It has been over 1 month since the London Marathon, whaaaat. I started writing this blog the week after the marathon and never got round to finishing it. So here it is, a very delayed blog post about the day of the London Marathon.
It felt as though the London Marathon had begun on the Wednesday, which was when I travelled to London with two friends and we visited the Expo to collect our race numbers. We were handed our race packs and tags upon entry, then we spent the rest of the time visiting all of the different exhibition stands, admiring all the fancy running gear that was for sale and even managed to listen to a talk with Martin Yelling. We actually met Martin after his talk. He was really lovely and gave us some great advice. I had watched so many of his videos and listened to his podcasts, so it was really cool to get some advice first hand.
I bought some Runderwear to wear under my shorts. Runderwear are a brand who design underwear that prevents chaffing whilst running. I knew I wouldn’t have time to practice in them, but for £28 I had hoped the will be ok – so I took a gamble (there is more to this story which I’ll get to shortly). The Expo was so much fun and really added to the overall experience of the marathon.
Saturday afternoon after I stopped off at my hairdressers, Dyson Brown, (and they kindly braided my hair for free!) We grabbed a coffee from the station and the lady who always serves us insisted we have them on the house as well. We felt like celebrities, it was so surreal!
I had been so nervous all day. I had come down with a really bad head cold and was sneezing and sniffling constantly. I have never experienced hay-fever, so of course, typically the day before running my first marathon I got hay-fever. I felt so emotional after saying bye to Joe and my family, knowing I wasn’t going to see them until the race was pretty scary. My mum sent me such a lovely text whilst we were eating dinner (in Wagamama’s) and I just burst into tears! I had been so emotional in the weeks leading up to the marathon, so everything was setting me off.
We arrived at the Premiere Inn Hub at Kings Cross at about 9pm. The staff were so welcoming when we walked in. Most guests that night were running the marathon so they greeted us with confidence and excitement which was exactly the sort of welcome we needed! I had about two hours sleep that night. The hotel was so cosy, I was just too nervous to sleep. I was thankful for a good night sleep the evening prior. I started getting ready at 4.15am. It felt so strange to put my running gear on – I had been staring at my vest for months and now I was finally wearing it. It just didn’t feel real!
We headed down to breakfast for 6am and the hotel had laid out bananas, bottles of water, bagels, porridge, fruit, toast – everything you could want for a pre race breakfast. After breakfast we set off for Greenwich and people in the street were wishing us luck and even clapping us. It was pretty humbling. As we got to Kings Cross we were joined by a few more runners and that made us feel slightly at ease, firstly because we didn’t feel so alone anymore but also it meant we knew we were going the right way!
The train from Cannon Street was packed with runners. It was the marathon train! Everyone on the train was a runner. We met a really nice guy (I didn’t get his name) who was one of the Good For Age runners, so he got his place because he can finish a marathon within the time that is considered good for his age. He chatted to us the whole way to Greenwich and helped us find our start zone. He told us that he ran the previous hottest London Marathon on record in 2007 and that we should just enjoy the experience, not focus on getting a good time. He also told us that he ran marathons all over the world. I don’t know if I find that inspiring or slightly mad!
We met our friends Terry and Nathan at the start zone and took our bags to the bag drop together. I then met my charity for a quick group photo. Saying bye to Terry, Nathan and Fil was emotional. They were all in a different starting pen to me. I headed to my starting pen but didn’t know anyone. I couldn’t see anyone from my charity either. That was when I got a tap on my shoulder. A girl named Michelle had recognised me from Instagram as we follow each other. She was really lovely. We started the race together and it was just so nice not to be waiting in the pen on our own.
As the cannons went off and the music started, we were on our way. It was so weird, after months of planning and preparing, I was finally running the London marathon! The first 3 miles were fine, although very hot. I was running at a good pace and sticking with the 4.45 pacer. I had expected to see my colleague at mile 1-2 but we missed each other.
That’s when everything started to go a bit downhill. My stomach began to hurt a few miles in. The Runderwear I had spent £28 on earlier in the week felt too tight and like it was pressing up against my stomach. I decided to slow down and go to the toilets to try and sort them out, the queue took 10 minutes! I sorted my shorts out as best as I could and continued on with the race.
The heat seemed to get hotter at every mile. We had trained through such a cold Winter and now we were running the hottest London Marathon on record?! I knew I was going to see my friend at the Cutty Sark which was mile 6, so decided to push forward knowing I would get a boost of encouragement in a few miles time. When we arrived at the Cutty Sark though, it was wild! There were so many thousands of people, it was like being on a football pitch in the middle of a crowded stadium. The crowds were going insane. There was no way I was going to spot Alan and no way he was going to spot me, so sadly we missed each other.
I knew my family and friends were at mile 9 though, so I had just two miles to push through to get to see them. Those two miles were horrible. They felt like they were never ending. I had so far stopped at every single water station and at toilets twice. Mile 9 was Surrey Quays which was crazy as well. I was worried I was going to miss my family just like I had missed Alan and my colleague. Then I turned the corner and saw them all stood there in their bright orange t-shirts, waving the banners they had made. If there is ever a moment in my life that I would want to relive again and again and again, it would be this one. I could hear them cheering and see them all waving and it was amazing. It was exactly what I needed to help me through the next bit. The moment can only last so long due to running past them – but it was the best 5 seconds of my life!
