A tale of a London Marathon Virgin
(by Alison Dale of Lincoln Wellington AC)
Like many people I would sit down on a Sunday morning in April every year and watch thousands running the London Marathon, and dream that one day I would be there. But being a 20 a day smoker I knew that dream wasn't possible.
For the last 11 years I have battled against the cigarettes. In 2000, like hundreds of other people, I vowed to give up the cigs for the millennium, for about the third time. As I had done cross-country at school and quite a bit of sport in the RAF, I got out the old trainers and started to plod my way around the estate to keep the weight off. A friend at work suggested I ran the Saxilby 6 miler in the may with her. I completed it with all due credit to her in about 58 minutes I think. Afterwards we went in the bar and I had a pint of bitter. That friend stopped running but there was this other girl who had recently started. I took a phone call from her one day asking to have a look around and asked her if she wanted a job. She said "yes but didn't think there were any going". The closing date was just about upon us, she applied and that is how I met one of my greatest friends ever, Jane Ramsden. She had also run the Saxilby but a damn sight faster than Rosie and I.
Jane was looking for a running partner. That was 4 years ago. After numerous 10km races, 2 Great North Runs, a half marathon in the Lake District and the Edinburgh Marathon in June 2003, which at 19 miles Jane told me " I have no intention of putting myself thorough this ever again, I am not going to London". "Ok" I replied, slightly shocked, as I'm the one that does most (well all) of the wingeing. But by the time we were back in yellow belly land we wanted to do London.
So in January this year we both finally had places to go. A lot of very hard work lay ahead of us, fund raising, training working at Lincoln Renal Unit 30 Hours a week, running the home, taxiing the children, and keeping our husbands happy.
17 April arrived and we set off to Newark to catch the coach to London. It finally arrived 30 minutes late. I was busting for the loo - thank god there was one on board, but there were these two lads sat in front of the door, and no-one else seemed to be using it.
"How far to the services?" I asked Jane.
"About 30 - 45 minutes" she replied.
I had no choice up I got into the loo, couldn't get the door to lock, had visions of the door flying open and these lads seeing me in all me glory. Thank goodness it didn't happen, I seemed to pee forever, what a relief.
We arrived at the Marathon Exhibition in London after getting lost and being led in by a man on his moped learning the knowledge.
We had to go to separate places to get our numbers as Jane had a club place and I had a charity place. Off we went to our respective lines, it didn't take long at all, then on to get our chips and kit bags. The organisation is fantastic. Then we had a look around and bought ourselves a T-shirt and yes, they do match.
We got back on the bus to go to our accommodation, next door to the Royal Albert Hall. We went to bed at about 9.45pm after a lovely meal of pasta of course.
Sunday 18 April 2004 our dream was about to come true. 5.30am I woke up before my alarm and got into the shower. There was a knock at the door and there was my pal Jane making sure I was up and a cup of tea. Just finished getting dressed and there was this horrendous noise, it was only the fire alarm, so we evacuated the building and went to breakfast.
The choice of food was amazing and Jane was in her element. She ate her porridge, fruit and croissant with relish. I forced mine down. Back to our room get our outfits and war paint on - we were dressing as red Indians, Then on to the coach. We were on our way to Blackheath. I had to pinch myself. It felt like Christmas morning and I had got that one pressie I had always wanted.
As soon as we got there, we got into the queue for the loo, came out in awe of everything, a kid ran up and thrust a bottle of Lucozade at us, into a tent to keep warm and dry, talking to other competitors about different races etc. There's a marathon in France and at the watering stations you get wine as well. Then it was off to the loo for the final time the queue was never ending and didn't seem to be moving.
"Time to get your bags on the lorries" the PA was saying, so we started to get undressed I was sure someone would see my number and tell me to get out. Put the old bin bag back on, Jane had cut a hole for my head. She went off to put the bag on the lorry. She came back and we still hadn't reached the front of the queue. So in we went and weed in a urinal, there was only one loo working and no bushes to hide behind. The things you do as a runner.
Then in fits of the giggles we were off to the start, Jane had an emotional reunion with her brother and nephew and great niece who she hadn't seen for years. How they found us is anyone's guess.
We scanned the crowd for Larry to no avail but we did see Kate from the club and wished her luck. What was it 4 hours 15 Kate - well done.
