I started to draft this blog on the train into London two days before the marathon was due to take place. Even though I wasn’t running, we’d already booked a hotel and mum was flying over from Ireland (sadly not to see me cross the finish line as we had planned). With mixed feelings we decided to go up anyway and spend the weekend in Greenwich, 10 minutes from the start line.
There’s a lot of talk about how London is the best marathon in the world so I’ve wanted to run it ever since I can remember. Before I was even a runner. Before I’d even entered my first race. So, to say no to it, felt heartbreaking at the time.
I decided only a few weeks before the big day not to run in 2017, instead deferring my place until next year. So far 2017 has been a year full of illness. I’ve had various colds, coughs that wouldn’t go away and asthma related issues. Perhaps I didn’t rest enough but, every time I thought I’d recovered, I’d start to train and, bam, I’d get ill again. I was in denial for a good few weeks before I made what felt like the hardest decision of my life but, in the end, I knew I wasn’t ready to run.
The final thing I needed to make up my mind was some good news from the Dogs Trust. I was especially worried about contacting them but they were brilliant when I did. They told me that they would get my place back, which I could have next year, and the fundraising I had already done wouldn’t be lost. They asked how I was, checked in with me to make sure I was OK and they answered all my questions and concerns.
I’ve learned a lot since having to say no to the 2017 London Marathon, and I think I’m better for it.
It’s OK to cry. Despite the fact that my place and fundraising were secure for 2018, I did shed a few tears about deferring. Getting a place in the London Marathon and then giving it up is a big deal when you’ve wanted to run it for years. Getting a ballot place is virtually impossible. I tried the public ballot three times before going to a charity, got turned down to run for The Blue Cross (they told me they had no places even though there were adverts all over Facebook and their website asking for people to run for them) and then got accepted to run for the Dogs Trust. After all of my efforts to raise the £1800 target, I couldn’t help but cry when I had to accept that I’d have to wait another year to live the dream. And, you know what? That’s OK. I had a couple of people saying, ‘But you’ve got your place for next year’, and, ’There’s only another year to wait’. But when you have to admit defeat, that year feels like a lifetime away so if you need to cry, do it and accept it later!
It makes you more determined. When I got my place in the London Marathon through the Dogs Trust, I didn’t only want to run it to raise funds. I didn’t only want to run it because it had been on my marathon wish list for years either. I wanted to get a personal best. Now, I’m not saying I’m not proud of my efforts in the Brighton Marathon in 2015. In fact that day was one of the best running experiences I’ve ever had. It was my first marathon so I didn’t know what to expect, and I still look at my medal with immense pride but I know I could have trained harder. It’s taken me until now to realise that I didn’t train as much as I should have, so I wanted to do it properly this time. I just didn’t get the chance. Giving up my place and having a whole year before I line up at the start has made me want to train harder, really make the most of the rest of 2017 and get that PB next April.
It’s OK to stop and say no. I ran a 10 mile event in Brighton in October 2015, the year I was completing a physical challenge every month for charity. My body was tired and I’d picked up an injury in my left ankle. A pulled muscle that, in all honesty, I didn’t treat well enough. I ran anyway (even though I’d actually completed my challenge for that month after I took part on a 10 mile ‘London Bridges’ trek) and, not only did I come in second to last place, but the run also gave me my worst time ever for that distance. I crossed the finish line and immediately burst into tears. I should have pulled out of the event but I was too stubborn to admit that I wasn’t ready to run 10 miles at that point in my training. I thought, ‘I ran a marathon in April, I can definitely get through this’. I still feel a pull in that ankle so it always reminds me to listen to my body and stop if I have to which is exactly what I’ve done this time round.
There’s always another marathon. On top of deferring my London Marathon place until 2018, I was also lucky enough to get into the ballot for the Berlin Marathon the first time I entered. From what I’d read, it wasn’t as hard to get into this marathon, but with over 74,000 people applying and only 40,000 places available (which includes the elite runners and the ‘good for age’ places) it’s no mean feat to get in first time. In September 2017 I’ll be lining up to run 26.2 miles so I’m not waiting a whole year to run another marathon. I’m waiting 6 months and I get a trip to Germany out of it!
People will be OK with it! One of the thoughts I couldn’t get past and was worried about in the lead up to finally making the decision to defer, was the reaction of those who had helped out for my fundraising efforts or donated towards the total. What would all those people that took part in the charity Crossfit Competition think? What would The Medal Hanger Shop think after they sponsored my blog and gave a donation to The Dogs Trust? What would my friends and family think after they donated their hard earned money towards the cause I’d chosen to run for? It turns out, all I’ve had from everyone kind enough to help, was concern and relief. Real concern that I get better and come back next year stronger than I was this year and relief that I wasn’t going to attempt to run 26.2 miles on virtually no training. The charity were fantastic and The Medal Hanger Shop were amazing too (they suggested working together to rewrite their own blog about our partnership for Berlin).
I’m finishing up with this blog on Sunday the 23rd of April. St. Georges day and the evening that 37,000 runners completed the 2017 London Marathon. We went out and supported and, for a few minutes at the start, I felt emotional. Not because I wasn’t running it myself, but because the London marathon is the best marathon in the world. You can feel the buzz, the nerves and the excitement of those running it and I loved every minute! We stood at the start, mile 6 and mile 17, shouting everyone’s name, offering those all important high fives and shouting encouragement to keep pressing on. It felt like I was reliving my childhood where you could find us on the sidelines every year. It felt good to give some of the support that I’ll hopefully be getting next year.
Spending the weekend spectating has left me excited to get back to my marathon training and start my World Marathon Majors journey in September when I take part in the Berlin marathon. If the support is anything like London then I’m in for a treat.
As for London? I’ll be back, waiting for those high fives, in 2018. See you then.
If you would like to donate please visit Claire runs Berlin and London