RACE DAY!!

It’s taken me until now to come to terms with a mixture of emotions. If you followed my progress online, or on Twitter, or Facebook, you’ll know things did not go to plan. I did not get under four hours, but I did get a new personal best.

My training had been hampered with illness. Just over a week before, I’d been unable to get out of bed, and I was worried I’d have to defer to next year. I really did not want to do that, as I am still hopeful of pupillage, and training for a marathon and an fledging career as an advocate would not be possible.

I managed to train over the weekend, and the week leading up to the marathon. I actually felt okay for the first time in weeks, and so on Saturday, I took my registration document to the Excel Centre, and collected my number and chip.

Asthma UK held a pasta party in Canning Town. I had a huge bowl of spaghetti bolognese, and a can of full fat coke. The husband had the same, for a donation of a fiver, and given the quality of the food, and the portion size, it really was value for money. If anyone is thinking of running for a charity, Asthma UK do know how to look after their runners!

I had a relaxing day, and night. The hotel wasn’t the quietest, but at least I didn’t have to get up at stupid o’clock like last time. I’d been very nervous in the days leading up to the Marathon, but on the morning itself, I was fine.

One thing that I really like about the London Marathon is being waved through the gates by the Underground staff. We get free travel, and certainly when going into the centre where the stations are quiet, the staff wave us through with words of luck and encouragement.

I left the husband at Charing Cross station. There seemed little point in him coming with me to the start. The trains are crowded, and the main areas are cordoned off so non-runners aren’t allowed through. We bid our farewells, with him telling me he’d see me at Tower Bridge, and off I went to Greenwich Park the Red Start. Despite the forecasts, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue. No sign of the cold or rain, and the decision to go with my running gear and a tracksuit looked good.

Except.

When I reached the start area, and handed my special London Marathon kitbag to the appropriate van, it was warm enough for me not to be cold. Anyone who knows me will know that I feel the cold far too easily. So to be wandering around in shorts, running tights, t-shirt, and vest without a goose bump in sight, I knew it was going to be a warm one.

I was hoping that being in pen 5 instead of pen 8 would see me across the start line quicker than last time – WRONG! It was just under 10 minutes, exactly the same as in 2008, before I officially started my London Marathon. I did see the kit lorries leaving, and someone wit near to me did remark “would they notice if I jumped on board”?

The first mile is never quick in a race I’ve ever entered. I’m not quick enough to warrant a start place near to the front, and so I eased into my race pace. The first three miles average 9min/mile, which was where I wanted to be, and I felt comfortable and relaxed. So much so, mile 4 was a worrying 7:52! I quickly reigned that in, and maintained my target pace from then on. Every mile on the course is marked, and there is a clock at each one, although one (I can’t remember if it was mile 6 or not) was not working.

The crowds south of the river are amazing, and there’s a real party atmosphere along some stretches. I appreciated the resident in Greenwich who was probably breaking a hosepipe ban to try and cool us runners down, and I hope he wasn’t punished for it.

Cutty Sark still remains a problem. People slow down far too much, even though it’s a sharp bend, but I don’t like to have my rhythm or momentum disrupted. At least this time, I actually made my own way round!

I reached Tower Bridge in good time, but didn’t spot the husband. He said he saw me, and I looked comfortable. I felt it. I reached halfway in under two hours, just, and still felt comfortable.

The problems started at just after 15 miles. I could feel my nose running, so wiped it with the back of my hand, as I didn’t have any tissue. That was an oversight I regretted; when I pulled my hand away, it was covered in blood. I had to slow down to try to stop the bleed, and to try and get some tissue. I didn’t want to stop. I managed to sort myself out, and after 16.5 miles, the bleeding had stopped. But my rhythm had gone. I was now running at 10m/mile pace, and calculated a 4:05 finish. “I’ll take that”, I thought. I was giving it my all, and if a poxy nosebleed was going to cost me 5 minutes, it wasn’t the end of the world, just one of those things.

It’s amazing how that changes though. Shortly after the 20 mile mark, I develop a stitch. I can cope with a stitch. Breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth as the opposite foot strikes the floor. Sadly this doesn’t work when you quickly develop a stitch on the OTHER side as well. The pain was unbearable, so I slowed to walking pace, and tried to stretch the stitches out. This worked to the extent that I was able to jog 400-600m, then walk 200m, and then repeat for nearly 6 miles.

As I struggled to get through those last six miles, I felt angry with myself for having such a crappy body, I felt guilty; so many people had sponsored me, and I felt as though I was letting them down, and I felt like a cheat. Did I think anyone else struggling was a cheat? Of course not, but I’m not everyone else. There were points were I was very close to tears, and there were points where I did mentally kick myself up the backside and tell myself to keep on going. The main thing that kept me going was I wasn’t going to give up, and I didn’t want to be one of those people who doesn’t finish.

At about mile 22, someone told me my nose was covered in blood. My top, thankfully, wasn’t. I managed to get some more tissue, but the bleed was an old one that had stopped by itself, as I managed to peel off a nice ring of dried blood from around my nostril!

Along Embankment, I came across another Asthma UK runner, Graham, who was struggling. We walked together for a bit, and he’d been walking and jogging for about as long as I had. We spent the last three miles bunny-hopping; one of us had the strength to jog for a bit, only to be caught by the other. This helped me to keep going, I don’t know whether it helped Graham or not!

The one thing I did say was I was not going to walk down the Mall. I managed to jog the last half mile, even though my sides were in bits. Sadly, I didn’t spot the photographers in time, and there are some awful photos, but once I realised I could be caught on camera, I did my best to make it look like I wasn’t struggling! The sprint finish was out, but I crossed the line 4 hours and 16 minutes after starting the race.

Unlike last time, where I was elated to have finished, I was bitterly disappointed and in pain. I couldn’t get hold of the husband, and had to cry down the phone to my parents. My mum’s pride made me feel even more worse than I did. I could feel the texts coming in on my phone, and once the Nike + app had been turned off, buzzes from Twitter and Facebook notifications. I felt that I’d let everybody down. It took a while for it to sink in that despite the problems, I’d actually run my quickest ever marathon.

Four days on, and the emotions are still mixed. I can’t help showing off my medal, but can’t shake off the disappointment at not getting close to my target time. My problems are put into perspective though, when I heard about Claire Squires, a fellow Leicestershire runner, who collapsed, and passed away, a mile short of the finish, I count my blessings I finished. RIP Claire, and I am sure your family are taking comfort from the public’s response, and the donations to your fundraising page.

Medal and t-shirt – not as good as they used to be…

My own fundraising is modest in comparison; as I write this blog, the total is £1,655.38, which includes Gift Aid. Many, many thanks to everybody for your support. The generosity of friends, family, and strangers who I know only in a virtual world, is amazing. You are all brilliant, and on behalf of Asthma UK, and those who suffer with the condition, thanks.

It’s not too late to donate, if you prefer to do so once you know the person has actually completed the event! You can donate by visiting this link.  Thank you.

This is my last marathon. I finished with no blisters, all of my toenails intact, but my sanity? Well…

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One response to “RACE DAY!!

  1. That's an inspiring and brutally honest recap of what was clearly a difficult day. Target times are all very well, but your achievements in preparing for, and completing, this gruelling event are many. I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't be disappointed but I am saying that you should also be immensely proud of yourself. And hopefully, as the disappointment fades the pride will remain.

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