Race day started early at 6am. I’d prepared all my race clothes and items the night before, it looked like I was packing for a week all the layers of warm clothes and food and race paraphernalia that I had! I got dressed and had 2 Weetabix for breakfast and some water.
I travelled from Aldgate East tube station, where the attendant wished me luck and I experienced my first ‘free’ train journey of the day. I arrived at Charing Cross in plenty of time to meet the other Hedgies who I’d arranged to meet at 8am. I was pleased to see that Anna and Angela had already arrived and gradually the others turned up. The train journey from Charing Cross to Blackheath station passed quickly and it was good to be with a group of Hedgies, I would have been terribly nervous had I have been on my own. I ate an energy bar and drank some water on the journey; little and often.
Arriving at the Blue start there was an air of anticipation and excitement. The organisation was superb, it was clear which truck to drop my bag off to, so final preparations went well and after some photos it was for the Hedgies to split up into our starting pens. I was in pen 8 with Georgina, a fellow Hedgie who I met for the first time that day.
We crossed the start line 11 minutes after the official start and I soon found myself stuck in the human traffic and running very slowly, but after a time I was able to settle into a comfortable pace and enjoy the atmosphere, which after the loneliness of my previous marathon, was a little overwhelming. There wasn’t much to look at here so I amused myself listening to some music and thinking about what lay ahead, soon enough twenty minutes had passed and it was time to eat my first shot blocks and take on board some water. Somewhere around here I overtook the 4 hour 15 minute pacer and I was feeling comfortable at 9.5 minute mile pace.
After joining up with the other start groups the human congestion occurred again but after a few manoeuvres I freed myself and continued at my comfortable pace.
At around 7 miles the route entered Greenwich and the crowds were enormous and very close in to the runners, I felt overwhelmed once again as I was completely unprepared for the noise levels but I used this to buoy myself on and I took a good look at the Cutty Sark as I went by. It was also time to take on board a couple more shot blocks and there was a water station not too long afterwards to wash them down.
At this point I felt great, with no discomfort and I had a massive smile on my face. The next few miles flew by and I listened to my music and continued to concentrate on my hydration and nutritional needs. I did try to eat an energy bar at one point, but I just couldn’t swallow it so I put it back in my belt and decided to stick to my sugary items.
I made it to Tower Bridge, around halfway, and checking my watch I was just over 2 hours, which I was very happy with indeed. Tower Bridge was amazing, the crowds and noise levels increased again and the image in my mind of running up to the bridge will always stay with me.
There must have been a Lucozade station around this area because just afterwards the road surface became very sticky which was strange to run on. Just like at the water stations there were thousands of discarded bottles to negotiate too.
Somewhere after Tower Bridge I started to feel a light headed and a pain developed in my stomach. I’d had this once during training and it hadn’t ended well, so when it didn’t pass I stopped and was sick in front of some very lovely people who made sure I was OK before letting me carry on. After this I was unable to carry my earlier pace so I decided to slow down and take it easy as I wanted to make it to the finish.
The Isle of Dogs passed by and I was surprised at how many people were around offering jelly babies, Jaffa cakes, bananas and I even saw some beers on offer somewhere.
I was pleased to make it to 22 miles as I knew my friend would be at the Cancer Research stand and sure enough I spotted her in the crowd and stopped for a much needed hug of encouragement! Whatever she said worked because I knew I had 4 miles to go and I could do it, even though I felt pretty out of sorts. At least I wasn’t suffering with cramp or blisters like many others around me who were clearly struggling.
The crowds here were amazing and full of encouragement. I heard my name so many times and, although I wasn’t feeling my best, I kept going knowing that there was only a ‘Parkrun’ between me and the finish.
This section of the race was very familiar to me along the Embankment and back to Charing Cross where I’d been just a few hours earlier. Many familiar landmarks to look at. Still my legs were fine, no aches and pains, but I was still dogged by the stomach ache. I kept my head though and ate as many jelly babies as I could lay my hands on and drank some more water.
I tend to run a bit of a trance, but for the last mile I made myself focus on my surroundings and look around, take in the atmosphere, as I may never experience this again. I felt very emotional for the last few hundred yards as the distance signs counted down to the finish. I rounded the right handed bend into the Mall and towards the finish, I could see it! Head up and suddenly some energy appeared and I felt like I was sprinting, highly unlikely, but I had a smile on my face when I went over the finish line and held my arms aloft thinking. I’d done it! My watch said 4 hours 34 minutes and for once I remembered to stop it at the end of a race……
What a day, one that I will never forget. Things that will stay with me are Tower Bridge, the crowds who are simply awesome and the feeling that I had really accomplished something by making it to the finish despite my difficulties. The whole event is supremely well organised and I would do it again tomorrow given the chance!
I’ve said it before but I must thank Hedge End Running Club for giving me the opportunity to run in this race and thank all the wonderful people I have trained with along the way.