I did it! And now I have not only ticked that box, I have ticked it twice. Going out in a blaze of glory and knocking a whole 16 minutes off my marathon PB. I hereby announce my retirement from running any further than 10 miles....ever again! Did I enjoy any of it? No not really, it was pretty much hell from start to finish. I guess once the pain and agony has passed, I will have fond memories of my experience. But right now I am just glad it's over.
The problem with running a marathon as far as I can see is that actually doing the marathon and running 26.2 miles is a huge, huge task in itself. But the effort it takes to get from securing that place to actually getting to the start line is of quite epic proportions. By Monday morning I was a wreck both mentally and physically.
So this is the final chapter in my journey, and here's how things unfolded....
My sister Ally and I headed up to London on Saturday morning, excited, nervous, exhausted from a week of sleepless nights. We headed directly to Excel to register, pick up my race number and chip and have a look round the expo. The queues had gone down considerably by now so we skipped through and got sorted quickly. The expo on the other hand was packed and just finding the exit was a challenge in itself. It was then on to the hotel to have some chill out time before dinner.
I'd booked a table at Carluccio's in Canary Wharf for dinner. I was still concerned about my salt levels so we made sure we ordered olives and bread to start. I actually despise olives but managed to eat 4 of the little devils before I had to give in. For main course I had lobster and crab spaghetti with tomato and basil (lobster is high in sodium so I thought this was the perfect choice). I'd promised myself dessert but I was beaten...must have been nerves, food rarely beats me.
Back at the hotel I packed my bag, had an epsom salt bath and camomile tea, caught up on my messages and did a last little bit of planning my route to the start line. I'd been worrying about that all week because it involved getting an overland train from miles away. As it turns out I shouldn't have worried.
After a terrible nights sleep of course, I crawled out of bed at 6.30am, feeling slightly nauseous. The weather looked gloomy as I looked across the Thames and it was raining. I had no idea what to wear so I opted for long trousers and a vest. I managed to compose myself for long enough to do my "marathon hair" and apply my waterproof mascara, then I headed down for breakfast.
Breakfast consisted of porridge, toast, grapefruit and coffee, with a view of the O2, which was really rather pleasant and I could have sat there all day. But nooooooo, I'd gone and stupidly entered a marathon instead. Then it was time to check out and head off to the start.
I had to start from the blue start at Blackheath this time, and as I had previously mentioned it had given me a number of sleepless nights. But I planned my route and I stuck to it, despite the fact that there appeared to be no other marathon runners going to the same place as me and I kept getting the "I think you should have got off there" looks. Two tubes, an overland train with a seat and 40 minutes later I had arrived at Blackheath, calm and composed. A short walk from the station and I had arrived at the blue start. I found my allocated baggage lorry and deposited my bag, eaten my banana and flapjack, and headed off to the infamous toilet queue.
We all make choices in life, some are the right ones, some are the wrong ones. Now on this particular occasion I decided to try out the female urinals as the queue was considerably shorter. I'm not going to tell the story here because it is much better for me to tell it in person, as I have already on numerous occasions. All I need to say here is that this was one of those times when I made the wrong choice.
Then it was time to head to the start line....
It was cold and wet and I was wearing a few layers to discard once the race began. I had been put in pen 9 (so right at the back) so I knew I had a long wait to cross the start line. Had a chat with a few people; "where are you from", "is this your first marathon", "what did you have for breakfast" etc, etc. Finally got across the start line at 10.24am.
Had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction during the first few miles. My super duper running pouch wouldn't stay put as it was stuffed full of gels so I had to carry it like a clutch bag. In hindsight I'd just packed it badly, but no point dwelling on that now! First mile was mildly enjoyable. The second mile was not so great. And by the third mile I had settled. The early miles are my favourite part of the marathon. Perhaps it's because it has a feel of a less high-profile race in the early stages before the drama of the centre of London.
The first 8 miles felt ok. My leg was hurting me but I felt fairly comfortable. I couldn't seem to shake off the hairy pair of testicles that were running in aid of testicular cancer. In fact at one point he nearly knocked me over. Great. I'm taking part in one of the greatest marathon's in the world and I get knocked over by a hairy pair of testicles!! Just my luck and you know that will be the one and only time I get on the TV!
As I approached the halfway point everything was beginning to hurt. Tower Bridge was once again amazing. The support all around the course was pretty damn good but I can't begin to describe the noise that is generated at this point. It is incredible and it is almost...almost worth doing the marathon just for this experience.
Even though I knew it was coming this time, I have a real mental block at the halfway point. At this point you meet the runners coming in the other direction who only have 6 miles left, but yet you are only halfway. For me this has proven to be a deal breaker and I find it very difficult to recover from this negative head. I did what I said I wouldn't do this time, lose the will to live and begin walking.
Everything was now hurting, particularly my hips. I really tried to keep up a good pace but I was now hating every minute of it. Finally at 14 miles I got to see my family and friends, which gave me a little boost. I can't remember what happened after that...it's all a bit of a blur.
At about 20 miles I spotted Team Driver, Mr D and Baby D AKA John and Lucy, fellow Kesgrave parkrunners. We did the last 6 miles together and I'm so pleased that we did. I think I would have done it without them but it made it so much easier to do it with them that is for sure. John was in as much pain as I was and we walked/ran through the last few miles. We overtook Jesus on our "sprint" finish and crossed the line together. Official time was 5:57:23.
I then made the slow and quite painful walk to horse guard parade to meet my family at section H for 'Hope'. Got told off by a marshall en route because I hadn't put a warm top on neither had I had anything to eat. We battled our way through the centre of London to get home while I had my protein shake and took approximately 2 hours to eat a tuna sandwich!! Pretty much for the whole of the marathon I was craving a burger. I was rewarded at Newbury Park with a Big Mac, can't remember the last time I had one of those...it was just what I needed.
Finally arrived home at about 9.15pm, for a hot Epsom salt bath while replying to a million texts and Facebook notifications.
In the week following the marathon it appeared that I had come off relatively unscathed. My injured leg was no worse than it had been in training, it didn't snap off after all, I had one small blister and no extra black toenails. I had a leg massage from the fabulous Lizzie at Just Bea, which sorted out my bruised and battered quads. I successfully managed to teach a yoga class the day after, and there were only a couple of grimacey moments. I'm even starting to be able to jump (this bodes well for doing Insane Terrain in a couple of weeks) and I've even got straight "back in the saddle" and done the Kesgrave 5k today, and in a fairly reasonable time as well!!
So this chapter is finally over. I am proud of my achievement but relieved that the pain and suffering is over. Will I run the London Marathon again? No I won't. Will I run any marathon again? The answer is still no.
And I mean it this time.
I ran the London Marathon for the The Sunrise Appeal, part of the Ipswich Hospital Charity. It's not too late, you can still sponsor me here https://www.justgiving.com/Angela-Hope