How do I begin to describe running my first marathon?
How do I begin to describe running the London marathon?
Do I use the clichés? As much as I don’t want to, they absolutely fit…the usual suspects about digging deep, running through the pain barrier, the crowd carrying you along.
The whole week running up to my first ever marathon; The Virgin 31st London Marathon, is a bit dim in my memory, but I know it was tough. I was a complete bag of nerves and to cope went into my usual mode of organising. Everything, what I was wearing, what running kit, which trains, oyster cards, hotel, meal reservations, timings, first aid supplies, chargers you name it. The Friday before-hand felt incredibly surreal. I couldn’t quite believe that the weekend was finally here after 8 months of training.
Saturday morning started well, all bags were packed ahead of time, good breakfast had, arrived at the station with enough time, parking no problem, ticket and travel cards all sorted with the luxury of sitting with a coffee waiting for our train. The first wobble happened when I was on the platform; our train had disappeared to be replaced by a “re-timed” train including passengers from three other cancelled trains due to unforeseen last-minute technical difficulties! Not so impressed having reserved seats to save my legs. Jammed in with a large bunch of very tense passengers (at least 80% marathoners) with very few seats available and lots of train announcements apologising followed the next hour into Kings Cross. I could feel a tantrum brewing.
In Kings Cross running an hour later than planned we headed for the tubes and on to our hotel. We got booked in (despite the receptionist unable to find our booking straight away… another wobble) and dropped off our bags. Mr RgR was more nervous than me as we marched off back to the tubes to head for the exhibition centre. Mr. RgR struggled with his oyster card (not a city boy my man!) and after a heated exchange about the card not working, we swapped cards. Another wobble! At the next exchange his card wouldn’t work again aaaargh!
Time ticking on heading for the docklands light railway while Mr RgR played with his new gadget on his iphone (he could type in the tube he’s was at, where he wants to go and it’ll tell he directions). We had another animated exchange about which stop we should get off at while a rather bemused Colin Jackson sat next to us keeping his head down.
At Canning Town we then piled onto the platform along with a horde of runners and followed a slow snake of people moving into the ExCel centre.
Arriving inside the atmosphere immediately thickening up. The queue to register for my number only had a couple of people in front of me and there my wobbles turned into a whole waltzer party going on! I was finally here, collecting my chip and number, what on earth had I done?
Mr. RgR steered me in the right direction and we headed around the centre marvelling at how much kit could be bought in every single shade you could think of! Now that all I had to do was eat well, save my legs and wait for morning, the pressures was off a little, but the nerves kicking in, so we headed for a restaurant near to the hotel for a late lunch. Bruschetta, pasta, and chocolate dessert, lots of flapjack and water all afternoon and a Pasta buffet at the hotel in the evening. Not a drop of alcohol – roll on Sunday night!
All things considered I slept really well. Up with my morning call at 5:45am. into most of my kit and down on my own for early runners breakfast. The hotel was geared up with a cauldron of porridge and a forest of bananas. I added a couple of thick slices of toast and honey to my feast, not really feeling at all like eating. I wanted to mull quietly on my own, but the nervous chatter through the restaurant at that early hour was playing on my nerves. After brekkie, final few checks and kit sorted then down to catch the bus over to the start. Another wobble… you’re on the wrong bus for the red start this goes to the blue start… we all got off and realising there was only one place to drop us all off, got back on again! And as the bus pulled away the nervous tears started! No one bothered me then!
We arrived at the blue start and strolled over to the red start, it was cold, promising to be a hot day, but this time in the morning very misty and cold! Thankfully it meant the toilets were reasonable at this time in the morning. By 9am there were queues 50 deep for all of them! I found a quiet spot under a tree watching the video screen to eat more breakfast and chat with other folks doing the same, all very subdued! And after half an hour wandered off to find my charity co-runners, some of whom were so excited they were practically pinging. We had photos and then via the toilets (again) headed our running pens. Our runners started moving before we’d all cleared into the pen as the marshalls were being so pedantic about checking bibs, the frustration started to boil up and I was worried I’d be crushed at the start before getting a yard down the road! So pen 6 turned into pen 9 probably for me!
