My training had gone well, up to a point. That 'point' having been five weeks before the day of the marathon, when work and backache conspired to prevent much happening in the crucial period of build-up. But I was still feeling confident, and with targets all worked out I went to the start area in Greenwich.
For those uninitiated in the marathon, the build up is a little bizarre - thousands of people sitting and standing around, all with one singular target, one goal, one mission... to go to the toilet before the race starts. I found myself waiting for 40 minutes in a queue before giving up and going in the bushes where everyone had already relieved themselves.
Although I was worried about the heat and my lack of running for the previous several weeks, I had decided to aim for four hours, so set out to beat the nine-minute milers I could see some way ahead of me. I jumped in and out of the pack, up and down the pavement, and by mile three I had overtaken both nine-minute mile groups and even talked to my mum on my mobile... I still felt good and was overtaking lots of people as I progressed. By mile six I began to feel a little tired, but still had plenty of energy and so pushed on.
By mile eight I had gone.
My legs felt like lead, my head felt light and so even though I had slowed down considerably, I had to stop and walk to see whether I needed some air or if there was something else wrong. When you walk in a marathon (especially so early on), your mind really exacerbates the situation.
I decided on a short walk break every mile from that point. This regime (plus a crucial Lucozade stop) kept me going over Tower Bridge and to the halfway point.
At mile 16 something happened that changed my race. Something from my past crept up on me and drove me forwards with more determination than I had been able to muster in the previous 10 miles or so...
Floella Benjamin tottered past me!
There was NO WAY she could beat me!
I then entered into a 'running battle' (geddit?) for the next five miles until eventually I saw her off after a strong mile of running and a spirited recovery walk.
20 miles is normally where you hit the wall. As I appeared to have hit the wall at about mile eight, the 20-mile marker was very welcome as it meant the push for home was about to begin. I ran my customary mile and then walked (panting) ready to go for mile 21 and then...
Argggghhhhhhh... no really, ARGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH... nnnnnnn... ggrrrhhhhh... I felt something 'go' in my right foot, or rather explode out of my right foot and into my trainer. It felt like my little toe had split in two. To be specific (skip this paragraph if you are feeling faint) I could feel every nerve ending in my little toe being grated across the front of my trainer as if the bone had been laid bare.
Then the same thing happened to my left foot. At this point, with knees and Achilles aching, too, you start to think your body is telling you something, but at the same time all I was thinking was 'get to mile 25'.
If you haven't grasped the pain and inner battle of the previous 25 miles (it possibly feels like a marathon just to be reading this), then the experience of the last mile might not make sense: I really enjoyed it. This enjoyment is best described as being as close to tears as you can be without crying, close to screaming in celebration without shouting, a quiet, single-mindedness just to finish.
So I made it. And whilst had missed my target by almost an hour, my relief at crossing the line was overpowering and felt like nothing on this earth. Together we raised around £1,500 for the Children's Society, so thank you all for your help and often hugely generous contributions.
Remember a 'real' marathon is when you run for over 4:30...