Wow! For someone usually not short of a few words, I'm not sure where to start!
My marathon journey started just over a year ago when I entered (as a total non-runner) the Welwyn Garden City Race For Life 5K to raise money and to support our family free who was battling with breast cancer.
Prior to the event I could only run for two minutes without physically having to stop. I had had to alter all the entry-level training plans because they were too tough. At 26-years-old I couldn't even manage to run for three minutes, walk for three minutes. I finished the 5K in a very mediocre 34 minutes and not only had I had to walk half of it, I was nearly sick at the last bend.
On the back of that race though, I knew running had got me. I can't say I enjoyed it at the time, but I desperately wanted to get better. I hated that I wasn't good at it. I'd always had the London Marathon at the back of my mind as 'something I wanted to do before I was 30'. So after my first 5K, with time ticking on, the gauntlet was set.
I loved the fact that it was only me I had to 'beat' and that I could put on my trainers and just go and do my hobby. No fuss, no cost and what was even better was that I could creep out before anyone else was up and do it without any make-up on (!) as I was unlikely to be spotted. Brilliant. I am of course joking - looking back now I can see it's how I was trying to cope with losing yet another friend/relative to the evils of the 'Big C'. Pounding the roads felt better than sitting there waiting for the phone to ring.
I got married last summer and our friend was able to be there, a mere week or so before she passed away. Even to the very end she was laughing, joking, dancing and refusing to give in. She was the same age as my mum and her sons were the same ages as myself and my younger brother. I couldn't pinpoint a time in my childhood when she wasn't around and I still can't make sense of a world without her in it - it just doesn't compute.
Through the snowy winter I trained like everyone else, but I won't pretend I was the perfect student at all. I missed sessions, got injured, demotivated and frustrated and lost focus. Then I got the dreaded blisters. Then it snowed some more. But April 25 rolled around as I knew it would - although I was desperate for another month to train, it wasn't to be. Before I knew it I was tearing across Greenwich Park from the toilet block to the starting crowds at well gone 9.45am and off I went.
In training, I'd reached the half-marathon distance about a month before the big day. I knew it wasn't enough, but it's all I had managed. And previously, it had seemed ridiculous to even consider me and a half-marathon in the same sentence. I still cannot get my head around the fact that I can run for more than two hours without stopping!
On marathon day, I ran for 15 miles before I had to slow to a walk. I walked for about two miles, then ran-walked for a further six before running the final three. Somewhere around Mile 8 I had felt the blisters re-emerging and by Mile 21 they were really 'smarting' to say the least. Then at Mile 21 also, my old hip flexor injury flared up and at Mile 23 I was convinced I'd lost a toenail - between there and the finish I had my teeth gritted the whole way. I'm surprised my facial muscles aren't in more pain than my legs due to the contorted faces I was pulling to somehow help get me through! Let's hope I wasn't caught on the BBC!
The highlight for me was sprinting the whole way from the square to the finish as I'd promised myself I would. But more than that, I fell into step with a complete stranger and we chatted the length of The Mall - just about our shared experience. It is a memory I will cherish forever.
The crowds along the entire route were amazing. People had told me that they were, but nothing could've quite prepared me for how brilliant they were.
And on top of the personal achievement, like so many people, I raised money for charity, which gives me such a sense of pride.
The only thing I would've done differently is got a bit more social with my running, joined a club and been a bit more active on the forums. So that's my aim for next year. That and shaving an hour off my finish time! Bring on May 4!