Now that a few days have passed since Sunday, I finally feel like my brain is working enough to write about my London Marathon experience.
On Saturday we were up early so that we could get up to London in plenty of time to drop off our luggage at the hotel and head over to the Expo. Even though we got to our hotel at just after 10am, they actually had our room available so we were able to check in and leave our luggage there which was helpful. We then headed straight over to the expo which was an Excel and unsurprisingly the DLR got rather busy the closer we got and we had to queue to get out of the station when we got there!
Even though the train had been so busy, the marathon registration desk for my number was not so I was able to register and pick up my number and timing chip etc very quickly which put my mind at ease so that we could then get on and enjoy the Expo itself which took us awhile to get around. The first port of call was to pick my goodie bag from the LessBounce store as I was part of their ‘Marathon club’ – and a very useful set of goodies it was too including a different energy drink to try and several bits of food. We had a polaroid taken at a couple of the stalls, and tried to dodge all the people trying to convince us to do other marathons and events as I was pretty certain I would never ever be doing this again!
It took us awhile to get around but then I remembered that there was also a QR Hunt so we went round again doing that (having been round once we worked out the clues pretty quickly!) and then sat down for a little bit to hear the people on the main stage. I was starting to get a bit tired by this point, so we headed out to head back to the hotel – but not before I had my picture taken with a Newcastle United Shirt (because Virgin sponsor both the marathon and my team) and pick up my goodie bag for completing the QR Hunt (which included some compeed blister plasters) and my goodie bag for taking part in the marathon.
The rest of the day we spent at the hotel just resting, and even went to their special marathon pasta party in the evening rather than finding our own dinner elsewhere. It was obviously the first time they’d done this and the staff were a bit confused about how it was supposed to work but the food was just what I needed – lots of carbs!!
Having had a better nights sleep than I expected (though I was awake off and on from 5.30am!) I went down for breakfast at 7 and had my usual pre walk breakfast of porridge and toast. Then it was back to theroom to check that I had everything before heading out to get to the start.
Heres where things I hadn’t factored into my training started to work against me a little. First I had to walk to the train station, then catch a train to the start area which was absolutely heaving though luckily I had a seat. Then I had to walk to the actual start area and hang around (sitting on the damp grass or standing) before getting to my start zone (the last one as I would be slow!) and standing there for about 30 minutes before were even able to start walking towards the start after the hooter went (not that we heard it as we were so far from the start!). All of this meant that I’d done a bit of walking etc before I even started the marathon!!
As I was on the blue start (which would join with the red start after 3 miles), I didn’t go through the iconic ‘gates’ that you see on the TV but although I didn’t know it when I crossed the start line it actually worked in my favour. After the race was set off at 10am, it actually took me 17 mins to get across the start so that was when I started my own tracking going (I used an app called Endomondo on my phone). Pretty soon there weren’t that many other marathoners around me as there weren’t that many people who were walking the whole course.
I knew that it was quite likely that they would start cleaning up and removing the course around me as I walked as they had to reopen the roads but I was a little surprised when the sweep coach (i.e. the one that collects people who have dropped out) went passed me before I’d even made it to 2 miles! Then the lorry went past me that was removing the blue line which was a little demoralizing! However at 3 miles, my start joined with the red start and there were more people around me again, so I think it was just that my start was supposed to be the faster start but I guess I must’ve been in there because I deferred from last year.
Shortly after the two starts joined I saw Gemma for the first time which was a nice boost, and the crowd was encouraging even though I was so slow. A few people were a bit confused about the fact that I was just walking all the way and I did get a few people who thought I was ‘cheating’ for walking! I tried to acknowledge everyone who called my name (its very useful having that on your top if you ever do anything like this!), and lots of kids wanted you to slap their hands as you want past so that broke up the monotony of plodding round. I’d managed to keep a good pace at the start so was quite happy with my progress and I didn’t feel too bad as I approached 6 miles and cutty sark.
Here I was to see Gemmas family for the first time who gave me a lucozade that I needed, and then Gemma (who hadn’t been able to get to them because of the amount of people there) which gave me another lift, especially as I knew I wouldn’t see them again until after Tower Bridge. I carried on plodding on my way, and chatting to one or two of the others who passed me or I passed. The crowds were also really starting to thin out now and some of the ones who were around were a bit drunk in places!!! I had my first ‘what on earth are you doing’ moment at around 10 miles because of this, and also because the sweep coach had been passed me for the first time and I’d had my first indication that they were going to start clearing the course and I would soon have to walk on the pavement. At this point I didn’t know whether the water stations, toilets etc would all be around as I continued on the course so I was a bit concerned.
As I approached Mile 12, the cleanup crew had started in earnest – cleaning lorries were sweeping the road around and ahead of me, the timing clocks were being taken down at the mile markers, and they were removing barriers and shutting down water stations! Eeeek, I thought to myself!! By the time I got to Tower Bridge I wasn’t allowed to work across it on the road and they made us go onto the pavement at the point that it was narrowest. None of the pedestrians knew this was happening too so I had to ask people to move out of the way to let me through which I was not that impressed about! I know its because I was slow but it was a bit disappointing.
