Back in April 2008, I completed the Flora London Marathon. I wrote this short piece then so that I could look back and remember the feelings that I encountered on the day. I am putting this on my blog to record it properly and perhaps even to inspire someone else to take part. Because, believe me, if I can finish it then anyone can. The Virgin London Marathon takes place this Sunday coming, 22 April 2012. I am excited to think that there are so many people out there who are about to experience this magical day and to add their own stories to the wonderful history of this spectacular event. Good luck to everyone. I’ll be tuned into the TV, cup of tea in hand.
The atmosphere at the start was incredible; you could just feel tension, the overwhelming smell of Deep Heat, the Mexican waves rippling through the crowd. People hugged, patted each other on the back, shook hands, wiped tears away. The BBC cameras were overhead, the deafening helicopters, thousands of people all about to take part in the biggest race in the world. Millions raised for charity. You couldn’t hear the start gun as you have 40000 people around you; you simply hear the cheers coming towards you like a wave of sound. This is it. Months of work and fundraising. Now it’s time to go.
An entire church congregation came outside a couple of miles in, some looked like they were saying prayers, the vicar was out in his full regalia, blessing the runners as we went by. We clapped our hands back at them to thank them. A band of drummers were in an underpass, absolutely deafening noise! The temptation was there to hang around in the tunnel just to hear this incredible music, but on you run.
My family stood at the charity cheering point at 8 miles, a look of awe on their faces, my boyfriend’s look of total relief that I’d got this far, that I was smiling and still running. I had a hug with each of them, my photo taken by the charity, and then on I went. A massive boost. I could now begin the count down to 18 miles where I would see them again.
Firemen all lined up in full uniform outside their stations in South East London, cheering us, bantering, shouting our names. People yelled at us from their front windows, balconies, deck chairs by the road, pub windows. They were all here for us. People stood with bags of sweets, pieces of banana they’d cut up for us, even someone with a tray of sandwiches. The volunteers handed out the Lucozade and water and gave us a little “go on, you can do it”. A smile, a wink, a slap on the back. We turned a corner and saw the mighty Tower Bridge right in front of us, just as the sun came out, albeit briefly. You think ”Wow, we’ve made it half way”. And then you think ”Oh *insert expletive here*, we’ve only made it half way!!”. You take some more paracetamol, you can feel an unusual sensation in your toes, your stomach is churning, everything hurts.
You head through Canary Wharf, the rain pouring down, volunteers handed out foil blankets so that we didn’t get too cold. The crowds stayed out though, they didn’t give up on us and it meant so much that they stayed out in the rain. I had my photo taken at the 20 mile marker. 20 miles!!! No going back now.
On the Embankment, a pub with an outdoor area had a live band, lots of people were a few beers into their day. The band started playing Razorlight, “In the Morning”. A whole crowd of people belted out at us “In the morning, you know it’s gonna be alright!”. I couldn’t help but think that I’d be far from alright in the morning, but it made me smile. Friends appeared at the side of the road, emotional, willing us on, so close now.
You see the Houses of Parliament in front of you, and turn the corner to head to The Mall. This is it, one last push!! Big Ben chimed, as if only for us. Then, you see all the people lined up on The Mall, yelling at you “go on, you are nearly there”, clapping, absolutely screaming your name. The Union Jacks, the sight of Buckingham Palace. The commentator on the loudspeaker shouted “this is it, look up, you will remember this moment for the rest of your life, you are about to cross the line!!”
And then you take the hand of the person you’ve been with for 26.2 miles and run over the line together, tears streaming down your face. The lady who put the medal around my neck put a hand on each shoulder and said “are you ok?”. I was crying so much I couldn’t speak. She just put her arms around me and said “Well done, you’ve done it.”
Photos taken, complete with red face and tears, you’ve collected your bag and your foil blanket and you head for the family meeting area. And there they are, your loved ones standing, waiting for you with arms out for a proud hug. More cameras, more tears, a helping hand while you stagger on. You tell yourself that you will remember this day forever. And as you pass the sponsorship banners, you read “Pain is temporary, pride is forever” and “Impossible is nothing”. Both so very true.
I ran the Flora London Marathon for Mind.
Click here for my rather amateur yet heartfelt youtube piece to thank my sponsors.