1 year ago I was just getting myself ready for my first marathon (in 2014). I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and write about my experience.
I am from London. I grew up in Greenwich so I have always been aware of the marathon, watching it on race day from when I was little either there or on TV when I’ve been away (I’ve travelled a lot). My Dad ran the marathon, although I don’t remember that I do remember going to watch it with him. My Step-Dad has run London several times, as well as doing several triathlons and even an Iron Man!
Just over 3 years ago I signed up for a 5k and did a couch-5k app to get me ready for it, which involved running 3 times a week and the app built me up from run/walking to running for a full half an hour. I got the bug big time (as you may have guessed). I have done various 5ks, 10ks & half marathons. I wanted to sign up for a marathon but for me it was important that I did London. London Marathon is such an incredible day out that it was my dream to run it. It had to be my first as I figured that if I only did one and decided to never do one again it had to be London that I ran. No other marathon would do it for me. I know there are other marathons but London was the dream.
Getting a place in London
I entered the Ballot for the 1st time for London 2013. I was so nervous when October rolled around & I was waiting for that magazine. I didn’t get in but I knew I’d try again. I entered the Ballot again to run it in 2014 and I was so disappointed that I didn’t get a place. I was determined that I was going to run London 2014 and I wasn’t going to let one sad magazine stop me (it is a very sad magazine to get through the door). I do not have one particular charity that is close to my heart- there are so many & I wanted to help out all of them so I made a list of charities that interested me & how much you have to raise for each one.
London Marathon Charity places explained:
More than £716 million has been raised since 1981.
Silver Bond: 550 charities are involved and get one place every five years.
Gold Bond: 750 charities have a total of 15,000 places. The charity buys the place for £300 and offers it to runners who commit to raising a 4 figure sum for that Charity.
I liked the idea of running the marathon for The Big Issue. I have always felt that more could be done for homelessness. I often buy The Big Issue, chat with vendors and buy them drinks/lunch. They are not a massive charity so I knew that they would appreciate the money I would be able to raise for them. They emailed mean application form which I filled in & sent straight back. They said I’d hear in a week but as I was so quick with my reply they replied straight away &gave me a place to run for them. I agreed to raise £2000.
So on September 27th 2013 my marathon journey had begun.
I didn’t stick to a plan. I did have one but I started a new job in January 2014 which was very busy & quite stressful. I was working 70 hour weeks so I stuck to the LSR distances each week. Some weeks I didn’t fit in any short runs, some times 2/3. Once my LSR was up to 16 I knew I needed to fit in more short runs (3 miles) as my legs were aching more. I did between1-3 short runs to help with my LSR and having a protein smoothie post run helped too.
It was in the November I discovered #ukrunchat and found it a huge support through my training. What felt like stupid questions can be asked & everyone leaps into help because they’ve all been through the same things. The support was amazing and I couldn’t have got through that training without @ukrunchat.
Kingston Breakfast Run was a great marathon dress rehearsal at 16.2 miles in March. My last LSR was 23 miles 2 weeks before the marathon. I had planned on 20-22 but got lost. This was the hardest run I did (including the marathon). Running that far by yourself is tough. I’d had enough by the end of that one and was happy to go into my taper. During my taper I did 3×3 mile runs & 1 x short (1.58 mile) run 2 days before. There are lots of different views on tapering. Do what makes you feel confident, for some its enough time to be recovered & feel fresh at the marathon, for me last year it was to know I could do the distance & I was happy with 2 weeks recovery.
The Big Day 15.4.14
I stayed at my friends parents the night before as they live in Shooters Hill, close to Blackheath. We had a lovely meal the night before (pasta &veg from what I remember). I had the best nights sleep I’d had in ages and woke up feeling pretty fresh. I had a shower (not washing my hair) as it’s a good start to any day & had my weetabix& a cup of green tea (my normal pre-run breakfast).
M friend picked me up to drive me to Blackheath. I’m sure the race organisers will not encourage this but it was pretty easy & she dropped me off on Blackheath common. I had a bit of a cry in the car on the way there- I was a big ball of emotion- crying, laughing- every emotion possible was running through me as I sipped my Lucozade sport on the way there. My friend wished me luck, gave me a big hug & left me there on Blackheath common. I wasn’t alone- there were people everywhere. I started chatting to people as I walked over to Greenwich Park. In training it hadn’t occurred to me that there were different starts so I’d done training runs through Greenwich Park visualising the start as I ran through the gates so I was very pleased to be starting in there.
