London Marathon 2018: Race Recap

My london marathon experience started on the Friday before, I said goodbye to work on the Thursday and took the Friday to have some me time. I did some cleaning and life admin before going to get my nails and eyebrows done before catching some sun in the glorious weather we’ve been having.

I spent the afternoon shopping on oxford street before meeting Leah from work and making our way to the ExCel centre for the London Marathon expo.

The expo was amazing, very well organised much like the RunDisney race expo. We picked up our bibs, and headed for a little tour around checking out the merchandise and grabbing some fun photo ops.

One of our first stops was to see RunDisney, we got chatting to a gentleman on the booth (who was French and I believe to be a big deal in the organising of the races) who explained how RunDisney are changing the races this year to improve, they’d taken on feedback and preferences from the past two years survey and put it into the planning of this years race. He told us that the party was no longer happening on the friday night, so it wouldn’t clash with the 5k and that thhe theming was the most popular of the last two years post race survey’s, so thats how they came to the decision. I am thrilled to here they are listening and taking their time to make it better and better each year.

We got a few freebies from RunDisney and took some photos at their booth. They were happy we was as enthusiastic as they were.

We picked up our goodie bags, said hello to my charity – St John Ambulance and wandered around for a bit. In the Challenge section of the expo we got a few more photo ops and was so chuffed they printed the pictures there and then for us as well as sending via email. Great little souvenir for the day. Just like that it was gone 7 and time for us to head out. I love big organised races that have expo’s, this was much like RunDisney (in Florida) where they put on a big expo at ESPN world of Sports. I preferred Rundisney’s expo because they had more stuff tailored to my style. There wasn’t alot of Offical London Marathon Merchandise that caught my eye. I was going to buy one tshirt but they didn’t have it in my size.

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On Saturday my plan was just to relax, after more cleaning and some food shopping, I spent the day with Leah, Laura and Michelle eating food and watching Disney films. Perfect day.

I felt relaxed all of Saturday, pretty positive about the race and raring to go. I could have done more to prepare for this marathon but for my first ever marathon I think I’ve done a fair amount and am very organised and prepared for the day ahead.

I’ve had so many messages of love and support, cards and presents, my heart is just so full and I feel like I could do anything because I’ve got such a good team of people behind me.

The Big day.

I woke up around 6am – after a not so great sleep. I was super hot, there was thunder and lightening and just anxious. I got up and made coffee and bagels for myself and Leah and we started to get ready.

Michelle came over around 7am and we glittered ourselves up and headed to London Bridge in an uber.

We prepared ourselves for Long Queues for the train, but made it to Greenwich before half 8 and was in the start area in plenty of time.

Once in the red start area we went to the Loos, the queues weren’t bad at all, max 10 mins and they were quite clean at this point. We grabbed some water and hot drinks and found ourselves a spot to sit whilst we waited. Becky came and joined us and we listened to the greatest showman whilst we waited. In the general area the music they were playing wasn’t very motivational, so listening to our own stuff was much better.

Around 9:45 am we dropped our bags, and shuffled over to the toilet queue again, 10 minutes later we was done with toilets and heading over to the start pens. We met with Cat on our way over and everyone took a moment to chat before trying to get into our pens. Though I was feeling good this morning, it suddenly hit me I was about to run a marathon, Cat & Michelle went off to one start pen and Leah & Becky to another. Just then I realised how lonely this race might be for me as everyone was going off and I was left by myself.

After a little cry I joined Pen 6, this is the only point I felt the lack of organisation. There just didn’t seem to be any order to where people were standing, just where you could possibly get in. I was stood a but further back from the 4:15 pacer, who gradually got further away from me – for the best as that really wasn’t going to happen. My goal was just to finish but I was aiming for as 4:45-5 knowing I could run my first half at a 4:15 pace if I really tried and take it back in the second half, and enjoy it knowing the people I knew would be in the end half.

