By the final few days before the marathon I realised that I would either get a PB or have a fantastic day out. In the end it was to be the latter and what a roller coaster event it was.
I was up early but didn't feel like eating I was excited and nervous and headed off to Greenwich with some toast wrapped in foil as after an hour and a half of looking at my breakfast not much progress had been made. I caught the tube to Cutty Sark and loved chatting to people on the DLR. That never happens in normal commuting life. I felt strong and excited.
As I headed off up the race village I saw the wheelchair racers sprint past. I joined the long toilet queue and peed for the fifth time that morning. I jumped into my pen, corral 4, just as the countdown started and the atmosphere was out of this world. I felt a little disconnected from it and at that moment a lovely girl called Sophie came over to say she recognised me from Instagram which was pretty crazy. I walked up with the masses to the start line and started running.
I used to live near the start line, the other side of Blackheath, Gatsby and I had watched the runners start more times than I can remember. It felt weird to finally be running it myself. As I passed the first mile marker I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was Kev who recognised me from Twitter. The online running community is incredible. We chatted briefly and discussed our sub-4hr goals. My race plan was to do as I had done in training, start at a more comfortable pace of 8:15/8:20 minute miles to create a buffer for later. The problem was I just couldn't get into a rhythm. The excitement and nerves had left me feeling weird and the course was busy it was hard for me to keep a steady pace.
Entering Greenwich and running around the Cutty Sark was out of this world. If you could harness the spirit of people in London on marathon day you would make millions. I was buzzing and giving thumbs up and shouting thanks to everyone who shouted my name, which seemed to be everyone. Yes I was struggling with pace consistency but this was my old commute and I was having an incredible time. My mum had planned to be just after Bermondsey tube station outside the school. Trying to look for someone in the London marathon crowds made me so dizzy. Mum had travelled all the way from Chesterfield to see me and I had planned her spectator route the night before for ages with maps and mile splits, I was desperate not to run right past. Then I saw her, in a bright purple coat waving frantically. Spectator Tip: If you are out on the course make sure you tell your runners what you're wearing, my mum's purple coat made it so much easier to spot her.
WHATEVER RACE DISTANCE YOU ARE DOING, HAVING
YOUR FAMILY SPREAD AROUND THE COURSE TO
CHEER YOU ON REALLY HELPS TO YOU TO KEEP GOING.
At the next water station I threw a bottle of water over my head. Massive mistake it was freezing and my body spasamed it was horrible. I kept running but my body was screaming. The noise from Tower Bridge was growing and as I ran over the bridge I felt like I was going to faint. What no-one has ever mentioned to me about the London Marathon, and what you can't appreciate as a spectator moving around the course, is that you are in a tunnel of noise for 26.2miles which is an insane assault on your senses. I told myself to take a deep breath, calm down and look out to the estuary like I'd done so many times commuting. I looked right and there was a wall of people all screaming and cheering. It was so overwhelming. I was in big trouble. I decided I had to run to the 13.1 mile marker and then I would work out how to get to the end. As I passed 13 miles I moved to the centre of the road, where the elites were already speeding down the home straight. I walked. I needed a minute by myself to get control of my body and take a time out.
I gathered myself and began what I thought was going to be a long walk/jog home. I began thinking "I can't believe the wheels have come off so early" and then just as I was thinking that my mind said "No". I recall saying to myself "The wheels are not coming off, they are staying firmly on, this race is not happening like this. This is not the end". My body was screaming, I wanted so badly to stop but at the same time I wanted to keep going. I had to keep pushing. I had to keep running.
I moved back to the outside because now I did need the crowds. Every time someone shouted "Come on Lucy, you've got this girl" it spurred me on. I started getting back into a rhythm and suddenly found myself at the 15M marker.
My mum and boyfriend were primed ready shortly after 18M. That's a Parkrun away. I knew I could run a Parkrun. "You've never walked in a Parkrun" I said over and over in my head. The mental training I'd practiced was working. I knew I could run 3M (a 5k Parkrun) I could get to 18M. I had looked at the route so many times that I knew that there was only a tiny bit after the 18M marker and then I'd be heading down the home straight.
