Event 20 – Virgin Money London Marathon

Got my bib number

I had the perfect day!  In fact the perfect weekend.

My perfect weekend started on Friday evening when Ian arrived from London…on his bike!  156 miles in case you are wondering. He’d had a great ride with his friend George and was in good spirits.  This meant my number one supporter was happy, good for me, there was a lot of supporting to be done this weekend.

Starting with the long drive to London and the marathon expo on Saturday morning. I was very nervous.  I don’t usually feel nerves before a race – the advantage of doing so many!  In fact the last time was IM Zurich two years ago.  But this was a big one.  I drove the first half just to keep my mind occupied and then Ian took over on the M3.  Due to heavy traffic on the M25 in the direction we wanted to go we followed the satnav as it took us right through central London….I think I could have run faster!  But at least London is good for sight seeing and I always had the option to jump out and get a tube.  We briefly saw the Changing of Guards at Buckingham Palace before doing a u-turn and trying another route.  I also managed a loo stop in a swanky restaurant…no dashing into McDonalds for me.  Langham’s and their finery.  A big smile and a tale about driving from Somerset for the London  Marathon and I was ushered upstairs to some posh loos with Molton Brown products 🙂

In the end we got to the Expo at ExCel in good time and parked easily.  The registration process was efficient and organised.  The line for my number group was very short and before long I had my bib number and in was another short queue to get my timing chip.  I had been worrying about registering… they send you a form about three weeks before, which you have to produce on the day with ID.  No form, no race.  I’ve been terrified of losing it, damaging it, accidentally throwing it away….

Me and Martin Yelling

We wandered around the Expo with the crowds.  I didn’t really want to buy anything but I did want to see Martin Yelling from the Marathon Talk podcast do his speech on stage.  I love the podcast and was wearing my Marathon Talk t-shirt.  He was on after Paula Radcliffe who was taking questions from the audience.  She was just answering an asthma question as we got there.  Paula, asthma, running… so much in common lol!

A nice lunch with Ian and then we drove through the Blackwall Tunnel to our friend’s house in Blackheath.  Just over one mile from the start line.  Simon and Sam made us a cup of tea and fed us cake then we went off for a short recce of the start area and to time how long it would take to walk.  25 minutes at a gentle pace – perfect.

Race Day

After a lovely dinner with no running talk, Simon is one of Ian’s cycling buddies, I woke up on race day at 7.30am!  I’d slept for the best part of nine hours – WTF…seriously, who gets to sleep for nine hours before a big race …ME!!!  It was the perfect weekend.  Obviously I had the dream where I’d already run the race… and then woke up…but that’s normal for me.

Last hug before the start

After a leisurely porridge we left Blackheath at 9am and wandered to the start.  The rain I heard first thing had now stopped and although it was a bit nippy it was a nice day.  I had a few layers on that I could throw away on the start line including some rather dashing arm warmers made out of a pair of  ladies tights.  At the start I had just enough time for a final loo stop – only a ten minute wait which given the volume of people was amazing.  Very organised.

I’m in there somewhere – pen 8!

Ian was taking my stuff for the end so I didn’t have to leave any baggage with the baggage trucks, just needed to get to my start pen.  Pen number nine, one pen in front of extreme fancy dress!! In other words right at the back with the slow people 🙂   Ian though, who was on the spectator side of the barriers was at pen eight waiting for me….uh oh… I really wanted to see him before I started so while the marshals were checking other people’s numbers I snuck in and ran over to him.  I was at the very back of pen eight and still had a top on over my number.  I could blend in *shifty eyes*

Then I saw THE RHINOS!!!  For the last month I have been joking about being overtaken by a Rhino during the race….and here was a herd of them.  17 runners, dressed in really heavy Rhino outfits, running for their charity Save the Rhino.  They had their names on them and I did in fact run with Rhino Steve for a bit and got a nice picture with Rhino Andy at the end… Rhino Andy was exhausted and said “never again”

Rhino Andy

Back to the start. So friendly, everyone I spoke to said it was their first marathon. I felt quite experienced 🙂

Ian stayed nearby, with reassuring waves, until I crossed the start line which took about 25 minutes.  I was at the back of the red start with the masses, the blue start has the fast runners, so I was expecting it to take quite a while.  I ditched my extra layers just before the timing mat and started the 2016 London Marathon.

