Now that the dust has settled on the 2019 London Marathon, I thought I would finally get round to writing a blog post all about it. I will be honest, at first I just wanted to forget about it, I have made no secret that I was disappointed with how the race went, but I know that it is important to not only share the highs & the wins, but also the lows and those races that don’t always go to plan. So here we go…
The days leading up to the race were pretty fully on (perhaps one of my many mistakes?) I had committed to lots of events, which at the time I thought would just help to distract and relax me, but looking back now, perhaps being so busy on the days leading up to the marathon wasn’t such a good idea….
But, I can’t change that now, and I did have fun! The events included visiting the London Marathon Expo with the New Balance Team, a special Secret London Runs with Team Runderwear and attending the 2019 Running Awards! The best bit was getting to see & catch up with lots of friends, and meeting lots of great new people too.
Anyway, I digress! Saturday finally rolled around and it was time to relax. I was feeling oddly calm, and it honestly didn’t feel like the marathon was only one sleep away, it was definitely a world away from how I felt the year before! This actually made me feel quietly confident, I felt this was before Berlin & Switzerland marathon and they turned out pretty bloody well, so who knows… maybe London was going to go better than I thought?! I got an early night, and actually slept really well, and before I knew it I was up, stuffing myself with porridge & black coffee and making my way to the start line.
I met some friends at the tube station, and we travelled down together – and I don’t know if anyone else thought this but everywhere just seemed so much busier compared to previous years?! We arrived at Blackheath and started to make our way to the start zones, as standard I was suddenly absolutely desperate for the toilet so finding a portaloo was my number one priority! Luckily this year I was in the Championship Start, which thankfully meant shorter toilet queues! And I just want to say thank you to the two girls who let me cut in front of them as they could clearly see I was desperate – the heroes of the day! Another stark difference to last year was also how bloody cold it was!! Again, due to being in the Championship Start I was very grateful that I had a tent to hide in and get changed in.
A few days prior to the race, I received a message from Paul (who I knew from back home) offering to run with me for the first 20 miles of the race and to help pace me. I have never been paced during a marathon before, but due to how the last couple of months had felt, I jumped at the chance. It was one less thing to worry about, and I thought the distraction of running with someone might give me that slight edge.
I managed to find Paul in the start zone, and then it was time to go!We started the short walk to the start line, and rather than doing a warm up I decided to try and just hide in the middle of the crowds and steal everyone else’s body heat. Paul and I discussed our strategy and it was then I decided I was still going to try and attempt my 2.55 goal. I suddenly started to get very nervous, I honestly had no idea if I was going to be able to run that pace, it had felt like a lifetime since I had run that fast and I was feeling the pressure that if I couldn’t do it, I would be holding Paul back too.
We crossed the line after approx 20 seconds, and it was a lot busier than I expected! The problem with being a female in the Championship Start is that the mens qualifying standard is a lot quicker, as is Good For Age which started directly behind us, so for the first 1km or so of the race I had a lot of fast men flying past me wanting to get nearer the front, but I put my blinkers on and just concentrated on running next to Paul.
I actually couldn’t believe how good I felt running at 2.55 pace, the first 5km flew past and we were bang on target, I was trying not to get too carried away as I knew we still had a loooooong way to go, but it certainly gave me a boost! I took my gel on as planned at 5.5 miles and was still feeling strong as we were approaching the 10km mark. And once again, as we reached the timing mat, not only were we on target, we even had a few seconds in the bank (mainly thanks to the slightly downhill start) I also saw my coach at this point who shouted out that I was ‘bang on’ which was a really good boost!
As we approached Cutty Sark, this is where the crowds really came into their own. It was SO busy and loud, it can almost be a little overwhelming. When I am running marathons I like to break the race down, and once we passed Cutty Sark I just focused on getting to the next big landmark, Tower Bridge, which is also the half way point and where I knew I would be seeing friends & familiar faces! This is my 4th London Marathon, and turning that corner onto the bridge still gives me goosebumps, it’s so hard not to get carried away when you have thousands of people cheering and shouting, but I tried to keep reminding myself that I still had a long way to go!
I was still feeling strong, I had taken another gel on at 11.5 miles and was taking small sips of water as and when I felt I needed it (although looking back now, I think maybe I could have taken on more) We crossed the bridge and reached the half way point, and again we were pretty much on target with a half marathon time of 1.27.37, which meant as long as we kept the same pace for the second half (with a cheeky sprint finish) I could still be in with a chance of getting my sub 2.55, or at least a PB!
