I am looking for sponsors and all monies go to charity.
My goal is to raise £2,500—details can be found on this link:
It will be my first marathon and I have been training for this for over a year. I recently finished the London Landmarks Half Marathon (my first half marathon) on 1 August 2021. I came 6660th out of approximately 14,500 participants. I was so nervous that I arrived 2 ½ hours before the race. When it started, I uncoiled and burst past a large number of people. It didn’t feel like I was running fast until I looked at my Garmin (watch) and realised that I was running fast for me. I didn’t slow down as I was feeling strong and I needed to burn off my nerves. Miles 1-6 blew past and I was pleased at my pace. I wasn’t going to set any course records but I was well on my way to running sub-2 hours for the half marathon.
Prior to the race, I was wondering how I would handle the water stations. Would I stop? Would I run with the water? Where did I put the bottle after drinking its contents? Should I sip and run? Would I hold the bottle or put it in my pocket? Should I have some form of harness to hold bottles while I ran? It caused me a lot of worry. On the day, I was handed a 250ml bottle of water. I tried to sip. I carried it and hadn’t finished it when I came to the next water station. I poured it on my head and took another bottle.
At mile 10 (circa kilometre 16), I started to feel a bit sluggish. I was hot. My pace was slowing. I shrugged off the pace as I had started so well, I didn’t mind being slower later on. I was fixated on the sub-2 hour finish. I knew that I was fit enough to run 30 km and I no longer felt any pain in my lungs or ‘stitches’ in my side that I felt when I started training over a year ago. My joints weren’t sore. And yet I got slower. My body wasn’t responding to me. At the next water station, I stopped and drank the water completely before continuing. I took another bottle and alternated between pouring on my head and sipping. I realised too late that I had become dehydrated.
I became very aware of my body as I hit 20 km as I constantly checked my Garmin to see how much further I had to go. I had eaten a dodgy shawarma the night before and had joked that it could be my undoing. I was slowly becoming undone. 2 ½ hours before the race, I didn’t need to use the toilet. An hour before the race, it would have been nice to have visited the loo. But the queues were long and I figured that I could hold whatever was there for the next few hours. Just before the race, I realised that I needed to go. It was too late. The participants had been divided into six different waves. These waves would enter their designated pen that would then filter them onto the course in a controlled fashion. It works for animals and it works for runners. As I stood in the pen, feigning a few stretches and mindful of the numbers of people around me (the UK was registering 25,000 new covid cases daily prior to the race), my body told me that I needed the loo. I told my body to relax and that it would be over before I knew it.
The voice on the speaker reminded runners to ‘start slowly’ so that they would have a strong finish. I had read the same previously—along with the warning to not change anything (especially dietary) prior to a race. It was one of the reasons I ate the shawarma. It is something that I had eaten regularly. The only difference was that this was a different source of shawarma. Too late to worry about nonsense. I ran.
There were toilets along the way. I knew that. I only started looking for one actively after 16 km. At 20 km, I saw the green ‘vacant’ colour on one of the doors and slammed myself into it. It was the nastiest thing I had seen apart from a truck stop near Ankara, Turkey back in 1989. I opted to do the minimum necessary and continue running.
My body was now partially relieved but still crying out. I didn’t understand why I was so sluggish. I thought about the marathon on the 3rd October and started contemplating withdrawing. How could I be faring so poorly when I ran 21km every weekend for the last month prior this day?
My head down, I willed myself to keep moving. It was not a ridiculously bad pace but it was not something I would be bragging about later. (That being said, I am writing about it now, so there you go.)
Then I saw it. The mile 13 flag. 10 Downing Street was the finish line, just around the corner. I pulled myself together for a big finish. I rounded the corner and pushed my internal afterburner button. I burst ahead, legs stretching ahead of me. I passed other runners like they were standing still. I laughed inside at how amazing I must be looking. Kicking butt. The finish line appeared but it was still a couple of hundred yards away. I felt my afterburner fuel dissipate and I returned to slug pace. I would have stopped had it not been for the cheering crowds (not for me, but for everyone) and the finish line. I knew that my two grandkids were at the finish line cheering me on.
I gutted it out.
I heard the chanting of my name just before I passed the finish line. I looked around to see the two kids and their mother waving at me. I kept walking, trying to find a way around the metal barriers. Medics were treating other runners who had collapsed. Other runners were resting and recovering. I picked up my goodie bag (with a finisher medal and shirt) and made my way to the kids. Max took my medal and put it around his neck. Oscar grabbed my hand and we made our way for burgers and fries.
As I waddled and limped along post-race, I forgot to stretch. That was going to be another lesson I wouldn’t repeat on marathon day. But, at the time, I didn’t think about anything apart from the fact that I had completed the race that no-one (including myself) thought was possible only a year earlier.