I have always had a love/hate relationship with London.
It has been the backdrop to so many huge moments in my life: jobs, life decision, falling in love and inevitably falling out of it too. I have blissful memories scratched by saddening ones all with London’s grime and grit intertwined. What would the London Marathon, my first ever marathon, be to this ever rising stack of emotional pros and cons? The thought distracted me as we made our meandering way to the start line, so much so that I actually didn’t start my running watch until we had already gone across the start (which any runner will tell you is a big no no). I had played every eventuality in my mind in the days and unsurprisingly the nights leading up to last Sunday. Would I fall? Would I finish? Would my mind betray me and hit the wall? Would I pull bizarre a face for the official photographers? (Spoiler alert, I did) But as soon as my feet began to run, my mind stopped. Stopped all this doubting and I relaxed into the present. The first few miles passed like any other race; wondering if I had tied my shoes tight enough, thinking about what I was going to eat afterwards, cursing my bladder for needing the loo so soon and already thinking of the finish line. It wasn’t running past the glorious Cutty Sark, the thousands of spectators shouting my name or even the camera crews broadcasting to millions that made it feel more like the momentous event that it was to me. It was mile nine and the thoughts that swelled within me after it, that brought home that I was finally running a marathon.
Mile nine was when I ran passed my parents, old friends, new friends and random strangers hollering motivation at me. A wall of supportive sound. When you’re low on energy and belief that you can actually finish, that’s when what actually drives you forward comes to the forefront. Running focuses your mind on what’s truly important, be it; faith, love, self-belief. Whatever it is, when the wall hits you’ll find it and when you do never let it go. What was mine? Proving people wrong. For my entire life there have always been people who told me that I couldn’t do things; bullies, teachers, employers and friends. Whenever I struggled during training runs I thought about these faces who scarred doubt upon me and how satisfied I would feel rubbing the medal, that would soon be round my neck, in their faces. They were not the faces I ran past at mile nine, those people reminded me of the huge support I have had this past year, none of them ever questioned if I could. I no longer needed to prove anyone wrong because those people simply didn’t matter anymore and I simply didn’t care. Whenever I felt myself flagging during the miles ahead I no longer thought about the people who shackled me with doubt but about the countless people who had offered support to me. From my tiny new born niece, who will be bored out of her skull by uncle James going on and on about that time he ran marathons, to my granny who used to watch the marathon on tv every year, before she died last year, and how proud she’d be that I was running it for her.
As I got to mile 16 I was perfectly hitting the pacing aims I had set myself, I had this in the bag I thought to myself. I had aimed for sub five hours and at the pace I was doing I would finish in four hours and 59 minutes, sure it was just under five but I was happy and knew that I would find something extra for the last mile to ensure I finished under five hours. It was then that I learnt what every marathon runner has said to me, “expect the unexpected”. A hot pain began to erupt from the base of my spine, in all my training I had never had back pain. I didn’t know how to fix it, so I swallowed some drugs and hoped that it would ease and I could make the last ten miles without it returning. I have had knee problems since I started running, I had taped them up more than usual for the marathon and that in turn shifted the stress to my hips. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the panic and the pain slowed me right down.
As I reached the last mile my body began to pick itself back up and despite a niggly ankle I felt good, well I had legs like lead, ungodly chaffing, needed to pee like a pregnant lady and a clicky noise coming from somewhere in my body so let’s say I was good considering. This feeling was buoyed by seeing more of my amazing friends scattered in the huge crowds that wrapped every millimetre of the last mile.
I had always pictured myself finishing and breaking down in tears, overcome by the emotion of it all. I blame Hollywood. In reality I over zealously hugged the lady who gave me the medal and desperately found a loo. Reality rarely matches up. But after that I found my friends and family and we did as Brits always do to celebrate; found a crowded pub and had a pint. I still don’t think the fact that I have run a marathon has really sunk in, I find it difficult to vocalise when people ask how it was. How do you do something like that justice?
I heard someone once call running a marathon “the everyman’s Everest”. A similar endeavour in that if you want it, work hard enough at it, and are willing to put your body on the line for it, you can achieve it. The ballot opens on Monday for next year’s London Marathon, why don’t you try and climb it too? Because I can tell you there is one hell of a view from up here.
Miles Left to Run: 723
NEXT RACE: Copenhagen Marathon 22nd May
Highlights: The Support! If you ever want to feel like a celebrity run this marathon with your name on your shirt. The course is iconic, goosebumps creating, wide and above all well manned water stations. It was my first marathon but will be what all marathons are measured by
Lowlights: Couldn’t name one. Perfect Race.