Rise and shine
Wakey wake sleepy head. It’s time to get up. You’re running the London Marathon today!
Oh wait… you’ve been awake since 5.00am? Ah, sorry about that. Well, I’m not sure what you were expecting. It’s your first ever marathon and you haven’t run for three weeks. You’re bound to be nervous. You’ll probably hurt. A lot. You might not even finish. Or you might be fine.
These are the thoughts I was having with myself when I woke up. I had to sit quietly and wait for my other half to wake up. Of course he didn’t wake up until 6.45am so I had a lot of thinking time. Just me, myself and I. What a dangerous thought.
I had butterflies in my tummy the whole morning. I didn’t want to eat my breakfast (which is madness because it’s my favourite meal of the day normally) but I forced down my porridge and some water. We rounded up the troops (from my running club) and set off on our journey to the start.
When we arrived at Blackheath (not Bexleyheath as I kept mistakenly telling people), there was a sea of people walking towards the start. We all shuffled along, through the town, until you get to a large field with the start balloons.
The excitement was just so overwhelming. I started shaking and my teeth were chattering. I didn’t know where to look. There were people everywhere. It was a real scene. Some people were taking photos, some applying vaseline, some who still hadn’t changed into their race kit and some just stood there looking nervous. We immediately went and got in the toilet queue and watched the women’s elite race on the big screen.
Before you know it, it’s time to put your bag on the lorry and get in the pen.
And we’re off…!
I managed to find my friend Charlie and we headed over to the pens. There were a few of us in the same pen so we stuck together like glue. It was a strange feeling. You’re excited, you’re nervous and you have no idea what to expect. When we got into the pen, the first thing I saw was a girl with rainbow face paint. She was dancing on the spot, telling everyone how desperate she was for the toilet. Before I knew it, she was squatting down on the floor doing her business. As I looked around, there were lots of girls doing the same thing. One nearly caught my shoe…and that was just the girls!
It seems that anything goes. What happens in the start pen, stays in the start pen?
We heard the horn sound and we knew the race had started. We slowly shuffled, closer and closer to the start line. We could see and hear the party up ahead. As we turned the final corner, there it was: the start.
This was it. The moment I had been waiting for. Everything I had worked so hard for. All the early mornings. All the runs in the cold and rain. All of the injuries. But also the highs. Running with friends. Discovering new routes. Getting stronger. Tackling the long runs. It was all for this moment.
As we crossed the start line, the noise was overwhelming. The royal family were waving us off from the crowd. There were people everywhere, cheering for us. I started to get teary eyed as I suddenly realised what I was doing. I was part of the 1% of the population to run a marathon. I got the ballot spot. Me. Wow. I was so grateful in that moment.
I spent the first 10k enjoying the down hill, the noise and the buzz of the crowd. It was pretty warm and sunny. I hit all of my miles spot on (9:55 per mile pace). I kept reminding myself not to get carried away with the excitement. I knew I had set myself up well for later on, when I would potentially slow down.
As we ran past Cutty Sark, I started to feel a bit dizzy. I remember swaying towards another runner and thinking something didn’t feel right. As we approached the drinks station at mile 7, I slowed to a walk and picked up a bottle.
I had to walk from mile 7 to mile 8. I still felt very dizzy and hot. Why did I think it was a good idea to wear a black t-shirt and long leggings? I can’t do this, I thought. I genuinely can’t do this. I thought I was going to pass out. That’s when I realised. I had heat stroke.
I found a portaloo and sat down for a few minutes with my head in my hands. Please don’t let me be that person who pulls out of the London Marathon. I’ve worked too hard for this. I decided to keep going, but at a walking pace. I would take each mile as it came.
So many people had told me about Tower Bridge. Apparently it is one of the noisiest, most emotional parts of the London Marathon. I wouldn’t know. I walked through it, feeling very dizzy and uncomfortable. I found a few photos on my phone afterwards which I must have taken in my dazed state.
As I came off Tower Bridge, I got out my phone and decided to track some of my fellow runners. I saw that my other half was about to approach mile 22. I wasn’t even at mile 13 yet. Then I realised, miles 13 and 22 cross each other. I spent the next mile keeping left and frantically looking out for him. I saw his white and red vest coming towards me. I screamed. “Daryl!!” “Daryl!!!” He couldn’t hear me. “DARYL!!”. This time, he saw me. He turned to face me and he looked in pain. He tried to mouth something at me but I couldn’t work out what he was saying. And then he was gone.
