Wow – what a day. It was everything I’d dreamed (and dreaded) it would be and more.
As most of you know, I only started running last January (thanks to @jogblog and Janathon) and I am still overweight, so the race for me was always just going to be about finishing. Shazruns give me the Nonrunners Marathon Traiing Guide which, despite the misnomer in the title, is a brilliant training guide for an amateur runners first marathon. They promise that it will get you round and it does. My official time was 6.02.03, however I had a 20 minute loo stop (tell you about that in a mo) so my garmin made it 5:47 which is what I am sticking too! I came 34060 out of a field of 36672, which means there were 2612 people behind me!
We got to Blackheath at 7am, plenty of time to eat brekkie, get hydrated and use the loo. The atmosphere was quite subdued – lots of cold, nervous people walking around thinking, like me, what the hell am I doing here I must be nuts! We fiinally shuffled down to the start – I was in Blue pen 9 which was right at the back. We got to the start line much quicker that I thought, I crossed the line at approx 10.02 gave the camera little wave and set off with a smile on my face. Here’s how my race went down…
Miles 1 – 5
I was all caught up in the atmosphere, my legs felt good and despite doing my best to pace myself, I did the 1st 5 miles in 58 minutes. I really wanted to pace at 13 minute miles for the 1st 5, but like probably thousands of people before me, I got all caught up in the atmosphere and the crowd, and forgot that it was 26 not 6 miles that I was out for! The sun was shining, and I was running through areas I recognised from Run to The Beat. I chatted to a couple of other people running for the Meningitis Trust as they passed me and was generally trying to keep up with the run/walk pacing group for a 5h14m finish. My 1st cheerleader, Andrea was at mile 3 – she screamed my name as I trottted past so I went back for a quick hug, then just after the 5m marker I saw hubby and Michelle so another quick hug stop and off I went.
Miles 6 – 8
An overwhelming need to pee came over me. I don’t know why as I went to the loo 3 or 4 times at the start, but I knew I just had to stop, so I did just before mile 8. I don’t know about you, but when I go shopping, I always manage to pick the queue with the super slow checkout person, or the old dear who has to load all her things one by one before she pays so I end up waiting longer than if I’d got in a longer one. Well that happened to me on sunday. I got in a queue about 8 people deep, it didn’t move for 5 minutes, then the bright spark (I might be exaggerating) at the front realised that the door was stuck AND there was an out of order sign on it (I was too far back to see), so I moved into another queue. Unfortunately, it seemed I had missed the sign saying this was the POO queue. Seriously, I only wanted a quick wee. In hindsight, I should’ve just gone round the back of the portaloos – I had wet wipes on me… I felt awful watching all those people stream past me, I’d been feeling really good until then, but when I started out running again I just came over all negative, I ripped the 5h30 pace band off my wrist in frustration and just stopped looking at my watch.
Which was probably the best decision I made. Instead of beating myself up about times and pace, I decided to just run what felt comfortable and finish in one peice.
I maintained a 12 – 13m pace by walking for about a minute at the start of each mile, and plodding the rest. Highlights of this section were the newly renovated Cutty Sark area (can’t wait for that to open!) and of course Tower Bridge. I got a bit choked up crossing that as it is synonymous with the London Marathon in my mind. I looked out for the BBC broadcasters but didn’t see any so, alas, did not get my 2 minutes of fame. Just after the bridge was the cheering team from my running club, so I gave them a thumbs up and a Monty-Pythonesque run (they were on the other side of the road) then a bit further on was my Mum, Hugh and sis. I don’t know why but seeing them got me all emotional. My Mum told me how proud she was and how well I was doing and that just set me off – I think Mums just have that ability. I set off again (I had to walk a bit to compose myself as I was almost sobbing) then about half a mile on I spotted (almost missed her) Louise shouting and waving from the other side of the road so I did another frantic wave and on I went. I found miles 14 – 17 quite hard, I think because I kept thinking I still have over 10 miles to go, but I got 2 more cheerleading boosts and hugs from Shaz who told me off for walking (quite rightly too as it was too early to be at that point!) and her daughter (sorry for swearing – I was tired) and Zoe and Steve which kept me going.