What an experience. There are people cheering ALL the way round, often 3 or 4 deep and in some places much more.  Loud cheering, drums, bands, pubs blaring out loud music – I loved it.

I was expecting it to be really slow due to the volume of runners, but it really wasn’t and I progressed at a steady pace.  Although there were runners all around, it was easy to pass people.  Because I had started in the 4.45 (finish time) pen it was a good pace for me….and it was FLAT!!! I’ve done three previous marathons (well four if you include the shuffle at the end of an Ironman) and they have been hilly, or like Barcelona hilly AND hot.  This was cool, flat and well supported – perfect.


I forgot I was running most of the time, I just loved the atmosphere.  Due to a slightly sore knee and other activities I hadn’t run properly for three weeks.  I’d been active but my running muscles were well rested..oh and don’t forget the nine hour sleep I had.  Nothing hurt which is unusual. My knees felt good, my feet felt good, my legs felt strong and even my upper body was well rested as I had no Max training sessions this week.  Wonderful!

In the early stages the best bit was round the Cutty Sark.  I felt quite emotional here. SO many people, so loud.  It was a moment.  Totally helped by running next to a huge dinosaur 🙂

At ten miles I started to look out for my family.  The whole crowd had come to London to support me.  Mum and Dad, Adi and Antony, Zoe and boyfriend Henry, Heidi and of course Ian who had to dash from the start to find the others.  Ten miles is a funny point in a marathon, you have already run a bloody long way but then realise you still have 16 miles to do!!!

I finally saw them at the 12 mile point – Oh Man!! I was so happy, I ran across and gave everyone a big hug.

Tower Bridge

Shortly afterwards you go over Tower Bridge, what a sight.  More huge crowds and the Bridge looked stunning.  I took a moment here to remember my dear friend Clare (who passed last year), we had spent a great weekend in London together a couple of years ago and visited the Tower of London and walked on the bridge, now here I was running over it in a big city marathon.  But only half way…. mustn’t get carried away, a long way to go.

The run then heads out to less iconic sights but because of the support it was still awesome.  More drums, more bands, more cheering.

At this point I was starting to think a loo stop would be nice.  But where to go….so many people….so many cameras.  All the porta-loos had huge queues (right from mile one) and at this point I knew my time was going to be good, I didn’t have time to wait 15 minutes in line.  Previous runners had told me that the tunnels were a good place, but it still seemed a bit exposed to me.  Then I saw some bushes!!!  They were behind one of the huge Buxton water stations.  No pedestrians, no crowds, no cameras….I saw a gap…I dashed in.  Totally private and a moment to myself 🙂

So happy to see everyone

Onward!  The next time I was expecting to see my family was at 22 miles.  We had had many team meetings in the run up to the race about where they would spectate from and all the logistics of getting round London when all the roads are closed.   I was getting tired now and walked a few water stations but generally still going strong.  I didn’t see them at 22 miles and because I didn’t want them to see me walk I had to keep running.  They were at 23 miles – yay!! Another mile done and my fabulous family cheering their heads off.  It means everything  to see your supporters.  I got quite emotional seeing other runners finally see their supporters…I knew how they felt.  More hugs and then the final three miles to the finish.

Big hugs with my family at 23 miles

23-26 miles were tough. But I knew a sub five hour finish was on, even with short walking breaks.  I was very tired though and my chest was starting to hurt…my asthmatic cough doing it’s thing.  The legs were also hurting now, but I felt much better at this point than in any other marathon I have done.  The walking sections were short and the running sections much longer than normal for the end of a race.

Past Big Ben, nearly there.

