Updated: Apr 18
This is a guest post courtesy of Ivi.
I’ve spent the past 20 weeks training for the London Marathon, reading everything ever written about the London Marathon, thinking about the London Marathon, even dreaming about it. Today I am finally going to run the damn thing.
I wake up calm. After weeks of stressing about every single detail, it’s a strange feeling. I tie triple knots on my shoelaces. I am ready.
I head to the start with Lizzie, the world’s happiest runner and my amazing training buddy. I am super glad to have her around; I think I would have been a lot more nervous had I gone on my own.
Once we drop off our bags, Lizzie and I exchange big hugs and good lucks and part our ways towards our starting zones. After roughly gazillion trips to the porta-loos, I join my pen and spend the next 20 minutes chatting to total strangers about obsessive peeing. Runners are weird!
Somewhere up front, the gun goes off and we start shuffling towards the start. I cross the line 15 minutes after the elites and – OMG – I am finally running the London Marathon.
I am holding myself back, knowing that a common mistake first timers like me make is setting off too fast. I feel like a snail, but my watch reassures me my splits are exactly where I want them to be. A few miles in, the pacer I am trying to keep in sight suddenly starts sprinting, causing us followers to panic and speed up. We quickly realise he is making a beeline for a nearby tree to relieve himself. Pfft.
I calm down, settle into my pace and the miles start ticking off. It feels surreal. The atmosphere is like nothing I’ve experienced before. We are only in Woolwich and the crowds are already three to four people deep. The signs range from encouraging to hilarious. I see “You are running better than the government” at least a dozen times.
Before I even realise it, I pass the 10k mark. My plan was to treat this first section as a very relaxed Sunday run and I’ve managed that. I chuckle when someone shouts at me to smile for the cameras at Cutty Sark. I may look grumpy, but I feel happy.
The next part of the course is filled with familiar faces, which makes it even more fun. I spot my boss in Greenwich, waving at me. Alice gives me a huge cheer in Rotherhithe. A big group of friends from Southwark parkrun is somewhere near Mile 10. I try to convince myself that “Five parkruns” really isn’t that far to go…
The highlight comes at Mile 12 when I run past the wonderful City Runners cheer point. They are screaming their heads off, waving and high-fiving. I feel totally overwhelmed, happy and proud to be part of such an amazing community. I decide to discard my running belt and poor Kyoko ends up on the receiving end of my very badly aimed throw. (SORRY!)
Waiting for the runners at Mile 12
Next up: Tower Bridge. I’ve run across it million times before and see it every single day on my way to work. Yet it feels like I am crossing it for the first time ever. The scenery is magical. The crowds, the view, the slight vibration of the bridge from the thousands of pounding feet.
We turn right and start heading towards Canary Wharf. Just before half point, I see my boyfriend waving a giant picture of my face, which is both absolutely amazing and a bit freaky.
I see fast runners heading the other way and feel a bit jealous of them. It occurs to me that my big hero Eliud Kipchoge has finished by now, given I’ve been running for almost two hours and started well behind him. I wonder whether he’d wait for me. (He didn’t.)
The next section of the course goes through parts of the LCR Sunday route, which feels nicely reassuring. We pass Limehouse and head through Canary Wharf towards the Isle of Dogs. Many people say this bit of the London Marathon is horrible and bland, a sort of a soulless no-man’s land. I don’t see that at all – the crowds don’t seem to thin out at all and I am enjoying myself.
We run through Canary Wharf again, passing the cheer point of Action Aid, the charity I am running for. They make me feel like a super star!
I keep going, but suddenly I start feeling horribly tired. My legs are heavy and I feel a bit sick. I can’t remember whether I’ve passed the 20 miles marker. I’m trying to eat a gel, but manage just about half of it.
I know I am slowing down and feel increasingly desperate. I’ve run this distance in training and it was totally fine, so I am pretty worried about slipping behind. I expected a crisis to come, but not this early on.
It downs on me that I still have a very long way to go and all I can think of is how disappointed my friends and family will be with my pacing. That is of course a total nonsense. Running a marathon is a huge achievement no matter how long it takes you.
I try to take my mind elsewhere by counting to 100, but get to about 17 and can’t remember what’s next.
For one second, I even consider stopping. I must look pretty horrid, because a group of spectators starts screaming my name, reading it off my vest. I keep running, but feel hopeless.
And then suddenly, the course doubles up on itself and I see slower runners heading towards Canary Wharf.
Totally loving it at Mile 23
That means I am now running towards the finish line. I know I only need to keep going for five minutes or so until I get to see my boyfriend. That feels manageable. When I pass him, shouting and smiling, I am suddenly pretty certain I will somehow make it to the finish line. The power of love, ha?
I know that in just under a mile, I’ll be passing the famous London City Runners Bridge of Cheers and so I keep going and sure enough, there they are! Screaming and waving like mad. (I later learn that a “Spot a City Runner” drinking game was happening on the bridge and feel super proud to have caused a round of shots!)
I am running a tiny bit faster again, feeling better. I can’t really think about anything, just focusing on running and breathing. Everything is a blur after the bridge. Blackfriars tunnel, up to Embankment, seeing my amazing M-Train crew. Westminster Bridge, Big Ben. 800 meters to go. Buckingham Palace and then the very last corner. I start sprinting – at least that’s what I think I am doing, although in reality it is a little more than a plod.
I cross the finish line in 4:06:12. I am dizzy, overwhelmed and incredibly happy.
Never again, I tell myself. Twenty hours later, I sign up for the 2020 ballot.
In honour of Ivi’s amazing achievement, you can still help her support Action Aid here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/run-ivi-run