Jenny's London Marathon Experience
It’s 5 days since I took to the start line in Greenwich for the London Marathon and I still feel completely overwhelmed.
I’m not going to lie, running the London Marathon hurts! But wow, what an experience. The goose bumps when spectators (who you’ve never met before) start chanting your name. The excitement and apprehension when crossing the start line with thousands of other runners. And the overwhelming feeling when finally crossing that finish line in front of Buckingham palace. I have never felt anything like it – I was on top of the world!
And so, it begins
Marathon day started early, 6.45am to be precise. Morning prep included race kit, porridge, sun cream, paracetamol and lots of water. It had been a warm week in London and weather forecasters were predicting the race could be the hottest on record – Trust me to choose April 22nd 2018 for my first ever marathon!! This was the day, I was as ready as I would ever be – go for it Jen!
I left the house with my partner Tom, his sister Rachel and her partner Marius and we jumped on the train from Clapham Junction into the city centre. This is where I said goodbye to my loved ones, but not before they publicly helped me apply Vaseline – a massive help by mile 20. We exchanged hugs and good luck messages and off I went to catch the train to Greenwich. I wasn’t on my own for long though as I met a lovely man called Russell who was running for WhizzKidz - We chatted all the way to Greenwich and it calmed my nerves.
We arrived at Greenwich train station and followed the steady stream of people heading towards the start line. Greenwich park looked beautiful in the sunshine, but it was warm and already 22 degrees at 9.30am.
I said goodbye and good luck to Russell and headed for my starting pen, but not before spending 15 minutes in a queue of very nervous runners waiting for an obligatory post run toilet stop. I walked to my starting pen and started chatting to two lovely ladies dressed in green tutus with champagne balloons attached to them. It wasn’t their first marathon and I asked if they had any last-minute tips - “make sure you look up”. One of the ladies had run London last year and said she didn’t even remember Tower Bridge because she had her head down concentrating the whole way around. This message stuck with me and I made sure I took it all in.
Ready, Steady, Go
The Queen started the elite men and the masses race from Windsor castle at 10am, I crossed the start line at 10:20am and was on my way. The sun was shining, the crowds were in fine voice and I was loving life. The first six miles of the race take you away from Greenwich and then you swing back towards the city centre, passing the Cutty Sark at mile 6. The Cutty Sark was my first taste of what was to come, the crowds were unbelievable, it was like running through a tunnel of noise. I still felt good at this point, but the crowds would massively help me out further down the route.
Pictured above: Mile 9 and feeling good
Half way and feeling good
I reached mile nine and was feeling good, very very hot, but good. Tom shouted me in the crowd and I was made up to see him. He threw an energy gel my way and I carried on. The half way point was fast approaching, and I knew potentially the biggest most famous site of the marathon was just around the corner - Tower Bridge. The voice in my head was telling me to look up and take it all in and I’m so glad I did. The view, the crowds, and the cooling breeze made everything about Tower Bridge magical. Once over Tower Bridge you turn away from the finish and hit half way. I still felt good and even managed to ask a marshal if Mo Farah had won.
The next area I was heading towards was Canary Wharf and the tall buildings meant there was no breeze at all. At every water station I would have a routine of drinking the first half of the bottle and then throwing the second half of the bottle over my head and neck - I looked awful, but it made me cooler, if only for a couple of minutes.
I steadily made my way through Canary Wharf. As the miles ticked over I realised I hadn’t seen my mum yet. I ran towards the 18-mile sign and there she was hanging over the barrier with my brother, his wife, my auntie and my little nephew. I burst out crying, not because I was sad, but I was tired and feeling a little emotional about the whole day – I think I worried my mum at this point.
I kept my legs moving and spotted another friend at mile 20. Spotting your friends and family in the crowd gives you the biggest boost and I’m so glad I managed to spot my family and friends in the sea of spectators.
Pictured above: A see of colour
Hot with the wall just around the corner
This is when the marathon really started to hurt for me, between mile 20 – mile 23. My knee was hurting, I was feeling tired and it was so so hot, but I still had a way to go. I gave myself a little breather and backed off the pace, even walking through some of the tunnels. I choose to walk through the tunnels as there was no crowd. Once I saw the crowd again I would give myself a pep talk and get moving again. Once I saw the mile 23 banner I told myself I could do it, it was only another 3.2 miles to the finish. I got my legs moving a little quicker and got into a nice steady rhythm.
Just keep running
Once on the embankment the crowds were urging me on. People I’d never met before were shouting my name and wanted me to succeed. I was starting to feel good again – the end was in sight. I saw Tom and my friends again and they gave me a massive boost. Another half mile down the road I saw my mum again - this time I was smiling. I kept moving one foot in front of the other and made the right hand turn at Big Ben. I saw the ‘1km to go’ sign and I thought, I’ve made it. Well, 1km has never felt so far!! I was slowing, hot and tired but there was no way I was stopping now. I kept my legs moving and made the right turn at Buckingham Palace on to the Mall. I’d made it! I raised my arms aloft and took in the moment. 4 hours 38 minutes and I’d done it. I walked through to get my medal and chatted and congratulated other runners – I felt on top of the world!
Pictured above: The finish line in sight
I did it, time to celebrate
After a stiff 15-minute walk I met Tom in Horse Guards parade and we had the biggest hug. I changed out of my trainers and into flip flops - I’d never been happier to see a pair of flip flops! I then went off to meet my family and friends and celebrated with pizza, beer and lots of laughs.
Pictured above (left): Celebrating with friends and proudly showing off my medal (right): Feeling the effects of the marathon
I’m a marathoner. It hurt but I absolutely loved it. So much so, I’m even contemplating taking on another marathon! Who knows, in cooler conditions I may be a little quicker.
Thanks to Brain Research UK for allowing me to be a part of their team and to every person who wished me luck and helped me raise an amazing £2,650 for this wonderful charity.
Thinking of others
Finally, I’d like to finish this blog by saying, not everyone was a lucky as me on Sunday. Matt Campbell, a seasoned runner, sadly lost his life after collapsing 22.5 miles into the race. My thoughts are with his family and friends and I will be running 3.7 miles this weekend to ‘finish the race’ for Matt.