The finish was a slight anti-climax.  It looks different on the TV because the cameras face towards Buckingham Palace.  I saw the gantry but was not sure if it was actually the end.  It didn’t say Finish…I had an experience at Barcelona marathon where there is a huge gantry that you run under 200m before the end…Grrr. Confusing and a little soul destroying.

Well deserved medal for the rhino

Anyhoo!  It WAS  the end and my time was awesome (to me). 4.55, under five hours and a PB by 15 minutes.

I collected my huge medal and shed a little tear.  The finish area is just runners, no room for supporters.  Most runners wandering/staggering around aimlessly.  I was still tearful and now very cold.  A lovely St John’s Ambulance lady gave me a lovely soft fluffy blue blanket and a nice policeman helped me figure out where Pall Mall was.  Pall Mall was where I had arranged to meet my family.  Asthma UK had set up a little finish party at the Institute of Directors.

So excited to see everyone and get nice hot cup of tea.  We chatted for around half an hour and had a catch up on our day.  But it’s a long way from Somerset and the girls needed to get back .. that night.

We walked to Charing Cross station and jumped on a train.  My family going to Dartford  where my Mum and Dad live and the others would then drive back to the South West and Ian and I  back to our friend’s house and our car in Blackheath.  The train was super crowded but my finishers medal got me a seat 🙂

At Blackheath our lovely friend Sam was waiting to drive us back to the house where I got a hot shower and she made me tea and toast.

Then Ian and I drove to a hotel in  Basingstoke….yes really!  It was perfect.  Half way home.  I wouldn’t have far to drive in the morning and Ian could get a fast train back up to London and work.  Steak and chips and a couple of glasses of bubbly. The perfect weekend was over.  But what memories…..  the crowds, the sights, my awesome running lol!  and the most amazing support from my family.

Thank you for all your support for me and my charity.  I loved running for Asthma UK – there were 300 of us and saw quite a few out there.  A pat on the back when we saw each other and words of encouragement.  I will continue to raise funds for Asthma UK for the rest of the year.   30 events to go and some more big ones coming up.  Gulp!

Event 19 – Lionheart Sportive 100K


This sportive was 100k – shorter than recents one but with more hills.

Ian was doing this one too although he was meeting up with his speedy friends.  But we set off together from home, at early o’clock.  It was a beautiful morning.  The sun was shining and the sky was blue but it was only 1C, brrrr.  Hopefully it would warm up as the day went on.   We have done this event on numerous occasions and have experienced, rain, hail and snow.  Looked like this was to be the best year yet.  Probably helped by the new organisers moving it from mid March to mid April.  The course was also slightly flatter than previous years although there were still some tough climbs.

We arrived at Longleat at 7.20am.  Although our start time was at 8.50am, everyone had to be parked up by 7.30am as the ride went back out on the same road we drove in.  Longleat house looked stunning in the morning sunshine, it’s a great location for an event.

Frost on the ground but blue sky!

Ian scooted off fairly quickly when we got there to meet his friends.  My friends were starting at different times or like my friend Jo doing the 100 mile route.  So, another ride on my own.   Had a chat with a few people in the car park – helped one guy load his Garmin map because he couldn’t see the screen – talk about the blind leading the blind lol.  Was also asked by another couple to take a picture of them with their tandem!  Crikey, would not fancy the Lionheart hills on a tandem.  Well, maybe if Ian was at the front!

Managed to start by 8.30am.  There were a lot of people at the start who had not got their registration details in the post.  The general confusion in the start area meant I could just walk through the masses and get off early.  For this event we were given FIVE stickers and numbers to put over ourselves and our bikes – apart from an Ironman I’ve never seen an event with so many numbers.  Usually you get a timing chip and maybe a number for the front of your bike.  It was nice though to see which distance others riders were doing.  Green for 100k and Red for 100 miles.

The first few kilometres are through the grounds of Longleat safari park and if you listen carefully you can hear the lions, they make a sort of huffing noise….  huff huff huff.   Didn’t see any though as we whizzed past their enclosure, guess they were having breakfast.  The first climb comes while you are still in the park grounds at 5km.  It’s a bit of shock if you are not prepared for it but it’s good to warm up the legs.  I saw a couple of my tri club friends Kay and Gill going up the hill.  We cycled together for a short while as the course went out onto the main the roads and through the country lanes of Wiltshire.  They whizzed past me down the hills and I caught them back up going up.  There were more ups than downs so after a while I was on my own.

