Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The London Marathon

This was an amazing day so this is a very long post.
In short, I finished it - YAY!! My time was 4:46:59. Pretty good considering the heat. I came 873 out of 1881 women in my class (vet 35) and 4551 out of 10854 in the whole of the women's race. To come in the top half, you would usually need a time of about 4:20 so that goes to show the impact the heat was having on everyone.

Here goes, I advise you have a cuppa in your hand if you want to read it all. Pictures will follow when I get them.

(Oh and if any Fetchies are here - this is the same as on the Fetch blog)

Before the Race

Wow, where to start? What a day! I have been so busy, getting myself and the family ready for the big day that I didn't get around to blogging about the Expo and my last preparations so I will blog today about the day itself and then go back in time and fill in the missing bits. I'm sure I will think of more things to say about this weekend over the next few days in any case as the surreal "marathon lag" begins to clear.

My marathon day started at 5:45 with breakfast of porridge and coffee. On Friday evening, I was asked to do a BBC interview with Jonathon Edwards before the start, so I decided not to take a kit bag as I was worried about getting everything done before the race. As it happened, the interview ran very well to time and I would have had plenty of time. It was one less thing to think about though.

On Saturday, I had felt incredibly nervous, a bit like the feeling when you have reached the top of a rollercoaster and are just about to go. The training had almost been like that slow and steady journey up to the top and then there is that sick butterfly wibbly feeling that it is now too late to get off and you are wondering if you will be OK, at the same time knowing that you will but that, with the exciting moments, will come some sheer terror. On Sunday morning, this fear had given way to excitement.

On arrival at the red start for my interview, I was immediately hit by the scale of event. I have watched it on TV for many years but there is nothing like seeing it for yourself. I was there at 8.00 and there were no loo queues so I popped in before looking for the BBC gantry. As I approached the scaffolding, I could see Jonathon Edwards who was to be interviewing me. With the enormity of the entire day filling me with excitement, I found that I wasn’t at all nervous about the interview – not until the first question anyway! Jonathon was so lovely and seemed to genuinely care about the story he was being told during our chat before we started. We did the interview and then I was called back as it had “broken up”. This was great as it meant I got a rehearsal! I haven’t seen the program yet but, from reading Fetch threads, it looks like the interview was seen only by the editors but our club photographer was there to show that it really did happen. In any case, it was great to start my marathon with a chat with a sporting hero I really admire and to be wished well by him.

After the interview, I made my way to the green start and, between queuing several times for the loo, had plenty of time for a little celebrity spotting. I must confess, I didn’t recognize everyone with the red stripes through their numbers but did see Evan Davis, Nel ? – the model, the two blondes from Eastenders and Adam Hollioakes who was running with his Dad and members of the Surrey Cricket Club in full cricket whites for a special Fund set up for CHASE in memory of his brother. I saw them a few times through the course and, with the CHASE connection, was able to start a conversation.

I met up with some of the GFA runners from out club and, before long, it was time to line up.

The First Five Miles

I have to confess, I started too fast and have learned my lesson! The green start gets off pretty well and you can hit race pace (or above) within minutes. I did notice my Garmin reading 8 minute miles at one point and kept trying to slow down but was running at 9-9:30 a lot of the time at the start. I was under my targets at each mile marker for quite some time and did get some hopeful notions that, perhaps, the heat was good for me and this was going to be a great run.

The atmosphere was fantastic. The start took us along residential streets where families stood on the pavements eating toast and sipping coffee. Then we passed churches and other religious buildings where congregations were singing and playing. It was such a fantastic window into the Sunday morning lives of residential London. Further along, we passed the first of many pubs offering a party atmosphere with music and dancing. I think I heard 100 miles by The Proclaimers about 4 times along the course. As we approached the 3 mile mark and merge with the blue start, we played Oggy Oggy Oggy. Everyone was in great spirits.

The merge was fun with much friendly ribbing and booing. I think I crossed over at the right time! I had my first water at 3 miles and my nutrition/hydration plan came into action. Water every 2 miles, gels at 8, 12, 16 and 20 and an ample bag of jelly babies in my pack. The mile markers came fast at first but, oh, how far away they felt later on.

5-15 Miles

Coming into Greenwich was exciting as it is the first of the views that seemed familiar from watching it on TV. It is a shame that we didn’t see The Cutty Sark but the BBC cameras were there up on the crane so everyone was excited and waving up at it.

From about 8 miles, I began to look forward to seeing my family, somewhere near London Bridge Station between 12 and 13 miles.

Tower Bridge was amazing, what an atmosphere! I work part-time (though at home most of the time) for BLISS, the premature baby charity. Some of my colleagues were on the bridge under a big yellow balloon arch. I spotted them and waved and heard a huge cheer. I felt great, until I saw two BLISS runners just behind me and everyone looking at them, no-one at me! Oh well, it is hard to spot a runner in the pack. Unfortunately, this proved only too true. My family were also on the bridge and I didn’t see them and they didn’t see me either. I thought they may have gone on a little further so kept on looking. I was encouraged by the strangers calling out my name and offering goodies. Those orange quarters were amazing and will be top of my list for supporters in future marathon (yes, I am saying future and I knew I’d do this again as soon as I finished)

I was still feeling good and still on target, although no longer with minutes to spare.