I met a few St John ambulance runners at the start and nervously shuffled to the start line, and then it was all go go go. The start wasn’t much of a spectacle unlike Disney, I didn’t hear an offical count down for my pen we were just hearded over the start line.

Within minutes I knew I wasn’t going to reach my time goals, I really struggled to get out and set in my pace, my first two miles were a 10 minute mile, normally would set off about a 9:15-9:30 for at least the first 3-5 miles, and bring it back. There was just a lot of weaving at the begining, and then once I got the the first water station my pace just got worse, it was literally impossible to run through a water station, even if you werent getting water everyone was just walking, gave me flashbacks to Wine & Dine at Disney again, just walking everywhere.

The heat got to everyone, it got to me, but I just wished I’d got out the gate a little quicker. because overall what I did in terms of pace wasn’t unexpected, I slowed down as planned and ran walked towards the end, but had I just hit the 9-10 minutes miles earlier on I would have reached my personal goals.

For the first 6 miles I felt very alone, despite all the crowds cheering, I was also telling myself “No one is here cheering for you”, the only certainty I had was my friends at mile 23-24 and my family in the last 800 metres. I had my headphones in one ear, on my left hand side, so I ran mainly on the right hand side or the middle. When I felt I needed more encouragement I ran to the side, because people didn’t have to shout your name they almost felt like a whisper of positivity in your ear. I found it hard to look up and thank everyone, I found it incredbly overwhelming that so many eyes were on me, so all I could muster up was a little mermer and a thumbs up to those who cheered me on.

I do not know what mile it was but my lovely Aerial friend Char and her family were cheering me on a it gave me a massive boost, I felt like someone was in my corner fighting for me and it got rid of that voice in my head that was telling me that no one was really here for me in particular. Just before mile 9, I heard this booming Male voice, it was my friend Stephanie’s boyfriend Mike, again I was so overwhelmed by this but it pushed me forward when I was struggling.

Around Mile 12 after the Lucazade station I got into a bit of a mess, the roads were sticky as hell and I had someones half chewed sweet stuck to one foot and then as soon as I got it off, a gel got stuck to me. I paused to pull it off and as soon as I got going again I looked up to see shining brightly in yellow my good friend Krissi from Aerial, cheering wildly – she almost knocked someone out. That kept me smiling all the way over Tower Bridge. That moment was surreal, it was a great moment in the big half but this was extraordinary, it was so hard to take in because there was just so much going on. There was a guy dressed as an avatar being intviewed, lots of people stopping for photos and lots of charirites cheering on their runners. Now I was warned after Tower Bridge I might feel a dip in energy and not to be put off by the other runners you could see further on down the course. This actually spurred me on, I think it was at this point I start counting down the miles to see my family and friends, I was over half way and could see the heat was getting to people. I saw a lot of people being treated by St John Ambulance, this made me so incredbly proud to run for them, they were doing such a great job in the heat to help everyone. Every St John Ambulance team member who saw me asked if I was ok, if I needed anything and cheered me on, it made me really feel like part of something special. So If you are reading this thinking about what charity to run for I would recommend them, they are excellent. Hitting narrow street after mile 14 and lovely guy also running for St John Ambulance came and asked me how I was getting on, gutted I didn’t catch his name, but if you are reading this Thank you so much for the boost.

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I’d say the middle of the course was kinda rough for me mentally, it was just a constant battle of “can I keep running and get under 5?” Or “shall I just take it back a little and enjoy it?” I chose the latter, mainly because every time I tried to run it was more like a shuffle run. The middle also lacked personal support for me so the negative thoughts kept creeping in my head.

Around mile 17, Michelle came running up behind me, looking strong and giving me encouraging words. From then on we kept passing each other and occasionally speaking. It was great because Michelle and I have done so many runs together that it was just like normal and I felt like I could attempt to match her pace in some way, I just kept her in my vision and tried my hardest to keep up.