Although it was a different route from previous years I recognised many of the roads from other events.  One particular hill from the Tour of Wessex – the last time I climbed it, it was raining hard and some poor man was receiving CPR by the side the road ( he was ok, by the way).  This time the road was much quieter, the weather much better and all riders ok.

King Alfred’s Tower in the distance

The signature climb on this ride comes around 50km – King Alfred’s Tower.  I have attempted this climb many times and never made it to the top.  This time was no different.  There are so many cyclists on the hill weaving around, often grinding to a halt when they could go no further and sometimes just falling over when they stopped pedalling – it’s seriously steep.  I saw my friend Juliette just ahead of me and we walked up together.  Nice to have company – the last time I saw her was at the Taunton HM, I had been feeling poorly that day and forget to get a photo with her.  So when we got to the top we took a quick selfie to mark the occasion.  Let me tell you, walking up that hill is bloody hard too – think screaming calves – ouch.

Club buddy Juliette

From the top there is lovely long down hill to recover 🙂  Shortly after this I saw my trainer Max, his first sportive and he was doing well having got up Alfred’s Tower.  We said Hi and he whizzed off.

There were three feed stations.  I didn’t stop at any of them as I knew Ian would finish well ahead of me and I didn’t want him to have to wait too long.  The third feed station is at the 100k/100 mile split.  I have done the 100 mile route before with my friend Tara (we had a lot of weather and it was a tough ride).  Today I was glad to be only doing 100k.

Having said that, the 100k route then goes straight up a long steep hill unlike the 100 mile route which flattens out.  Up, up, up we all went.  Easier than King Alfred’s Tower but still a serious climb.  There were also a lot of cars trying to overtake and then pulling in front of cyclists – not their fault really, only so much room on the road.  But I saw quite a few people have to stop because a car was in the way.  Quite hard to get going again too on that gradient.  I was lucky and managed to keep going.  At the top a man who had followed me up said “Good climbing do you want a jelly baby?”  I mainly heard “do you want a jelly baby”  YES PLEASE!!!   He told me this was the hilliest sportive he had ever done.

Cyclists coming up one of the many hills

From there it was only 15k to the finish and this bit was easier than previous years – there used to be another drag climb just before the end.  Glad it wasn’t there now.  I saw one poor woman who had come off her bike after going over a huge, deep pothole.  She was with others and waiting for help.  The roads were pretty awful on the whole ride and sometimes in the sunshine you can’t see the potholes coming up.  I hope she was ok.

The final stretch was through the gates of the park with Longleat House looming in front.  Ian was waiting for me, having finished over an hour before, and gave me a big hug 🙂  I got my medal and we headed home.

PS…  A big shout out to my friend Jo who completed her first 100 miler at the Lionheart.  She finished strong and happy.  Go Jo!!!!

19 down, 31 to go!!!  Next week, the London Marathon.


Event 18 – English Channel Distance – in the pool (32km)

Goggle eyes!

I’ve always thought swimming the English Channel would be a cool thing to do but anyone who saw me hanging off a canoe during The Sturt Island swim will know sea isn’t my thing – well…maybe the Carribean 🙂 But any sea without tropical fish and turtles isn’t my thing.  I was a club swimmer when I was young and knew people who actually did swim the Channel so, like I say, a cool thing to do.

Side note: the Sturt Island swim was my only ever DNF (did not finished) – I got in the sea, started to swim, realised I couldn’t breath, got scared, grabbed a safety canoe, asked to get out!   They tried to pursuade me to calm down and have another go but I didn’t want to.  I was rescued by a lovely lifeboat with lovely lifeboat men on – silver linings and all that lol!  I remember mumbling “…but I’m an Ironman…” not my finest moment 🙂

I also wanted a challenge that I could do in the week to free up a weekend – weekends have been busy for a while! So I decided to swim the Channel distance over five days – I figured “hey I’m a swimmer, it shouldn’t be too hard” Well….

