I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write this post, but to be honest I’ve had to stop running, talking about running and thinking about running since the marathon, just to deal with the enormity of it all. So, Sunday 13 April I ran the London Marathon and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s how the day went.
Travelling to the Red Start at Greenwich I chatted with other runners as it seemed the entire tube network was clogged with runners carrying bright red bags. I met my friend B (from Secret Tuesday Running Club) and after putting our bags in the baggage trucks we spent about 40 minutes queuing for the toilet. I had been advised to queue up, go to the loo and then queue again but there was no time for that as it was ten minutes to the start of the race.
I crossed the start line at 10.17, according to the online tracker, which my family on the course were using to find me. They were all wearing TEAM AUNTIE HELLY T-shirts and were in a group of ten so I wasn’t going to miss them. Or so I thought.
The weather was really hot right from the start and as someone who hates running in any heat over about 10 degrees, I knew this was going to kill me. But I can honestly say I loved every second of the first 18 miles. I chatted to people – outlandishly claiming IAM THE OYMPIC LEGACY to people who looked unimpressed, confused and in some cases frightened. I high fived children, took sweets from people and then remembered I couldn’t eat because I hadn’t practiced eating and running (mental) and I even had time to stop for a quick sip of G&T with some friends before I realised I hadn’t practiced that either and would spend the following seven miles wondering if I was going to shit my pants (spoiler alert: I didn’t).
It was all going so well. Right up until 18 miles and then I massively hit the wall. And to all of those people who told me there is no such thing as the wall – there bloody well is. And it’s bloody horrible. I saw my family for a second time just after 18 miles and instead of high fiving I cried like a lunatic before carrying on sobbing to myself and desperately trying to catch my breath.
I started the dreaded run/walk strategy from 21 miles and battled with the fact I hated myself for walking but also hated myself for even entering the marathon in the first place. At one point I think I might have wanted to throw myself into the Thames. My family came to see me at mile 21 and apparently I was so focused (probably on stopping myself from jumping into the Thames) that I missed them all – despite the fact there were 10 of them, all wearing identical t-shirts, screaming at the top of their voices about a metre away from me. Sorry Team Auntie Helen.
The final mile, from Embankment, past the Houses of Parliament and onto Birdcage Walk was amazing. I was in so much pain, the heat was immense and the crowds were deafening. I told myself I hadn’t come to walk down The Mall so I ran the last mile and a half chanting ‘One foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other’ on a constant loop like a maniac. I couldn’t look anyone in the face and I blocked out the hysterical screaming around me and I just ran.
Turning right onto The Mall is something that still fills me with such pride and joy that I can’t think about it without wanting to cry. I have never seen anything like it. There were people all over – six, seven deep in some places, people hanging out in the fountains and all of them with the biggest smiles they could possibly muster – all screaming us along as we took those final steps. And there, just 200 metres away was the bright red finish gantry. Running past the grandstands 5 hours and 20 minutes after starting at Greenwich I felt more full of energy than I had in the entire 26 miles. I was just a minute or so away from completing my first marathon. This is a feeling I will remember till the day I die. The proudest moment of my life and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And it was so worth it. I AM A MARATHONER.
As a footnote, I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who came to support me on the day. I genuinely don’t think I could have run it without knowing you were all there (somewhere) cheering me on. And to my long suffering boyf, Josh, I am so sorry for all of those marathon meltdowns, early morning runs and the constant talk of missing toe nails and pee colour. Let’s hope we both get a ballot place next year so we can go through it together. Whoop whoop!