Hey guys it's been a while since I wrote a decent 'thoughts and feelings' post so I thought I'd share my London marathon experience and journey with you all. There are a lot of things you won't be aware of in terms of me running the London Marathon as I kept a lot to myself, so this post will shed some light on training etc and answer any questions that you might have had, although if there's anything else you want to ask feel free to leave me a comment. This is a long old post guys, probably the longest I've ever written but I wanted to be thorough, not only to share my full experience with you lot but also (maybe a bit selfishly) for myself. This experience was one I never want to forget for many reasons and there have been so many emotions and memories that I wanted to jot down so that I have it all documented. We also filmed a Marathon Day Vlog which you can watch here but this post is a more thorough and raw documentation of my experience. Apologies in advance for any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors but by the time I finished writing this (it's taken me 3 days) I was pretty emotionally drained. So without further ado, here goes...
Just over 365 days ago Simon and I stood in our usual spot by Cutty Sark in Greenwich (mile 6) watching the marathon runners. We do this every year because the atmosphere is always amazing and we love to see all the different costumes people are wearing. I always find it an emotional event to watch because when a runner spots their family waving huge banners on the sidelines, screaming their name with encouragement, it's really something special. But there was something about last year, maybe it was the heat making my mind melt or maybe it was seeing the dedication of last years' participants running in those temperatures, but it was on that spot that I decided I wanted to run in the 2019 London Marathon.
After I had taken a minute to process this decision it took a matter of seconds for me to know that I wanted to do it for Dogs Trust. As you all know, I LOVE DOGS, in most cases I love them more than humans and they've always been a huge part of my life. Without going into detail dogs have got me through some of my toughest times and I couldn't imagine life without them. Our dogs make me a better 'hooman' and bring so much joy to my life every single day. Our five aren't rescue dogs and actually I have no personal experience with having used Dogs Trust, which I know might sound a bit odd, but it's a charity I very firmly believe in. I've been a follower of Dogs Trust for years and I always look at what they're campaigning about and what message they are sending and I have nothing but respect for what they do to help so many floofs that are in need.
So that was it, the first step, deciding to run and who to run for.
Some of you might remember the vlog in which I applied for the marathon back in 2018. I applied for both the public ballot and directly to Dogs Trust for a spot on their charity team. Those are the two ways you can run the London Marathon and this year was the first year that the public ballot for the following year (2020) opened on the same day as the Marathon event. Unfortunately the public ballot has now closed so if you haven't applied then it might be worth applying for a direct charity team place if you really want to run in 2020. To do this you would need to contact your chosen charity, and perhaps visit their website, as each charity will have a different system on how to apply.
I didn't make it through on the public ballot but I found out later on in the year that I had been accepted into the Dogs Trust charity team. So that was it, it was really happening. I was going to be running a marathon.
This has been the most frequently asked question that I've had over the last 8 months "How are you training?". I've already spoken to some of you directly via DM or comment about training but for those of you who are still in the dark here goes...
Once I'd been accepted for the marathon I figured I would start training in the new year. Christmas would be over and there would be 4 months to train, which is plenty of time if your schedule will allow you to run frequently and clock up those miles. I did so much research online about different ways to train and I also had A LOT of messages and emails from you guys with tips. I found it quite daunting to be honest. Unfortunately this is where my 'plan' pretty much went to shit. I haven't been in the best place in terms of my mental health this year and I've been struggling with anxiety on a daily basis. The weeks in January rolled by and I was yet to start training, I just kept putting it off and thinking "I've got plenty of time". More weeks went by and comments rolled in from you guys asking about my training and I found myself lying not only to you but to myself and my family. I would say "yeh I've been for a run"...I hadn't and I found myself making excuses to you lot about why I hadn't documented my training. For this I'm truly sorry. I can't really explain what it was that stopped me from just putting on my trainers and going out, it was like a forcefield in my mind that kept telling me I couldn't do it. I used to run as a teen, I did long distance and I found it quite enjoyable as well as the fact that I was pretty good at it. But that was a long time ago, we're talking 15+ years and in those 15+ years my activity levels plummeted. I had a stint of going to the gym a couple of years ago but that lasted all of about 7 weeks, I'm still paying for that gym membership now. The only activity that I do frequently is walking and it's not really for pleasure or to get exercise, I just find myself walking a lot whether it be with the dogs, or when Simon and I go away (we tend to average 50 miles walking per trip) or just when I go into London to run errands/have meetings. But aside from the walking I literally don't and haven't done anything else in the way of fitness. Let's fast forward to our Japan trip, which was back in March (this year). I still hadn't done any training by the time we went away, not a single run, not even 1 mile, not even a jog to the corner shop. The Japan trip was not our best trip, my mental health was probably at the worst it's ever been and to top it off after our first full day of walking around Tokyo (we did 17 miles) I injured my knee.
