Blogging has taken somewhat of a back seat over the past few weeks – just like my social life, wine habit, high heels and ability to talk about anything other than running. That’s because I ran the London marathon on Sunday – and I bloody finished!
It’s been a long 16 weeks in training through the most godawful winter in living memory, but the day of the marathon turned out beautifully bright and warm. Strangely, I wasn’t nervous at all when I woke up at 6am to set off for Greenwich, even though this was my first marathon. Perhaps that’s because I’d been to the London marathon expo during the week, and noted that while there were loads of super-fit lycra-clad people walking around, there were also many fellow normals schlepping about in their work clothes. I wasn’t alone.
Even the day before the marathon I was fairly calm. In fact my overwhelming feeling was that I was absolutely stuffed – a week of carbs and water left me never wanting to touch a piece of bread again (gladly, that’s passed!) Reluctantly I shoveled down an entire Waitrose pizza – this would normally be a dream come true – and glugged my umpteenth glass of squash before waddling off to bed.
In the morning, I ate a bowl of porridge and put on my snazzy British Dyslexia Association vest, filled all my pockets with carb gels and set off on the tube for Greenwich. It was great to see lots of other runners on their way too – for once the tube code of conduct was broken and we actually chatted to each other anticipating the day ahead.
I arrived at the race start area about an hour and a half before the actual marathon began, which gave me time to put my bag on the luggage truck, reply to my good luck texts, eat two bananas, go to the loo FOUR times and stretch out my legs in preparation. Then it was off to the starting zones (I was right at the back in zone 9, along with all the clowns and rhinos!) to get ourselves ready to run.
The starting zones were buzzing with excited chatter and nervous energy – some people there were seasoned marathon runners, others, such as me, had no idea what to expect. Having gone up to 21 miles in training, and absolutely hated it, I was planning to take the marathon slow and steady, aiming for a pace somewhere between 9.15 and 9.30 minute miles.
A 30 second silence in memory of the Boston bombing victims brought a sudden sense of calm and peace to the proceedings, and was followed by a huge cheer before the race got underway. Inevitably, starting right at the back meant a fair amount of dawdling before I actually crossed the start line – but 20 minutes after the gun went off, I got there and my first ever marathon began.
It’s a good thing I was planning to go slow at the start because frankly you didn’t get a choice – just the sheer volume of runners meant I was often stuck behind other people. However, the benefit of not going too fast was that I was able to really get a look around – at Greenwich looking rather gorgeous in the sun, all the people who had come out of their houses to cheer, the little old ladies waving from their windows and some of the amazing costumes around me (full kudos to the guys who did it trapped inside sweaty Mr Men outfits!)
The first 20 miles were lovely, sunny and easy. Going round the resplendent Cutty Sark, as I’d watched so many marathon runners do on TV in the years before, was great, and crossing Tower Bridge with huge crowds cheering either side was one of those moments I’ll remember forever. I loved pounding the streets between the imposing skyscrapers of Canary Wharf at mile 18, and was given an extra boost when I spotted my friends there screaming their heads off and waving banners.
By mile 19, I was happily pondering on the fact I might never hit ‘the wall’ and then, at mile 20, it came. Suddenly every step was both a mental and physical effort, and every mile seemed to stretch on into eternity. From here on in, it was focusing on tiny things that kept me going – one person shouting my name, thinking of the feeling I’d get when I crossed the finish line, the refreshment of just a tiny sip of water and thinking motivational thoughts such as “if bloody Amy Childs can do this, then so can I.”
By the last mile, I was sweating, grimacing and literally grunting (much to the bewilderment of the poor guy running next to me), but the sight of Big Ben and then the approach to Buckingham Palace meant I knew the end was in sight. Turning the corner onto the Mall and seeing the finish line just metres away has to be one of the most beautiful sights of my life, and I even managed to put in a sprint finish, taking me over in 4 hours 13 minutes – by no means amazing, but not bad for a first timer.
As soon as I’d crossed the line, I could barely walk, and even went to the wrong van to collect my bag because my brain couldn’t handle the numbers! But I’d done it, and after meeting friends and family I went home and celebrated just how any classy girl would – by eating sausage batter and chips and watching 4 hours of The O.C. on the sofa.