From earlier posts, you hopefully know that I’m deaf and into my charity work and am injury prone! This post touches upon a bit more on these themes, in particularly on one of my big hobbies; running.
As a bit of a back story, about 5 years ago, I used to do a popular form of training called British Military Fitness, a great way of getting fit just utilising every day things that can be found in local parks where they are organised, such as park benches, steps etc. I loved these sessions, getting me to a fitness level I couldn’t maintain in boring gyms, and a great way of meeting people and making friends at the same time. However, my fragile body one session gave up on me, my fault entirely, I felt the warning signs in my shoulder, and instead of stopping and resting, I pushed until my whole shoulder joint collapsed in on itself. This was quite possibly one of my most painful injuries I’ve ever suffered in my life. Mainly because of the bones grinding against each other into flakes, if I remember I’ll write another post on this alone! However, I digress, ultimately after the operation I had to try and repair the damage, I was out the exercise game for nearly 2 years in total. As I use exercise as a form of stress release, not being able to do anything led to very grumpy times! I needed something to aim for.
I decided I would try and get into running until I could decide what my body could cope with, this was in 2014. A couple of months later I moved to Derbyshire, where with my running friends (https://fellrunlikeagirl.wordpress.com great detailed blogs on running and fell running, well worth while reading and following!) I started getting into trail and fell running, something my body could cope with. I decided this was something I really wanted to get into, it’s an amazing way of experiencing the countryside. But in April of the same year, I was asked to go to London to show support for my charity runners, and that was the fateful moment. I don’t know if any of you readers have run the marathon yourself, or experienced it as a supporter, but the atmosphere is electric. Just walking around I picked up on the nerves and excitement of the runners, and the cheering they received, well that was it, the charity needed some more runners for 2015 and even though I had only been running gently for a few miles for a few months, I signed my name down.
I won’t go into detail on my training in this post, mainly because of what I want to put at the end of this one! Instead I will focus on the Marathon itself, as even a year later, it still feels like yesterday.
I was lucky to be running my first ever marathon with one of my best friends, and between us we had managed to sort out accomodation with his family 2 days before the race and then finally a mutual friend of ours who lived in London itself so we could get the tube to the start line. For people who are thinking about doing the London Marathon, or have got a spot for next year, I can’t emphasise enough on getting yourself organised ASAP for accommodation. Some runners prefer to travel down on the day, but this is a gamble, as you never know what the roads outside London are like or the main train routes. The last thing you want is the stress of getting to the start on time, remember you’ll be feeling serious pre-race jitters as it is! So chase around your friends/family who live in London now and see if you can get yourself a room the night before, two days would be even better. Failing that, book yourself into a hotel or B&B, these obviously fill up rapidly with runners and support coming from around the country and indeed the world to attend this famous race.
Back to me though, the night before race day, my mate and I had gone out for a meal with some friends who were in London to support our efforts and then it was back home early to get as much sleep as possible. I say sleep, I think I only managed about 3-4 hours as I were so worked up! 4.30am though and the alarm clocks went off (to avoid sleeping in, we both had our mobile phones set up and an additional two alarm clocks!) and it was time to get ready. I was the first up (my friend is a veteran of 5 marathons, so although he had some butterflies, he didn’t have a whole atrium of them like me!) so it was straight to the loo (toilet to posh people) and a shower to wake myself up. With a breakfast of toast, sweet tea and porridge as our race fuel, it was time to get into our running gear, bags packed of essentials and to make our way to the tube station to the start line.
London is amazing during the Marathon day, all runners with race numbers are allowed free travel on the tubes and busses, and even though I were getting more and more nervous the closer to the end station, there was also an immense feeling of pride as other non running commuters on the tube gave me reassuring smiles and messages of support.
Upon arrival at our final stop, it was time to make the walk to Greenwich Park with the 1000’s of other runners. Even at our early arrival time of 8am, our Red Zone was already rapidly filling up. (Depending on your estimated run time, you are normally allocated a run zone to go to, this is to try and ensure the faster runners don’t get stuck behind the slower paced runners at the start where there is more risk of bottlenecking.) Again, my luck was in, I was in the same running zone as my mate, and although we invariably ended up talking to other people in the zone, it was still nice to have someone I know with me as we were able to talk about other things other than the impending run to distract ourselves from our nerves.