I've had what I call a 'gammy knee' since I was about 11. When I was a teenager is was diagnosed as Osgood-Schlatter's disease but I'm not entirely sure that was accurate. Basically my issue was that when I ran, or sometimes even whilst walking, my knee would give way completely. My mum and I used to call it my 'jelly leg' because all of a sudden, without any warning, my leg would turn to jelly and I'd be on the floor. It wasn't painful per say, it felt like when you knock your funny bone, an odd sensation followed by the knee giving way and not being able to support my weight. I've got used to it now and I can't say it happens that frequently any more, maybe once every few months depending on how much walking I've done. Oddly I didn't experience 'jelly leg' at all in Japan but as I mentioned we walked about 17 miles on our first day, just exploring the city with breaks in between for food. When I woke up on our second day I could barely get out of bed because my knee was in so much agony, pain I had never felt before. I managed to get up to go to the loo and I sat there and analysed my knee, I couldn't see anything, no swelling, no redness or bruising, absolutely nothing. I thought it might just be a bit stiff after all the walking from the first day so I hobbled around getting dressed and decided that the best option was to stretch it out and get it moving again. This was probably the wrong decision. Over the next couple of days the pain worsened, probably because I wasn't resting it, and our daily walking dropped to about 10 miles because I was moving so slowly and had to keep resting. I had gone through all of my pain relief that I had brought with me in case of a headache and I started to really worry about the marathon. This made my mental health plummet because my anxiety levels were at an all time high. We took a 48hr trip to Nagasaki and when we got there I went into a big department store and bought a knee strap as I knew we'd be doing lots more walking. This actually helped, I wore it until the end of the trip and by the flight home the pain had subsided to more of a mild dull ache. Up until this point I hadn't made a conscious decision to not train for the marathon, I just avoided the thought. But when we returned from Japan, with only a month until the marathon, my anxiety over running and possibly injuring my knee was unavoidable. It flooded my mind, it was inescapable.
THE WEEK BEFORE
This was a week of rollercoaster emotions. By this point it was far too late to train, so I was having to deal with the fact that I was going to run a marathon without having done a single ounce of training, my own fault. The weather for Easter weekend was glorious, the best possible weather for a long bank holiday in the UK, but the worst possible weather for running a marathon. Last year's race day weather was similar, temperatures of 23-25 degrees, which is lovely for spectators but horrific for runners. The weather was one thing that had played on my mind since filling out the application form. I like the sun but I don't deal well in the heat, I am British after all. If I start to overheat then I need to get out of the sun ASAP, which is all well and good and pretty easily done when I'm just out and about but when I have nowhere to go but follow the route of a marathon...yet another massive anxiety trigger.
I'd done some research into carb loading and I had lots of recipes for pasta meals to eat in the lead up to the big day. My fall back plan was that I fuel my body correctly and hopefully I would be able to get through the day. This was probably optimistic at best. They say that you should start carb loading 3-4 days before the event, so that's what I did, and this is probably the only thing that I did right when to comes to this marathon.
I'd had my marathon trainers for just less than a month before and I was wearing them as often as possible. The saying goes "Don't try anything new on race day" and I'd read and heard this on a daily basis. So even though I hadn't done any training I knew I needed those trainers to mould to my feet. However the rest of my running gear was bought during this week leading up to the event. Yet another 'What NOT to do' courtesy of moi. I had plenty of sports gear but I didn't have anything specific to running. During this week I learnt about 'sweat wicking' fabrics and with this in mind I picked up some Nike running shorts which had 'excellent sweat wicking abilities'. I had some compression/anti blister socks and I had bought support tape so that I could tape my feet to avoid blisters and my knee to avoid, my dreaded 'jelly leg'.
Thursday, 3 days before race day. I had a major mishap which could have lead to me not running the marathon. Because I'd been trying to avoid thinking about the marathon for months I'd neglected to realise that the email address I'd used to register for the marathon was now null and void. It was an address I'd used for my old blog branding of 'EJ STYLE' and about 7 weeks earlier I had ended the contract with the host provider which meant, no more emails to that address. Luckily I spotted some tweets on Twitter from fellow runners who were at the ExCel in London picking up their running numbers and time tags. After some investigation I found out that from Wednesday to Saturday there is a running show for marathon runners at the ExCel and this is where everyone must collect their numbers and time tags and kit bags.
But in order to go and get your number you needed a QR code which was generated from an email the Marathon organisers would send. This is the most important email, and I hadn't received it. Panic ensued and I called the Marathon hotline immediately to try and sort the situation. It was easy, they changed my email address over the phone and waiting on the line until I had received my confirmation email which would lead to survey, once completed the QR code was generated. So at 4pm on Thursday Simon and I rushed over to the ExCel which fortunately we live relatively close to so that I could collect my bits. This all happened so quickly and my heart was pounding so fast, it all just became very real. I picked up my number and then we were directed to another desk where they would give me my time tag, and from there we were free to explore the running show which was actually pretty cool. They had all kinds of things there from New Balance official kit, to nutritional advice, talks from elite runners, a giant treadmill (which naturally I avoided like the plague) and lots of the big charities had pitches there too. Granted I felt very anxious being there, grasping my kit bag in both sweaty hands, but I also felt uplifted because I was surrounded by all my fellow marathon runners and much like on race day there was a really good vibe there. We walked around for a bit, I was very quiet, I was just absorbing everything in. We found a cool area where the entire course was mapped out on the floor, obviously to a much smaller scale, and it showed where all the mile markers were, the water, Lucozade and new Ooho seaweed pod stations would be along with the various toilet stops. I hadn't even thought about the toilets, excellent, more anxiety. I didn't take in much of the route map, I knew certain areas of it just from where Simon and I have watched over the years but it just brought on too much anxiety to look at the 26.2 miles doodled on the floor. There was a wall which had pace time bands and this intrigued me. When registering for the marathon, once you have your place that is, you have to fill out a form with your expected finish time. I had put down 5-6 hours as my expected finish time, but this was when I was fully planning on training for the event. I looked at this wall and the pace times ended at 6 1/2 hours. I picked up a 5 1/2 hour band and looked at the times for each mile. Could I run a mile in just under 13 minutes? I had no idea at this point but I took the band because for some reason it made me feel like I had a plan. We had a look at some of the other exhibitors, picked up some free Deep Heat and Deep Freeze samples and then went on our way. As you leave the exhibition hall there's a huge wall where you can all write messages, some of you might have caught me writing mine on my Instagram Stories, if not, it's still there in my Marathon highlight. I was very emotional when writing my message, partly (ok mainly) anxiety and partly pride. Pride that I was amongst this amazing group of people that were about to push themselves to their limits to raise money for charity. Thursday was a scary day that made everything become very real, but it also gave me a much needed boost, until...
