I smashed through various PB’s and even made the podium at a few races.
The London Marathon definitely has it’s own buzz. One that cannot be explained in words or written down on paper. You need to experience it to really understand it. One of those ‘have to be there moments’. The roar of the crowds, the support from the marshals. You literally feel the noise coarsing through your body and veins. In the first 10 miles, I held a good even pace and managed to pass a few fellow club members. It was hot, but I felt in control.
Tower Bridge, marking the (almost) half way point on the course. It is the best part of the race and as I ran over the bridge, I lapped up the atmosphere. I remembered this part all too well from previous races.
As I crossed the 13.1 mile marker at a pace which would see me cross the finish at 3 hours 25 minutes, I felt pleased I had got to this point. My body then filled with fear as I didn’t feel as good as I had wanted to at this part in the race.
Just before Mile 14 is where the Redway Runners had their first official cheering point. This year I was able to wear my Club Colours and I felt such pride wearing my green vest. Previously I’ve worn a charity top so have not been able to be spotted as easily. But from afar I could see the flags, hear the drums and cheers of my fellow club members.
I get goosebumps now remembering how much of an energy surge I got when seeing the group. I ran up to Sue, gave her a big sloppy kiss and continued onwards.
At mile 16 is when I started to REALLY feel the heat. I’d been out on the course for 2 hours and it was midday by this point. It was starting to get tough.
I was frustrated that the conditions were taking their toll on my body, but more importantly my mind. I was alone again by this point, running solo, battling negative demons.
I had my first walk at mile 17. I’ve never walked in a competitive race like this before. I threw my arms in the air in anger at myself and urged myself to carry on. I adopted a walk/run strategy from there. Walking at most water stations to take on water and recompose before starting again. The crowds were unbelievable in their support and they really helped me to get running again after every time I had stopped.
Just before turning back onto the dual road part of the course at mile 20, I saw Sarah from our club. I could see she was struggling too so tried to get to her to have someone familiar to run with. I needed the support right now and thought we could get through the final few miles together.
At mile 22 we reached the second Redway Runners cheering point. I desperately searched for someone familiar I could get encouraging words from. I then reached out for Steph. I just held onto her arms trying to gain any strength I could and for someone to tell me it was going to be OK. This was the first point where tears actually ran down my cheeks. I was surprised it was possible, with how dehydrated I had felt! No jelly babies or gels were going to save me at this point either. I didn’t want or even need fuel. I was just overcooked and overheated.
At mile 23 I saw my family and mile 24 my best friend. I pulled from their strength to continue forward. One step in front of the other. It was amazing to see them and I thought of everyone out there tracking me and used this energy to power me on. If I couldn’t do it for myself, I would do it for everyone else watching me.
I knew by mile 24 that I would need to adapt my goals. A finish under 3:30 was slowly slipping away from me. I decided that I would aim to finish under 3:35. This would be a PB and also a Boston Qualifying time. I reached the 800m to go point and the mind games were playing serious havoc. ‘Only 2 laps of an athletics track to go’. I’d stopped again after 200m!!!! One last push and I tried to give everything I had for the final 600m.
How happy was I to see the end of the course. I threw my hands up in the air and try to enjoy the moment as much as possible. I had completed 26.2 miles!
The Mall and Horse Guards Parade had a real eery feel. There weren’t many people celebrating or punching the air! In fact it was quite the opposite, many people hobbling along, laid on the floor or seeking medical attention from the tents. Quite the opposite to what you picture the finish to be! The heat had really got to everyone that day.
As I began to process the whole situation, I was disappointed. Disappointed I had to walk so much during the final few miles of the race. Disappointed I was not able to really showcase my hard work from my training. And disappointed that I had let everyone else down (well that’s what I thought!). I collected my bag and headed out to meet friends and family.
This race certainly had everything for me! A full range of emotions and I’ve waited a few days to write this post to really let it all sink in.
Rather than be negative, I’m going to learn from this and take forward a lot into my next block of training.
So here they are, my positives from the event:
- I finished – yes I completed a marathon, a whole 26.2 miles! And my third.
- I never gave up.
- I smashed last years PB by 12 minutes (even with walking!!)
- I achieved another Good For Age spot so aim to be back at London again next year
- My time also qualifies me for Boston Marathon
- I’ve learnt to really respect the marathon distance
- My first half was 1:42, my second half was 1:50. I lost 8 minutes in the second half with a lot of walking! So when I was running, I must have still been running at a good pace.
- It has filled me with extra motivation to come back stronger
- It has taught me mental toughness
- This will not defeat me!!!