It’s weird. I’ve been working up to this for 2 years, and now that it’s here, I don’t know what to say.
I’m a marathon runner.
I don’t think I really knew exactly how I felt at any point along those 26.2 miles. I spent the whole time swinging back and forth from giddy excitement to happy tears to sad tears to doubts and worries to smiles and laughter to grimaces and mental grumbles to feeling on top of the world again. Honestly, I couldn’t keep up. It was unlike anything I’ve ever gone through, ever. And it was magic.
The expo was brilliant. I was still suffering from a cold I came down with at the beginning of the week, which didn’t help with the nerves, but the atmosphere was so exciting that I really got into it. I definitely had butterflies when I picked up my race number – I wasn’t sure whether to feel terrified or excited:
I impulsively bought a Brighton Marathon t-shirt at the Saucony stand, which turned out to be an AWESOME move, as Paula Radcliffe turned up shortly afterwards and I managed to get it signed! Wooo! SUCH A FAN GIRL MOMENT!
I’m not ashamed to admit that I squeezed past all of the adults to sit with the little kids at the front of the crowd (yes, I definitely sat on the floor with the little kids) to watch/listen to her interview first. Brilliant.
I think I was still in denial at that point. I listened to her talk about race prep and fuelling but I think in some ways, I still felt like a spectator rather than a runner. It wasn’t until I put on my gear the morning of the race that it really hit me – and then I got scared!
But by the time we crossed the start line, the nerves were gone. I stuck with Mum and Dad for the first 10k, before they disappeared off into the distance (good on them!) and all I could do was repeat ‘I can’t believe I’m actually running a marathon! I’m actually here! It’s actually happening!’ and smile and giggle at all of the people that called our names.
For the first 10k I was so distracted by the crowds and the costumes and everything else that I almost forgot I was running. Once on my own, it got tougher, but at that point I was glad I had done all of my training alone – and extremely glad that I’d put my name onto my race top! I had completely underestimated how much the crowd support would help. For the first half my head was still quite stuffy from my cold, and I could tell that my heart rate was a little high, and I took my first walking break on the looong road out of Brighton, shortly after my brother zoomed past me in the opposite direction (he started in the corral ahead of us).
At that point, having only done 8 miles or so, I was really worried. I had been downing Lemsip for days, and resting as much as I could, but as I’d never run with a cold or anything before I wasn’t sure what to expect – and it crossed my mind that a marathon might have been a bit ambitious!
Heading to the half way point, the downhill got me running again and the crowds put a smile back on my face. I think it was better that I had lost sight of my parents – it was pretty demoralising seeing them up ahead and not having the energy to catch up to them! Just before the 13 mile point I heard whooping and cheering, and spotted our cheer (and support!) crew – my Uncle, Aunt and lovely boyfriend, all with big grins on their faces. It gave me a big boost of energy, and I picked up the pace a little.
From then to mile 17/18, I managed to keep plodding along, but at a much slower pace. I made sure to take a gel every 5 miles, as planned, and alternated water with Gatorade in between. I might have squirted myself in the face with the water pouch at one point .. But the volunteers at the aid stations and all of the crowds along the route were SO supportive! Whilst in my head I was grumbling at them at times for pushing me to keep going when I wanted to walk (you can’t stop and walk when people are cheering you on, really!) I loved each and every one of them for caring enough to encourage me.
I remember two little boys with their arms full of gels, waving them at us and yelling ‘energy! energy!’ .. They were so cute that I had to run over and take a gel, and give them both a high five when they held their hands out. It was along this road that I finally left the Storm Trooper behind – we’d been overtaking each other on and off since the start, but as awesome as he was, being beaten by a guy in full Storm Trooper gear would have been a bit demoralising. I did hang around to cheer him along when he hit the finishing straight though!
When we hit the out and back to the power station – the infamous ‘Road to Hell’ – I have to admit that I walked for the best part of a mile and a half. It had warmed up by that point, and my right hamstring was feeling really tight (one of the few areas that had NEVER bothered me in training). I looked down at my pace band, and accepted that my sub-5 finish was out the window. I think my brother had pretty much crossed the line by that point, which made me grumpy (for myself) and excited (for him) in equal measure! Someone at the charity cheer point complimented my running tights, which made me laugh 😀
Weirdly enough, whilst miles 21-23 were the absolute worst of the whole day, and made me consider walking the rest of the way to the finish line (the fact that I even considered walking the last five miles shows what kind of mental state I was in), from miles 23-25 I really perked up and began to pass people. This was actually my favourite stretch – the sun had come out, there were loads of people watching, it was flat (with a bit of a downhill further on), and I could practically see the finish. It felt like I was back to my normal pace, but I think I was probably still shuffling along. Compared to all of the people walking, it seemed pretty fast!
Mile 25 was BRILLIANT. Not only did I spot our cheer squad up ahead (absolute legends), but I also saw my parents! I managed to catch up with them just after the 25 mile point, and we stuck together to cross the finish line hand in hand. That moment really made it for me – we had been training together (albeit long distance), raising money and running for the same cause. It was also their last marathon, so the only one we would run together, which made the finish all the more special:
I think I was trying to smile there whilst trying not to cry! But the minute I crossed the finish line, the tears came. Because after two years, one deferral, and lots and lots of solo miles, I had actually run a marathon. It was the best. moment. EVER.