Friday, 2 days before race day. This was not a good day, in fact teamed with Saturday these have been the worst two days of my life. I woke up at 5am with diarrhoea. I had struggled to get to sleep Thursday evening and I remember feeling that my heart was about to explode as I lay in bed. My anxiety levels have never been so high, and I never want to experience that again. I tried deep breathing, I tried my Calm app, but nothing was working, my mind kept going back to those negative thoughts. I worked myself up so much that I had brought on the diarrhoea through anxiety. I made things a million times worse by spending the entire day Googling things. I Googled all sorts from "can you run a marathon without training" (a bit late for that answer now) to "what to do before marathon day" and everything in between. These might seem like wise things to Google but the problem is that I would keep reading articles and blog posts full of advise which would all circle back to training. It was like the word 'training' was a massive trigger and despite wanting nothing more than the anxiety to go away, I couldn't stop myself from reading these things which were making me feel worse. I continued with my carb loading throughout the day but my diarrhoea also continued. I upped my water intake to start replacing the fluids I was losing. It was bad and it got worse.
Saturday, 1 day before race day. Diarrhoea continued and I felt really drained. My Googling from the previous day had lead me to start worrying about my pacing because I had no idea of what my body was capable of. I had my 5 1/2 hour band which said I needed to average about 12-13 mins per mile and I would think that was totally doable until I read another post which said "I didn't realise just how far a mile was". At 9am I felt so shit and I could feel a panic attack about to come on. I'd also like to mention that I didn't share any of this with Simon, that's another thing that I don't do...talk. I bottle everything and it just simmers until I explode. Perhaps that's an apt metaphor in this case for the diarrhoea. I needed to get some fresh air, or maybe that's an excuse I made to myself because what I actually wanted to do was walk to the supermarket which is exactly one mile away. I wanted to conciously feel and see how long a mile was and if it was possible for me to walk that at a decent pace in 13 minutes. I knew I couldn't run, my legs felt like jelly, quivering from nerves and probably a lack of nutrients, and I didn't want to run, for the same reason that I hadn't since getting back from Japan, I didn't want to risk injury, ironic really. I got my trainers on and told Simon I was going to the supermarket to get some laundry stuff and that I was going to walk so I could get some fresh air. He knew I'd been unwell, when you live together that's kind of unavoidable. The weather was not great. It was cold, raining and windy. I'd downloaded the Runkeeper app (which I found literally an hour before) to track my pace so I popped in my earphones and began to march off against the wind. Not even half way and any optimism that I had set off with had very quickly drained away. I was struggling to even walk at a certain pace. I could hear the woman from the Runkeeper app in my ear saying "0.3 miles, 4 minutes 40 seconds". I was slowing down and fast, I felt out of breath, and my legs wanted to be anywhere else but there. I made it to Sainsbury's in 15 minutes 32 seconds which I know some people might think is good but in my head this was bad, very bad, because I wasn't in a good state and that was after only 1 mile. I wandered around Sainsbury's feeling a little bit lost, having no idea what I was going to do 24 hours from now. After grabbing my washing detergent I went to the Sports Health isle in a last ditch attempt to get some 'magic products' which would hopefully get me through race day. I got a bottle of Lucozade Sport, a SIS caffeine shot and some more SIS gel sachets which I already had at home, had yet to try and knew I wouldn't be able to carry. You probably already know this but this is yet another massive 'no no' when running a marathon and goes back to that "Don't try anything new on race day" rule. Some of these gel sachets and caffeine shots can have a negative effect on your gut, but as I already had the shits I figured I had nothing to lose. I stocked up on supplies and walked back home, I didn't even turn on my Runkeeper app because it had pretty much stripped away any faith I had in myself. The rest of that day was horrible, just horrible, and of course it was my own doing so I'm not asking for pity here. My anxiety levels remained on an all time high for the rest of the day and I found myself wishing that time would just stop. I washed our bedding and fluffed up the bed. My brain was already filled with defeat, all I could think was "I can't do this" but in spite of that there was a tiny glimmer of hope or maybe it was nativity that thought "if I do do it, I want a nice clean and fluffy bed to climb into". It was a thought that gave me comfort and at that point I was clinging to any of those thoughts. 8pm rolled around I decided to get all of my gear together so that I could reduce stress levels in the morning. I laid everything out that I was going to need and reluctantly went to bed at around 9pm, I don't remember sleeping, all I remember is self-doubt, and buckets of it.
Despite the rather sombre tone of this post thus far, I bet you guys are feeling great right about now eh? (LOL!) I've really been looking forward to sharing my 'Race Day' experience. So yeh, I didn't sleep Saturday night, in fact I was up several times with the never ending diarrhoea and to add to it all I'd also been sick. I got up at 6am, which is my usual time for getting up in a morning, although probably not when when I've had absolutely zero hours sleep. I left Simon in bed and let the dogs out in the garden. I just wanted some time alone to try and calm myself down because yes you guessed it, my good old friend anxiety was very much still with me, jumping around and having a party in my brain. I had taken my phone downstairs with me but I wanted to avoid opening up any social media and messaging apps because I knew there would lots of messages of support from you guys and texts from family and friends. That might seem like an odd thing to say, surely these messages would have given me the boost I needed? But I know myself, and actually seeing those messages would have weighed me down. I honestly appreciate all the support you guys gave but when you think in a way like I do, sometimes that amount of love and kindness can be overwhelming and in this case, I just didn't want to let anyone down. Instead I opened up my weather app which looked good for the rest of the day, cloudy and cool in temperature, with a possibility of rain around 2-3pm. Simon got up and asked if I wanted the marathon build-up on the telly. We love watching this every year, in fact I get up early so I can tune in before we leave the house to cheer everyone on in Greenwich.
