Wednesday, 29 April 2015

London Marathon 2015

Sunday morning. It's 10.10am and supposedly the 2015 London Marathon mass start has begun. I'm pushing my way into the start pen, having stood for 30 minutes in a drizzly porta-loo queue and checked 20 times that yes, I have my iPod Shuffle, energy gels and that my timing tag is fastened to my shoe. I'm not sure if I'm shivering because it's cold and wet or because I'm just about to willingly run 26.2 miles and yes, I'm terrified. Despite the long weekend runs, the turning down of the second G&Ts and the enforced (and actually less enjoyable than imagined) carb-eating on Saturday there's nothing that can prepare you for this actual moment. The crowd of people pushes forward, I worry that the man next to me can hear my teeth chattering and wonder if I need the porta-loo again but its definitely too late for that. Suddenly we turn a corner and the start line is there - this is it.

london marathon 2015
Pre-race mirror selfie. Just because.
I run past a camel, Nigel Farage, what I later find out is a testicle and a man in a pink dress (all here). At mile 3 the clock shows that one hour has passed since the official start time and I decide to start timing my miles from this point, thinking of the first 3 miles as "freebies". A small girl sees my name on my top and shouts "LILY LILY LILY" in excitement (I think it might have been her name, too) and I start smiling and allow myself to enjoy this marathon running thing. The drizzle stops and we're running past the Cutty Sark although I barely even notice the giant ship as we pass it around mile 7. All my prepared thoughts (think of people who cannot run, who are not allowed to run, of the women who fought for the right to be able to run marathons, think of people you dislike and imagine the road is paved with their genitalia, think of your training and how you know you can do this, think of the three slices of cake you have eaten in the last few days and how they are giving you energy, think how lucky you are to be alive and don't you dare even complain) are not yet needed. I can't even think of anything, my legs seem to be running of their own accord. I overtake the five hour pacer but force myself to not run any faster than this because there is still so far to go. I spot my parents at mile 7 and am relieved that I'm running fast and smiling because 19 miles is a long time for them to be worrying about me!

london marathon 2015
Pre-race team photo with the runners from Leonard Cheshire Disability
Tower Bridge appears far quicker than I was expecting it to. Despite running over it countless times in my own runs on marathon day it feels like being in a film. I pause my playlist to savour the noise and on the other side of the bridge my Pineapple Crew (Hannah, Sarah, Sarah and more - such a lovely surprise!) are smiling and waving and I hope that I look like I'm enjoying myself (the pictures confirm that I was - I felt like an actual super woman at this point) as mile 13 (halfway!) approaches ahead of the long stretch in the Docklands. More friends appear at Limehouse (twice) and 20 miles comes and goes and still the thoughts are not needed despite the fact that I'm now officially running my longest run ever. I've been running for over 4 hours but the previous miles are a blur and the shouts of the crowds get louder and louder, peaking at mile 21 for Run Dem Crew's cheer spot. Still the thoughts do not surface as Tower Bridge appears again and I scan the crowd for the Pineapple Crew a second time.

london marathon 2015
Halfway!
At this point I let myself think that even if I walk from here, it's ok. I'll definitely finish whatever. I lost the 5 hour pacer at mile 16 but I'm still on track for coming in at less than my anticipated finish time of 5:30. People around me are walking, hobbling, crying but as much as I'd like to walk I don't need to - I dodge around them and running through the 25 mile marker to the finish the final 1.2 miles feel like the longest as The Mall approaches. I'm definitely still in the zone as I don't even see or hear one of my friends cheering for me and suddenly I'm crossing the line and it's over. I'VE RUN A MARATHON!

london marathon 2015
Hannah with the pineapple poster!
I'm massively pleased with my time of 5:23 but time aside, I'm overjoyed that I achieved my main goal which was to enjoy the day and run with a smile on my face and for pretty much all of the 26.2 miles I can say I did just that. Unless you are a professional then the only person you are racing against is yourself and while I'm never going to be the fastest runner I enjoyed every minute and never once regretted signing up or clearing my schedule for all those long training runs. The crowd were amazing, hearing total strangers shout your name is an incredible feeling (like being a celebrity without seeing pictures of yourself in Heat magazine with your spots and sweaty armpits circled in red pen). The marathon is over but it's also not over. I love running more than ever, I love how it makes me feel and how I've learned so much in the process - beyond what trainers are best and that a sports bra really is an essential and that energy gels do not taste nice.

london marathon 2015
Um, YAY!
Running has changed my life - back when I went for my first run in 2011 I never dreamed that I could even run for a mile, let along 26.2. If you're even thinking about entering the ballot on May 4 or taking up a charity place then do it. Respect the distance and your body (because some of the runners did not look like they were enjoying themselves - it's a bloody long way). Train hard, prepare well and it'll be awesome. Running has made me realise that I am strong(er than I look), that even though I still doubt myself I shouldn't, that the world is beautiful and that my problems are small in comparison. That what I did wasn't a "sacrifice". What I lost in drunken nights out and lie-ins I gained in feeling fitter and happier and just better than I have for ages. Seeing some of the t-shirts of the other runners around me was truly humbling and really makes you realise what "sacrifice" and hardship are and choosing to run a marathon isn't either, it's a privilege and despite over 35,000 running on Sunday something that few people will ever be able to say that they have done.

london marathon 2015

Thanks, London, for a fucking brilliant day that I will never forget. Even the weather played nicely and was perfect for running if a bit chilly for the crowd. Walking home (yeah, I ran a marathon and walked home afterwards) wearing my medal and having strangers say "well done!" in the street was pretty sweet and more than made up for the fact that despite running so far I didn't even feel that hungry for a crazy post-marathon meal!

I ran for Leonard Cheshire Disability who had a brilliant support team and do amazing work to support disabled people, you can sponsor me here or sign up for one of their 2016 places here.











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12 comments

  1. MASSIVE MASSIVE WELL DONE you! You did an incredible thing. Congrats Lily xx

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  2. Fantastic post! Very well done you.

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  3. Well done lily, you are an amazing superstar. So proud of you for running this thing with a smile the entire time. So many people looked dreadful but both times I saw you, you looked great! Well done girl, pineapple power for life x

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  4. Well done lovely lady, such a brilliant achievement! xxx

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  5. You really are such a superstar Lily!
    Sophie
    x

    Story Of A Girl

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  6. You are amazing, so so inspirational!

    Maria xxx

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  7. How have I only just seen this?!!!

    Lily, you are incredible! I only wish I could have been watching you!

    - Elodie x
    www.elle-yeah.com

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  8. Oh congratulations!! I seriously respect you for that feat, what an achievement! :)

    Shabna xx
    Visit me? scheine.co.uk

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  9. Was watching on tv and thinking of you all day! Well done superstar! x

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