In the zone, there were lots of toilets and big T.V screens and cameras, recording live the upcoming day for the T.V viewers at home. Because we were there early, and with the nerves, I think I must have visited the toilet area about 30 times or more! At least I wasn’t the only one, and looking around me, I got a sense of those who were doing it for the first time like me, and those who had obviously done a few of them, these people walking around nonchalantly as if running a marathon was something they do every morning!
As we were in the Red Zone, we got to watch the start of the Wheel chair racers and the elites, I tell you what, they got the biggest cheers from everyone, both groups being so inspiring. Then it was our turn, with an announcement on the tannoy system, all runners were told to start making their way to the start line. Me and my mate, and another runner who had by this time joined us, also running for my charity, had decided that for the start, we would all stick together. This is when it got real for me, and this is when my whole body started buzzing with expectation. It is also the smelliest point of the race I have to say! 1000’s of nervous runners, all letting out nervous farts, and it left me and some runners around me laughing our heads off at the situation! Even though it probably wasn’t long at all, this moment seemed to drag in time. You are let off in waves, and though you are on the road, you’re still not at the official start time. So every 15 minutes, another 100 or so runners would be released to make their way down the road and we would begin our shuffle down ready for our release.
By now my nerves had dissipated some, the moment was here, and it was now time to enjoy it. With loudspeakers timing us down, it was time for a quick man hug to my two fellow runners in my group, quick handshake (so English!) to other runners around me and “good luck, good luck,see you at the end” our countdown ended, and it was go, my turn to join the throng! I had decided I needed to ensure I would start off at a gentle pace, not wanting to get caught up in the moment and tiring myself, so I delibrately took this pace straight away even before going through the start line, but coming to the official start line, this went out the window! I can’t describe to you the buzz when you go under, normally I only see this on the tv, yet here I was, now running under it officially as a runner, I think if any camera had caught me at that moment you would have seen the biggest smile on my face!
I had decided before the race that I wanted to keep my hearing aids in throughout the race, as normally I take them out due to sweat damage, but this time I wanted to fully experience everything around me. I’m so glad I did, as it is these sounds that really spur you on. From old grannies outside, dressed in their Sunday church finary cheering us on, to a multitude of different bands playing raggae music to irish bagpipes (these were my favourite, the power of them as you came round the corner to approach them gave me goose bumps) and the 1000’s of people on the sides in general, all cheering, all clapping drove me on the whole time. I had decided to stick to the left hand side of the road as I hoped to catch a glimpse of my parents, but getting so close to the crowds meant I felt obligated to high five everyone who had put their hands in the crowds to do so, by mile 7 I had to veer across away from them as my hand was getting so sore already!
Everything was starting well, I was in my zone, and I was loving running pass the famous London sights, one of my favourites was running around the Cutty Sark, and the imposing Shard. But everything else blurred into a visual overload, focussing on my split times and trying to take everything in. Looking at my wrist for the split time data and estimated finish times, I was overjoyed to see that a 4 hour finish was within my sights at the 13 mile point and I still felt good. However, it was not to be, you see a month before during my intense training, I had damaged my hip flexor, and had been recommended to stop all training and not do the marathon. But having raised a lot of money already, I felt obligated to carry on, and on the day, reaching 13 miles with no problems I thought I had got away with it. All of a sudden with no warning, approaching the mile marker for 14 miles, my damaged hip let out an almight crack as the muscle finally gave in and weakened to the extent the ball point of my hip bone started moving loosely about. Like my shoulder joint when that went, this was excruitiating pain and I came almost to a standstill straight away. Some runners by my side turned around to check I was ok (runners are amazing by the way!), with a thumbs up, I decided I now had to slow my pace down some and hope the joint would somehow ease back into place and naively I would be able to get back up to pace and finish in 4 hours still.
