The London Marathon Experience!

Well my poor old blog has taken a back seat in recent months. It had been my intention to keep it updated as my training and fundraising went along but those two things plus family life meant no time for blogging!

Training Update

My last post was in January when I had just got cracking with running again following the set back of shingles at Christmas. I was panicking about fitting in all the training in time for the big day, and being prepared enough to take it on. Well gradually throughout January – March I built up the miles.

I usually managed to fit in a 6.5 mile run and a 4 mile run sometimes with a bootcamp session as well, in the week. Then at weekends one whole day was given over to a long run. I would start at 9.30am and by the time I had completed the run, got home, bathed, fed and maybe a snooze from the sheer exhaustion, that was the day gone! So weekends would fly by and it became a real struggle to fit in housework, shopping etc. So I have one hell of an ironing pile to work though now!!

I was extremely lucky to have a very good friend Heidi who ran with me on my training runs and really kept me going. She has an amazing ability to just keep going, I certainly could not have got through the training without such brilliant support. How many other people would run these distances and give up that time, who aren’t training for a marathon! My previous longest mileage was 13 miles and that was back in 2011 – quite a hill to climb. The long runs really took it out of me, so we would leave a weekend in between for me to recover. I often went to parkrun instead. Then every other weekend we would add on a couple of miles, finishing at the end of March with a 20 mile run.

Taper Time

Tapering really messed with my mind!
So the idea is to reduce mileage, the hard work is done. Have faith in the training put in and it will all come good on the day. Easier said than done! The short runs felt terrible, how on earth was I going to make it round 26.2?!! Eating all the carbs to build energy , plus reducing the miles = waistline expanding! Then there was the weather – unexpected heat arrived which put me into panic mode once again. How would I cope in the heat running for hours?? So on a whim I bought shorts. Not my usual running attire and I felt pretttty self-conscious going for a practice run in them a week before the marathon! Probably didn’t help that they were bright purple so not really unnoticeable! But they were dead comfy and calmed me down to think I was prepared for most weathers!

London Calling

The week before the marathon – get lots of rest, be prepared, stay hydrated, early to bed…yeah yeah yeah, life isn’t quite like the running magazines would like it to be! It was its usual busyness but maybe that was a good thing? It meant I really didn’t have much time to think and stress about the marathon until I left work on Friday with a lot of good luck messages and hugs of support 🙂
Friday was also John’s birthday so it was nice to go out and celebrate that and relax (shocker – no gin and tonics were consumed!!)

I went through my kit many, many times, chucked more in the bag that I knew I wouldn’t even wear just to make myself feel prepared! Treble checked I had my trainers… The car was loaded up (how much stuff for 2 days??!) and at 7am on Saturday we were London bound!! Driving into London and seeing the signs for the marathon was a real exciting – it’s really happening moment! Wow, the next day I would be running along these streets with thousands of other crazy people!

After stopping off at the hotel we attempted to make our way to the Cancer Research UK pasta party (more carbs…) This did not go to plan, and we ended up abandoning all hope of reaching the restaurant in time. So off to the Expo to get my all-important race number. This was the bit that had been panicking me, it closed at 5pm and Saturday was the busiest day with so many runners piling into London for the weekend. Not much of a queue and I was relieved to have my number and timing tag sorted! Left the Expo and finally had those vital carbs (I was putting a lot of faith in them!), then back in to experience the whole pre-marathon expo thing. It was huge and absolutely rammed with people! Macie was dropping by this point so we split up and I wandered round on my own, resisting the urge to spend money on more kit I didn’t need. Incredibly I didn’t buy a thing – such willpower! I did make my mark there though, there was an area you could leave messages, not much room left by the time I got there but I got a little mention for my charity! –

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Time to head off, so I went back to the start to leave…to be told the exit was at the far end of the hall…by this point I was exhausted. Trekked back through the Expo, stopped off to listen to a talk and get some last minute race day tips, then head out of the arena. Oh look, runners goody bags, I’ll get mine…only if you have your race number I was told.
Well a combination of exhaustion and emotion on realising that my number was with John who was outside the expo meant a near breakdown but I held it together!! Ignored the lady who told me I definitely wouldn’t get my bag without my number and showed a very kind man a picture of me holding up my number and ta da! One goody bag claimed! I decided not to look in it at that point to see if it had been worth nearly bursting into tears over!! (I can tell you now – it wasn’t!)