But this year was different, it was almost like I didn't want to hear the word marathon so I asked him not to turn it on. I was on edge, he could sense it, I could sense he could sense it. I had nothing left inside me, in terms of nutrition and sustenance (also in terms of self belief), all my carb loading efforts had completely gone to waste. I knew I needed to eat something but the thought of eating just made me feel worse. I had picked up some peanut butter & oat energy bars earlier on in the week and managed to get one of those down me along with some Lucozade Sport. Simon took the dogs for a walk and I was alone in the house again. I picked up my vlogging camera and spoke to you guys, you can hear it in my voice, the shaking and the breathlessness, I was shitting myself (in more than one sense of the word). As I said in that vlog, I was doing everything step by step; get up, eat, drink, shower...but the next step was to get dressed. As you can imagine putting on the clothes you're about to run 26.2 miles in is an intense experience, intensified by the anxiety I was drowning in. I wanted to feel pride when pinning my number to my t-shirt but all I felt was misery. I taped my feet and my knee and reached for the vaseline. I vaselined everywhere, my nipples, near my underarms, my inner thighs and of course my bikini line. Fully clothed and numbered up it was time to put on my shoes. I cried putting on my trainers, I cried hard. That was the last step to getting ready and it was the worst. I attached my time tag to my left foot and then spent some quality time in the loo. After a brief vlog update, which I am still amazed I managed to film, it was time to leave.
Simon said he'd go with me to my starting area so he drove us to the train station and I remember my legs quivering so much I almost fell out of the car. The station was heaving, mainly with spectators but there was one other runner on the platform with his family. He gave me reassuring smile and then I remembered why I love marathon day so much, it makes me like people again. We got on the train and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I was cold, I just had my shorts on and luckily I had taken my new Nike fleece hoodie, but I still felt chilled. A wave of emotion passed over me as I thought all those negative thoughts once more and I couldn't keep it in any longer. I burst into tears. I knew it would happen so I had stuffed some tissue in my hoodie pocket. Simon tried to reassure me, saying that I just needed to go at my own pace and if I felt tired I should just walk, there was no shame in walking (a very true point FYI). I was worrying about all different kinds of things, if I would be warm enough, maybe I'd get too hot and then where would I put my hoodie, what if I injure myself? But one thing in particular was worrying me the most and through blubbering deep breaths I managed to express this to Simon "But what if I shit myself in front of all those people?" It's pretty amusing to think about it now but at the time this was a genuine concern of mine considering how my bowel movements had been over the last 48 hrs. The train pulled up at Maze Hill and I've never felt such a strong desire to stay on public transport in my life.
The station was busy, everywhere was busy now. It was 9:55am which meant that the Mens Elites and mass race would be starting in 5 minutes. This might seem like I was cutting it fine but my start time wasn't until 10:48 so I had plenty of time to get up to my start zone. The last thing I wanted was to be waiting around on my own for any longer than I needed to. The stewards glanced at my number and directed us to the red starting zone. It was about a 10 minute walk, up hill, through Greenwich Park, which acted as a bit of a warm up so I was quite thankful for that. Every person I passed was staring at me, or at least it felt like that. Some looked shocked as there didn't seem to be any other runners still making their way to their starting point. Some looked at me with admiration and some with pity. I could see my red start zone looming ahead and I fought with all my might to calm my nerves. I didn't want to break down when Simon kissed me goodbye because I didn't want him worrying about me any more than he probably already was. We reached the entrance to my red starting area and Simon wanted some pictures so I stood and posed with a smile on my face, arms outstretched and tear-filled eyes hidden behind my sunglasses. He kissed me goodbye and then I turned quickly and walked into the red zone. I passed some security checkpoints and then realised I was just in a huge pen with thousands of other runners. There was a huge screen where I could see footage from the start line, upbeat music was blaring out of festival worthy speakers and there were people EVERYWHERE. I don't feel panicked in big crowds, I love Disneyworld after all, but there is something very overwhelming about walking into a sea of that many people who all want to achieve the same thing...cross that finish line.
Admittedly crossing the finishing line hadn't even entered my head, my main goal at that point was to get across the starting line before passing out. On your runner number there is a small number printed at the bottom, this is your zone number which is deciphered based on your estimated finish time. There are 7 zones in each starting area and I was zone 6. I had to find my way to zone 6, wherever that was but I figured that I may as well go straight there. I didn't take my kit bag with me as Simon had everything I would need should I make it to the end, so I was able to bypass the drop off point for kit bags. I filmed a little update for my Instagram stories as I walked through the crowds, again fighting back the tears (in fact you can hear them coming at the end of that clip) and then I saw the huge zone markers on the far side of the pen. I noticed that the zones were smaller pens and as people entered they were throwing empty water bottles to the left and clothing to the right. I hadn't realised a voice over the tannoy was instructing people to do so because there was just so much to absorb. The mystery tannoy voice announced that any clothing left behind would be collected by a charity (I forget the name) and is then distributed throughout London's homeless community and others in need.