My friend Pete was due to be at mile 11, so I knew I had enough adrenaline from seeing my family to help me get to the next bit. Unfortunately I missed Pete and he missed me, so I pushed on towards Tower Bridge where I knew my next charity cheer point would be and also the halfway mark of the race. To my surprise I could hear my name being screamed so loudly, it had to be someone I knew and not someone who was reading my top. In amongst the crowds of people I could see my running club holding out a sign that said ‘MEL COX, DON’T BE A SUCKER’. It was excellent and really cheered me up when I needed it.
The first half of the marathon was pretty lonely. It was tough. Everyone was running their own race. The only friends I made was two guys who were picking up water bottles from the floor and sharing them with me… I know, yuk. Between mile 11 and 13 there was NO water. Both water stations had ran out. It was horrible in that heat. So all rules relating to personal hygiene and other peoples germs just went out the window. During my training I hadn’t got along with Gatorade drinks so wanted to avoid them on the day, but desperation kicked in as Lucozade was the only liquid being handed out and I took a bottle. This probably didn’t help my bad stomach.
The best bit was when I saw the ‘Water Aid’ sign and ran over to a group of people stood by it wearing ‘Water Aid’ t-shirts, before realising it was the charity, not an actual water aid. By now the 5.15 pacer had passed me and I had three options, try to catch up to where I should be, run at a reasonable pace to get a 5.15 (30 minutes longer than I had planned) or slow it right down and just enjoy the experience. I decided this was my first marathon and so I was just going to enjoy it.
Tower Bridge was like nothing I have ever seen before. Honestly, if Megan Markle was overwhelmed by the crowds who cheered her arrival at the Royal Wedding, then she has never experienced Tower Bridge during the London Marathon! It was amazing but also pretty scary. I then saw my charity and that was so nice. It reminded me why I was doing this, who I was doing it for. It reminded me that I HAD to finish.
Mile 13-18 was the worst but I ran it with a lady called Debs who was running for Arthritis Research as well. We really helped each other through. I lost her at Canary Wharf as I saw my mum and some friends. I stopped at this point and told them the amount of pain I was in and that I didn’t know if I could get to the end. But they encouraged me and told me they knew I would do it.
So I carried on and 2 minutes later I saw my friends from work, who went absolutely mad when they saw me. That was amazing. So I carried on and then I got chatting to a girl called Lucy who was also running her first marathon. She had entered the ballot and got in first time. We passed the 20 mile mark together and that was the longest distance we had both ever done. We ran together for a couple of miles and then I decided to run ahead.
I saw my family again at mile 23 and some of them ran with me (for about 10 metres) but that was lovely. Then we reached the tunnel along Embankment. Everything went silent, there were no crowds, just runners. As we got into the tunnels I could hear the crowds on the other side going mad and I just felt so overwhelmed and started crying. The tears wouldn’t stop. A really nice lady (I forgot her name) started talking to me, she really helped me. We ran together for 2 miles before she saw her family and stopped.
I carried on and saw my friends from work again who once again went mental when they saw me. I had just 1 mile to get through now and I knew I was there and I could do it. The Embankment crowds were even more crazy than Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge, it was mad. Words cannot describe what it was like. It was just insane. Everyone was so supportive, they were all screaming to cheer us on and push us through that final mile and so I ran… I had just conquered 25 miles but I still needed that sprint finish so I ran as fast as I could, using all the adrenaline and energy I could muster.
The signs read ‘600 METRES TO GO’, ‘400 METRES TO GO’ and ‘200 METRES TO GO’ all of which felt like they were spaced 26.2 miles apart from each other. I sprinted trough the finish and then was hit by an overwhelming feeling of pride.
As the medal was hung around my neck I couldn’t believe what was happening, or what had happened. For over a year it was all I could think about, all I talked about and all anyone could ask me about and now here I was having a medal hung around my neck. I had done it! I had trained at 5am most mornings and to 11pm some evenings, I had ran outside when it was freezing cold, I had lost toenails, experienced blood blisters, done bake sales, pub quizzes, charity bootfairs and music gigs, I raised over £4,500 and now I had done it, I had run 26.2 miles, the hottest London Marathon in history.
All of my finishers photos showed me puffy eyed, and red faced from the tears, but it was worth every single second. Every mile in training, every single second. Strangers were hugging me and congratulating me but it was like I wasn’t there. It was almost like an out of body experience. I sat down by a bollard (as there were no chairs at the finish) and before I could check my phone or make any calls I had to just sit and take it all in. So for about 5 minutes I think I just sat and cried to myself ha!
When I had composed myself the calls started coming in from family and friends who were trying to find me. The signal was terrible so I told them I would make my way to my charity after party and meet them there. I was met at the family meeting point by my friends from work who were waiting for me and they walked with me to the after party. I bumped into Joe, Danny and friends en route to the after party and met the rest of my family there. The charity cheered and clapped as I walked in.
Getting home was hard, my legs hurt so much. We had to make our way to St Pancras and then board the train back to Ashford. On our train there were several people with medals around their necks which was such a nice sight to see. We all shared stories about the day and congratulated each other.
When I came home Joe had decorated the flat with balloons and banners to say well done. Overall it was an experience I will treasure forever and am so grateful to have been part of. A year ago I couldn’t run 5km and now I have run the London Marathon! If you are reading this (firstly well done for getting this far through the essay) and have thought about doing the marathon but are not sure if you can… do it! Don’t let anything stop you. It will be the best day of your life.