As you approach Canary Wharf (mile 15), you go through a tunnel where everything is very quiet. It’s a very lonely point in the marathon. Hardly anyone is talking. People are working hard. Starting to feel tired. I focussed on getting one foot in front of the other. Run half a mile. Walk half a mile.
I knew my mum was waiting for me around mile 17. This was really important to me because we live on opposite sides of the country so we hardly ever get to see each other. Also, when you’re not feeling well, there’s no one you want more than your mum. Even when you’re 29.
So as soon as I got to mile 16, I had something to focus on again. I spent at least a mile scanning the crowd for her. I tried messaging her but it didn’t go through. Where was she? It started to make me feel more tired, just trying to spot her amongst the sea of screaming faces. And then just as I was about to give up, I could hear her yelling at me. Oh my god. My mum!!!
I threw my arms around her and cried into her shoulder. I told her how unwell I felt and she just told me “you’ve got to keep going”.
As I ran through Canary Wharf, the crowds got busier and I started to feel a bit better. I knew the miles were closing in and it was just a matter of time now until I got to the finish.
At mile 18, I saw my insta-friend Tom, who I had originally planned to meet at mile 3 (but it was way too busy). I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to spot him. I ran over to him and we had a celebratory hug.
Tom then kept me company for the rest of the race. He was like an angel coming to protect me. He grabbed me water at the drink stations. He danced and sang around me in circles. He gave me massages on the side of the road when I got cramp. He laughed with me when the guy dressed as Mr Potato Head accidentally ran face first into a wall (it was one of those moments you had to be there). He was exactly what I needed.
By the time I got to mile 23, I was feeling great. There was an amazing downhill section just after the Tower of London. I saw my club mates jumping up and down, cheering my name. It gave me such a buzz. I gave them a huge wave back and felt myself speed up down the hill. I completely forgot how far I had run. It was like a Sunday Social.
And then I realised, I’d left Tom.
I waited until I got a tunnel (where it was cool) and then I stopped to wait for him. I absolutely could not leave him now. He had got me through the darkest part of my race and I would be there to help him too. I knew he had been suffering from cramp so he was having to walk/run.
Tom managed to catch me up and we ran the length of the embankment together. It was like a giant party. There was music, dancing, singing, vaseline (for the chaffing) and selfies.
Before I knew it, I saw Big Ben. Was this really it?
I can’t explain the feelings I had. There were people everywhere. The crowds were 5-6 people thick. There were people standing on dustbins and lamp posts trying to catch a glimpse of their loved ones. I stopped seeing faces and everything went quiet. All I could hear was the pounding of my feet on the pavement and the beating of my heart. It was just me in that moment. I had got myself there, no one else.
I knew my other half was waiting for me just ahead at the “600m to go” sign. I ran with more heart, emotion and determination than I have ever run. I needed to get there. Come on legs. There was nothing that was going to stop me now. I ran the whole of Birdcage Walk with a huge smile on my face. I was strong.
And there he was. My other half opened his arms out and gave me a huge kiss. He told me he was really proud of me and that he loved me. I wanted to stay and tell him all about my race, but he wouldn’t let me. He reminded me I still had 600m to go and sent me straight back out there.
Just as I turned the corner, I saw Paula Radcliffe talking to a reporter. I ran over, in a moment of glory, and asked her for a photo. She congratulated me and I told her she was my hero. But there was no time to talk.
I sped off and turned the corner onto the Mall.
And there it was.
I could see the finish straight up ahead. I positioned myself towards the left and made a bee line for one of the finishing mats. Some people started sprinting. Some were walking. I just wanted to enjoy the moment. I put my hands in the air, shut my eyes and screamed at the top of my lungs “YESSSS”.
I finished the London Marathon in 5 hours 12 minutes with a huge smile on my face.
I suppose I could be disappointed that I didn’t get the 4 hours 30 minutes target I had originally set myself. But this was my first marathon. And I enjoyed every single minute of it. Yes, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. And no, I couldn’t sit down for three days afterwards. But if I had to go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
This was my journey. I worked for it. I learned more about myself in that 5 hours and 12 minutes than I have in my 29 years of existence. I have so much grit, determination and courage. I have accomplished. And I have the medal to prove it. No one can take that away from me.
As a final thought, I want to leave you with this:
The months and months of training is the marathon. The race itself is just the victory parade and you’ve already won.