I did it!! London Marathon – check! Blisters as big as my little toe – check! Inability to walk up/down stairs for three days – check! In short, it was a roaring success.
Not that it was easy. Oh no. It was one of the toughest runs I’ve done. But let’s start at the beginning. I was in the green starting section, which was for Good for Age entries (like me) and celebrities (unlike me). I only learned about the celebrities after the fact – which may be a good thing, or all my marathon energy would have gone on hunting down anyone remotely famous.
The first mile took us out of Greenwich, and before it was up I had the first of many ‘moments’. We ran past an old stone church that had pink blossom growing in it’s yard, and I had the ‘a-ha!’ moment that I was actually running the London marathon! We had started, it had begun!
It was really hard to keep to my pace, and the first three miles were a minute faster than I wanted. At the time it felt fine, but I wondered if it would come back and bite me in the ass (spoiler alert: I think it did!). But the excitement and the pace and the crowds make you feel like you’re flying, and my ideal pace of 10:20 minute miles felt very slow in such an atmosphere.
Miles 1-6 were very smooth, and at mile 7 I had a fabulous surprise: SB, Baby B, my brother-and-sister in law were there to cheer me on, complete with banner. In my excitement I screamed, and made Baby B cry. A lot. So…. great parenting there, scaring your child and running away.
The best bit for me was running over Tower Bridge. I was trudging through some nameless street, and all of a sudden we turned a corner and there it was, in all its bridgy glory. The sun chose to come out then to, a d I had the second moment of the marathon. Running over the bridge I was comparing the two marathons I have done: Edinburgh was fast and powerful, but lonely, and this one was slower but with my family there to cheer me on, along with what felt like the rest of London! It was gorgeous.
My legs started to hurt at mile 12. Initially it was my right IT band, then it was my left, then it was my knee, then it was my adductors, and finally by the end my right IT band was very tight and sore. Most of the second half was spent trying to focus and keep my pace up, and ignoring the pain. It was a blur to be honest. I felt reasonably comfortable, but it was an effort to try and keep the pace right. I had the 4:30 pacer in my sights for 8 miles, which was encouraging, but then at mile 22 the wheels began to fall off.
Even though I had less than an hour to go, I decided to go to the loo which slowed me down for 3 minutes. Then, instead of being able to run more freely, I got the biggest stitch. The kind that won’t go away when you push it, and that makes you grunt like a pig. So I had to walk. And so I lost the 4:30 pacer.
Then followed a really frustrating two miles of walking and running. At this point we were in central London, and the crowds were overwhelming in their support. They were all shouting ‘go on Ellie! Not much further, you’re doing so well!’ and while it was awesome, it was hard to focus. My lovely family were there at 23 miles again, and this time I was much quieter for Baby B.
I felt like a zombie for the last three miles, my feet felt heavy and all I could do was focus on the path ahead. And take photos thanks to the slow pace! I felt it was a shame that the most picturesque part of the route was at the very end when you’re just trying to get through, but there is nothing like running past the Thames, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace before turning down the Mall filled with Union Jacks to finish. Although I couldn’t enjoy it at the time, the memories are there and they are amazing.
I finished in 4:40, and my stubborn side is gutted that I didn’t make 4:30. But there’s another side which is just proud that I’ve finished it, even if it is 53 minutes slower than my last. I spent most of this race trying to ward off the pain, trying to keep up the pace, and telling myself that this is the last time I’ll run a marathon. Then I woke up on Monday and thought ‘yeah…. but I’ll do another one’.
I think I could have finished in 4:30 if I hadn’t started out so quickly, and if I hadn’t munched on mini Cheddars on my way round. Without the luxury of a few long runs in training, I hadn’t worked out a proper game plan. I’m annoyed that I had to use the loo, and hat I had to stop for a stitch, because I’ve never had to do that before. But the point of this event was to complete it, not to get any sort of time goal, so I need to remind myself of this!
I can’t believe I’ve actually done another marathon. This time the effort was different, my body wasn’t used to the distance but because of the slower pace, and because I’ve run Edinburgh, I knew I could at least do it. Edinburgh was scary as I’d not done one before, and I had an ambitious time goal. This one was scary because I felt very light on training, and because it’s not long after Baby B arrived. But it was worth all the anxiety, the cold weather running and the obsessing about postpartum training. I would love to run it again.