It’s arrived! Marathon Day at last.
I had very little sleep on Saturday night but I expected that. I can honestly say that I was so nervous on Sunday morning that I could barely stop shaking. Maybe some of that was excitement too because I just wanted to get to Blackheath and start soaking up the atmosphere.
I got up at 6.00 am to have my breakfast – the dreaded porridge with a banana and a cup of tea. We were staying at a hotel in London and so I made my own breakfast in our room. I didn’t have a lot of time because I had to leave at 7.15 am in order to get to Blackheath by 8.30 am. Fortunately the night before I had laid out all my kit and everything I needed so it was just a matter of going through my check list (for the hundredth time) to make sure I had everything I needed. I took a full change of clothing in case I got cold after the race and I also packed my flip flops in case I couldn’t walk in my running shoes. I made sure I had smothered my feet in vaseline and placed blister plasters on my problem toes.
The journey to Blackheath was straightforward. The weather was absolutely perfect for a marathon, although a little cold at 8.30 am. It was due to get to 15 degrees with some sunshine and I thought how lucky I was to a) be running in the most iconic of marathons and b) have perfect running conditions. My cough had mysteriously disappeared and I felt absolutely fit with no niggles or injuries.
It was buzzing at Blackheath. The toilet queues were, as expected, extremely long so I queued up, went to the loo, then returned to the back of the queue for another visit so that I wouldn’t be late for the start of the race.
I suppose waiting around is the worst part but, to be fair, I actually enjoyed it as it was all part of the experience. Just before the start I peeled off my extra layers (i.e. jogging pants and a fleece top) and then, all of a sudden, we were off. It took me 15 minutes to reach the start line but it felt like only a couple of minutes.
My plan was to start off very modestly, which was quite easy because there were so many people around and it wasn’t really possible to do anything else. I went at my own pace and kept checking that I was on schedule by looking at my GPS running watch.
I had so much fun. I was determined to enjoy the day and I wanted to embrace everything about the marathon so that I wouldn’t feel at the end of the day I had missed out on something. I high-fived everyone I could (mostly children), thanked and waved to everyone who called out my name (and there were hundreds if not thousands) and smiled and took in my surroundings the whole way round. You can tell that I’m not a serious athlete – running well was important but not my primary aim.
I can’t over-emphasise how amazing the crowds were. You see it on television, you hear about it and read about it, but when you are running, they are truly awesome. When you hear your name called out, it seems as if you are the only person whose name is called and as if the person shouting it knows you personally.
My highlights on the route were the Cutty Sark, the approach to Tower Bridge, the Embankment, seeing Buckingham Palace ahead of me and, finally, The Mall. I have to admit that I didn’t see the Tower of London at all, nor did I see the London Eye (how could I have missed it?) which is a pity. I suppose the most boring bit for me was round Canary Wharf, but the crowds were good there. Of course it was sensational when I came upon my personal support group, my family, and you can see here how pleased I was to see them! This was at Mile 9.
I was also delighted to see Albert (Captain of Mid-Herts) and Elaine Scurfield who were there to support their son and daughter-in-law. And the Prostate Cancer Support Team at Mile 22 was fantastic, encouraging everybody and taking masses of photos.
At no point during the race did I feel I wouldn’t finish. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. I always had the dread of “hitting the wall” but, fortunately, it didn’t happen. I had researched that it was absolutely essential to go into the race fully loaded with glycogen and fully hydrated. I must have done enough and I was very careful during the race to top up my glycogen with gels (I took one every hour), the odd jelly baby being handed out by the fantastic crowds, and I also made sure that I kept myself hydrated by taking water at every water station (not drinking the whole bottle though) and occasionally topping up with Lucozade Sport (which you can see me carrying). I also made sure that I ran through the showers to keep myself cool.
When I got to the Embankment, I knew that there was not much further to go so I tried to savour every single minute left. I can’t explain why I felt so good but I suppose the hours of training definitely helped. When I saw Buckingham Palace I became quite emotional and then when I turned the corner to see The Mall and the finish line, I just decided to sprint the last 200 metres. It was the most amazing feeling to cross the finish line and I started choking with emotion. To know that I had realised a dream and to have raised over £3,000 for Prostate Cancer UK was unbelievable. Everything went to plan, there were no bad surprises and I had the most amazing day of my life.
I was so proud when I was given the medal. My time of 5 hrs. 39 min. 17 sec. was not the most important thing for me. I am pleased with the time but I am unbelievably happy to have finished. So, at 67, it is still possible to train for and to run a marathon. And I came away without any significant injuries – I still have that pesky blister on my toe but it didn’t cause me any problems during the race, and I have a bruise on my foot but I don’t know how that happened. It also looks like I won’t lose any toenails – I understand black toenails is one of the most common injuries to befall a marathon runner.
I couldn’t have realised this dream without the help of Alan, who has had to put up with me constantly saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t play golf (or whatever) because I’ve got a long run to do”, or the housework being neglected. I also have to thank my family (pictured below after the marathon) for their support before and during the race. It was a pity Ben couldn’t have been with us but he did phone me from Australia (where he is working on a ranch) to wish me good luck.
Also masses of thanks to all my friends and supporters and everyone who has sponsored me. It has been a real privilege for me to run in the London Marathon, and to be able to say I DID IT!
I will be posting a couple more blogs, certainly one after my visit to Barts Hospital on the 6th May when I will have follow-up tests to see how my body has changed (or not) after all the training and as a result of running a marathon.