Day One

Ian counting laps

6.4km, 2hrs 25 mins, Lap Counter: Ian Green (husband)

Two and half hours is a long time to swim. It just is. The first hour whizzed by – I do this all the time, usually two or three times a week. No problem.  Then you start to get hungry.  I was in the pool at 6.15am so no breakfast first. I had a banana which I nibbled over half an hour – this also kept me amused, swimming can be very boring.  After 1.5 hours my arms started to get tired.  I had decided that due to a shoulder injury a few weeks ago – I did this carrying logs for my fire at home, think Cinderella by the hearth, that’s me every morning 🙂 –  and the recent chest infection, I would do one length front crawl/one length breast stroke for the duration.  This worked well.  After two hours my arms are still tired and I’m bored, I had a gel to liven me up.

But then it’s 2.5 hours and I’m finished for the day. Absolutely shattered, probably not helped by running a half marathon the previous day.   A quick breakfast with Ian in Taunton before he set off for London and then home to rest.  It seemed like a long week ahead.

Day Two

Tara, happy to be finished

6.4km 2hrs 25 mins, Lap Counter: Tara (good friend and cycle buddy)

I met Tara outside the Nuffield where I’m doing the challenge.  My first words:  “sorry to get you up so early” It was 6.15am.  In the pool by 6.25am.  The Nuffield had kindly given me my own lane, but it was hard to enforce as when I arrived someone was already in my lane.  Not really a problem, I just swam with him.  I have never seen the pool so busy. Most mornings there are only two or three people in the whole pool, but today it was full.  It meant that I had someone with me for most of my swim.  But a good turn over of people kept it interesting.

Tara counted out my laps as Ian had the day before, shouting out the number every ten lengths.  This meant I didn’t have to think much and I was often surprised when ten lengths came round (about every five minutes) – in a world of my own.

Another banana and gel .  Had a feeling that Wednesday would start to seem like Ground Hog day!

Day Three

Adi, looking good at 6am

6.4km, 2hrs 25, Lap Counter – Adi (my sister)

The alarm woke me up at 5am – it’s just too early, even for me, a morning person. Another day, another swim.  Arrived again at 6.15am and met my lovely sister Adi – we were both sleepy.  Today’s staff didn’t seem to know anything about my challenge, but a chair was soon rustled up for Adi and another swim began.

Today’s laps were counted in Spanish – it’s the small things.  Kept Adi amused and me too.  She leant forward every ten lengths with a big smile on her face and said the length number.  Adi even threw in the odd curve ball by walking to the other end and shouting out an odd number – like I say, it kept us amused.

The pool was super quiet today and I only had someone join me for ten minutes of so.  This was also the day where my arms started aching from the very beginning and the constant chlorine was irritating my nose – lots of sneezing during and after.

Another 284 lengths done, only two more early starts.

Day Four

Zoe, counting laps

6.4km, 2hrs 25 mins, Lap Counter – Zoe Green (daughter number one)

Poor Zoe only went to bed at 1am the night before so me getting her up at 5.15am was tough.  But she was very jolly about it and happy to help.

Today was pretty much like the other days – up/down/up/down/banana/gel/up/down…

So OVER swimming by this point.  Zoe did her best to keep me motivated and did a great job of shouting out the lengths.  She also busted out some rather bendy yoga moves at the side of the pool – sitting down for two and hours is not much fun and it gave me something to watch.  She also chatted with other swimmers and let them know what I was doing.

Day Five

6.4km, 2hrs 25 mins, Lap Counter – Adi (again)

Poor Adi had to do two shifts!  I only have so many people in my life who I can make get up at 5am to come and count lengths (also most people I know have to go to work).

