I did it! In 4 hours 15 minutes and 53 seconds I crossed the finish line of the 2016 London Marathon. I’m still struggling to take in that I ran the bloody London Marathon let alone put into words the whole event. But, I feel I need to at least try, while it is all fresh in my mind, before I forget any of those little details. So here goes….
My Story of Running the London Marathon 2016
The night before the big day I met my parents who had come up to support me and we headed out for dinner at Jamie’s Italian, literally the only place I could find that served up a gluten and dairy free pasta dish. Thankfully it was delicious and filling and I went to bed feeling full but not bloated. That apparently was the best practice for your last proper meal. I had also been careful to drink plenty of water on the Saturday and keep myself hydrated.
Marathon day started with a 6am wake up, after a not so restful nights sleep, I guess it was the nerves or excitement of the day coming that had kept me awake that night. Thankfully as per recommendation I had prepared everything the night before. So I quickly slipped into my race gear and ate a porridge and banana breakfast before heading out…
The station was full of marathon runners with their kit bags and foot tags on show, despite the early hour I was glad I had made the effort to make the journey to the start early. We arrived at Waterloo where I left my parents and I continued the rest of the journey to the start line. I was beginning from the blue start so took the train to Blackheath and did the quick uphill walk to the runners zone. The morning of the marathon was bitterly cold and although the sun was attempting to come out I was freezing in my outfit. I attempted to warm up by walking fast laps of the area but it didn’t seem to make any difference and soon my teeth began to chatter. This didn’t feel like a good start to the day especially as my achy knee was so much worse in the cold.
After handing over my kit bag and extra layers, my chattering teeth and I made our way to zone 6. This was my designated start zone as given by the time I predicted to finish back when I entered the ballot nearly a year before. It must have been around 9.25am when I lined up and believe me that was much too early. I struggled to stay warm in this time despite my poncho and long sleeve top. Thankfully we got moving as soon as 10am struck and by 10.04am I had crossed the start line to begin the London Marathon 2016.
The atmosphere around the start was electric: there were kids wanting to high five you, people shouting and cheering and a real buzz of what was to come. Thankfully I began at a steady pace and didn’t head off too quickly, this was partly due to having to use the first toilets en route. I feel it would have been hard to start too fast due to the sheer volume of people. The beginning passed so quickly and before I knew it the first hour of running had passed. At this point I remember thinking how much I was enjoying this, how I’d love to do it again and how I barely felt like I had run anything. As the time ticked I began to heat up and off came my long sleeve top, gloves and head band. No matter how cold the start is, you will warm up pretty quickly so if you can bare to, don’t over dress.
I got to mile 9 which was the first look out point for my parents, I ran past mile 9 looking and looking but never spotted them. I later found out that mum spotted me too late to shout. At this point my split times were on perfect track for a 4 hour finish. The race continued feeling much like this and keeping up with those 4 hour split times until mile 15 or 16. We were over half way now but the pain in my body was immense. I couldn’t tell you what hurt the most: my calves, my thighs, my feet or my back/waist from the running belt. I continued to run winching with every step. Between mile 16 and 21 I went through hell. Not only did the course around the Isle of Dogs seem dull and boring but there were parts where the crowds really thinned out and barely anyone was cheering you on. I tried having jelly babies to perk me up but they only made me feel nauseous. My face felt like it was burning and at every water station I had to wipe water on my cheeks and forehead in an attempt to cool me down. I alternated between very slow running and fast walking but every time I walked the pain became so bad when I began running again. Determined I would continue to run I knew I had to stop walking and that was the turning point.
By mile 21 the pain was beginning to subside and the realisation that the finish was not far away took over my thoughts. I didn’t really feel like I was having a mental struggle but I guess that is because all I could think about was the physical pain. As soon as I could stop thinking about the physical pain I felt like I could do this. As we came past Limehouse and to the part of the track where you see those who have just hit halfway still running my mood picked up. I remembered being at that spot just an hour or so earlier and thinking I still had a long way to go. Now I had completed the second loop and it really was the last stretch now. My parents were also stood somewhere along here but we both managed to miss each other, I never saw them once during the whole race.
The last 5 miles were the best, the crowds were the loudest although they had gone from shouting individual names to just generally cheering. The landmarks started to get more iconic and Big Ben suddenly came into sight. But then the pain was back, this time in my toe, I guessed I must have lost a toenail at this point but I was determined it wouldn’t stop me from running (thankfully it was just a blistered when I looked later). As the running track became wider around Westminster the green start, pace runner for 4 hours 15 minutes came past me and I knew I needed to keep up with him. I gave it all my legs had as we ran up towards Buckingham Palace and to the finish at The Mall. The pace runner just got away from me by 53 seconds. The problem with doing this was I didn’t take the finish in as much as I should have.
All the way through training the thought of crossing that finish line had kept me going yet as I crossed it on the day my emotions were not what I expected. I was far more delirious than I had expected to be and I couldn’t work out if I was happy it was over or if I was too pained by the aches and injuries that seemed more prominent now I had stopped running. I took my medal, collected my goodie bag and let the world spin as I tired to gain my thoughts. I knew I needed to stretch, I knew I needed to cool down but at that moment more than anything I needed a friendly face and someone to talk to. So I spoke to my boyfriend and my parents when I should have been cooling down and wrapping up in the many layers I had packed in my kit bag.
There is so much more I could write about my marathon story like the feeling of running over Tower Bridge or how the crowd keep you from walking because it felt like you might let them down if you walked when they could see you. But I’ll save those stories for another time, for now, I just want you to know that the marathon was everything I anticipated it to be and more but in so many different ways than I could ever have imagined and I am so proud to be a 2016 London Marathon finisher.