There were huge piles of clothing but I wasn't ready to part with my hoodie just yet, I needed that fleecy goodness for a little while longer. I navigated my way to the crowd of runners entering zone 6 and just shuffled along with the flow. Once fully in the pen and at a standstill I had about 15 minutes to have a stretch and of course to people watch. It was fascinating, I was checking out everyones vests to who they were running for, so many incredible charities. I was watching them stretch and assessing what kit they had; a running belt, a hydration pack, gel sachets, a bottle of Lucosade, their footwear choice. It was all going through my mind and to be honest it kept me occupied. Zone 5 set off and I could hear the guy on the microphone at the start line shouting people's names and calling out their fancy dress with encouragement as they crossed the start line. There definitely was a buzz in the air, a sense of camaraderie between runners who were, well, total strangers. I heard cheers coming from the pen next to ours, zone 7, they were cheering us, because it was our time.
We shuffled as a group out of our pen and around the corner onto the stretch of road which I've seen countless times on the telly. Held at the starting line we waited. I was about 100 yards back so fairly near the front of the group. There was a huge pair of ovaries stood to the side of me accompanied by a guy with a karaoke box who decided to start singing 'I love you baby'. The crowd went wild and it was at that point that I realised my anxiety was starting to ease, or maybe it was just being overshadowed by the electric atmosphere. The crowd died down slightly and all eyes were looking at that starting line, it was as if we all knew what was coming. THE COUNTDOWN. "10, 9, 8, 7, 6" everyone was shouting at the top of their lungs along with the MC "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GOODBYYYYYYYYYEEEEEE". Cheers erupted, arms were up in the air and we started to move forward as a group. I turned on my marathon playlist and gave myself a mental "You can do this" slap on the back. It was a shuffle right up until I reached the start line and then I remember looking down at my feet as I crossed the band of red, I was running a bloody marathon!
"diarrhoea had been replaced by euphoria"
Heading down that first stretch of road after the starting line was intense to say the least. I was fighting back the tears, but not out of fear or anxiety, they were tears of sheer pride. The crowds were huge and full of amazing, wonderful human beings, all shouting words of encouragement, offering Hi 5's and just bringing that electric atmosphere that the London Marathon is known for. After only 30 seconds going down that road I realised that diarrhoea had been replaced by euphoria and then it hit me, I was going to fucking nail this! I couldn't hold back the tears any longer, I just let them stream down my face. I wasn't really focused on running, I was just taking everything in, all the banners, the crowds, the atmosphere. The barriers disappeared as we went down a residential street and it's residents lined the pavements cheering, clapping, playing music and some even having BBQ's. I felt serious FOMO actually because it looked like they were having a bloody great time and I'd done nothing but shit out everything I'd eaten in the last 48 hrs. The kids were incredible, I stuck to the right hand side of the road so I could hit every single Hi 5 on offer. I don't remember feeling anything other than pride for those first few minutes. I reached Mile Marker 1 and the crowds cheered as we passed over the threshold. I wasn't keeping an eye on time or pace, I was just running at a speed I was comfortable with. Despite having read so many things on the Internet which stressed me out and caused anxiety I did read some little nuggets of information and advice which really helped me. One of which was 'If you feel like you're getting out of breath, slow down, you're going to fast'. This might seem incredibly obvious to some people but it's very easy to steam ahead and burn out too quickly.
I wasn't aware of my actual pace time, but I knew I had it just right for my body.
My hoodie was off at Mile 2, in a KonMari fashion I thanked it for it's service and flung it on a pile on the side of road. Before I knew it I was at the first water station at Mile 3, I grabbled a bottle without hesitation, drank what I needed and then sprayed the rest on the floor as part of the #DrinkDrainDrop initiative to make recycling the plastic bottles as efficient as possible. I also had one of my energy gel sachets as they should be taken with water, it was tropical flavour, it was delicious and again the wrapper went on the floor with the sea of others. I won't go into the extreme plastic use in this post but it is something I'd like to address in the near future.
I took a toilet break at Mile 5. The queues were long, but there were lots of porta loos and each line had 2 loos to share, I think that is some kind of unspoken marathon rule because there weren't any signs advising to do this. At many toilet stops there are urinals which reduces the queue time for us gals but at this one it was only porta loos. I set my timer to see how long it would take and I was there for about 10 minutes. I stretched and bounced to keep my muscles warm as I waited in line, this was the first time I'd stopped running. The toilets were gross. I've never been to a festival (not my cup of tea at all) but I'd imagine they were similar to the state of a festival toilet. All of the bodily fluids in, on and around the toilet. The real treat was that there was still toilet paper in this particular toilet, a luxury I would have to live without for the rest of the course. I emerged from the plastic cabin of stench and got back into my pace.