By mile 16-17 this became blatently obvious this wasn’t going to be possible. My hip was in such pain that my run had now became a serious hobble, so bad that my right uninjured leg, carrying the brunt of my weight was now seriously starting to cramp up too. It just didn’t seem fair, the months of training I had undertaken, and now it appeared to me I was going to have to stop. At this stage of the race, there are a lot of first aid stations, and at every single one, I could see runners dropping like flies, as the effects of dehydration and cramp beginning to hit people at this furthest stage of the run towards the end point of the marathon. Each time I ran/hobbled past, I subconsciously found myself drawing towards them, and my face must have been such of one in agony that every time they opened their arms towards me to say its ok to stop, but from somewhere I’ll never know where, I found an inner strength I never knew I possessed. Each time, I veered away again onto the main road to carry on with my slow run, determined that no matter what now, I would finish this race. At mile 21 I had the biggest boost possible, I had found my charity supporters in the crowd and managed to make my way over for a quick hug (I was covered in sweat and salt and must have stunk!) which helped no end, but just about 200 yards further on, around the corner, and bear in mind the 100’s of supporters by the side, and the odds of being able to do so, I actually spotted my mum and dad in the crowd! They were both fiddling with their phones ready to try and take a picture of me and almost missed me though! I couldn’t allow that! So pushing my way through the other crowd I shouted “Mum! Dad! I’m here!” and got the biggest hug off them. My dad is old fashioned, doesn’t do hugs, it’s all handshakes normally, but for this one moment, the first since I was a child, he gave me a hug and kissed me on my head and said “I’m so proud of you” before I made my way back onto the road to carry on to the end. The pain my body was now in, the agony of the hip failing on my left leg, the right leg on its way out, and generally hitting the wall at mile 21, I don’t mind admitting seeing my parents almost got me blubbering. I’m never normally like that on a run honest, but I was just on an emotional rollercoaster at this point, so it took some deep breathing while moving to stop myself bursting into tears. To be fair, there were lots of other blokes at this stage of the race seeing their loved ones breaking out into tears so I wouldn’t have been the only one!
Miles 23 to 25 and I’d broken down again running wise. I was just unable to sustain any form of running at all, I was in such agony I thought at one stage I would be sick. This led to me getting myself right next to the crowd on the left hand side of the road per marathon guidance to ensure the faster runners could get by. The London Marathon draws the best out of people though. All the crowd were willing me on, at one stage I had to stop by the barriers, trying to stretch my legs to a point through the agony to be able to move, and I had strangers stood by me rubbing my back and clapping my shoulders, urging me on “come on mate, you’ve only got a few miles to go, you can do it, we’re all behind you”. I even had some runners come to a stop by me offering to lend me some deep heat cream! For many people, they’ll only ever do the London Marathon once in their lifetime, and there is always that thought at the back of your mind of getting your best time. But here were people coming to a stop to help me out, not thinking about their times at all, they just wanted to help a fellow runner in need. I’m biaised as a runner, but I think the running fraternity is the best and most supportive out of all sports. But everyone helped me, and on reaching Mile 25, that was it, I had decided in my mind I would not be walking over the finish line, I would be coming in running!
Slowly but surely, as we were directed along the embankment towards the Houses of Parliament, my pace increased from walking to a fast hobble again, and as the signs counted down distance wise, this hobble through adrenaline at being near the finish point spurred me onto what resembled a proper run again! In 2015, it was 35 years since the inception of the London Marathon, so to celebrate all runners were encourage to run across the finish line hand in hand with a fellow runner just like Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonson in 1981.
Sod’s law dictacted that I would find a woman who was obviously wanting to finishi with a target time in mind, so my hobble run turned into a sprint finish just so I could keep up with her!
I’m glad she did though, my finish picture looks a lot better for it I have to say! Then came the magic moment of being presented with my medal.
The picture shows the immediate joy on getting my medal!
At last, I had become a London Marathon runner, one of my greatest achievements in life, and although the injury had kept me out until 2016 and I’d resolved not to run a marathon again in case I end up doing further damage, me being me, I’ve just signed up to do my first Ultra Marathon in 2017! However, that is for another blog at another time!