Between miles 18-23 the crowd was loud and overwhelming, I was struggling and was just head down running trying to keep moving forward, somewhere around here another instarunner friend Kirsty found me. Kirsty is all kinds of awesome running multiple marathons in a few short weeks. Last weekend she ran brighton and I got to cheer he on and here she was running with me. We ran bits together and kinda stuck with each at this point, I felt fortunate that her and Michelle didn’t care for time today as they could keep me company and keep me going and I really appriciated this.

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Just after mile 23 I saw my boss from work, he ran along side me for a minute and was super encouraging. I just didn’t expect to see him and for him to come up to me, and he just motivated me to move forward. I was so shocked I cried and just said I was really hot and tired. I went into Blackfriars tunnel/underpass and it was a bit cooler in the shade which was much needed.

As I came out of the tunnel the cheersquad I’d been thinking about seeing since mile 1 were there and that support was incredible, again overwhelmed by this support I cried, and I cried hard on Lizzie’s shoulder. I often have Lizzie’s voice in my head just telling me “One foot in front of the other” so a hug from her was needed. I felt bad becuase there were so many people there and I just didn’t really see and appriciate everyone, it was reallty hard to take in just how many people had joined the squad today. It’s incredible the amount of support out today, and the fact these people had stood in the sun for 8 hours cheering every single person. I am incredibly proud to call these people friends.

Kirsty and I ran to the last stretch were I passed a few more friends including my housemate Laura, and my oldest friend Yasmine. Me and Kirsty then both saw our families within a few metres of each other and then walked a few minutes before running the Last 400 metres. This was the most overwhelming bit, so many cameras I didn’t know where to look, but I put my hands in the air and embraced it.

And just like that the race was over, I finished just behind Michelle, Kirsty and another Instarunner Martha, so it was good to see them at the end and celebrate together.

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With all my weaving my distance was actually 26.75 miles, so my Garmin time clocked 5:00:57, however my offical time was 5:07:26. Am I happy with this time? Of course I am, it’s my first marathon all I could have wanted was just to have finished, there was so many people unable to finish for a variety of reasons and in this heat especially I was just greatful to have just gotten through and overcome the mental barriers that tried to stop me completing the course. I am gutted I didn’t get under 5, but I will explain why in a moment.

Getting around after the marathon was a struggle, once I’d got my pictures, and my bag I headed to the runners area where I met my friends Amy & Francesca, who had lovingly course hopped to find me multiple times and I had missed them every time, but they made it to the end with presents and much needed support. I tried to head back to the course and find my family where they were but was constantly told I couldn’t walk in certain places. At one point my family were just around one corner and they wouldn’t let me go that way, my angry side came out at that point. I had literally had enough of shuffling around. I gave up and sat down on a patch of grass and told my family to come to me, I didn’t want to battle the crowds anymore. I am more gutted I couldn’t get back to the course to cheer for Leah but I knew the cheer squad had her back and she was going to do just fine.

Once my family found me, we headed to the pub, where I changed and had my first drink since New Year and debriefed with my family. My Mum, Aunt Pauline, Cousins Alex and Ella, were all out, my sister was on the phone to my mum tracking me and cheering me all the way from Australia.

After a few drinks, we headed over to Pizza Express for some food – Mum had vouchers, of course she bloody did, and as I wasn’t feeling too hungry right this minute, I had a full fat coke, a couple slices of Pizza, and some doughballs.

By this time, a very special Lady had finished and made her way out of the crowds and managed to hop over to Pizza express to collect some of the stuff she had left at mine the night before. It was so good to see Leah, she did so well. Leah has vowed this is her last Marathon, she enjoyed the day but doesn’t enjoy this distance. We had a 10 minute debrief and then she hobbled off with her Fiance Tom (Hi Tom, lovely to finally meet you) and I went back to my family.