As I reached Mile 6 I started to get excited, because Simon said his first port of call to cheer me on would be at our usual spot in Greenwich by Cutty Sark, Mile 7. My mum and dad had also travelled up from Cornwall so I knew he should have them in tow as well. Emotions were high as I ran past the University and Maritime Museum, locations which you guys will have seen in a lot of my photos. I just wanted to see Simon and tell him that I was OK and that I was really enjoying it, and I cannot tell you how much I wanted a hug. I approached Cutty Sark and kept to the left hand side of the road as I thought I'd be easily spotted in my yellow hat. I cheered and raised my arms for the TV camera which is always on the bend just before Cutty Sark and then rounded the corner with a big grin on my face. I slowed my pace scanning the crowds for his face, and his hat, but I couldn't see anything. Both sides of the road were rammed, as always, and I just couldn't spot him. I kept moving with the throng of fellow runners, frantically looking around for him in the sea of faces that were cheering us on. I passed Mile Marker 7 and my mood plummeted. All I wanted was to see him and get a little boost to get me through the next few miles. I grabbed a Lucozade at the first Lucozade station just after Mile Marker 7 and and tried to fight back the negative thoughts and the urge to walk for a little bit. I knew I still had oomph left in me and that it was just a mental come-down because I hadn't seen Simon so I pushed myself to keep running. I found my way back to the blue marker on the road. This is a big tip for anyone who might be running next year...stick to the blue marker, the blue marker is god. It's a dashed line, much like a road marking, but in blue and it maps the entire course. During one of my many Googling sessions I read that if you don't stick to that line you could actually end up running 28 miles, WTF! It's not possible for everyone to stick to that line and it is very feint/barely visible at times but I had signed up to run 26.2 miles, and I sure as hell wasn't running a meter more so I stuck to that line like glue. There's a very slight incline during mile 8 as the course heads into Deptford and as I pushed my body onwards I spotted my mum and dad a few meters ahead. I started waving like a nutter until the point I actually ran past them. My Dad was trying to spot me and my mum appeared to be having a lovely conversation with the people stood next to her, thanks mum LOL. The course had thinned out a little so I was able to go back and get some hugs. My dad's face said it all, he was in absolute shock that I was still going and doing pretty well in terms of time. There was no sign or mention of Simon but I had the little boost I needed and I picked up my pace slightly. Only a few hundred yards up the road I spotted Simon's hat and fell into his arms. My mum had sent him a text to say they'd just seen me and I was on my way up so he was looking out for the yellow hat. He said he was so proud and that I was doing great and with that, I was off again, filled with nothing but positivity. It's incredible during these types of events how important not only the crowds are but your friends and family.
Miles 8-12 were relatively uneventful, I had one more toilet break (13 mins at Mile 9) and a couple of minutes walking break at mile 10 but I actually found it more comfortable to run rather than walk. I was still in high spirits but I think I'd just settled into the run. I was taking more Jelly Babies from spectators ( I didn't even know people did this but THANK YOU!) as I knew that at some point soon my energy would start to drain away. All my gel sachets were gone so I was relying on those Jelly Baby handouts and the Lucozade stations. I didn't know where Simon had planned to go next so I didn't need to worry about trying to spot him and I thought it would just be a nice surprise when I would next see him. My playlist was on top form and actually there were a few songs which had the perfect beat to keep pace to. The weather was perfect for us runners (the same couldn't be said for all the frozen spectators) and the wind from the previous day had died down so it was optimal conditions. I mentioned earlier about not really knowing much about the route because I refused to look at it in-depth before the big day. I knew the first 7 miles because, well, that's my hood and I knew I would see some of London's famous landmarks but I wasn't sure when I would see them and at what Mile and to be honest you kind of stop paying attention and just focus on getting one foot in front of the other. I passed Mile Marker 12 and noticed that the crowds were building up again, I could hear a feint roar in the distance and it didn't for one second dawn on me what was coming. I rounded the corner on Tooley Street and there rising before me was Tower Bridge. I knew I would go over Tower Bridge at some point but as I said, you lose focus on landmarks and just settle into running. That electric atmosphere was back! The crowds were the biggest I saw over the entire course, they were roaring with cheers. It was absolute carnage on the road because everyone was stopping to take a selfie so I was weaving all over the road (away from my beloved blue marker) to avoid collisions with fellow runners. That was one of my favourite moments of the entire course, it was an unforgettable experience and it put it me on such an epic high...but that was short lived because it's what comes almost directly after Tower Bridge that literally makes your heart sink. Once over the bridge I could see so many runners ahead of me but their direction was different to the course I was following. As I got closer I realised that they were on the other side of the road, on Mile 22 and they were only 4 miles from the finish line. Nothing cements that sinking feeling like running past the huge HALFWAY marker and seeing their Mile 22 marker on the other side. They were cheering for us as we ran which was lovely but it kind of made me hate them...just a little bit, ok a lot.
Luckily my first Dogs Trust cheering point was just before Mile Marker 14 and they had Jelly Babies and a Pug so that gave me a boost and much need mental pick-me-up to keep going. I actually felt pretty good physically, and by good I mean I wasn't dying. My feet weren't struggling, it didn't feel like I had any blisters or toe nail issues and my muscles felt ok. The vaseline seemed to be doing it's job as there were no signs of any chaffing. That's a pretty good position to be in at the halfway point, unfortunately for me that lasted only another 5 minutes. I'd needed a wee for a couple of miles now but the euphoria of Tower Bridge had distracted me, now it was all I could think about. I hadn't seen any toilets for the runners in what felt like ages so I navigated my way over to one of the stewards and asked where the next toilets were. He didn't know, bless him, but rather than tell me that he said "they're just around the corner" because I suppose they would have been 'just around the corner' at some point. After a few agonising bladder clenching minutes I reached the toilets. There weren't many and the queues were huge. To make matters worse some were so bad that people were projectile vomiting in them from the stench and no one could step foot in there. I call this 'Mile 15: The Demise of my Marathon'. I timed my toilet break like all the others and I was there for almost half an hour. People were taking longer in the toilets now. Many people left the queue but I didn't want to risk there not being another toilet close by so I stuck it out. I bounced and stretched as much as I could but nothing could prevent the lactic acid build up. My muscles seized up and when it was finally my turn to use the toilet I pretty much peed all over my legs because I couldn't bend. This might sound disgusting but honestly by this point I was past caring. Obviously there was no toilet roll so I pulled up my shorts and hoped that sweat wicking fabric worked on piss as well.
