Week 5 – London Marathon Memories

38,000 runners took to the streets yesterday to conquer the London Marathon. Over the past 36 hours my news feed has been full of pictures and status updates of the incredible achievements people have made. Watching the coverage on BBC1 and tracking friends online brought back some amazing memories of the same day I had 2 years ago. To get into the London Marathon via the ballot is a very hard task, but I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain my place through charity. I was due to run last year, but in 2015 had to pull out 3 weeks prior because of a stress fracture. I was also due to run yesterday, Children with Cancer had reserved my place for me, however, I had to make the hard decision early on this year to not run. I gave my place away to someone else back in February as I have learnt that I would have been expecting too much of my body to fully train in a short amount of time. I also did not want to risk injuring myself again. I’m glad I was able to give the opportunity to someone else and to experience the most unforgettable day I had back in 2014.
I still remember my London Marathon Experience so vividly…
It all began early the day before on the Saturday. I caught a train from Milton Keynes to Euston and headed over to the expo to pick up my race number. Once I had obtained my bib, I wandered around the exhibition to see the various stands and sponsors who were there on the day. It was here that I discovered the medal hanger company, which I went on to purchase a hanger from, to showcase all of my shiny bling and also where the name for my blog ‘Miles of Memories’ was born. I visited the Children with Cancer stand and covered the rest of the floor before heading out of the expo full of nerves and excitement. I left the ExCel and made my way over to Tower Bridge where I met my best friend Freya for ‘brunch’. We enjoyed pastries, yoghurt and fruit, carb loading was in full swing. We sat in the outside section of the restaurant overlooking London Bridge, marking the half way point on the course. Here, I had a picture with my number which I remembering posting online, pre-warning Mo Farah to watch out for me the following day 😉

After here I headed over to West London to my Nans where I would be staying for the evening. I chatted with my Uncle (he has previously run the London Marathon) and he gave me some my final tips ahead of race day.

  • Number 1 was to, ‘not change a thing’. It’s so important to follow your own routine, don’t get caught up by what others are doing, use the same gels/energy drinks and wear the same outfit you’ve worn throughout training.
  • Number 2 was to ‘not read the back of other runners tops. The majority of people taking part in the Marathon are doing so for charity and for reasons close to their heart. With my Uncle knowing how emotional I am, he could see me balling my eyes out, not because of the pain or the blisters, but for the stories behind people’s cause to run.
  • Number 3 the last and most important point, to enjoy it!