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We headed back to the hotel where I thought I’d have a nice bath to relax before going out for grub. Not quite…I flooded the bathroom. In a big way!!! I mean I almost flooded the bedroom as well it was that bad! The poor hotel receptionist said through gritted teeth “It’s fine, we’ll move you to another room” as I apologised a million times and felt a right plonker.

By the time we sat in a restaurant to eat I was so tired that the tiredness was stressing me out, I was supposed to have lots of rest before the marathon, not a day of stress and walking around. So, top tip London marathon newbies – if you can afford it, do the whole expo thing in the week beforehand or get to London on the Friday. It’s more tiring than I expected.

I went over how to get to the start so many times…asked so many people…I think by now you can see that I really will stress over anything and everything and I was totally paranoid I wouldn’t find the start. And there’s three starts what if I went to the wrong one?! We even did the journey on the DLR the night before so I knew what I was doing and I still wasn’t convinced! Neurotic? Me?!

Marathon Day!

This is it, all the training, the fundraising, the preparations…the big day had arrived! I was and continue to be completely bowled over by the sheer amount of messages of support I had before, during and after the race. So so many people were rooting for me and willing me on, I really felt that during the day and I can honestly say it helped in a big way to keep me going.

I was up at 6am trying to nervously force down porridge and texts were coming in then, incredible. Got kitted up, filled my race bag, checked the train map just once more… (yes, really!) hugged John, burst into tears due to enormity of what I was trying to do, and went on my way.

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I fully expected the streets to be busy with runners making their way but it was verrry quiet! I was relieved to see 3 other nervous looking marathon types on the platform and joined forces with them. By the time I got to my stop there were lots more runners about and I followed the masses through Greenwich to the red start in the park. It was cold and drizzly and I was really hoping it would clear by race time as running in that for a few hours would have been miserable. I saw lots of amazing fancy dress costume wearing runners and for a fleeting moment was jealous of their warmth! I headed into one of the tents to stay warm and was hit by an intense smell of deep heat!!

I met up with the rest of “Team Cardiff”, Tom and Sarah, my experienced marathon running friends who have been brilliant to me with advice and support for this first timer! We supported each others fundraising activities and did some parkruns together. The whole marathon journey has been made so much better by having friends in it with me and they have put up with quite a bit from me! They really put me at ease before the start and the time flew by.

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Team Cardiff!

Race bags were put on the truck and it was a bit chilly waiting around with no jackets now so I did that “proper race” thing of wearing a plastic poncho – someone needs to add sleeves to them it would make such a difference!
Goodbyes were said, hugs were had and we went off to our different starting pens (I was in the very last one at the back – no surprise!)

Now I was on my own. Although I really wasn’t, the whole crowd of thousands of runners were all so excited and nervous, it was quite an atmosphere, not really knowing what was about to happen! I was amazed by all the different charities people were running for, and the amount of fancy dress runners! It was someone’s birthday so a rousing round of “Happy Birthday” was sung before we were off! We made our way slowly towards the start, it took about 20 minutes for me to get over the start line. Then the hard work started! This was it – I was running the London Marathon!!

I looked for Paula Radcliffe but she had gone on ahead, choosing not to wait for me so I plodded on 😉

The first few miles felt really good, which is unusual for me. I always find them a slog and tell myself it’ll feel better once those first 3 are over. So it was a nice surprise to be in a good rhythm from the start. People lined the streets right from the off, cheering and waving, children arms out for high fives – it was lovely to see. 6 miles in and I thought I’d give everyone tracking me something to worry about with a loo stop 😉 the queue wasn’t too bad but just long enough for people to wonder why I had stopped I think!

Off again and taking in the incredible atmosphere as I plodded, gazebos up, bbq’s cooking, bands playing, sweets offered, singing, shouting, cheering…and by the time I was getting round most of London was pretty drunk!! It was quite lairy out there! A shout went up of “Alice, Alice, who the **** is Alice” and when I joined in by raising my arms in time it got quite a response!

I knew mum and dad were going to be at mile 11 and this really kept me going, knowing I would see them soon. I had already decided I would make the absolute most of this so I was definitely stopping for hugs! I had no time expectations so I wasn’t bothered about that! As I approached them I could see they had banners with “Go Alice Go” on them which absolutely made my day! I gave them both a hug, some tears were had, and I continued on my way. Next stop, mile 13, where John and Macie were. I had said to them to be by the Cancer Research UK cheering point so I knew where to look, as it’s a very busy spot. As I got closer to them I rounded a corner and saw before me Tower Bridge. It absolutely took my breath away, such an awesome and emotional feeling to think I was going to run over it like I had watched so many do on the tv every year. It’s the iconic moment of the marathon and as I approached it the noise was incredible!!  Both sides of the bridge were jammed full of cheering, waving supporters shouting out our names as we went past. In fact I am in tears just writing this, it was so emotional. I plodded on, round the corner and my knee was starting to hurt. The crowds were immense as I approached the halfway mark, it was such a relief to know I was almost at that stage! I spotted Macie and John and stopped to have a hug and top up my drink, I realised at this point my knee was a serious issue. Excruciating pain from out of nowhere it seemed. I had had no injuries in training, and I’d done up to 20 miles so couldn’t understand this but since finishing have heard a lot of people had similar issues. My feet were cramping up so it was time to get going again and I promptly ran right into another CRUK runner, Paula, who I had been in touch with beforehand but not met, it was so great to see each other and have a brief chat, really spurred me on!

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Halfway point

By mile 14ish I decided be sensible, see if St John’s Ambulance can help, after all it’s just about getting to the end it doesn’t matter how long it takes. First aiders and physios were all very busy yet so friendly, caring and understanding. An ice pack was given which did nothing. The other option was join a queue for physio. I wasn’t about to do that, if I sat down I would never get going again and they understood that so I set off again. The pain would surge then I would slow to a walk and in the end settled for attempting half mile running, quarter of a mile walking etc to help deal with the pain. I really, really wanted to run as much as I could, that was important to me, to know I had tried my very hardest. Who wants to get to the end and think they could’ve done more? It was intense pain that in all honesty made me want to cry but I made a big effort not to as I knew as soon as that happened it was game over. So I carried on, wondering what on earth people who were tracking me must be thinking!  I was totally thrilled to see my sister and friend Stacey at Mile 17 sporting the fabulous t-shirts (which Stacey had made!), smiling and cheering! It cheered me up and gave me such a boost 🙂 They said I looked strong and had seen me run up a hill which a lot weren’t doing.

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Onwards now, next cheer team would be John and Macie at mile 22 but I have to say the crowds shouting my name and willing me on were unbelievable – it is so encouraging and really lifts you. Also, Cancer Research had cheer squads all over the course and they were brilliant!! My goodness they made some noise for their runners! Volunteers you were amazing and did CRUK proud – you made a huge difference and put a smile on my face every time I heard you yelling my name! Even if I could only respond with a thumbs up!

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I got to 20 miles and thought wow, this is the furthest I have ever done, it’s all new territory now. So close yet still a long old way to go! 2 parkruns I kept telling myself, just two parkruns to go. Run, walk, run, walk, keep on going.
Mile 24…this felt huge!! Through a tunnel, music blasting, firing me up once again. Everyone cheering, all the staff, crowds, charities… a big big atmosphere building now. I headed along a stretch of road and looked at a bridge and saw my mum and dad up there with holding their banners and it really made me smile. I waved and waved and they shouted back at me, as did everyone with them!

