12 May 2016

My London Marathon Experience & My Life Since Then

It's now been over two weeks since I completed the London Marathon. I'm sorry it has taken me a while to write this. I do have a good excuse, but I will get into that later. First I want to give you a run down of my preparation for the big day and tell you about my personal experience of running one of the world's most famous marathons.

In the last couple of weeks running up to the race I tapered my training (which basically means I cut down the miles to give my body time to recover for the full distance). I read that tapering correctly can improve your performance by up to 20% on the day so despite reservations I decided to take everyone's advice and taper properly.

I also had to go to the ExCel centre to pick-up my running number and tag. This was also an opportunity to meet the team from Shelter UK (my charity) and get some last minute advice from some experts.

I was up at 7am on the big day. My clothes laid out and bag packed the night before. I forced down half a packet of porridge (I could barely eat for nerves) and a big glass of squash. After double-double checking all of my belongings I set off for Old Street tube station at 7:30am. A quick flash of my running number and I was through the barriers and enjoying my free journey. The carriages were filled with runners, some as nervous as me, others season runners on their fifth or sixth marathon. A quick change at London Bridge and I arrived at Greenwich station in what felt like no time at all. I followed the crowds not knowing the direction to the park and tried to stay calm.

Once through the security checks, I had about an hours wait at the Red Start (the masses and charity start) before the race began at 10am. We were able to watch some of the other races set off on the big screen; you could palpably feel the tension building. After a final toilet stop I delivered my numbered bag to the transportation lorries and made my way to my starting pen (7 of 9), knowing it would be a long time until I got to see it again.

I chatted to a nice school teacher in the pen and, after they'd let the plastic tape down, shuffled my way forward in the starting blocks. I crossed the start line around 12 minutes after the official start. Despite my expectations, I ran over the start line and had plenty of space to get going. Admittedly I was overtaking a lot of people at this point but so were a lot of others. It was a this point I saw some really unusual costumes such as a man running for Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) dressed as Jesus Christ dragging a huge crucifix. I can't remember if he had trainers on but I don't think he did.

The first 10 miles went past in a bit of a blur. I'd run 10 miles or more so many times in my training it felt natural and having never run any sort of race before I was really enjoying the atmosphere and camaraderie of it all. It felt like being part of an exclusive club. It was amazing. It was about mile 10 that I remembered my brother and his girlfriend were planning to spectate in Bermondsey. I suddenly couldn't remember if we had already been through Bermondsey or not. I had my headphones in and I panicked that maybe I had run right past them without noticing. I asked a guy near me whether we'd been through there already and he said it was coming up in a couple of miles so I relaxed a bit and started looking up more. After an initial second panic of not seeing them at the charity cheer point, I was elated at spotting them half a mile down the road on the same side as me!

After this I really knuckled down. I knew I still had a long way to go and I'd read a lot about people running too fast between 13 miles and 20 miles. I was hoping to see my mum and Leonie (a close friend) at mile 15 but it turned out they got lost and couldn't find the cheer point. I was lucky enough to see some friends from hockey twice during the next hour. It was exciting to see people I knew and brought me back to reality. I was so 'in the zone' the time flew past without too much stress. I saw another group of close friends on my way out of the Isle of Dogs (around mile 23 I think). This was great because I knew after this I only had one more group to look out for - my brother, his girlfriend, my mum and Leonie who were all planning to be at the final charity cheer point at mile 25.

The last 6 miles were definitely the hardest. Not just physically, but mentally as well. I realised at about mile 20 I wasn't going to make my target of being under 4 hours and I did have a moment of asking myself what it was all for if I didn't reach that. But I soon remembered why I had signed up in the first place. I wanted to raise as much money as possible for the homeless population of the UK. People all around me were dropping out and beginning to walk. Although I may not have been moving very fast at this point I knew there was no possibility of me stopping.

At mile 25 I saw all my family and Leonie together, smiled and waved and trudged on to the finish. My muscles were really tightening up at this point and I'm pretty sure that last mile took me a lot longer than it ever had in training. It took a long time to see the actual finish line but once you get round the bend at Buckingham Palace it's an amazing sight to see. Having been determined throughout my training that I wanted to do a sprint finish, I didn't give up on the idea on the day. I ran as fast as I possibly could to through those red arches.

The immediate feeling once I crossed the line was relief. I had made it to the end, no accidents and no upsets. I wasn't even that disappointed about not making the target because I'd accepted my fate over the last 60 minutes. Soon after having my medal placed around my neck, the pain and stiffness set in. My legs felt awful and I could only hobble down to the place where I collected my bag from. The only thing I was interested in from my goodie bag was water.

The rest of the day was spent in a mixture of pain and celebration. I met my family and friends at the amazing reception put on by Shelter. We went for an early dinner but I couldn't really face eating that much (which is crazy for anyone who knows me well). By 6pm I had waved off my mum and returned to my flat to shower and rest (or what felt like die!) I also had hundreds of messages from all my friends to reply to when I got home which took me about an hour and a half. After that I passed out on my bed from exhaustion.

The next day was a Monday and straight back to work for me. Other than severe blisters which were causing me to limp around I was reasonably okay. I had some muscle stiffness but nothing too unbearable for sitting at a desk all day.

The last two weeks really have flown past and if you've stayed with me this long, now's the time to say the reason why it's taken me so long to write this is that I've just left my first real job and started a new one this week. The first couple of days at my new company have been great. Give me a couple more weeks to make a proper verdict but right now I'm very happy with my new situation.

This is my last post about the marathon and I would like to say HUGE thank you to everyone who donated and supported me along the way. I appreciate it more than I could possibly express. I truly believe without the support of my friends and family I couldn't have done it, and I definitely wouldn't have enjoyed it. I've been asked a lot since, will I do another marathon? My answer has to be, why not...