Then spotting cameras above, helicopters and walking forwards we all started to lose clothing and plastic bags with a little bit of waving as we headed to the start. It took about 20 mins to turn the corner to the start arch at which point men deciding they needed a last-minute wee were creating a river of urine down the barriers, that was more than enough to cure any urges from me! And so finally breaking into a job setting the watch we headed off, me and another runner from KRUK Jenny! Less than five yards and we got our first “go on Dawn and Jenny” Yay! It had begun, nerves gone.. time to get on with the job in hand (or foot)!
Running in such a huge mass of people is quite extraordinary and difficult. As we are all heading on one direction, there is no concept of the mass of people behind you. You can see it in people’s expressions and other runners stopping to get a photo, and you get some sense when trying to judge space around you to move forward into, as there is so little. The most difficult part of all is trying to find that running space for yourself when between two people they are running a touch too slowly so you have to back up and go around them. Such hard work, no running simply in a straight line, quite a few extra miles I am sure going around people!
There were amazing views of people in mass in front, buildings like the Gherkin and the amazing costumes! I cannot fathom the effort some of those runners were putting n to carry them around the course. I was given the advice of not trying to keep up with the rhino, well there’s more than one silly! I ran past at least four! (I hope unless they’ve learnt how to transport), and it was starting to heat up. I really, really felt for Mr.Starlight in his plastic star and wished him all the luck in the world as I ran past!
Worrying over what to wear had been another wobble. Having trained in at least three layers up until now, Silverstone was incredibly cold and here we were having at least 20 degrees in the sun! I opted for shorts and vest combo which worked out well. I did have a utility belt with backup drink, backup battery, plasters, cash along with my oyster and hotel card in my back pocket!
The whole event was a huge street party. Every pub along the way had throngs of people (with pints already at 10am), karaoke machines, barbeques going. All picking out runners to cheer along the way. Kids handing out chocolate, oranges, jelly babies, more drinks. Fantastic if a little hazardous! Rolling drinks bottles are one thing (I trod on at least two), but slippery orange peel.
Having agreed with Jenny we would head for eight miles before considering options we happily sailed past and any wee urges were gone! I lost Jenny at one of the water stations and carried going. I had finally learnt how to run and drink at the same time, so no stopping for me. Grab a bottle, couple of gulps chuck away, repeat at next station. Running over Tower Bridge brought more tears, I couldn’t believe I was doing this and how good everything actually felt. I was spending a lot of time running a body check, legs, knees, ankles, head, hydrated enough? sugar?
Mr. RgR phoned me just before 13 miles as he was at Tower Hill and how fantastic that he shouted me loudly enough from the other side of the road that I saw them and could wave!
Running around the docks was the next challenge, everyone were pushed into smaller bottlenecked cobbled routes. So now I focussed on 16 miles and then 22.
20 miles and my quads were really feeling it. If this is the wall then so far so good. My head absolutely in the right place, focussed and determined to see this through. So far I hadn’t walked or stopped at all. The aches and pains were simply from the exertion no injuries! 22 miles, then I started breaking it down mile be mile. Mr RgR phoned and was now waiting at mile 25 with the KRUK crowd! Mile 23, mile 24 all starting to feel like a lot further and right at the end of all the charity groups I saw them shouting me to keep going. Still running, the majority around me no longer were and dodging people suddenly stopping and walking was my next dilemma!
All the way around I had seen people keeling over and being picked up by the fab St.Johns Ambulance helpers and the last few yards was no different, except I wanted to go faster and finish! Over the line I’d done it. How did I feel? So many things all at once. Relieved, sad it was done, elated it was done, tired, emotional and thankfully not being sick! I knew deep down I could have run faster, but being nervous about keeling over before the finish had kept my early speed in check. I also knew I will have to do this all again!
Lovely people steered my to lose my chip, collect my medal, goody bag and I headed to the meet and greet to find my lovely family who have supported me so well. There was a mars bar in my goody bag with my name on it!