At about 16M I felt them coming, people started to turn around looking for something. Just like in Jurassic Park when people turn around to look at the dinosaurs coming and then get eaten by a giant T-Rez, I knew it was about to happen. The 4-hr red start pacer passed me. I stuck at the back off the pack for a bit swept up in their wake but I was actually relieved to see it go.
As I hit the water station near 17 miles one of the boys looked out and shouted "Lucy! Here, here take this one you are gorgeous" I took the water bottle and it gave me a boost I started to enjoy the race again. Spectator Tip: If you're ever watching a race the runners by name they are gorgeous.
Soon after I saw my mum and boyfriend and gave them both a very quick kiss. As I passed the next charity zone they were singing and chanting for someone called Lucy, I took it to be me and again it spurred me on. As I hit 20M I was about 3hrs and calculated that if I could run 9 minute miles I'd still make sub-4hr. So off I went charging back to Westminster. I couldn't keep that pace for long but I knew now that I was going to make it to the end and it wasn't a disaster. I kept feeling my phone vibrate. A few of my friends who couldn't make it to London to watch were cheering me on virtually via the app.
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE MENTAL SIDE OF
TRAINING. TRY A MANTRA, MINE WAS,
"I CAN AND I AM"
The final few miles went quickly. My mum and boyfriend were up on Waterloo Bridge and we saw each other from a long way off. That was an amazing highlight. I turned off my music and took it all in. As I headed down Embankment a big band started playing Chariots of Fire, the sun was shinning it was incredible. I passed Big Ben and felt so lucky to be able to be running, to finally be doing the race I'd dreamed of. I hadn't failed, my time was going to be okay.
600m to go. I couldn't work out how far that was in a distance I knew. As I passed the Palace and the 200m to go marker they announced on the tannoy that the Royal Princes had just started handing out medals in one of the finisher channels but they weren't going to tell us which one. I guessed that they were most likely to be closest to the buildings rather than central in the park so I went left. I gave my legs every ounce of energy I had left in me, I felt like I was going fast but I probably wasn't. I crossed the line and stopped my Garmin 4:17.
There they were.
I got in the queue closest to the left because I actually wanted to hold on to the barrier. Kate was handing out medals. As I got closer and listened to the Princes and the Duchess congratulating everyone I realised I was really, really sweaty and started wiping my hands quickly. I did notice the wall of video cameras to my left but I didn't think they'd be filming. The man in front of me took his cap off. "Do I curtsey?" I thought. Think, think! Kate said hello and I apologised for being so sweaty as I shook her hand and she very kindly said I was not to worry about it.
"Congratulations, very well done" and "what a fantastic achievement", she said as she gave me my medal.
I staggered off dazed and confused. I tried to record a video on my phone but didn't know what to say. I rang one of my best friends who had really wanted to be in London but lives in Hong Kong now and was tracking me there. I told her about my roller coaster race for a couple of minutes. When I hung up my phone was going crazy. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp. My sister had sent 36 messages. It turns out those cameras on the left had been on and they were streaming live. I was on the BBC coverage and everyone I knew had seen me.
I would never have been able to finally run the London Marathon if it hadn't been for KIND Snacks giving me one of their places. I am so grateful for the opportunity. Thank you KIND.
I didn't get the time I wanted. It wasn't sub 4hr, I wasn't even really close at the end. Yet something incredible had still happened. I had just run the London Marathon and probably the thing I am most proud of, I had turned the race around when it had got tough. I hadn't given up. Am I pleased with my time? No. I've run sub 4hr before and I wanted to get an even faster time. Did I have an amazing day? Yes, I had an absolutely incredible unforgettable day. I realise now that the race isn't all about the time. Maybe it was meant to happen. If I'm honest although I trained hard I don't think I trained hard enough to get a sub 4hr time that's something you really have to earn. Yet by being slower I put myself at the right time to be awarded my medal by the Duchess of Cambridge. Am I proud of myself? Definitely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.