I was shaking with nerves and excitement as I waited at Epping station at 7 o'clock on Sunday morning for the tube, dressed in my running kit.
Very soon all the runners were sitting together on the train, talking about the day ahead of us and sharing tips. We had the marathon in common and therefore an instant bond - many of the guys had run a few marathons before, and so I was sitting listening intently to their experiences.
The atmosphere was electric as we walked through the streets to Greenwich Park and the Red start; runners as far as you could see. After handing in our kit bags, having a quick stretch and a nervous wee we headed for the start!
I cannot even try to explain the feeling of waiting amongst 15,000 other runners waiting for the gun to go off. Runners, young and old with varying backgrounds all attempting this giant feat for very personal reasons... the excitement was amazing. Many had photos on their running kit of deceased loved ones who were clearly their inspiration; others were dressed as rhinos or Homer Simpson; some had false limbs and some were even half naked!!!!
It took me 10 minutes to cross the start line, to be greeted by crowds of wellwishers lining the streets. The first few miles were pretty uneventful, just getting into a pace, but it was impossible to go any faster than the crowd until we joined with the runners from the other starts and gradually things started to space out a little.
It was such a hot day, and the heat made it a little difficult for me to feel comfortable throughout the run, and I knew quite early on that I wasn’t going to hit my target of running under 4:30.
Running past the Cutty Sark and over the Tower Bridge were real highlights for me, the crowds were shouting loudly – I thought I might get on the TV as Sally Gunnell interviewed a man in front of me who was running whilst juggling!!!
To be honest, the rest of the run was a bit of a blur. I was upset with myself that I started to walk at a couple of points, before pulling myself together and running on, but it was just so tough to keep going at points.
The marathon really provokes extreme emotions, and I found myself close to tears on a number of occasions. The crowd were so kind and encouraging, and offered such kind words of encouragement I was moved to tears a couple of times. I was also really sad by about mile 16 that my parents and husband were not there to share this achievement with me - so it was a wonderful surprise to see my friend and their son at 17.5 miles!
Miles 19-23 were the toughest and the despair and the pain were the worst I have ever felt. Had you asked me then, I would have said Sunday was the worst day of my life, and was close to crying by the side of the pavement and giving up.
The thought of my son Josh’s words that morning (“ Mum, when I next see you, you will be a hero”) and the thought of missing out on a medal kept me going.
I met up with a guy at 23 miles, who was in a similar state as me and we agreed to run the last few miles together. He was great, had a bone marrow transplant a few years ago and dreamed of running the marathon. We inspired each other to finish in style and ran for the finish. The last mile was the longest I have ever run, and the relief at seeing the finish line was immense. The crowds in the mall were amazing, and were cheering me on as enthusiastically as I am sure they cheered Paula on.
Crossing the line I burst into tears (again!!!) at the relief of finishing, and the sheer enormity of my achievement, my time wasn’t the greatest... but I did it. Blubbed again when I received the medal and the rest to be honest is a bit of a blur.
So there we go, I am sitting here actually wearing my medal at work, feeling a real range of mixed emotions about the whole thing. A great day, and a hard run but worth every step. I know you will all say I am daft if I say that it was also a bit of a disappointment that I walked for a short while and that my time was slower than I predicted.
The marathon taught me that I can do anything that I put my mind to, and that I can inspire people by my actions. It was a really wonderful journey and a wonderful first marathon, and I am thinking about trying again next year to improve on my performance.