That was my wall and bloody huge and long it was too! I was tired, I was hot, I hurt like hell and I was in unknown territory as the longest run I did beforehand was 18 miles. It’s also the most uninspiring bit of the course and although the crowd do try their best it’s hard going when all you can smell is barbecues and all you can see is people drinking and having fun! They were still supportive though and actually I’m pleased to say that despite the negative experiences I’ve had during training with people shouting abuse at me (run fat girl run amongst many other things), that didn’t happen once through the whole course which is a testament to Londoners and how wholeheartedly they have embraced the everyman ethos of the London Marathon.
I got through wanting to give up (it did cross my mind a few times) and when I got to mile 20 I was spurred on by the thought I ‘only’ had a 10k left. I saw my brother, sis in law, nephew and cousin somewhere around mile 20 (more hugs) and my Mum and crew were just after 21. I also saw Martin who was running along the side of the road to catch me so I got a quick kiss – turns out he had a nightmare morning trying to get to see me and just missing me! I’d settled into a run/walk stratgey, well more walk/run really and was starting to feel very cold and tired and dejected again, when up ahead I spotted an elf hat which meant Alma – YAY! She’s been with me for so much of the way, a real inspiration and support. It was wonderful – she came under the barrier and came running down the road to me and we had one of those huge heathrow type hugs! It was just what I needed, although in my tired state it got me all emotional again and as I ran away I had a little cry and had to walk a bit to get my breath back.
Not sure what came over me – could’ve been the biting wind, or the icy rain, but I pulled an 11.52m mile out of somewhere! It was the dreaded embankment and I maintained the run walk strategy. It was great to see so many supporters braving the rain and still cheering at the top of their voices.
A 13.30 m mile, I was sopping wet, and because I had got cold EVERYTHING was hurting; my knees, shoulders, legs and feet, and I even started to feel some rubbing in my shoes – I’ve never suffered with blisters. I plodded plodded plodded, head down, but whenever someone in the crowd cheered me I speeded up to a trot as my way of saying thanks to them for being out there in such crap weather.
I ran all of the last .2 and when I crossed the line I burst into tears. You don’t have access to any supporters there as it’s all secure, so it feels a bit anti-climactic. One of the marshalls said Carla – do you need a hug? Yes, I sobbed, so I got a wonderful hug from a stranger on the finish line that made me feel great – thanks that lady!
I made my way to the meet and greet to find that all my family had buggered off to the pub. Luckily my stalwart supporters Louise and Alma were waiting for me which was brilliant, because as fellow marathoners they seemd to know exactly what I needed. I ended up getting changed right there and then with them preserving my dignity using the foil blanket and helping me remove and add clothing. We then trotted to the pub to meet everyone and I got a bit heady with excitement and relief it was done and after a pint of cider was drunk!
Will I do it again?
Throughout the run I kept saying to myself, I am never doing this again, what the hell was I thinking? An hour after I finished I started saying maybe…a day later definately! I will be entereing the ballot next Monday, although I don’t mind if it takes a few goes to get in again!
What would I do differently?
Train more: Although the training plan was good it was just a get you round. Also, if I’m being truthful, I only did 3 runs a week for 75% of the plan making sure that I always did the long run. I would definately aim to do a minimum of 4 if not 5 runs a week, get up to a higher mileage in my training, and do a weekly speed/hill work session.
Lose weight: I’m probably about 3 – 4 stone over my ideal weight and I think the pressure that put on my joints, especially my knees, is just too much. For the sake of my future health I wouldn’t consider training for and running another marathon without losing at least 2 stone.
Stay near the start: A 4.25 alarm call was too early, and I think I drank too much beforehand just because I was up for so much longer! I have a friend that lives on shooters hill, 500m from the start and I stupidly refused his offer of a bed – next time I will say yes!!
Pace: I didn’t really have a clear pace plan in my head, so I think next time I would try to plan that a bit better. I’d love to achieve the elusive negative splits but not sure I ever will.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the day, and I’m really glad that I finished, I enjoy the hoohah of a big race so this was right up my street. Like you’d expect, it’s very well organised and the support is just amazing. I’ve spectated many times in the past and didn’t resalise just how much my shouting encouragement probably helped others get through. It is an experience I will never forget, and I’ll be dining off it for a few months to come!
Here are some pics: