April 23rd, 2017 – a grey start in London. The forecast was pretty good, not too hot and not too cold, just right in fact for a 26.2 mile run as far as I could tell. That’s all it is, just a long run, at least that’s what I was telling myself, and It happens to be the London Marathon!!
The weekend started with a train trip to the city and to the Expo to collect my number ‘9078’. The train from the West Country was full of runners, the tubes were full of runners, the expo was super busy but was a great experience – all part of the buzz of the weekend and the build up to to the event that I have spent the last 6 months of my life getting ready for, it’s a big deal to me and nerves were starting to kick in but I was feeling relaxed and ready at the same time.
On the morning of the London marathon I went down for some breakfast in the hotel, they were really prepared for the runners with plenty of bananas and porridge on offer and good luck messages about. I was not at all hungry (down to nerves) but I forced myself to eat and drink as much as I could stomach because I knew I had to, I needed that energy. Porridge with honey, juice, tea and toast. I went back up to my room to start getting ready, I had already spent some time prepping my trainers and clothes the night before. My race number was pinned to my vest, my trainer timing tag was in place, everything was ready, for once I was prepared ahead of time (thats a miracle in itself for me). I was taking it all a little bit too easy when Nick said to me, that as ‘my coach’ he thought it was time I went. It was about 7.30am. I had last minute painted my nails, as you do, in the Alzheimers Research charity colours so was just waiting for them to dry before I finally had yet another nervous loo stop and then left the hotel.
The Blackfriars tube station was not far away and Nick accompanied me to that point, where I then had a few tears! Why, I’m not sure, I guess it was overwhelming the moment was finally here, the next time I would see him I will be running or have run a marathon! I also had apprehension which I guess is normal, this was my first marathon, what if I couldn’t do it, what if something went wrong? There were 2 guys in the eerily quiet tube station, clearly heading to the start too, so Nick asked them if they would take me with them! I tagged along and the three of us went off together. They stuck with me the whole journey which was lovely of them, they even waited for me to wee (again) in a Costa coffee shop that we passed en route, and they took this photo of me as we crossed a bridge and saw Tower Bridge in the background. I would soon be running across that at the halfway point of the marathon…
when we reached the blue start, I lost the two guys (or they lost me deliberately maybe)! but i was fine because I needed to join the wee queue (again) and think about putting my bag into the baggage trucks. I bumped into someone I knew through a friend (small world) and we joined the wee queue together. This was not any ordinary wee queue, it was a female urinal queue. What can I say? Guys… you have it so easy! That was an experience in itself, and I used it twice before heading to the start line for 10am. I was feeling unusually relaxed. I managed to sit on the grass, the sun came out, I called Nick and my Stepmum and just took in the atmosphere. There were helicopters buzzing overhead, people milling around everywhere, it was an electric, festival like atmosphere.
When I lined up in my starting pen, I was in the 4hr30 pen, this was determined by the time I guesstimated I would finish when I entered the ballot. I don’t think it made much difference really but I should have guessed 4hrs and been a little further forward. As it happened it took me less than 10 minutes to actually cross the start line. We started to move at a walk pace first off, time for a few photos, and then all of a sudden I just remember I was jogging, that was it, we had begun. It was such a buzz being a part of this iconic run, I remember just being slightly overwhelmed at being there and smiling from ear to ear taking in the atmosphere. Even though I had already been, I needed another wee as soon as I started to run! So I took to decision to go early on in the race so that I could be comfortable and crack on. I stopped at mile 2 portaloos, there was not much of a queue, I waited probably a minute or so and by the time I started running again it was probably 3 minutes in total. I can totally get why Paula Radcliffe did her famous toilet incident back in 2005 now! Every second counts right? My 4:11 could has been 4:08 if it wasn’t for that call of nature!
I felt really good running my first 10km, in fact the first few miles went by really quickly. I knew to look out for Nick and friends Fleur and David at the mile 6 point on the right hand side and so when I saw them it really gave me a boost! I wasn’t to see them again unfortunately, but to be able to see them the once was a bonus. You think of the tens of thousands of people that are there on that day, to spot your supporters and for them to spot you is difficult! I was scanning the roadside looking for Nick’s bright orange Alzheimers tee shirt and then I spotted him so had to stop for a quick hug! – another potential 30 seconds off my time 😉
As I left Nick and the guys I remember thinking thats one quarter of the race gone, my next aim was Tower Bridge, roughly the halfway point. I had my headphones in to motivate me, I had made a marathon playlist of all my favourites – I know I know, some people would say why? You have that crowd and atmosphere, but there were so many people wearing headphones and I did take them out for moments when I passed iconic sites and bands playing. As I approached tower bridge, I felt kind of emotional, for me that was a pivotal moment. It was amazing running across it and I was just smiling to myself. I heard someone shout my name really loudly and looked back to see and wave to friends from Frome, Rick and Lynda which was just amazing!
I still felt great into the second half – no walls yet.. it was literally only in the last 4-5 miles that I slowed down. My hip flexors were starting to ache understandably and I was feeling tired. I had taken on quite a bit of water during the race, I found that the 250ml bottles were a perfect size to hold and as it was pretty warm I had one with me most of the time. I was using jelly babies as nutrition, thats the one area I had not really got down to a tee in training, I tried gels and because I had bad tummy during one experience I associated that and didn’t try them again. Bummer as I bought a box of 10! I will try them again some time.
I was counting down the miles as I got towards the end. At mile 23 I passed Prince William, Kate and Harry! At mile 24 I had to smile as Lady GaGa Edge of Glory came onto my playlist, aptly timed! I was running past the London Eye, then Big Ben, the crowds were getting louder and I knew I was so close now, the headphones came off. As I passed Buckingham Palace and saw the finish, I was running down the Mall feeling a massive sense of pride, I can’t describe that feeling, I heard a guy shout out to me come on Shelly, your looking strong for the finish and that spurred me on. I did it!!!! I completed the London Marathon in 4 hours 11 minutes and 4 seconds. This was 6 months in the making, I was so proud of myself and that moment was the proudest sporting achievement in my life. I didn’t win, I wasn’t the fastest but I did it and I did it in a respectable time.
In that vain, when I stopped, my legs were tingling but not hurting. Tired yes. My lower back ached and my arm was exceptionally stiff! My arm hurt more than my legs, because I had been carrying water bottles the entire race, something I had never done in training! I was in a bit of a daze after the finish, i collected my medal and goody bag and headed to collect my bag and then it was a long walk down the mall to find Nick. I stopped half way to stretch my hip flexors and that arm which felt really stiff. I was kind of aimlessly wandering when I saw Nick up ahead trying to call me. It was great to see Nick, Fleur and David. I plonked myself down by a tree and took my trainers off only to find a huge mother of all blisters on my right foot arch – I hadn’t even felt it! Adrenaline must have taken over. Lucky I had some compede on me. I wasn’t hungry, although Fleur made me eat some salty cashew nuts, but I was thirsty and polished off my water and coconut water from the goody bag.
We headed to the Alzheimers after party afterwards, it took a while to get there and was a bit more walking than I would have liked after 26.2! We stopped enroute for various photos and to cross the road where runners were still coming in but when we arrived, we had a hot drink there, I refuelled and had a bit of a rest before heading back to Blackfriars. I left the guys at the pub just up from the hotel and had a shower and a clean up before meeting up with them again for a celebratory glass of wine before we headed off to embankment to find somewhere to eat. There were people all over London proudly wearing their marathon medals and finisher t-shirts, so I didn’t feel daft wearing my medal. I am super proud of it.
Below are some stats from my run:
- My runner number was 9078
- I crossed the line at the start 9 min 48 seconds after the gun time
- I finished in a time of 4:11:04
- My average speed was 9.35 min/miles (5,57 per km) 6.3 mph
- In the first 35km I passed 5366 runners and 968 runners passed me
- In the last 7.2 km I passed 826 runners and 148 runners passed me
- I was 773rd in my age category
- I was 4071st women
- I was 15,830th overall – there were 23,543 finishers behind me
And that my friends… was my London marathon. I just want to complete this journey with a few THANK YOU’S and a shout out to everybody that has supported me along the way.
In particular to my husband, Nick for being there for me through all the ups and downs of marathon training which as a non runner may have been testing at times! for putting up with me spending most Sundays this year running, supporting me at many smaller races and for handling the booking of the trains and hotels for London itself.
To my Stepmum, Joy, for supporting me wholeheartedly throughout and for helping me to raise sponsorship offline and for being a genuinely amazing person looking after Dad, she has the hardest job in the world and running a marathon is nothing in comparison.
My thanks also to Fleur and David for accompanying us on the day in London to support and for being great friends and for taking some fab photos. To everybody that did a training run with me, particularly my new found running friend Laura (thanks for the intro Fleur, what was it you said just call me Tinder for Runners!) for being an inspiration to me, a support and motivator. Nicola Cretney, Danny Vowles and Fleur Rush for kindly donating prizes for my sweepstake prize fund (won by Paddy Mead).
And last but by no means least, A HUGE THANK YOU to everybody who has donated to my cause Alzheimers Research UK. With your help I have raised £886.50 including gift aid online + £200 offline making a GRAND TOTAL OF £1086.50 – and have doubled the target I set myself of £500! I can’t ask for more than that. You can still donate by clicking here if you want to.
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A few people have asked me, would I do it again, would I run another marathon? The answer is YES, definitely. I feel privileged to have been able to run London, there are no guarantees of getting in with the ballot so I count myself very lucky to have had the opportunity. I had entered the ballot for the 2018 race but sadly I was not successful this time. I will continue to try! If you are thinking of running a marathon there are many great resources out there that can help you with your training, including this comprehensive guide that is packed with practical tips and advice from Sports Fitness Advisor.
February 2018 Update. Sadly my Dad passed away on 20th November 2017 from this terrible disease. We all miss him terribly. I am so glad I was able to run the Marathon while he was still with us as he was a huge part of the journey and my motivation.