By 15 miles, it was clear that I had missed my family. I felt really down about this and sad when I say banners for “Mummy” that I hadn’t seen those my own children had made. At this point, the race began to get harder and I began to feel the heat. Every St Johns Ambulance point seemed to have an unconscious runner on oxygen and I passed a guy on the road, surrounded by about 5 first aiders, begging them to help him. This began to frighten me a bit, especially as I did feel the odd wave of nausea and, at one time, even began to feel a bit cold and shivery. I made sure I was drinking enough and poured the end of bottles on my head. It took a couple of times for me to realize my cap was water resistant and to remove it before doing this and running through the showers. The showers were heaven and these, and throwing water on myself, made me think of water fights in the summer. That refreshment that follows the initial shock you get when the cold water hits you. Fantastic! I was beginning to fall behind my 4:30 schedule but, with so many people collapsing and stopping for other treatments, I decided to focus on just getting back in one piece.

By mile 18, I began to feel a little disorientated and loose track of when I had last had water and what my race plan was. I was also worrying about my family and wondering if they had made it to London. I began to focus on getting Fetch Central and mile 22 and counted down the miles before I would be there. It was at this point that I decided to walk through water stations to cool down and take a short break. Miles 19-21 were really hard and I did have to take a couple of short walking breaks, just for a couple of hundred yards or so. I saw more and more casualties and was beginning to feel very emotional. My worries about my family got bigger and, eventually, I decided to call them. Paul was struggling with reception due to the crowds and so the phone seemed switched off. I left a message but, after a while, had convinced myself that they had had to take William to hospital and I was stuck miles from the finish, not knowing what was going on. I even considered leaving the race to find them. I lost it then and had tears streaming down my face. I thought about all the people who were behind me and had sponsored me and I had to finish. At mile 21, I started looking out for Fetch Central. I was convinced I had missed it before seeing the countdown banners. They were a fantastic sight, not much less so than the countdown to the finish line. A had always told myself that, from there, it was my short training loop home. Knowing I was now approaching so many people that had encouraged me so much on the Fetch website added to my emotions. I felt so invigorated as I approached and had regained my stride. I waved, but didn’t stop. I think if I had stopped for some hugs, or even a high five or two, I would have been totally overcome by emotion and blubbed about my fears that Wills may not be OK. I got a glimpse of everyone and can still remember the faces I saw. I really needed that cheer and the sound of it, together with such happy faces, carried me to the end. Thanks SO much guys!!! You may have felt I didn’t need you too much as I ran straight past but, oh boy, I did and I ran away from you with more tears in my eyes.

The Blackfriars underpass followed soon after and I felt very weird in there. I think it was the lighting, but I felt sick and dizzy and almost a bit panicky. I didn’t know whether to run fast to get out of it or walk. I opted for a combination of the two. I soon felt better when I got out and soon saw mile 25. I completely forgot to look out for my running club here as I was so focused on getting to the end. The atmosphere was great and people called my name whenever I took the odd walk break. This so encouraged me and, in the end, I found the strength to run to the end. The last stretch was fantastic. I felt strong again and the sites and emotions were amazing. Suddenly, the countdown banners were there and then the finish line. I was amazed to hear the tannoy congratulate us and announce that we were in the top half. I had taken so many walk breaks, albeit very short ones, and couldn’t believe that over half the field were behind me.

My chip was taken off and I was given my medal. I am used to taking it at races so I tried to take it off the lovely lady who was trying to present it to me. I was still worried about William as I still could not get hold of Paul. I tried to put this to the back of my mind as I posed for my photo. The time it took to walk to Horse Guards was awful as I just wanted to see if they were there. My legs were really hurting too. Eventually, I got there and felt almost claustrophobic in the huge crowd. I could see the CHASE banners among the mass of people, balloons and flags and made my way over. Then I hear Paul calling me and physically felt a wave of relief come over me. The tears came back and the whole family had a hug as we walked to the stand. They took my photo and I wanted everyone on it, much to William’s disgruntlement. I was presented with a glass of champagne which I sipped along side my recovery drink. I was in the first half back for CHASE out of 40 and this, together with the announcement at the finish line, made me realize that, in the conditions, I had done better than I thought. I wondered about all those I had seen in trouble and hoped they were OK. We chatted to people at the stand for a while and headed to the pub where I said a quick hello before leaving to go home.


Katie H said...

Well done Sarah - I am so pleased that it all went well for you - what an incredible achievement.

Katie H

diddyangel said...

CONGRATULATIONS what more can I say you are such an inspiration an amazing woman xxxxxxxxxxx

Michala said...

Sarah, many many congratulations! You should be so very proud of yourself as to run a marathon at all, let alone in that time and heat is fantastic achievement. You make me want to run myself next year instead of putting it off again!- fancy a training buddy - start point the Chelsea and Westminster?!
Love to you and William and a hug for the girls who must be bursting with pride, Michala

Tinypoppet said...

Fantastic achievement Sarah, I was there on the day and the atmosphere was indeed electric! Huge well done, you should be so proud. Much love xxx

Shadow said...

WELL DONE YOU!!!! Fantastic, I'm in awe!! How you managed to train over the last few months is amazing in itself. Brilliant stuff!

Becky said...

HUGE well done hun, what a fabulous achievement! You did so so well, and for what a fabulous cause!

You are so brave wanting to run it again next year! Wow!

Hope all the kids are well.

Becky xxxxxxxxxx

Emmie said...

WELL DONE SARAH!!! What a fantastic achievement! I think you are amazing :o) xxxx