Soon after I headed home to so many cards and presents. I’d not been on social media since the day before so I ran myself a nice bath and caught up on what I’d missed, and read through all my cards and messages. The support and love has been overwhelming (Whoops I used that word again).

If I was to sum up this day in one words.

Isn’t it obvious? – OVERWHELMING

There have been some negatives but overall so many positives. I’m lucky and glad I got through the race without injury or any flare ups of the pains I was having in training. The race was incredible, the atmosphere, incredible. I’m proud to say I’ve achieved this, I’m happy this was my first marathon, and I am happy with how far I’ve come.

Post marathon

Post marathon I had prebooked a few treats. On Monday, my legs were aching, but not actually as bad as I had anticipated. I made my way over to The Mayfair Hotel & Spa, for a Moroccan Steam Cleansing treatment, and Full body massage with Leah. I am so glad I booked this, firstly it was a little bit of luxury and secondly was just what my body needed.  I have a lot of hang ups about my body, like most people probably do, but I actively avoided sports massages during my training because I am just not comfortable in this situation. Maybe it was the runners high but I was also feeling incredibly proud of what my body had just achieved, amazed at it even. Maybe I was just too tired to care but I went out of my comfort zone, and had a massage, relaxed and enjoyed it. I almost fell asleep.

Then we met up with Michelle, and had a Gorgeous afternoon tea at the Egerton House Hotel. We debriefed, we chatted for hours and ate some lovely food – The staff at the hotel were lovely but I must admit is was quite frustrating that one member of staff was really pushy asking about times, in which we all just said it took us hours, he also told us we should go for a run today, in which we also disagreed with and said that afternoon tea was a much better option.

I’ve had the best London Marathon experience. I am not running expert, but I will say if you are looking to take up running, run the London marathon, or any other race… Find your people, share the experience, share the stress, share the joy, there is a big runners community out there, embrace it.

So what’s next for me…

It’s been a while since I ran without a goal in mind, I’m going to enjoy my summer, running shorter distances. My next big race is the Disneyland Paris Race weekend in September with my girls. I’ll be entering the ballot for London Marathon next year, I enjoyed the day, and would love to run it again, so if it’s meant to be it will be.

Now this is where I tell you why I am disapointed I didn’t get under 5. I first got into running, to run Disney, I began with Disneyland Paris, and have done the last two years as well as travelling to Florida for the Wine & Dine half marathon weekend. I love the atmosphere of these races and the opportunity to travel for races. So my next BIG goal will be the Dopey Challenge at the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in January 2019. Me and Leah have booked the Holiday, and are patiently waiting for Bib release, so I am hoping I have no problem getting my place and running this challenge. For those who don’t know what the Dopey Challenge is it is a weekend of running that breaks down like this: Thursday -5k, Friday -10k, Saturday – Half Marathon, Sunday – Marathon. In total you recieve 6 Medals for completing this challenge. As Disney are great fun races, they attract a variety of runners, and many walkers too. The pace requirement is a 16 minute mile from the last person to cross the finish line, ladies with Balloons keep the 16 minute mile pace and people nervously trying to keep from being swept – you still get medals if you get swept but you don’t recieve extra challenge medals if you do. So in order to get around this people put down they can run faster than they can, to start in an earlier Corral and get ahead of the Balloon ladies and sweeper buses. Proof of time for the Corrals for Disney only need to be given if you can run a marathon under 5 hours, so though I can run that pace I don’t have proof. I mean I will likely be sorted into a Corral where many people have said they can run a 5 hours marathon but will actually be walking. I found this difficult to weave around at the Wine & Dine weekend and just don’t want that to get in the way of my experience for Dopey.

So yes that’s disapointing, but I do also have th option to do a proof of time for a half, but I’m not sure that will secure my place for a better start Corral. Either way this is my next challenge and even if I start at the very back, meet no characters and just finish the race I will be doing it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my race recap and for all the support I’ve received.

taaah

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