I saw Simon, my Mum and Dad shortly after the infamous toilet break of doom and he loaded me up with more gel sachets which was exactly what I needed because I had a hit THE WALL. Miles 15-20 were the worst! The crowds really thinned out around Isle of Dogs and my motivation drained quicker than my bladder. There was a tunnel that we all had to go through and that was a bad, bad place, it's where hope went to die. It was cold in there, dark and damp with an overwhelming smell of vomit. People were leaning on the damp walls of the tunnel is a state of turmoil, some collapsed on a heap on the floor, their muscles unable to hold them up any longer. Most people slowed to a walk through that tunnel but I wanted to get out of there ASAP before it claimed my soul. I had done so well to banish any negative thoughts up until this point. Throughout the entire course I'd kept saying (out aloud) "You're doing great", "You're gonna nail this", "Look how far you've come already", but these miles were bleak and my outer voice turned into an inner voice. "You're going to fail", "You need to drop out", "You can't go on". I still don't know how I did it but I managed to fight off those thoughts and push through. When people say running a marathon is a mental challenge as much as a physical one they're not wrong let me tell you. It was at Mile 18 where I felt a twinge in my ankle, at the time I just thought the tongue from the trainers was rubbing or putting pressure on my skin causing it to feel a bit tender. I had neglected to realise that my trainers are knitted, they couldn't rub, they were the softest things ever, an excellent shoe choice if I do say so myself. It turns out that twinge was a sprained ankle. I kept going.
I had a few walking breaks in the 15-20 mile range and I had thought at one point that I would have to walk the rest of the way from Mile 19. I felt like I had nothing more to give. Admittedly my walking pace was pretty good, I'm still impressed with myself for that, it was more of a power stride. I saw Simon, Mum and Dad again at Mile 19 during a walking break and they replenished me with a huge bottle of Lucozade. I couldn't carry it so I drank as much as I thought I needed, offered it to fellow runners and then drained the rest and tossed the bottle. The crowds started to build back up again and I got back into my stride. My pace had dropped, there was no way I was getting my pre-Mile-15 pace back now but I was still running and moving forward which was the main thing. I finally hit the stretch where I had seen all the other runners on the other side, it was my turn, but there was no one on the other side and the roads were being cleaned, I felt a bit deflated. Mile 23 is where I caught Simon, Mum and Dad for the last time and it dawned on me that I only had 3 miles to go. I hadn't given the medal a second thought through this entire process, it was never about the medal, it was always about the dogs. Even when I'd had my two days of anxiety prior to race day, there was never a doubt in mind that I wouldn't even show up, I was always going to show up and I was always going to give it my best shot, because I had made that promise to the floofs and I already felt like I'd let them down by not training. But it was at Mile 23 that it dawned on me that I was going to get that medal, it was a very brief moment where I thought about my personal pride and not just pride for running for Dogs Trust, it was a nice moment and it made me pick up my feet which had resorted to a shuffle at this point. Mile 23 was also where the one and only station for these famous Ooho capsules was located. I'd read about these online prior to the Marathon and I was very intrigued. Little seaweed capsules which dissolve in the the mouth, these were filled with Lucosade and were perfect for a little pick-me-up. I really hope they have more of these and less plastic bottles next year.
Another tunnel loomed ahead but this one was different, there was just over 2 miles to go so people were maintaining their pace. There were loads of toilets in the tunnel and no queues so I had a very brief 1 min toilet break so I could empty my bladder one last time in preparation for victory. Emerging from that tunnel was a glorious feeling. Greeted by the Mile 24 marker, the crowds had doubled in size again and there was that atmosphere that we all needed to drag our sorry asses to the finish. I saw Debs, rather aptly wearing a yellow biker jacket, just after Mile 24 and I ran across to her crying my bloody eyes out. I had a huge cuddle and told her "I needed that", I clenched my fists and off I went. Despite running over 24 miles so far those last couple were long as fuck. They felt never ending but of all the places in London to be running never ending miles, I'm glad it was there. The Thames and The Eye were on my left, Big Ben up ahead and all of the stunning London architecture surrounding me. At Mile 25 you go right alongside Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament and despite all the scaffolding it's still a very magical moment. The signs changed from miles to meters, 800m to go, I picked up my pace. I only ran 200 never ending metres and my body felt like it was about to scream so I slowed down again because I'd always said I wanted to give the last stretch down The Mall my all. I heard screaming from the sidelines and it was my sister-in-law, her boyfriend and my mother-in-law all cheering me on. My pace quickened again as I rounded the corner in front of Buckingham Palace and I'll never forget that feeling as I laid eyes on the finish line for the first time. I'm not sure exactly what the distance is on that bit of straight, probably only 100m if that, but I clenched my fists once more and I went flat out, as fast as my body would take me, with tears streaming down my face. I'm a blubbering wreck as I write this one week later. I raised my arms as I went over the finishing line, my time tag being clocked for the last time, I HAD DONE IT.
