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5 degrees west, training for the London Marathon Finish

APRIL 2015

Almost there…

Without a doubt the week prior to Marathon day was one of the most nerve wracking of my life…there are a lot of reports about runner’s paranoia before a big event and I think during that week I experienced this in a variety of forms from niggles in my feet, ankles and knees to stiff shoulders, cold-like symptoms that might turn into flu and just generally doubting my ability to run the miles as the tapering off from training took hold and mild panic set in. Admittedly, it did feel good not to be running 30 miles a week but rather strange too as this is what my body had been used to for a considerable time.

Amy and I just about stayed sane as we kept in touch and had one final ‘short’ training run together around the scenic Penrose Estate and compared notes as to how our ‘carb loading’ was going and what to wear on Sunday…decisions, decisions! We both kept an anxious eye on the weather, which was regularly reported as going to be ‘very wet indeed’ and tried to contain our excitement for the coming weekend.

My family and I headed for London on the Friday, the aim being to register and collect my running number before the masses arrived on Saturday all trying to do the same thing. We checked into the Novotel Greenwich, a stone’s throw from the race start, which was my intention, and well placed for the boys to watch the early stages of the marathon. By teatime Friday, I had dashed across London to the Excel, registered and collected my race number 42802 and was absolutely buzzing having chatted with lots of other race participants on route, everyone as excited as I was. I had messaged all my family and friends with my race number so they could track my progress online, then instantly regretted doing this when I realised they would all know immediately if things weren’t going well. The online donations came flooding in on Friday night and into Saturday and my fundraising total was over £2500! I was really touched by everyone’s sponsorship and messages of support, it was all quite overwhelming. I managed to resist buying London Marathon running wear, not wanting to tempt fate for race day, I think I have mentioned before how superstitious runners can be. Only two sleeps to go now!

London Marathon 2015

I woke early on the ‘Big Day’ largely due to the other runners banging about in the corridors from 6am, but was glad to be up and ready, and after a substantial breakfast of toast, toast and more toast (just in case) I said my final goodbyes to Steve and the boys before heading down to reception to meet up with Amy, who had travelled in from Battersea. We were excited beyond words, although interestingly as our nerves increased I chatted more and more and Amy became quieter, a good combination? We began our short journey to the official start, following the swarm of runners with shiny red kit bags all heading in the same direction. It was a tad drizzly but thankfully, nowhere near as horrendous as had been forecast.

The Miscarriage Association

As we passed through the gates to Greenwich Park and began the ascent up the hill we found the Miscarriage Association’s meet and greet point. It was super to finally meet the delightful Ruth Bender-Atik as we had exchanged many emails along my marathon journey and she was so supportive when I initially applied to The MA for my marathon place. Amy and I said ‘Hello’ to other MA runners then, getting itchy feet from standing still for more than a few minutes, decided we ought to be going to locate the baggage drop and get ready…1 hour and 10 minutes to go. Craig Cripps, another fellow MA runner joined us as Amy and I started squealing (I have never regarded myself as a squealing person up until this point) with excitement as we both spotted the official Red Start. It was great to catch up with Craig as it was his first marathon too and he had raised a huge amount for the charity with his silent auction.

After a last minute faff to ensure we had the right music, the correct gels, caps, hats and various other ‘paraphernalia’ we handed our bags in to the ever so well organised baggage collection points and set off in search of the shortest toilet queue. And then it was onwards towards the starting pens.

Unfortunately, Amy and I were at different starts, although we had only specified a finish time with five minutes difference when we submitted our registration forms way back in October. So we had our last minute hugs and went our separate ways. I was in pen seven and felt like a lost sheep without my race buddy but was soon taken under the wing of an extremely kind runner from Salisbury who had run the marathon previously and had plenty of advice to offer, and helped calmed my nerves immensely…so a huge thank you to him.

Starting the London Marathon

I had no idea what to expect as the race started, but it was another 18 minutes before we crossed the start line after the race had officially started. Everyone was in great spirits with a group of runners performing a chorus of ‘Delilah’ which we all joined in with and, just as amusing as we approached the start, suddenly a mass of runners disappeared and fled across the field to the final block of toilets before the timed start (having seen the queues for toilets later in the race I can now understand why this was perhaps a good move).

At last we were on our way and contrary to the reports I had read about how slow the start is we were running at a decent pace from the off. The crowds, although not massive to begin with, were very vocal and as I completed my first mile and my Garmin showed 9:37, I suddenly felt calm and relaxed. The high-fiving children who lined the route counting how many hand slaps they could get were absolutely ace and I high-fived as many as I could in the hope this would slow me down a little and stop me from going too fast for the first few miles.

Three miles in and I had discarded my waterproof, as it was turning warm and there was still no sign of the predicted rain, this is the place where the Red start and Blue start runners merge and the volume increases accordingly, the goose bumps intensified here and I had to remind myself to stay calm and slow it down. By mile five I had started to get really excited at the prospect of seeing my family as I knew they were hoping to head for the Greenwich area. I finally spotted them just after the six mile point and they were busy concentrating on the 'iPhone Marathon Tracker App' trying to locate me as I stood waving frantically under their noses…it did make me smile.

