The Virgin Money London Marathon is by far and away one of the most iconic marathons there is. It's a race that has brought new meaning to mass participation sport with thousands taking to the streets raising millions for charity. This is a race that's definitely on my bucket list, but for the time being I have to live vicariously through this lady, my wonderful friend, colleague and all round badass woman Becks.
I was one of those extremely lucky people to enter the Virgin Money London Marathon ballot and secure a place first time round. I know that people try for years to get a ballot place so I felt, and still feel, a very lucky lady indeed!
As training progressed and the 26th April drew nearer, I questioned everything - am I training enough? Has my knee gone? Am I eating properly? Surely I can have another pizza, right? Two weeks before the marathon I skipped my 12 mile run - oh the guilt! For days I beat myself up and struggled to maintain confidence. Every skipped mid-week run led to that sinking feeling in my stomach...and led to me chewing Bethan’s ear off about what I should and shouldn't be doing and what I might be able to get away with. Sorry B, I owe you a few glasses of vino.
The night before the marathon my ankle twinged whilst sitting down (onto the toilet, but we’ll leave that bit out). I panicked - will I be able to run?! The pains I had in my knees in training then started to come back - what was happening to me?! Of course I know now it was mostly psychological. My body’s last ditch attempt at avoidance, telling me: ‘erm excuse me Becks but you seem to have forgotten that you're not a runner?’.
But when I lined up in the pens on 26th, none of that mattered. after using the lady urinals (yes they exist and they’re neither dignified nor enjoyable) and making friends in the queue for that experience, I lined up with thousands of other like minded people - all sizes, all shapes, all training programs and experiences. This was going to be a battle of the mind more than anything thing else.
It took over 15 minutes to get through the pens as the anticipation built. Everyone wishing the nearest person good luck. As I saw the starting line from a distance the butterflies were going strong. Before I knew it, I crossed the mats - I was running a marathon!
The first 11 miles whizzed past. I remembered everything id been told and took things easy, solid 10 min miles and relaxed into the run. My boyfriend positioned himself at mile 11 with a few friends. It was so nice to see faces you know. my adrenaline rose and I felt like superwoman - they’re here for me and I can do this!
Crossing Tower Bridge is where it started to get harder - yes, only 13 miles in! I saw a couple more friends but was too focussed to stop. Suddenly my determination and confidence disappeared and the negative thoughts seeped in. Y’see in london, at mile 13 -14 you see the other runners on their way in the opposite direction on their mile 21. All you can think about is how much you want to be where they are, be only 5 miles from the finish... but, you aren't. You’re 8 miles away from them... sob sob sob! Maybe Icould skip over the fence? Or maybe I should pull out? I had to stop myself from giving into these thoughts. This is when my hip also gave way. I have no idea what happened but it felt like a hot poker searing through my left hip with every step. Time for paracetamol!
Suddenly my boyfriend texted and said he'd be just before mile 18 - a whole mile sooner than I thought he would be and I felt overjoyed! I realised that if I pushed through for a few steps the hip pain subsided. Seeing him and my friends again boosted my confidence. The crowds were also in full force - shouting ‘c’mon Becks!’. Canary wharf had more friendly faces handing me sweets - thanks Cara! Thousands upon thousands of people all cheering for us, their signs spurring us on, their slices of orange giving you that much needed boost.
The atmosphere was electric. an indescribable feeling that kept me smiling through the pain from mile 19.
I knew Mum and Dad were at mile 23 - I kept saying to myself that its only a few miles to them and then 3 to the finish - I really can do this! when I finally saw them and got a hug I burst into tears. The emotion of the day, the pain, all of the support from friends and family who were there for me overwhelmed me. I hugged them so tightly and blubbed.
With Big Ben in sight I really started to push. I completed mile 25 in 8.38mins - I think thats my mile PB! Slow for some but I was very chuffed!
The crowds were louder than ever, screaming all of our names. Once I saw the 800m sign I nearly cried, I was nearly there! I used to run 800m in school and I thought it was easy. This time it felt like a lifetime. I tried to pick up pace but my muscles couldn't go any faster, this was going to have to be fast enough.
I turned that corner in the mall and saw the red banner and timex clocks drawing us all in. I whimpered out of sheer joy and ran as fast as my battered body could handle. Arms in the air I crossed the finish line with a time of 4:58. I had done it! I had completed a marathon! I couldn't run 4 miles in November without being out of breath and now id done 26.2!!
Such an amazing, exhilarating experience. I learnt so much about myself and what I can achieve. Oh and I am a runner. a fully fledged, gel consuming, split time reviewing, kitted out runner!
I couldn't have done it without my family and friends. I couldn't have done it without those amazing crowds and wonderful people shouting my name. Thank you. Thank you so much for making that day one of the best of my life so far.
...so... I hear the 2016 ballot opens on the 4th May!