Last weekend, I ran London Marathon.
Sorry, it’s still taking me a little time to process that. And to tell the truth, it’s never something I thought I’d ever say. But I’ve done it. I did it. And I absolutely loved it.
I can’t decide if I’m just looking back with the strongest rose-coloured glasses ever, or if I actually did love it. The energy, the atmosphere, the crowds, the cheer, the elation of seeing the finish line. It was one of the most incredible days, packed with so many emotions. I LOVED IT.
Don’t get me wrong now, it was tough. REALLY TOUGH. And long. Very long. But I can’t say I wasn’t expecting either of those things. 26.2 miles is one hell of a distance, by far the furtherest I’ve ever ran (my longest training run was 20 miles), and I felt it. My legs were so tired at times that I had to walk parts, crouch on the sidelines, stretch against the railings, but I’m pretty sure I did all of those things with a smile on my face. It was so tough at times and overwhelming to think how many miles were left, but I really did enjoy the journey.
It’s amazing how many highs and lows you can fit into 26.2 miles. How much a Jelly Baby can pick you up. How exhilarating and refreshing splashing a bottle of water over your head feels. By far the best thing of all though is the crowd. The energy from the sidelines is what makes London Marathon. It’s what everyone talks about, it’s what kept me and the other 40,000 runners going, and it’s what I’m going to remember forever. As gruelling as it felt at times, Sunday felt like a festival. The whole city felt so alive. I felt like one of the acts, so loved, yet I knew none of these people.
I wish I could thank every single spectator for being there, from the boys getting boozy outside the pubs, to the couples blasting boom boxes off their balconies, kids giving out high fives, and elderly couples telling you you’ve got this.
Yes, my whole body was completely exhausted and yes I stopped to walk quite a lot after mile 15 but at no point did I ever contemplate quiting. My plan all along was to get to half way — 13.1 miles — confidently, then push through to mile 18 when I was going to put my headphones in, and use music as a new lease of energy to push through to the end. Truth is, race conditions are way more challenging than training runs.
I don't know if it's the pressure or the nerves, or the weaving in and out of people, but it's always harder on the day. I set out from Greenwich Park nice and strong, but was already thinking, hmm, legs are kind of tired at mile 5! I saw Ed, Mum and Dad just after Mile 7, and I swear, seeing your loved ones cheering you on is one of the happiest feelings on the planet. Just thinking about it ow makes me well up. That picked me up for a few miles and soon enough, it was 10 miles, then half way.
The half way point does feel GOOD but miles 14, 15, 16 we're my hardest of the whole race. I'd done a half marathon and there was still a half marathon to go. That idea, when you're already pretty shattered, is hard enough to grasp but I was also feeling so sick from too many sweet gels, sickly Lucozade and Jelly babies. I queued at a Port-a-Loo for a wee around mile 15 and I swear that 3-4 minute wait was a lifesaver. It pushed me through to mile 18 where I thought I'd be desperate to put music on, but when I got there I realised the crowd was more motivating than any music was going to be.
Getting past the mile 20 milestone was a big high then I new Run Dem Crew and it's famous Mile 21 was next… My God, you should run London Marathon for the feeling of running through Mile 21 Cheer Dem alone. I thought my heart was going to stop, I've never felt so loved and so much like a hero in my life. It was because of the inspiring people of Run Dem Crew that the seed of running a race was first ever planted in my head, so to experience Mile 21, something I've heard them rave about for years, was completely epic and so much more powerful and emotional than I ever thought it could be. I very nearly cried with pure happiness after I'd past them, then was delirious for a good mile.
Mile 22-23 and I knew I had this. 3 miles to go…2 miles to go…1 mile to go. You’re absolutely shattered but you’ve ran 24 miles, you can definitely run 2. It’s tough, but you’ve got it. running down the Embankment and St James’ Park and approaching the Mall felt completely surreal. Crossing the finish line is something I’ll never forget. I’ve ran a marathon. London Marathon!
Yes, I could barely walk once I’d finish. Yes, I sat on the pavement shivering and exhausted. BUT YES, I just conquered one of the hardest physical and mental challenges and I’m going to be buzzing about that for years.
Truth is, even if you try your best to plan tactics for a race, you never know how it's going to go on the day. You have to just take it as it comes and roll with it.
London Marathon, you are everything. All the emotions, all the hype, all the happiness, all the pain. An experience I’d wish on everyone.