On the other side of Tower Bridge I saw Gemma and her family as well as my mum who’d managed to come up for the day too so that was a welcome sight as I was a bit demoralised and it was quite hot so I was struggling a bit. I was allowed back on the road again but from this point onwards it was a case of walking on the road when I could to avoid the pedestrians and walking on the pavement when they made me! As they continued to dismantle the course around me I started to get really concerned that I wouldn’t know where the course went but luckily they never removed the blue line so I was always able to use that to work out where to go. At Mile 15 I saw our friend Meg who gave me an incentive to get to the end by saying she’d made chocolate brownies with dairy milk chunks in!!
I was now heading into Docklands, which meant that I was able to walk on the road most of the time and that I saw everyone who was supporting me (including our friends Peter, Julie and Rebecca who’d joined them) a few times as the course looped back on itself several times. At Mile 19 I had the only problem that made me think that I wouldn’t complete the marathon when I got a sharp pain in my left hip and then my left knee started playing up probably because I was walking a bit oddly. For the next couple of miles I really struggled and my pace slowed considerably, but I put on a brave face when I saw people as I didn’t want my mum to see! Luckily they hadn’t removed the toilets from around the course, and the waterstations still had water and people to give it out so I was able to get help when I needed it.
However, Gemma gave me some additional painkillers (I’d already taken Ibruprofen earlier to help me, so she gave me paracetamol) and that helped with the pain so I was able to keep going and convince myself to get to the end. At Mile 23 I met up with Meg and her boyfriend Adam (who was my personal trainer who helped me prepare for the marathon) and they started walking with me which really helped as now my feet were hurting too. It also meant that they could help with the route as we had to divert off as they had shut one of the tunnels the actual route had taken so they could remove all the stuff in it!
At Mile 24, we met up with Gemma, my mum and everyone else as well as our friend Debbie who had come to see me finish and my mum then went to the finish to be ready to take a picture and everyone else walked with me to the end. This was really helpful as they encouraged me, cleared people out of my path and made sure I kept drinking and eating so that I got to the end. Even though it was less than 3 miles it still seemed a long, long way off!
Finally getting to Big Ben and turning onto the Mall was fantastic though, and Gemma was allowed to walk with me to the line and people stopped clearing up to cheer me over the line!! Most of the way along, the timing mats that worked with the chip on my shoe had been removed so I wasn’t expecting to get an official time but my Endomondo app clocked me at 8 hours 2 minutes which was a bit faster than I’d expected to complete it so I was very happy with that and that I’d ACTUALLY FINISHED IT!!
I’d even got in in fast enough to pick up an actual medal (see below) and my space blanket which I really thought I’d be too late to get! My feet were sore, I was very very tired, and I just wanted to get back to the hotel and lie down but I was still excited about finishing – I think its only really hitting me now three days later what I accomplished though!
Once we got back to the hotel (which I walked to, so all in all I probably did about 30 miles as in the actual marathon I did 27.5 rather than 26.2 due to having to walk on the pavement etc!!) Gemma made sure I had my footbath and was ok and then went and had dinner with her parents and my mum (everyone else had left by now as they had to get home) and I just dozed and made sure I kept hydrated. The Compeed plasters came in handy now (as did a very thoughtful present of some cooling footgel from Debbie) as the pain in my feet turned out to be from a couple of large blisters where my 1000 mile socks had scrounched up a bit. It still hadn’t really sunk in what I’d done because I think in my mind, I was still walking because I had been doing it for so long!! Then I got a text from Gemma – I had an official time!!! Wow! I was the third last person to get a time too, so I came THIRD!
Looking at the news reports on Monday, I also found out that even though there hadn’t been many people that I’d passed or who had passed me as I came to the finish at 6.20pm, by 7pm another 110 people had completed the marathon after me!! I wonder if there was anyone else still out on the course even after that??? I hope that they all finished ok if there were. I did see one or two people who were in obvious pain and being helped by the medical teams but nothing too bad which given the heat that was more than we’d all trained in I think thats pretty good!
Other than the blisters on my feet, and a bit of stiffness in my legs I seem to have come away with just being very tired after my exertions which I think is a great result! I’ve also broken my fundraising target and have raised so far over £2200 so I’m very happy with that too. Of course my sponsorship page is still open if you know anyone that would like to help me raise even more money – see the link at the bottom of this post!
I’ve taken the week off work to recover – hopefully by the weekend my blisters will have gone and I can walk about normally. For those who were there on the day, and everyone who supported me virtually it all helped A LOT even if I haven’t got around to thanking you – I’m still trying to catch up with every message! If there is anyone I miss out, then please accept my apologies!! The biggest thanks must go to Gemma though, without whom I would never have made it to the start line let alone completed the marathon. She helped me do all the training I need to do, and coordinated my support on the day as well as looking after me afterwards – thank you a million times over darling!!
Oh, and before anyone says anything else I am NEVER EVER doing anything like this again. You have my word on that!!
My sponsorship page is at : http://www.justgiving.com/Sturtridge-London-Marathon