I am a runner. I may not run for long periods of time. I may count down from 59 while I take walking breaks frequently. But I am a runner.
In September I was not a runner. And I didn’t really have any intention of running any time soon. Depression was descending again, and I felt very meh about everything.
But then the ballot place came through the post, and everything changed. And in 6 months I have gone from not being able to run to the corner of the street, to being able to complete a marathon, and running over half of it. Not constantly, but consistently running then walking then running.
Yesterday didn’t go as swimmingly as I would like, and I’m sure my experiences will have been shared by many over the years. 8 miles went well. I was running regularly and faster than I meant. But I felt good, because the crowds carried us along with the cheers and support. But then my stomach started to cramp and things didn’t feel so good. Running began to feel risky, and I was grateful to find a building with toilets and lots of loo paper to pop in my bag for the horrendous portaloos ahead. I have had the odd training run where a similar situation has occurred, and have never been entirely sure of the reason. Was it the wrong food the night before? Nerves? A horrid gel that didn’t agree? I don’t know. I won’t go into horrendous detail of said portaloos, but I think it’s safe to say that judging by their appearance, other runners had some issues on the marathon course. Yuck. No one mentions this in the marathon training manuals!
Aaaaanyway. stomach cramps and the need to visit portaloos did affect my times. Significantly. I had started with the dream of 6.5 hours, then during the first few miles I was thinking 6 hours was very doable. And so it was disappointing to be needing painkillers and to be worrying about where the next set of loos would be. But I was still moving. I was still running when it felt ok to, and trying to keep a pace walking at least.
I knew I was going to see my family and charity group at 13 miles, and so counting down to that point kept me going. Pain killers eventually kicked in enough for me to pick some speed back up, and I started to be able to run about more. The crowds were amazing. Sweets being offered all over, people calling my name and cheering me on. I pushed myself because I felt I owed it to my sponsors and to the crowds, and to the gift of the ballot place. As 10 became 11 and so on, the fact I was so near to seeing my family regularly choked me, and I would make these primal noises trying to breathe properly and not blub!
Seeing my family at the 13 mile mark was a wonderful thing. Tears of joy that I had my little team of cheerleaders to keep me going and see me through.
And my charity cheerleaders too on Twitter!
By here I was about 18 miles in, and was walking running with a mixture of people who seemed to be suffering too. My pace had slowed considerably, and at points the crowds had been sparse, which actually became a relief, but again, seeing my family kept me going. But now it was getting to the point where all I could focus on was trying to put one foot in front of the other. Lower back and gut pain seemed to consume my mind, and at this point I started to think I wasn’t even going to make 7 hours.
The next 3 miles seemed to drag. Really, really drag. I couldn’t even tell you where I was once we were past Billingsgate Market. I just walk, ran when I felt I could, then walked a lot more. By now lots of spectators were cheerfully drunk, and amusing and fun with the quips. I actually liked that. It lightened the air, but the miles still dragged. When the litter lorries started to clear away the mess alongside us stragglers, that’s when I really felt I was miles from the end. So much pain, and fear of running, and feeling like actually I couldn’t run if I wanted to. But those crowds kept cheering and shouting.
When I saw The Tower of London for the second time I knew I was in the home straight, but seeing my family, again, boosted me, once more! Knowing I was less than less than 4 miles to the end was good, but it was still tough. And seemed a long time to the river and seeing Big Ben.
There came a point as I entered the tunnel on the A3211 that I decided I needed some mojo, and I plugged in my headphones and hit shuffle. My phone must have known what I needed as I got “Angel Street“, “Rock around the Clock“, “Step by Step“, and finally “Little Lion Man“. The songs worked magic and saw me to The Houses of Parliament. Now so close. Now the medal was minutes away. And so was my family, again!
The beauty of being in the final few hundred is that there is space for your family to find a space easily. And it also meant that while I was running along the road, my kids could jog along the pavement next to me for a few hundred metres. I had found the enjoy to push on to the last bit, and to get to the end.
“ And here I am, at the end of 6 months from 0 to marathon finisher. It wasn’t the fastest time. I wish I hadn’t had tummy issues for a large chunk of the journey, but I did the best I could on the day and I made it in under 7 hours with 31 seconds to spare. I ran through every mile marker, even if in the instances I had walked most of the previous mile, and I was amazed and impressed by the determination of the participators around me.
And one thing was hugely clear. You absolutely cannot judge a person’s health and endurance by their appearance. Larger men and women powered through, while slim and toned looking people struggled and walked slowly but determinedly.
And couples supporting each other as they go. Injury and illness can affect anyone, no matter what their fitness level, but the mental capacity of those pained people to keep going is awe inspiring. Whether you are walking or running, or a mixture of both, 26.2 miles takes a toll on the body, and it takes endurance to keep going, but oh, when it’s done.
For me, it is like the title says, an Arse about Face journey for me. I’ve started my running life with The London Marathon! And that does seem a bit crazy. But what a way to start! I don’t anticipate another marathon any time soon. But I am already eyeing up the Half Marathons, and improving on the time for those. Running is so great, physically, emotionally, and mentally, and it isn’t anything I plan on giving up soon. Yesterday could have gone better. But then, I could have not finished. I could have had to pull out for some reason, and I didn’t. And I have a medal and a finishers t shirt, and a head full of memories!
I can’t thank enough the people who have supported me through to the end of yesterday. SANE, who I was fundraising for, the sponsors who contributed to an amazing amount on my page, the campaigners supporting women in exercise such as This Girl Can, and the campaigns supporting larger women such as The Fat Girl’s Guide To Running. And my lovely family who were there every step!