For all new Marathoners!
A wise old man (let’s just call him Graham) said to me before I started training for the London Marathon “The hardest bit is making it to the start line without getting injured”. Well, 118 days of training and what felt like one day of rest I did make it to the start line for my very first Marathon. I’m not sure how, but I did. It took just over 16 weeks of long Sunday runs; getting frozen hair, wet feet, muddy feet, numb hands, many slips, trips and falls, hailstones straight in the eyeball, swallowing midges and sometimes with Chris Burgess for company.
A week before my Marathon I had the pleasure of watching some of Wigan Harriers Endurance’s finest and Dave Collins compete in the Greater Manchester Marathon. I thought that this would be a good and inspiring way to get me mentally prepared for my challenge the following week. This was up until my very own fiancé decided to run so hard that his body packed in. However, he still managed to clock 3:11:22, not too shabby considering he had a lie down at 20 miles before getting back up and limping to the finish line. I spent the next few days looking after him and secretly thinking “OMG, OMG, OMG I’m not going to be able to do this”.
The weekend finally came for us to set off for London, I was very nervous and a bit snappy, and Tim will back me up on this I’m sure. I was fully prepared for the Marathon thanks to the excellent coaching from the oracle herself Jacqui Jones, I just didn’t believe it. I wasn’t going to believe it until I actually set off on race day. Sunday finally arrived; it was a very early start which began with choking down porridge in my hotel room, then gagging on a banana. I was told by another very wise man (we’ll call this one Barry) to make sure I got plenty sleep the night before and a good breakfast on the day. I got the breakfast but not the sleep; but that is another story.
With Barry, Julie and Tim as my mentors and guides we set off on the train to the start, nobody tells you how bloody far away it is and how many times you will convince yourself you need the loo on the way. Soon I had to leave Barry and Julie and head to the blue start alone (well after I had consoled Tim and wiped the tears away from his face and told him he would be fine without me for a couple of hours). So there I was, alone and about to start the London Marathon. I was calm, I was prepared, I had dropped my bag and was about to have some quiet time before heading to the starting pen. That’s when I saw him, bounding toward me like a giant puppy Labrador with red shorts on; Chris Burgess! So my peaceful start was about to be interrupted with tales of female urinals, a curry for one and him asking a man dressed as a giant telephone if he could ring his mum. But on a serious note it was comforting to see a fellow Harrier even if it was ‘Crazy Horses’.
I nervously made my way to the starting pen, ready to go. It really is an amazing atmosphere and a fantastic marathon for a first timer, and I was about to find out first hand. On setting off I was surprised by the sheer number of people around me, there was no danger of me setting off too fast, it was just so congested; people did spread out eventually and a few miles in I was able to relax and enjoy the race and atmosphere. The most amazing thing about the London Marathon is that the whole 26.2 miles of the course is lined with supporters; sometimes 10 deep. I almost missed the Harriers support crew at the Cutty Sark because it was so loud and busy.
I soaked up as much of the atmosphere as I could and the early miles ticked by, I had made it to the half way point, London Bridge and only 3 minutes behind schedule (which given the slow start I was pleased with). At this point my race strategy, given to me by Tim, was to only think about the next mile, not what I had done and certainly not to think about what was left.
It’s a bit of blur from 14 to 20 miles, I remember very little except hearing Waddie but missing everyone else at 17 miles. Then I saw ‘The Borthwicks’ at Canary Wharf, oh and there was the idiot who tripped me up at 19 miles. I was overjoyed at getting to 20 miles, and rather stupidly, for the first time broke my strategy and said in my head “only 10k left”. Quite possibly the biggest mistake I made all day. 10k is a long way after 20 miles, 20 to 23 miles was the hardest point of the whole race. I believe I was spotted ‘having a word with myself’ by the Kaufmans who both thought I was “chatting”. I knew I was slowing and there was nothing I could do about it. With hindsight, I was being soft, I could have just suffered a little and kept the pace up but I was scared of blowing up completely. However, I managed to complete mile 23 and somehow get a second wind, I picked up got back on pace and made it to the end unscathed (well except for almost having to hurdle a photographer with 385 yards to go) in a time of 3:41:46.
You go through a strange feeling at the end of marathon; sort of joy, relief, an overwhelming sense of achievement and absolute agony. It’s like your legs have forgotten how to walk, I couldn’t turn my head around because my shoulders and neck had seized; much to Dave Collins’ amusement. I could walk in straight lines, but couldn’t get up and down curbs, I certainly couldn’t scale the foot high fence that everyone had decided to stand behind by the W in the meet and greet area ( F for Fisher was the closest meet and greet area, everyone decided to meet at W, I bet you can guess how far away that was). I’m ashamed to say that when I finally made it there I burst in to tears!
All in all it was a brilliant experience, and 1 week later I can honestly say I loved it!
Thanks to everyone for their support along the course. Thanks to Barry (my guru) who was brilliant in the weeks leading up to London. Thanks to Julie for looking after me on the morning of the race. Massive thanks to Jacqui for the best coaching ever and lastly to Tim for putting up with me when I was not very loveable!
Well done to everyone else who ran at London and Manchester, some outstanding achievements and what a superb club to be part of.