The next couple of miles ticked by nicely, I took on another gel at around 15 miles, and then unfortunately everything started to go a bit Pete Tong. I all of a sudden got this shooting pain in the side of my stomach, it honestly felt like someone had stabbed me just underneath my ribs. My pace naturally slowed down, and I tried to control my breathing but nothing was working. Every time I tried to speed up, the pain got worse and I was struggling to catch my breath. Paul was checking in and asking if I was okay, but I think my face said it all. I had slowed right down, I was clutching my stomach and just trying to breathe normally.
I was hoping it would pass, but unfortunately the stitch lasted for around 3 miles. I desperately just wanted to stop and walk, but I knew that once I did that I would lose it mentally so I kept plodding on and trying to ignore everything else around me. I was heartbroken, and feeling pretty miserable. I even turned the pace off my watch as I couldn’t bare to see the miles getting slower, and my goals slipping away.
Friends started to pass me on the course, friends that technically I should have been ahead of, and then the 3 hour pacer glided past, which felt like another stab in the stomach. I will admit, for those few miles not only did I lose it physically, I also gave up mentally too. And when that happens in a marathon, its game over.
Thankfully as we passed the 20 mile mark, the stitch had disappeared, but now it was my legs that were giving up. Due to slowing down and changing my running style due to ‘stitch gate’ I lost all of the drive and power in my legs, and in fact – I slowed down even more! I am extremely grateful that Paul decided to stay with me until the end (think he must have felt sorry for me!) and helped to push me through the final few miles.
All time goals were gone. I was no longer chasing a PB, the only thing I wanted to do now was get to the finish line. I took on another gel at around the 21 mile mark, along with a Caffeine Bullet and just started focusing on getting to Mile 24 – where I knew Becca and her legendary cheer squad would be. Somehow, I actually managed to get a little bit of speed back for those final couple of miles, I mean it was still WAY off pace, but I felt a lot more comfortable and like I was actually running again!
Seeing the guys at Mile 24 gave me a massive boost and really gave me the motivation to dig in and get to the finish. The crowds in general down the Embankment were just incredible, so if you are reading this and you were there that day – THANK YOU!
Paul was trying his best to push me, we tried to target runners that were in front of us with the aim to catch them, but my little legs could only do so much! But finally, we turned the corner and were approaching Birdcage Walk. I knew that James was going to be there, and as soon as I saw his little face I was gone, I was trying not to cry but I was absolutely done! Although original time goals were now out of the window, our new aim was to push for the final KM and cross the line under 3.10. I knew I didn’t really have anything in the tank, so I waited until we got to the final corner before really giving it my all and attempting a sprint finish.
We crossed the line, and as standard I had my finish line wobble – in fact I think this was my best one yet (luckily Paul was there to catch me!) I stopped my watch and then burst into tears. I just felt empty & disappointed, I wasn’t even that bothered about getting my medal. I cried some more, I then looked up and saw a crew member filming me (and they then ended up using the clip in 3 different videos later that day, greaaaaaaaat!)
Luckily I then spotted Chris & Matt, who had finished a few minutes before me, they came and gave me a big cuddle, which resulted in more tears! I couldn’t even pretend I was happy, or proud of myself that I had just ran a marathon. All I wanted to do at that moment was get my bag, and go home.
I met up with some friends and my Dad at the finish – and although they all tried to say how well I did, I wasn’t having it. I was being a complete misery guts. I had been looking forward to this day for so long, and I was just so gutted it didn’t go to plan. I tried to pull myself together and made my way back to Birdcage Walk as I wanted to cheer – but with a combination of being emotional, the crowds, being cold and my legs hurting I decided to just get away from the madness and made my way home.
Once I got home, I just couldn’t believe it was all over – the day I had been counting down to for a whole year, working towards for months was done. And it went so so wrong. It was tough to process. But luckily – a long hot shower, a massage, pizza & lots of gin helped to ease the pain slightly!
It’s been 9 days since the marathon, and if I am honest I am not in the best place right now. A combination of disappointment, post marathon blues, lack of training & weight gain has left me feeling low. But I know that feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to make me feel any better! So instead I am now focusing on my next goal – the 2019 New York Marathon! I am going to be a lot more selective about what I share during this block, and I will be keeping goals close to my chest, but I look forward to sharing the journey with you all.