We were off, Jane told me to take the bin bag off, and no way I wasn't out of the danger area yet. We took about 7-10 mins to get over the start. A mile down the road Jane asked how my leg was, I told her not to ask it had already started to hurt. I'd picked up an injury the week before on our last training run.
Two miles down we heard "Morning ladies!" It was Larry. We ran for the next seven miles together. I asked St. Johns if they had any paracetomol, but they didn't, But Big Mick had some ibuprofen and gave me some. Well I hope that's what they were as I popped them in and hoped for the best. I was struggling and Jane and Larry kept looking back and waiting for me. I told them to go on. They said no and Larry said they would see how I was at the half way mark. But at 9 miles I got my £10.00 from Jane and sent them on their way. It wasn't worth us all having a bad run. So off they went into that sea of people.
I stopped, I was on my own. Except for the Lincoln 10k I'd never run on my own before. I tried to walk it off, a lovely man dressed in a grass skirt asked if I was ok and told me the only answer was to drop out. That wasn't an option; all those people who had supported us were watching, our families near and far, our friends and patients.
I started to run, hobble, whatever I got going. Sometime later my phone rang, what an inconvenience. Anyway, feeling a bit sorry for myself, I answered it. It was Jane checking up on me. I told her I was fine and that she had to keep going.
Opened the bum bag to get one of those gel things out. My god they are disgusting but I knew I had to do things right if I wanted to finish. Took some gulps and a load more water.
Somewhere around half way, you can see runners who are about 6 miles ahead of you on the other side of the road. I didn't see Jane or Larry but did spot Steve C on his way to a fantastic 3 hours 13 minutes.
18 miles needed another wee, joined the queue. After 3 or 4 minutes, I'm still waiting whilst a load of blokes were peeing against the wall. There was a bush off I went down into them and flashed me bum to London.
Got hobbling again and my phone went, it was Jane telling me Linda was at the 19 mile water station on the left hand side. "Thanks, I love you". There was the 19 marker, and the water station. I saw Shirley first then Linda, she had her arms out I ran into them and she hugged me and told me to finish. I went on my way.
A roar from the crowd - it was the paras with their packs on - some went on in front of me, some behind. Further on I passed Scooby Doo, two ladies celebrating their 59th birthday. I passed the 91-year-old man - what an inspiration! Then a voice behind me shouted Rhino coming through. No way was a man dressed as a rhino going to beat me. I got over the cobbles I was still running, didn't see a beefeater, they were probably in the warm having a cup of tea.
The crowd were fantastic calling my name encouraging me, I felt like the queen. One person was playing "we are the champions", out of his flat window.
Asda gave us orange segments, children giving us sweeties, a sea of faces shouting my name I felt like the queen and kept smiling. It's fantastic.
My phone went again. It was Jane, she had finished. She had left Larry at 21 miles. Her time 4.39.55 she had taken more than 8 minutes off our Edinburgh time - what a star! She told me to head for the baggage claim sign when I finished and she would be there.
"How far" I asked the crowd, "about 3 miles" came the reply. I kept plodding, it wasn't far now. I caught sight of that rhino on my shoulder again, I hadn't come this far for him to beat me now. There was another one just in front of me, the commentator started to encourage the Rhinos. One of them had his name displayed Rhino Steve, I crossed the line with him and kept the other one behind.
After I'd finished, this man in a white tracksuit came over to me and showed me the way to my medal, a photographer took my photo. I went onto the platform to have my chip taken off, I'd put two tapes on it to make sure I didn't lose it.
I could hardly walk now. Quasimodo didn't have a look in, I was dragging my leg behind me. I got my goody bag and got my phone out to phone Jane - before I could press the button there she was, my mate Jane.
The fate of me answering that phone 4 years earlier meant I had just finished the London marathon. We had both dreamt of doing it and now we had.
Running a marathon is like childbirth. All that anticipation, not knowing what lies ahead, or what to expect, you cross that finish line and you forget the pain and want to do it all over again. Watch out London we hope to be back again next year. Larry got 5.16 and I got 5.19.
I finally gave up the cigs 11 months and 6 days ago, I am clean now and I will never smoke again - I smell nicer, I have more money, and best of all I am fitter and healthier, and I intend to be around for a helluva lot longer folks. I am clean and I ran London.