I've been running for about eight years and completed the London Marathon in just over 5:30 in 2007. I'd trained three days a week and my longest run was 18 miles. I didn't realise the impact the food you ate the night before could have (cheese = three toilet stops!) but my goal was to finish and I did. I was satisfied and swore I'd never do it again. But then entered the ballot... every year since!
Getting in via the ballot to the first VLM was brilliant news. Since my last marathon, I'd joined my local running club and, although I'm no speed-merchant, I wanted to get a time I felt proud of so I set myself the goal of sub-4:30. I trained five days a week, running up to 22 miles on my longest run although my "speed" sessions were more like a gentle run!
Arriving on the start line, I was ready, but oh so cold! I was in pen 7 at the Blue Start so made a beeline for the RW 10:00-mile pacer, John. The start was different this year as the marshalls lifted the barriers much sooner and everyone piled forward. This did make for a very busy start but you expect some congestion when 37,000 people are on the streets of London. What is disappointing is that so many "runners" starting further forward are walking as soon as they cross the start or within the first few miles. I appreciate many folks complete this challenge for charity but its quite simple to start further back to allow others to achieve their goals - especially as some can raise more money if they hit a specific time. This, and the careless folks who just drop water bottles in the middle of the running route, were the lows for me, as runners actually suffered injuries because of this.
But the lows were outweighed by the highs. The crowd support is amazing and John (the pacer) was fantastic. He got us through the congestion at the start and kept a really even pace - my halfway time was 2:10 and I crossed the line in 4:20! His enthusiasm was obvious, he knew the route and gave us top tips as we were running - even warning us about obstacles! He was motivational, breaking the course down into chunks (two ten-milers and a 10K) and provided some much-needed moral support when legs started to tire.
This happened at about Mile 17 for me but it was mind over matter. I knew that any pain would be wiped out by the elation of achieving my goal. So I just kept going. It was tough and by Mile 20 or 21, I just wanted to drop back and let John go. Luckily I'm stubborn and just thought that as I'd come this far at 10:00-mile speed, I shouldn't let it go now.
I got very thirsty towards the end and, desperate for water, staggered towards a water station to collect a bottle, only for the volunteer to start drinking from it. I couldn't believe it although I do apologise now for my harsh words - pain and my desperate need for water made me very blunt!
We counted down the last few miles, mile by mile, ticking them off, and I found some energy from somewhere to sprint away down the finish (it felt like sprinting to me but I'm guessing it looked a bit different!). I can't wait to see my finishing photo as it will be very proudly displayed!
Despite everything, I'll enter the ballot again. And if I get a place, I'd love to try for a sub-4:00. Running 9:00 miles would be a challenge as I only just made it round a minute per mile slower but who knows? Maybe I could try to be a Super Six member or I could train harder/smarter with my club?
Well done to everyone who took part and all the volunteers who make it possible. There are things that could be improved but we live and learn. I'm off for a cold shower to help my aching quads now - but I'm still grinning!