For the first half I felt like a rockstar for the second I flet like I’d been hit with a stack of rocks and they just kept coming.
A little preamble
A marathon doesn’t really start on race day. It starts months before, with hours of running progressively larger loops around your house. Heading into the marathon I knew I hadn’t trained as much as I wanted to. I was proud of myself for running 13.1 miles around a ski village. However, I hit a real low a few weeks later when I was due to run 17 miles and was too injured to do it. Nevertheless, I decided I wanted to push and fight for a time. Yes I had said I wanted to enjoy the marathon and not focus too much on the time and I really did but as the day got closer I realised that part of enjoying it for me was the competitive time, plus I at least needed something to pace myself to.
Before the race
When I got on the train to head to the race I sat next to a guy I'd never met called Toby who was eating Weetabix out of a Tupperware. Little did I know then but I would spend the next 4 hours with him. We chatted training and race prep and it was nice to have someone to distract me from the pre-race nerves. As we were both heading for the same time we headed into the start pens. The atmosphere was incredible with people nervously queuing for the toilet and others feverishly applying sun cream. Before I knew it the national anthem was playing. HM the Queen had started the race and we were off.
The first half
We headed out of Greenwich Park and through Blackheath. I felt strong. The sun was shinning and the crowds were out in force. The pubs were open early blasting their music and there were people out on their balconies with their own sound systems and microphones cheering us on. It’s moments like that which make London great. Memories which will last a life time. The first mile was slow but the next 5 were either under or on 9:09 mile pace, the speed required for a sub-4hr time.
Mile 8 felt harder than it ought to have done and I had to push for a 9:20 mile. Miles 9 and 10 didn’t get any easier: 9:40 miles. Something was going wrong and I didn’t know what. It all felt a lot harder than it should have done. By mile 10 we had slowed to 10:20 pace. I told Toby I was finding it tough. “It’s just temporary” he shouted, “It’ll pass in a minute or two, that’s what you said.” That is exactly what I said in the start pen but this didn’t real right at all. I wasn’t talking about this kind of pain. I carried on running. Determined and praying the feeling would pass.
Toby tried to distract me of stories about his running and how he met his wife. I can sort of remember him telling me that they met when they were 16 at a friend’s birthday party and they had been together ever since. I wanted to ask him about it and to hear more about how he felt about becoming a dad for the first time in a few weeks. I couldn’t get any words out. I spotted the Mile 12 sign. “You go” I shouted. “I just want to walk for a minute”.
Straight after the water tables at Mile 12 I walked. I felt woozy and thought I might fall. A medic ran up beside me and walked with me. He spoke to me by name and asked if I was okay “I’m fine,” I said and smiled weakly. I felt like I’d heard someone else say it but saying that I was fine out loud was enough to make me run again. I hadn’t even realised but we were heading over Tower Bridge. Everyone around me was grabbing their phone and shouting “Oh my God this is amazing!” I could barely put one foot in-front of the other but a voice inside my head told me I couldn’t walk on Tower Bridge. I kept running and then my feet got tangled. All of a sudden I was falling. I grabbed out and caught the mesh barrier before I hit the floor. I heard people gasp and the nearby runners scooped me up. I knew then I really needed to walk for a little while. I crossed the 13.1M mat at 2:07.
The Second Half
I hadn’t realised until I got home and started to process the race that most of the second half felt like an out of body experience. I can’t really remember running but I can remember wanting to cry and wanting it to be over but it feels like I watched it happen to someone else.
The hand that I had caught on my fall just after the Bridge was bleeding a lot. I didn’t dare show anyone for fear they would take me out of the race. The next few miles passed in a blur. I knew my mum was at mile 14 but I couldn’t see her. At mile 16 someone passed me an ice cold orange segment. It was heaven. I was gutted to look down at my watch what felt like an age later to see I was only at mile 16.5.
I kept going but I felt like a failure. The mean girl in my head had plenty to say and it was getting harder to silence my inner critic and just keep going. I felt my phone buzz every now and then. I didn’t have the energy to get it out but knew people at home were supporting me. I thought about calling my best friend Rachel to ask for advice. I didn’t have the energy.
Just as I reached Mile 17 a girl swayed in front of me. I steadied her and spoke to her as she said she thought she was going to be sick. I told her she wouldn’t. I told her we only had single digit miles to go now and that I knew she could run 9 miles. She told me she really thought she was going to be sick. I told her that we hadn't come this far to only come this far and that she was doing great. I asked her how much money she had raised for charity, I was doing my best to talk about anything other than how terrible she looked. I was about to tell her to walk for a while and then she was projectile sick everywhere. I carefully lowered her to the side of the pavement and the crowd helped me call for a medic. (It was at a section of the race where we were behind barriers.) A medic was by her side within seconds. I felt torn about leaving her but knew she was in good care. I started off running again and I realise now that was the only point I stopped in the whole race.
At Mile 18 I searched for my family. Again, I couldn’t find them. I knew they’d be there but I just couldn’t spot them. Mile 19 was a scorcher and by Mile 20 I told myself I could run home. I couldn’t. I wanted to cry. I saw the 4:30 red pacer go past and thought I might cry. So many times on that section between miles 18 and 22 I wanted to cry but I didn’t. I know that wanting to cry might seem silly but I was so disappointed. All of those early morning runs, early nights to bed, no alcohol, prioritising running training over friends - I know that I am so lucky to be in the London marathon and have those things to give up - I just felt like I had really let myself down.
As I neared Mile 23 the camber on the road was in our favour and I did enjoy the slight downhill. I was running again. In fact I began to pick up considerably. Perhaps because I was nearly home, perhaps because the underpasses provided rest bite from the sun or maybe because the crowd was insane. I kept running.
The home straight
I was running now and I wasn’t going to stop. I saw my mum waving from the top of Waterloo Bridge. I gave a huge wave and really picked up. At Mile 25 I heard loud cheers of "Lu", no-one calls me that apart from my sister and brother in law and I saw them as they cheered and waved frantically.
If you’ve run the London Marathon you’ll know that last mile is the longest mile in the world. I was leaving everything I had on the road and giving it absolutely everything to hang on and keep running. My time goal was almost an hour gone but I was determined to sneak in 4:40 something.
I gave those last 800m everything I had. In fact Strava says that I gave a faster sprint finish than last year. I crossed the line in 4:49:08. I was broken and in so much pain. I really did give it my everything to hang on and just keep going.
The race has taught me so much. To respect the distance and to train with discipline being the big takeaways but also that I can keep going. Even when my brain is telling me to stop and my body is pleading with me to give in, I kept going. Stubbornness and determination are qualities I have in bucket loads. Yes I missed my time goal, no I didn’t have the race I wanted. Yet I know already that I learnt so much out there on the course and I can’t wait to put it to good use in the future.
If you ran on Sunday, huge congratulations to you!!! If you cheered and supported, you’re amazing! You make the London marathon what it is, I wish you could all have medals too.
Now, who’s signing up to the ballot for next year?