It’s taken me a while to write this because the London Marathon didn’t go exactly as I planned it. When I say it didn’t go as planned, I mean it was brutal. It chewed me up and spat me out over the finish line. When I started to write about my experience I just … couldn’t. I couldn’t sum up how I felt about it.
It all started a couple of weeks before that eventful Sunday. Weather reports kept rolling in and they all said the same. The temperature was rising. After 13 weeks of winter training it looked like I was going to be thrown into hot weather normally reserved for the heights of summer. By the time it came to travelling up to London, I was reading reports of temperatures as high at 22 degrees (it turned out to be 24 on the day).
Even travelling to the race expo was hard work. Thankfully the ExCel was air conditioned! The London Marathon expo was brilliant. Where Berlin had been a bit manic and hard to navigate, London was neither. It was spacious enough to browse the clothing uninterrupted and the stalls were well laid out. I picked up my race pack which included my number, and I bought myself some goodies – a New Balance t-shirt and a pair of Oofos flip flops (if you don’t have a pair you need to get some!). I also managed to bag myself some free epsom salts courtesy of Westlab Salts.
The next day we were up early to eat before making our way to the starting area in Greenwich. The DLR strike that had been threatening to go ahead never materialised, so the journey went really smoothly from where we were staying in Canary Wharf. You could sense the excitement and nerves from the hundreds of other runners who were also making their way to the park.
The walk from the station was short and, before long I found myself on the start line. There was no going back now. The first thing I did when I got to the start was queue for the toilet, and I could already feel myself over heating. It was a relief to get into my start pen on Blackheath Avenue where I was at least shaded by trees while I waited.
I could see waves of runners ahead of us starting to move and eventually, we were off! I’d finally made it across the London Marathon start line after having to defer in 2017. The first 6 miles were epic despite the fact that I was already suffering in the heat. I ran through streets that I had grown up around, I ran past my primary school and I even managed to spot a school friend who I knew was watching the race but never in a million years did I think I would actually catch in the large crowds! I was even proposed to at mile three! Well, he wanted Wonder Woman to marry him but still …
I saw my family at mile 6 shortly after I ran around The Cutty Sark. I was so glad to see them even at that early stage, as I needed all the support I could get! After a quick chat and a bit of a rant about the heat I ran on. This is where it all gets a little blurry ….
There’s a reason why my blog about the Berlin Marathon was split into two parts and this one isn’t. I can’t remember any of it. I had so much to say after I took everything in during my first overseas marathon. The route, the art on the walls, the spectators. I can’t remember anything about the middle miles of London. It’s all a blur.
The middle 18 miles of the London Marathon are somewhat uninspiring. There’s nothing to look at until you suddenly hit Tower Bridge at half way. Even as someone who grew up in London, I didn’t really know where I was on route until I turned the corner and saw the best bridge in the world, stretching out ahead of me. I plodded on using the crowd support to get me through until suddenly I was running towards mile 18. I knew my family would be waiting here as they had headed back to our apartment after seeing me earlier in the day. Seeing them was exactly what I needed and, after a little cry, I knew I could finish.
During the last 8 miles I met Joe Wicks AKA The Body Coach on route (of course I stopped for a selfie mid race!), someone shouted, ‘Wonder Woman, give us a twirl!’ which somehow I managed to do, and I started to see some familiar sights like the London Eye and Big Ben (sadly still covered with scaffolding).
Turning the corner onto The Mall and seeing the finish line was surreal. I had waited so long for this moment, so I couldn’t quite believe it was here after struggling through the last 26 miles. I crossed the finish line in 6 hours, 14 minutes and 53 seconds, well outside of the sub-5:30 that I had originally wanted. I was so glad to finish and collect that medal.
I found my family in the crowds and somehow an old colleague managed to find me too with some lovely gifts! We headed back to the apartment cheering on runners who were still going and, just to top off the day, we bumped into Joe Hart (West Ham goalkeeper) in Tesco of all places. I asked him to sign my race number which he did even though he looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there (we later realised that West Ham had lost 4-1 … sorry Joe!).
Despite all the ups and downs I did love it. As my colleague said, I loved it even when I didn’t. I’m a little sad that I don’t think I took it all in but I had a brilliant weekend with family – my support crew – and I couldn’t have done it without them. I raised a lot of money for charity and even met a couple of celebrities.
I spent a few days after the race re-thinking it all. Could I have done better? Walked less? Looking back, I’m not sure I could. Having said that, I have unfinished business with the London Marathon, so will be back again. Hopefully one day I will get the ever elusive ballot place.
But for now, I have Chicago to look forward to. See you at the start line in October.