On the Saturday before the marathon I sat on the couch with my double cheese bagel sandwich and watched the BBC Paula Radcliffe: The Marathon and Me documentary. She mentioned that during the last mile of the 2003 London Marathon she knew she was going to set the record and wanted to enjoy it but still push on and set a world record time that would last.
I took this attitude into the London Marathon the next day… and shattered Paula’s WR. Obvs. Well, not quite, but I did keep pushing as I wanted to run as strong as I could and finish in a time that would last (for me). I had taken the lessons from my first marathon last October in Dublin, had a good training block from January, and wanted the marathon itself to be a celebration of all that.
Alex was also running the marathon (he has got the ballot 2/4 years – officially the luckiest marathon man alive) so we got up at a leisurely 7am and both had our nuuns and porridge and then set off for a quick Overground-DLR trip to Greenwich. Being blue & green starts we spent about 30 minutes walking up and over Greenwich to Blackheath and had a quick moment to wish each other good luck before finding the loos in our respective start pens.
From across the field I could see Laura’s beer balloon in the green pen and found her chatting with Susie and a few other twitter friends as we got all our kit ready for the waiting vans. With not enough time to check my bag and wait for the loos I chose bag and then found a nice area of shrubbery for a quick wee. Back to the start area and while waiting in my Green pen #7 I met a nice man in his 70s who told me to be careful as the next few hours will give you a big ego, “It’s like being a rockstar for 26.2 miles, it’s why I keep coming back!”
The green start is where all the official Guinness world record attempts start too. In the first mile I was passed by a whoopie cushion and the Toy Storey boat. The basketball dribbler guy stuck beside me for the first few miles too. Good on him, but goodness that was annoying to run beside. The first two miles went through residential streets and there were absolutely the most friendly marshals ever on each side of the road yelling out HUMP every few seconds so we wouldn’t trip over the speed humps on the road. The race organisers had officially thought of everything.
My race plan wasn’t crazy. Run at 10:00 min/miles for the whole race. I had spoken with Laura in her official Team Rainbow friend/coach capacity and she mentioned that London is a busy race and trying to run a negative split or catch up speed at any time is difficult when you’re in the crowds and it can be demoralising having to weave in and out if you are trying to hit a time. So, I kept it easy pace and tried to slow down as much as possible in the first 4 downhill miles. I was always running too fast in these miles but hey, that’s marathons.
I had music with me and was listening to it for most of the race – that said I could barely hear it over the crowds and it only really made me laugh a few times when “Hips don’t lie” came on and when I sung the entire Blank Space song around Surrey Quays (it’s how I regulate my pace, if I can sing I’m running easy). I had a moment of emotions as we approached Greenwich and ran around the Cutty Sark. It was so cool to be running the London Marathon and I was loving it. At about that time a girl behind me said to her friend “WHERE IS THE BOAT?! OHMYGOD THERE IS THE BOAT! IT’S THE BOAT!” Which made me laugh a lot and reminded me how many other people were enjoying the day.
Knowing London really helped me in the race. I knew I could run from Greenwich to Tower Bridge as I had done it before in training. A slightly different route but do-able. I just kept going along. Not the most exciting part but fine all the same. At mile 12 I saw my first friends along the route and gave big high fives to Cat & Simon. Cat gave me a banana which was actually awesome and I had about half of it while running to Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge was another amazing moment living up to all the hype I had heard. I ran through the middle and soaked it all up. Just past the bridge, as I started along the Highway, I saw Paula absolutely flying the other way. To get even just the quickest look of her (in the same race I was running!!!) was just the best moment and gave me a huge boost of energy to keep going. This was also another time where knowing the route came in great. I knew the Highway wasn’t that long and could break the next few bits into reasonable chunks that my mind and legs could handle. Running down Narrow street was pretty amazing with the crowds coming right onto the road and a real neighbourhood feel. Isle of Dogs was also nice to run through and I really like Mudchute and Millwall (who knew!) so that was pleasant as well. I didn’t know what route we’d take through Canary Warf, and the huge massive on-ramp that looked like a vertical wall to run up wasn’t the most enjoyable, but at least I wasn’t the girl texting who didn’t see it and face planted superman slid as she hit the incline. Don’t text and marathon people. Even I left my phone at home.
Canary Warf seemed really short and suddenly we were out and back on the main roads and in my mind on our way back to London. The final stretch. It did take a while for that 20 mile marker to show up, but got a surprise cheer from my friend Sharon which totally brought me out of a bit of a blah-patch and kept me smiling for the next mile. I knew the road back to Tower Bridge was undulating so just tried to focus on getting up those little hills and not giving up. I had to stop at one point to accept the gracious offer of Vaseline and re-apply around my shorts and armpits. More preventative than anything but I didn’t want any surprises.
Don’t get me wrong, things hurt. My legs hurt, my head hurt, my back was starting to hurt. I had a lot of times where I would have preferred not to be running, but never any time I wanted to stop like in Dublin. Moving forward was always preferable to stopping and I am going to credit that to a stronger mindset than I had before.
Running towards the Embankment I was so excited. I knew some of my running friends were going to be at Monument and from there it was my victory lap to the finish. It was great to see so many smiling faces and encouragement from Beki, Becca, Danielle, and Jen. Right after them I saw my friend Andrew yelling across the course which was an extra surprise of awesome. As I ran through the tunnel under Blackfriars there popped up Polly who stopped for a quick chat and then kept on cruising along to her speedy finish. My friends Matt & Emma were near Temple, and from there it was just running to Big Ben!
My normal RUNch route but supersized! The run from Big Ben to the end was totally amazing and even though Birdcage Walk seemed never ending I, like Paula, soaked it all up and loved every second. I took a wide turn onto the Mall and enjoyed the “sprint” to the finish and being so so so happy it was done.
Stopping felt amazing for about 3.5 seconds until I felt a bit motion sick and overexcited at the same time, especially when the woman who gave me my medal gave me a huge hug and said Congratulations you did it. It tipped me over the edge and the tears came out at the same time I was grinning like a lunatic. That lasted until they gave us our t shirts and goody bags when I turned more nauseous and sore. My bag was in the last possible lorry so that was a long and slow hobble to get to my warm clothes. I then had to make it all the way to the meeting point of X to find Alex (we thought it would be less crowded further away, nope). We met up really quickly because even though we had started in different starts (Alex: Blue, Me: Green) and over 8 minutes apart, we were running within 13 seconds of each other and according to the app overtook each other a few times in the last few miles! People never believe me when I say that we run together just because it’s our normal pace. I think this just proved it. As the below shows I finished 8:46 ahead of Alex and we started 8:00 apart.
We slowly made our way to the Temple Brewhouse to meet our great friends & Team Rainbow runners. We got to enjoy the free pint of any of their Essex Street Brewery drinks (and a few more) until it was much too late for a work night and Alex and I headed back to our too-many-stairs flat to go straight to bed.
As an #extramile media ambassador for Virgin Money I was given a media entry for the London Marathon in exchange for writing about my training and experiences using the #extramile hashtag.