Marathon Number 1 – The ‘Big’One

Race report: Virgin London Marathon 2015

So this time last year I was literally in knots. I was so incredibly nervous as I was about to embark on my first EVER marathon – the big one – the Virgin London Marathon 2015. I’d had a lot of positive encouragement from family and friends and the brilliant people on @ukrunchat, but I also had a few ‘Negative Nora’s’ around me. With questions like: “What if you don’t finish?”, “You might Hit the Wall” “Your knees will never be the same“.  Great just what I needed, more seeds of doubt.

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Winter training at its best!

 

Training had gone well -I had reached a target of 22 miles in my final long run, averaging 10.30 minute miles – which I hoped would be enough to bring me in around 4hrs 30 minutes. I hadn’t picked up any injuries, had loaded up on the carbs and felt in good shape as I made my way to Greenwich Park on Sunday 26 April 2015.

What they don’t tell you is the walk to the start is a warm up in itself – approximately 30 minutes walk from the train station, through the town and up a hill to the park. However when we got to start area the excitement was audible with the big screen showing the elites already in action, pacing through the course.

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Ready for the off with a couple of training buddies.

The Virgin London Marathon is a very slick operation. Bag drops, loos and starting pens are all well organised and effortless. I was able to meet with some friends for a quick photo, before we headed into our starting pens. As I was running for Tommy’s, I had quite a few chats with fellow ‘team mates’ in the starting area and ended up running with a girl called Laurel for three-quarters of the run, which was great as it calmed both of our nerves.

So how was it? The London Marathon is everything you could expect from the most famous marathon in the world. The route was busy, colourful and full of support all the way around. The charity runners in costumes really made the event – from a running Mona Lisa painting to Superman. There certainly were a lot of people with imagination and guts taking part. It made me wonder what I was worrying about in my tried and tested, moisture-wicking, kit! Must have been a doddle by comparison.

The biggest highlight for me was running over Tower Bridge. This marks the half way mark of the race and is such a breath-taking sight seeing thousands of runners bobbing along. It’s also one of the most iconic landmarks on the route and a welcome sight after passing through many unfamiliar London towns like Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.

 

I received a real hero’s cheer from the Tommy’s cheer squad just after the bridge. Their support throughout had been phenomenal. I was very proud to have run for them and  raised in excess of £3,000 through donations and little events in the lead up to the marathon.

By mile 17 I had lost Laurel, her knee had given up, so we said our good lucks and good byes and I headed off running for the first time ‘by myself’. I saw my Mum and Dad shortly after, which was amazing. Although I could see my Dad was really confused and was looking in the wrong direction (senior moment), so was not convinced he had seen me at all! I next saw one of my best friends and seasoned marathon runner, Kirstie (PB 3.15 ish) who gave me such an almighty cheer that I leapt out of my skin!

The rest of the run was a blur of the Embankment – where the crowd was literally roaring – up to Birdcage Walk and finally the sight of Buckingham Palace in full view. The Union Jacks flying and the finish line now in sight. I knew my husband and boys were in the VIP finish area cheering me on, (the charity had been really kind and offered me these tickets as a thank you). It was simply amazing seeing their proud faces smiling and shouting ‘Go Mummy’ as I crossed the line.

I had done it! I had finished  my first marathon in a time of 4hrs 46mins. All that hard work had paid off. However, as I collected my medal I couldn’t help but feel a bit flat – not the rush of euphoria that I had expected. It was all over, but I had ‘failed’ in my eyes to get the time I had wanted.  Talk about ridiculous.

I’ve since made peace with my time and actually for someone who had never run a marathon before and juggled childcare, fund raising, work and training I am actually pretty bloody happy. My body held out, I didn’t walk, I didn’t hit the wall and  I had ticked off a big ambition from my bucket list – something I am now very proud of.

The race in a nutshell: Flat, congested, colourful and amazing views of London’s iconic landmarks. Fantastic Expo, well organised event and an opportunity for celebrity spotting- I came in just ahead of Radio DJ and TV  Presenter, Chris Evans.

Race Tips: Ensure you have liaised with your cheer team/supporters before hand so you know where to spot them. Otherwise you spend half the race searching for your family in the very busy crowds. Get a charity place if you are new to marathon running – you get excellent support, advice and a fab after-party and massage just after the event. Watch out for the empty water bottles on the ground – these are everywhere and very hazardous.

Would I recommend it? 110% Yes. For any Marathon Newbies this is the one to do!

Good luck to anyone taking on the Virgin London Marathon this weekend!

 

 

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