Event 20 – Virgin Money London Marathon

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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!

11 thoughts on “Event 20 – Virgin Money London Marathon”

  1. What an awesome race report! I got a tear in my eye just thinking of you catching sight of your family at mile 23! I was thinking of you all day on Sunday and bragging you up to my daughter while we sat at our Grandson’s baseball tournament.

    Congratulations on another fabulous accomplishment! (((Hugs)))

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  2. Yay! Paula! What a wonderful experience. So glad your London marathon went so well, with the sleep, the family around you, the more flat course, everything. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Paula what a lovely commentary I feel quite tearful and quite tired. You obviously had a wonderful experience and for a good cause. You really are an inspiration for all asthma sufferers. I remember when you were a small girl watching you having an asthma attack and now seeing pictures of you running a marathon is amazing. Well done and good luck for your other events in your 50th year. A big hug from us both. Auntie Doreen and uncle Colin 😍😍❤️❤️

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    1. I thought a lot about my asthma this weekend and how far I’ve come. I’m so grateful that Im running at all, however slow 🙂 Thanks for your kind comments and support xx

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  4. Loving the whole weekend…the planning, the family love, the rhinos, the medal, the PB. Extra fun to have the photos too! You are a champion!!!

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  5. Another really interesting blog. You did so well and so glad you enjoyed it and savoured the moment – just how I felt when I did Paris.

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