Everything at the beginning is superbly organised & stress free. It was very clear where I had to go. I went to the truck for my number & gave them my bag. I sat on the grass in the Park & soaked up the atmosphere enjoying the crazy costumes. As it got closer I went to join the toilet queue, I made friends in that queue although the wait wasn’t too bad. My Step-Dad had told me that once I’ve been I should re-join the queue to go again so that is what I did.
Then I headed over to join my pen. I got in & ditched my jumper that I hadn’t been wearing anyway as it was a warm morning. The atmosphere was amazing. Lots of nervous runners, some had done it before, all chatting and stretching & working ourselves up for what lay ahead. I chatted to a blond girl with cool leggings who said that she’d always thought amazing people ran marathons but now she was here anyone must be able to do it. I told her that perhaps we’d become those amazing people & she was quite happy with that idea…& so was I!
We heard the start & the excitement in the crowd was awesome. We started walking forward to get closer to the start line. The sun was shining, everyone was happy, we had people waving at us & cheering us on before we’d even crossed the start.
The Run…how I remember it
The crowd were incredible all the way round. I had my name on my top so everyone was shouting my name. My friend & her mum were around mile 4, I saw someone I hadn’t seen for 8 years around Canary Wharf for a quick wave, another friend was around Canary Wharf too. I saw my parents just at the corner by Big Ben & gave them a massive hug before I turned the corner for the final stretch. I knew they’d be somewhere along embankment so it was a miracle I saw them with all the people around. I had a sore hand in the first half of the run as I was high-fiving so many people. I was loving it. At about mile 11 I spotted some toilets without a queue so I made a quick stop for a wee & then continued on my way. Running over Tower Bridge was immense. The crowd there is BIG & LOUD. They are all there to cheer you on even though they’re complete strangers. We turned right and saw some people running on the other side of the road that were 10 miles ahead of us! I didn’t feel bad- I was having a great time & knew if I’d tried to go that fast I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.
It was quite a warm day but there are run though showers & I was quite pleased to have been hosed down by some firemen as I ran past them. I also sipped water at most of the water stations & tipped the left over’s over my head.
I remember one point, around 20 miles I think, that I felt like it was hard work. I’d had music playing but had my earphones tucked into my shoulder strap incase I needed them. I hadn’t needed music at all as the crowds & bands that line the route are enough entertainment. Plus, you want to hear them shout your name. At this point I did put one earphone in to help me focus and keep going. As if the crowd knew how I felt a couple of people cheered my name &, after a short time, I’d got back into it & tucked my earphone back in to my strap.
I had run the last bit of the marathon route a few times in training runs but that last bit did feel longer than normal. On Embankment I had bumped into the girl who I’d chatted to in my starting pen & we gave each other a quick well done before continuing. Suddenly Buckingham Palace was in sight and I was turning away from it & saw the finish line. I cheered & shouted with the crowd and passed over the finish line at 4:41:43. I was sooo happy & proud to have run my first marathon. I was given a medal & hugged & cried a bit as I said Thank You to the lady who gave it to me. Someone took my timing chip off for me, as they know you don’t want to be bending down to do it after a run like that. Then I bumped into the girl again from the beginning. We hugged & congratulated each other not really believing we’d both done our 1st marathons & got our picture taken together. We went our separate ways to get our bags. This is all very easy &straightforward. A slow walk around to bag pick up, & then a slow walk around to get to the friend/family meeting points.
I headed to the J meeting point where I quickly found my parents & friend Emily waiting for me with needed hugs & congratulations. We went to Pizza Express & I ate a tiny bit of pizza (that I would inhale later in the evening) and had a lovely dessert. After a few drinks it was time to call it a day & for me to head back to my hotel. I got a cab& then went to relax at the hotel with a short ice bath & then a long hot bath with a glass of bubbly.
And there we are. I became a marathon runner. I loved it. It was the most incredible day I have ever had! I would love to do London again but I’m taking a little break from fundraising. I will keep entering the Ballot & I am sure within a year or 2 I will be taking another charity place if I’m still unsuccessful in the Ballot. As I didn’t get into London 2015 I entered Edinburgh (May 2015) & Berlin (September 2015). I am hooked. I don’t think anything will beat my first marathon experience, I don’t think anything will beat London but we shall see….I may change my mind.
Have a great week & if you have a marathon coming up have an amazing run. Enjoy it! You will get a lot of great advice, and a lot of conflicting advice too, everyone’s journeys are different so have faith in your training, be confident, visualise getting over that finish line & then post a picture on twitter so we can all congratulate you on an incredible achievement. And if you haven’t done a marathon or signed up for one, what are you waiting for?