So many emotions, so much pride. I just let it all out, the tears were uncontrollable. I saw a girl in the finish area, she finished before me, I didn't recognise her from any other part of the race as you do get familiar with certain people around you, but she was a random stranger. I turned to assess my surroundings, as she was doing, just taking it all in and we caught each others eyes and just gave each other the biggest hug. She said "we did it", I couldn't speak so I just nodded and we walked off in separate directions. I don't know her name or her number or even who she was running for, but I'll remember that hug forever. I realised that I'd been stood still for what was probably only a few seconds but my muscles had called time, they were done. I could feel the pain start to set in. I waddled forward to the medal area, still crying my bloody eyes out and a lady held my medal out in front of me as I approached her. I could barely see her because my sunglasses were smeared with salty tears but she said "well done, you did brilliantly" and she pulled me in for a hug and then as if it was some kind of crowing ceremony she placed my medal over my head and said "we're all proud". Well folks, that finished me off. Never have I loved people, Londoners, so much in all my life. I continued waddling forwards, it would be a gross exaggeration to call it walking, and I reached a goodie bag area. A guy said to me there was XS and XL left. I had no idea what he was talking about, I didn't even know there was a goodie bag and I'm a blogger so I usually have a 6th sense about these things but alas, my spidey senses had failed me on this occasion. He could see I was bewildered and said "XS is a 8-10 so that will be perfect for you"...thank you kind sir, you can come home with me. He handed me the goodie bag which may as well have been a bag of rocks. I had no idea what was in there but I immediately regretted taking it because the walk up to meeting point H (For Hill) looked long. I was able to bypass the kit bag collection points, for which I am very grateful, but as I shuffled through I saw runners changing their shoes for flip flops, some even walking bare foot. My feet were tired and aching sure, but the last thing I wanted to do was take off these miracles that had carried me 26.2 miles. I cannot emphasise enough how important the shoes are, and equally, the socks. I filmed a bit of very emotional video to confirm I had crossed the finish line and then continued to make my way to the meet & greet areas. Sods law but meeting point H was literally the furthest one away
right at the back of Horseguards, I knew I should have registered in my marital name, Creasey. With giant goodie bag in tow I hobbled to my meeting point scanning the crowds for any of my entourage. I couldn't see anyone. I kept circling the area because I knew if I stood still I would completely seize up. Simon arrived and I pretty much collapsed in his arms. What were my first words to him I hear you ask? "I didn't shit myself" and I said those words with such pride and distinction. My other family members arrived and they all told me how well I did and how fast I'd gone for the first 8-10 miles. I shared some stories and had a catch up while we waited for Debs to arrive but I felt my body temperature drop, fast. I got the chills big time. Simon had packed a pair of his jogging bottoms and one of his hoodies for me to change into, of course I didn't tell him my shorts were probably soaked with piss. He helped me put them on and my body started to warm up. Debs was having difficulty getting to our meeting point due to all the one way systems in place so it was taking longer than expected and I started to feel dizzy and nauseous. I said to Simon that I needed to move or I was going to be sick, so we started to walk in the direction we knew Debs was coming hoping to meet her on the way, which we did. There was an apple in my goodie bag and that sorted me right out, it gave me some sugar that I needed and it calmed my nausea but nothing could be done to stop my muscles from just giving up entirely. We were making our way to Charing Cross to catch a train home and I saw finishers in bars and restaurants and I remember thinking "HOW?!". I couldn't think of anything else bar getting home and sitting down, but I really wish I'd been able to celebrate properly afterwards. Other passengers on the train were congratulating me and other finishers and it was a very uplifting train ride home. I checked my phone and so many of you had sent the most incredible messages and I was very emotional reading them. I checked my JustGiving Page (which you can still donate to by the way) and it had shot up in donations throughout the day, THANK YOU! It felt good to sit down but I knew it would be agony to get back up again, "I'll deal with that when the time comes" I thought. I felt that twinge in my ankle again and I decided now was a good time to investigate what it was. I looked down at my ankle and it was red and swollen, no signs of a rub and as I felt the tongue of my shoe I realised that it wasn't the shoe that had caused the problem, it was a sprain, and I'd run 8 miles with it.
We made it home and Simon put on the Marathon show that he'd left recording throughout the day. I sat on the sofa, shins throbbing beyond belief (shin splints) and the pain of that sprained ankle really starting to come through. I didn't take my medal off as I sunk my teeth into a KFC Fillet Tower Burger. I'd been dreaming of that moment but I struggled to finish it. I was in pain but still on a pride high, my muscles were tired but I didn't feel sleepy and that night I barely got any sleep, it must have been all the sugar and adrenaline. Monday was agony, that's all I can say about that. I think you've all established by now that I don't do things how they're supposed to be done so I didn't move at all on Monday so I completed seized up. I lay on the sofa with my ankle elevated and iced all day watching Riverdale. Apparently you're supposed to rest but also keep moving so as to keep your muscles warm. Someone on Twitter suggested I go to a spin class, well you can imagine what I said to that idea. My only regret is not getting a sports massage (not to be confused with a normal massage) booked because I think that might have helped and should I ever do this again, I will have one pre-booked for the day after. A week on and my muscles are still a bit tender although I have been moving around, in fact I went for a run today, only just over 2 miles but still I went. I probably shouldn't have done as I do have a sprained ankle but I just felt like I needed to get my muscles stretched. I'll be resting the ankle again for now until it's properly healed.
So I guess the question is; would I do this again? I joked immediately after the Marathon and said "no way, one was enough for my lifetime" but actually I think I would do it again. There is an urge once you finish to apply for next year's race and as I mentioned earlier, this year that was actually possible because the public ballot opened on the same day. However, as I didn't get through on the public ballot this year I thought that it was best to keep to spectating for next year so that others can have a chance of getting through and running their first ever marathon. I would definitely train if I did another one, that goes without saying by this point. I wouldn't recommend or encourage anyone to do what I did, it was stupid and actually could have very well cost me my life. Having said that it is amazing what the human body can do, and I have nothing but respect for the 40,000+ runners who crossed that finish line. If I can do it, with no training, then you can definitely do it, with training of course! The only thing holding you back is your mind, once you conquer that obstacle you'll be fine. I honestly can't recommend enough doing this event at least once in your life, it was an experience I will never forget and I will be eternally proud of myself for doing it.