More Spanish!! and lots of encouragement.  I thought the last day would seem easier because…well it was the last day.  But from the minute I got in I wanted to finish.  I was tired and just fed up with being the pool.  Even the first hour went slowly.  I did chat to a few other swimmers though.  A few regulars, who were interested in what I was doing and were encouraging. I also got a couple of nice donations for my Asthma UK charity – which did help motivate me to keep going.

Finally it was all over.

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to my lap counters.  Ian who is not a morning person at all, and had to rush off to London to go to work straight afterwards.  Tara, who fitted me in between night shifts with the Samaritans, working and dog walking. Zoe who gave up sleep and study time to help me and finally my lovely sister Adi, who did not one but two shifts, during her holiday from work when she should have been enjoying lots of lie-ins but instead got up super early to shout very high numbers in Spanish at me.  I couldn’t have done it without you all.

Thanks to the Nuffield too – who let me have my own lane, and to the other swimmers who offered encouragement.


Event 17 – Taunton Half Marathon


I finished but good to know back up was available!

This was a slow one – but I made it!

Three days before it was doubtful.  I came down with a chest infection on the Wednesday evening (probably not helped by cycling 100 miles that day when I was at the sneezy stage) and spent Thursday and Friday flat out on the sofa, dozing between coughing bouts.  Throw in a couple of terrible nights with more coughing and I wasn’t sure if I could walk round the block let alone run a HM.

However, on Saturday I woke up feeling much better, still coughing but at least able to stay awake all day.  I also managed to get dressed and leave the house a couple of times – progress!!

I certainly wasn’t 100% on Sunday,  but if I put in walking breaks I thought I could make it round the half marathon course.    I drove to my friend Tara’s house to park my car.  Tara and her dog Des were going to walk me to the start and look after my stuff while I ran.  Tara was meeting her fellow Samaritans, who were running for their charity, to get a group photo.

Chief supporters Des and Tara

As it was a local race I thought I would bump into a few people I knew and within minutes I the saw the lovely Juliette, one of my tri club/running club buddies.  While I looked like death warmed up, Juliette was glowing with a lovely tan from Lanzarote.  Really must get me some winter sun training next year.  We had a nice chat while Tara nipped off to get her group photo.

After a few more “hellos” with other friends I joined the back of the start queue.  The weather was great, so for the first time this year I started an event with BARE ARMS – yay!!!

As we trotted off through the streets of Taunton I knew this was going to be a tough race.  My legs felt good and my breathing wasn’t as bad as I feared but I had zero energy.  Three days of barely eating, although great for weight loss, had left me drained.  I had managed to force my porridge down pre-race but I felt like I was running on empty from the start.

I managed to run the first 8km which took us out of Taunton and along a very busy road.  The roads were not closed and because of the traffic we were running in the gutter, one behind each other, which meant going at the pace of the runner in front or risk getting run over to overtake. At one point three police cars, an ambulance and a fire engine needed to get past – it was chaos.

Trying to run for the photo

I was slightly faster than the woman in front of me but I couldn’t summon up the energy for the burst of power required to speed up and overtake.  After a while this stopped mattering as I needed to walk and for the second half of the race I walked/ran/walked/walked/ran… you get the idea – it was tough going.  My km times were getting very slow, even for me.  But it was all I had.

It was also starting to get quite warm – which was a shock to the system.  An event with sunshine! It was nice to feel the sun but quite draining on my tired body.  There seemed to be a headwind for a quite a long stretch ….but really I’m complaining too much, the conditions were perfect it was me that was below par.

IMG_4686 (1)
The one road they did close – a strange sight in Taunton

Just before the last 5k there a long uphill…just what I needed to finally finish me off.  I staggered over the finish line with a last little burst of running (Tara was taking a photo) in 2.37.42 – not my best effort but pleased to have made it round.

The marshalling, water stops and sponge stations were all well manned – often by young children cheering wildly, and the general support around the the course was good – although by the end I was sick of all the encouragement, I just wanted to walk in peace 🙂

Tara was waiting for me at the end and I was so grateful to see her.  She walked me back to her house and made me a nice cup of tea.

I’m glad I gave it a go – another one done.

17 down – 33 to go!