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I slowed and walked a bit, then all of a sudden Heather and Stacey were there! Another boost, another cheer, I was almost there. Plodding along the embankment towards Big Ben, it was very hard to judge just how much further there was to go. Especially as my watch was registering further than the course markers as I had to keep weaving around people. I made sure when I had to walk I stayed to one side but a lot of people just spread across the course when they walked, making it very hard when I was running to get past. So in fact I ran more than a marathon!

I overheard someone say something about “If you’re quick you’ll still get a medal” I was confused by this but thought there is absolutely no way I am not getting a medal!! So I tried my hardest to get to the end as quickly as I could manage.

Round the corner…the famous Birdcage Walk, crowds screaming our names…the red banners of the final stretch appeared…I saw my John and Macie who ran alongside me the other side of the barrier for a bit!

800metres to go, 600 metres to go, round the corner and I literally took a deep breath and had a smile and wave of emotion hit me as I saw it was the last leg, I was headed towards that finish line at last!! 6 hours and 5 minutes after starting, I had actually done it!! I was over that finish line!!

So, one year after the second lot of cancer treatment ended, I can proudly say I AM A MARATHON RUNNER!!

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Very proud of this beauty!

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Marathon goodies

A very lovely CRUK lady literally walked me to the post-race reception, carrying my bags and helping me up stairs (stairs, so soon?!) Then another lovely member of staff saw I was in a bit of state and took me straight to the massage area (up more stairs but thankfully there was a lift!) There were 2 rooms full of volunteers giving these amazing much needed massages all day for the runners. Two very kind ladies took a leg each and went to work on the poor things! But just before that I had a congratulatory hug from Tom and Ffion, it was so nice to see you both! Then finally John and Macie found me and there were some big relived smiles to see I was in one piece and ok!

It was great to have time afterwards to meet some of the other team CRUK runners and also the staff and volunteers who had been absolutely incredible throughout the day and so kind and helpful afterwards. Thank you all xx

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Me at the post race reception

I then met up with the rest of my cheer squad in the reception and had a much needed cuppa and sarnie, loaded up with goodies and sat having a nice catch up with everyone. It meant the world to me to have them all there.

Then it was time to head off for a hot bath, bubbly and grub!!

LONDON MARATHON – COMPLETE 🙂

I want you all to know just how much all your messages of support meant to me, it has been totally overwhelming and I can’t really put into words just how much it has helped and makes me realise how lucky I am to have you all there for me.

I was absolutely inundated with messages and really tried hard to reply to you all. Even some people who don’t know me have donated or sent messages willing me on. So many people tracked me (sorry, must’ve been a long old day!) and updated online how I was doing. Macie kept saying to me “mum your phone’s been going nuts!” I thought about all these messages as I was struggling and it certainly made me determined to finish. My fundraising total rocketed to almost £3,300 which goes towards a brand new state of the art research facility – The Francis Crick Institute.
Cancer Research UK have been the most successful charity partner in the history of the London Marathon, so far raising 2.4 million and rising all the time.

You all really are helping to beat this dreadful disease and you make me so proud. THANK YOU XXX

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2 thoughts on “The London Marathon Experience!

  1. Well done Alice. You were in our thoughts every step of the way.

    With Love

    Ian and Freda x

    Sent from Windows Mail

    Like

  2. Hi Alice
    Today I have met up with your mum and dad at our lovely old aunties funeral.
    They told us all about your amazing achievement competing in the London Marathon last week-end.
    Congratulations Alice ! No wonder they are so proud. You have come such a long way and having read your blog you are such a positive and inspirational person you deserve your medal.
    Good Luck with your future plans. Love Janet and Ivor (flora advert!) x

    Like

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