I love the London marathon. It’s like being on the biggest running stage in the world, with the best and most supportive audience ever, out just for you. My main goal this year is the Edinburgh marathon, in a few weeks’ time, but I had my GFA and couldn’t pass up the chance to take part my favourite 26.2 party.
The plan said 20 miles at 30 seconds off marathon pace, and so in my head I thought I’d have a solid 20 mile training run, with a jolly 10K to finish. What the plan forgot to tell me is that no 10K of a marathon is jolly.
For once, I wasn’t in the queue for the toilet when the gun went off, and managed to pop myself into exactly the right pen for the pace I wanted, meaning the first few miles didn’t have the usual ARGH I’M GOING WAY TOO SLOWLY MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY thoughts that mostly career through my head at the start of a marathon. I spotted the 3 hour 30 pacer and joined the group, hoping that the group mentality would power me through. Not so much. It was miserable running in a pace group: everyone was jostling and pushy and there was no atmosphere what so ever – nothing like the fun I had running with Kev and his pace group at Brighton last year. It was mentally really tiring having to watch out for other people’s feet, elbows and – not that I’m knocking it – the focus that everyone had. Even Tower Bridge lost a tiny bit of the magic and those around me seemed to be ignoring everything that was going on. I still loved it though, going over that bridge, and cried a bit. Again.
From about 10K I needed a wee, and despite promising myself I’d hold off until 20 miles was up, at about 14 I spotted an empty porta-loo and hopped in, meaning I lost the group. This turned out to be the best decision I made all race. Running on my own was heaps better, and I relaxed, running down the side of the road and enjoying people cheering my name, soaking it all up and smiling away. 18 came, then 19 and 20. I then checked out. I was done. Training run, ticked off. My legs seemed to know this and stopped working, and so did my head. Jolly, this was not going to be. Everything started to hurt, my hands, my feet, my ponytail, everything. This was the worst idea ever. Who was I kidding, thinking I could run a marathon as a training run?! I ploughed on, still trying to smile at every mile, and wishing 23 would come as that was ‘just a parkrun to go’ and I knew that was where my supporters would be and I could stop and have a cuddle and a rest. I saw all my friends in those last 5Ks, which made me smile and the tiredness disappear for a bit. I high-fived Colin Jackson, started grinning at those around me and did some mental maths as to what I needed to ensure a BQ. 365 yards to go and for once I just couldn’t be bothered to go for it… 200m and I found a tiny bit of oompf… Done. Marathon number 9, London number 3, BQ in the bag.
I still loved London. The crowd is just the absolute best, and it is so, so slick in terms of organisation. I’ll always get goosebumps at being part of something so massive and I’ll be back next year. But it definitely chewed me up and spat me out in 2017. And was a stern reminder that the last 10K of a marathon is never, ever going to be jolly. To Scotland!