That evening Nan cooked my requested meal of chicken, sweet potato and vegetables and not long after this I headed to bed for an early night.
I woke up the following morning – D Day!!! I ate my routine meal of porridge with banana and a large cup of coffee. I’d also made a fruit and oat smoothie to sip on, on my way to the start line to ensure my muscles were full of as much glycogen as possible. I arrived at the red start line along with thousands of others. I cannot explain the emotions I was feeling at this point but tried to remain calm and put faith in the training I had completed up until this point. I’ve never been to a race which has been so organised. It was so easy to drop off my bag and that was it, ready to go. Oh wait, no I wasn’t. Nerves had kicked in and I was desperate for the loo. I eyed up the queue and could see that I would actually be able to finish the Marathon before I got to use the toilet. I spotted a huge marquee which a lot of people were coming in and out of. This is where I encountered not one of my finest moments in life. I squatted inside the tent with the entrance being guarded to not letting anyone else in and protect my modesty.
Anyway, moving swiftly on, after feeling more relaxed I made my way over to the mass start and waited for the klaxon to sound. The horn went and I didn’t move an inch… I had been told before, that due to the sheer volume of runners it takes around 10 minutes to pass the start. A few minutes later, I could see movement and I was off… ok it was a slow shuffle but myself and the others around me in pen 7 inched closer to the start.
Just as I was about to begin I had only what I can describe as an absolute nightmare. At the time I had not trained with a GPS watch, I was using the Nike running app to track my pace and distance. It was ideal for me as I could listen to music at the same time, I’d also created a super motivational playlist to get me round. I had switched down the brightness on my phone to save battery and somehow trying to hit the start button DELETED THE APP! I couldn’t believe it, I instantly went into panic mode. It took me a few minutes to compose myself but I had to make the best of a bad situation, by getting my music ready and just running with how I felt. This was actually a blessing in disguise, I listened to my body and ran my absolute heart out. At every mile marker there was a clock so I was able to vaguely to keep an eye on my time. Instead of tracking pace I embraced the atmosphere and the moment that I was in, I knew moments like this don’t happen often.
As I weaved through the crowed during the first few miles I began to find my stride and my nerves began to settle. I couldn’t believe the support out on the course, so many people were there to cheer us all on. My best friends spotted me first at around mile 6 or 7 and as I caught a glimpse of them I also clocked a huge banner they had made for me. It gave me such a huge boost of energy and I continued on, excited as to who I would spot next. Not far on from this I saw my parents, brother and his girlfriend Georgi. I screamed out in excitement as I had seen them before they saw me and think I scared a few spectators in the process. Tears flooded my eyes and I can’t explain to this day why, I think I was so happy and pleased that I had seen them. This gave me another boost and I thought of Mum here. I knew she was supporting me the whole way round. Approaching halfway was Tower Bridge, I simply immersed myself in the moment, crossing the beautiful structure, hoping I could find the BBC camera to wave at and have my 5 seconds of fame.
I saw my friends twice more and my parents at around mile 18 or 19. I have no idea where it was, but all I remember was spotting them, turning back, giving my Dad a huge kiss and carrying on. People were shocked I was running in the wrong direction!
The sights of London were stunning and I pushed on as the miles kept flying past. I never hit the wall that day, I’m not going to say it was easy, but I can’t begin to explain how the crowds and atmosphere carry you through. As I hit 26 miles, I knew I was in reaching distance, I’d passed the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and was minutes away from the finish line. I was gutted I had not spotted my Grandparents or Uncle but knew they’d be waiting for me at the end. As I crossed that line, I lifted my hands in the air, scanning around to see that myself and many others round me HAD COMPLETED THE LONDON MARATHON. I think I hugged a few random strangers at this point, elated at the accomplishment we had all made. The months of commitment and hard work had all paid off. I had looked at the clock and couldn’t quite work out my time but figured it was around the 4 hour mark. I was handed my medal and had my chip cut off. I love the fact they had volunteers doing this for us… Bending down at this time would have been a huge task and I don’t think my legs would have allowed me to get back up. I made my way to collect my baggage and grabbed for my phone to try and find out where my family was. I’d agreed to meet my Nan, Grandad, Uncle, Brother and Georgi first at one of the dedicated meeting spots before heading to the pub in Covent Garden to meet my parents and friends. Here I would also have my first drink since New Years (I’d sacrificed alcohol for almost 4 months for my training!).

My phone lit up, it was my brother, George. He didn’t even say hello, he was shouting, ‘you did it, you did it, you got under 4 hours’. My aim on the day was to try and get a sub 4, but I was apprehensive due to this being my first one and my main ambition was to just get around the course! Somehow I’d ended up with 3 hours and 54 minutes, I WAS BUZZING, on top of the world, it was the best feeling ever. This had just topped off the most perfect race. The obligatory photos in my finishers tee with my medal were taken and we headed over to Browns in Covent Garden to celebrate. I had to take off my shoes, the heat had caused my trainers to rub and I had earned myself some awesome blisters!! At this point I did not care what I looked like. I wore my medal with pride and congratulated many others around me, the streets still full of runners and spectators. It took me about a week to actually stop wearing my medal and it not being socially suitable to wear it any longer.

The evening was topped off by further drinks and a meal with my family. Despite being exhausted the endorphins had taken over my body and I felt incredible. The experience I had was simply unforgettable. A marathon is not a walk in the park by any means, but I think the positive memories have taken over the pain my legs definitely felt the next day.
Watching the coverage yesterday was truly inspiring, well done to those who completed the London Marathon. The ballot opens next Monday and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t going to enter. But, in the meantime I have 7 weeks of half marathon training to conquer and at the moment I’m feeling great. A quick summary of what I got up to last week:
Monday – Circuits at the gym
Tuesday – Yoga, preparing myself for the race I had planned for the following day
Wednesday – 10K Chicks Chase Race (I’ve reviewed this on the Race Reports Page) 20 seconds off my PB but happy in the warm conditions.
Thursday – Upper body weights session and some intervals on the bike
Friday – Arms and Core work
Saturday – my return to ParkRun after a long while off, I joined Paul and Tim for a warm up lap of the lake and finished on just under 7 miles for the day following a cool down. Pleased with my time of 24:15 and 2nd in age category. I didn’t feel ready for a PB today so didn’t push too hard. Note to self, must work on speed in the next few weeks!
Sunday – Long Run Day.. Joined the Redway Runners for a lovely 10.5 miles. Ran most of the way with John who I’d not seen in a while so was great to catch up. Cool down was a whole lap of IKEA (legs are thankful for this today!)