Cutty’s Sark next, the elegant ship making a fine centrepiece as we ran round it and then out again, it does get quite cramped here so it was a relief to find some running space during miles seven and eight. The next three miles flew past and as I crossed to a water station at mile ten I spotted my sister-in-law who had begun at the Blue Start. We had a quick chat and then I was off again…heart beating faster as I knew the iconic Tower Bridge was approaching fast.

I bumped into the ‘Mona Lisa’ just as we turned the corner to Tower Bridge and then was distracted momentarily by the RNLI runner in his Baywatch swimsuit…never a dull moment in the London Marathon!  The most impressive runner by far had to be the sprightly seventy year old man who was still running at a cracking pace when I passed him at mile 11.

It was a great moment running over the bridge, Denise Lewis was at the top interviewing runners and I knew that I was nearly at the half-way point and feeling good, which I never expected.  My Half-Marathon split was 2hr08 so my race was progressing well as I was hoping for a 4hr30 finish. I began looking out for my mum and sister who had both travelled down for the day to support me and it didn’t take long to spot Karen’s face poking out of the crowds. I waved and then very nearly ran past them both as I lost my bearings in the mass of faces. Seeing my family gave me such a lift even though from this point onwards I knew it was going to get more difficult, as it always had in training, but the constant cheers of complete strangers shouting my name kept me going and I tried to wave and acknowledge each one, to show how grateful I was. I looked out for Steve, Austin and Jake as soon as we reached Westferry but there was no sign of them (it had been too busy to get off the DLR here I later found out, so they went to Limehouse and had spotted me there, although I didn’t hear them shouting me!). I was a bit disappointed not to have seen them and at about mile 17 felt my energy levels dip, as I was between SIS gels, and started to feel the cold as we were in the shadow of the taller dockland buildings. Quickly I took a caffeine gel and within minutes felt its effect and knew the Miscarriage Association support point was coming up shortly, just when I really needed it.

Just after mile 18 I saw Ruth’s ever-smiling face and grabbed a handful of jelly beans and a quick pat on the back before continuing with my marathon journey. I was now feeling ‘normal’ again which meant I could properly appreciate running through Canary Wharf which was one massive party with bands and banners and so much noise that I didn’t notice the mile I ran through here. It was the most terrific atmosphere to have been part of. Mile 20 came and went and as I assessed how I was feeling, was shocked to find that I actually felt good even though I was now going into the unknown as this is the farthest that I had ever run. Mile 20 – 21 I ran my second quickest mile of the day in 9m18 and if someone had told me this prior to the day I would never have believed it.

I’d always told myself to run until mile 20 then run/walk the rest if I needed to, but before I knew it I was past Tower Bridge for the second time and on my way to the dreaded ‘Lucozade tunnel’. The YouTube clip that I had watched beforehand of runners collapsing in the tunnel and being sick didn’t bode well, but I ran through it and didn’t see any sign of similar. There on the other side of the tunnel were my boys…I was so relieved to see them as I now knew I was going to do this, one way or another. I only ran a few minutes further and there were my mum and sister again cheering me on - seeing all my family was so emotional but I knew I just had to hold it together for another two miles. The crowds once again were fabulous and the last two miles passed in a blur, seeing the London Eye and then Big Ben and Westminster, before turning in to run the final mile past Buckingham Palace and down The Mall. I couldn’t actually believe it was soon going to be over and was determined to sprint down The Mall, which my body and mind thought it was doing, but as I was overtaken by a telephone box I’m not so sure that I was!

Running past Buckingham PalaceLondon Marathon conquered

I looked up as I went across the finish line just to check my Dad was watching…and then clocked my Garmin at 4hr20 and ten seconds… ‘Over the moon’ doesn’t come close to describing the sheer jubilation as my London Marathon 2015 medal was hung around my neck, and what a piece of bling it is!

Amy came in just after me and we were so chuffed with our finishing times after the months and months we had spent training. I wasn’t able to wait for her as I had to meet my family and MA Team at the Cafe in the Crypt. It was a lovely moment being with my family, who have supported me through every up and down, the only sadness being the absence of my Dad, but I know he was there with me willing me on.

Since running the marathon, so many people have asked me if I will do it again and the answer is most probably ‘No’. Not because it was a bad experience but because it was all a bit too perfect and I can’t imagine how doing it again could ever be any better. But the whole marathon journey has been so special and made even more so by the people who have supported me, sponsored me or ran with me along the way and if anyone is considering taken the challenge then just do it, and if you do I can’t think of a better charity to do it for than The Miscarriage Association. I am so proud of what I achieved, particularly the £2650 I managed to raise for them.

Thank you Classic Cottages, for supporting The Miscarriage Association and I doubt there is any place better to train than Cornwall so do come along and try it out!

 by Paula Brocklesby

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