Thoughts on running a marathon...

April 30, 2015

On Sunday, much to the surprise of pretty much everyone - including myself - I ran the London Marathon.

I entered last year on a bit of a whim - to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I even knew how far a marathon was. I saw that it was trending on Twitter and hopped right on that bandwagon, because I'd just started running a few times a week and, you know, how hard could it really be?

Really hard, is the answer to that. Really fucking hard. 

As it turns out, training for a marathon isn't the kind of thing you can commit to half-heartedly - you're either in or you're out. A year ago I could not have imagined the hideous whirlwind of long runs, injuries, blisters and literal blood, sweat and tears that has been my life for the past six months. Despite a lot of doubts I had about ever being able to do it, I felt like I had to give it a go - 75% of the people who applied for a place were disappointed, so it seemed unfair to not even try.
Saying no to a night out because of having to run the next day and going out to train in the rain when hungover instead of curling up in bed with tea and Friends was all pretty foreign to me, and it wasn't what I'd call fun.

But it does get easier, eventually. After my first 9 mile run, I thought I was going to die - I flopped straight into my bed and lay there until the next morning. But then I did it again the next week, and managed 12, 13, 14. A low point was sitting in the middle of Victoria park, in the rain, crying after 6 miles of a 16 mile run because my knee hurt so much I had been overtaken by a man who was at least 100. Some days just aren't your day, and others you'll race through 10 miles before you even notice. But the feeling after finishing your longest run yet is so rewarding - and even more so when I started raising money for 24x7 Special Needs Trust, which really encouraged me to keep going. 

6 months, two pairs of ridiculously overpriced trainers (thanks Dad!), 2 minor injuries and countless hours of pavement pounding later, The Big Day arrived; and this is the part that's taken me a surprisingly long time to write, because it's just so hard to put into the words the emotions you feel on the day. 
I'm not sure if it's the training or the amount of revision I've been doing, but recently I've been prone to crying at very odd moments; and it turns out that that's not a great way to start a marathon. It took approximately 2 minutes into the race to see the overwhelming amount of support from everyone on sidelines; at which I immediately felt myself tear up and had to flap my hands in front of my face like a freak to stop myself bursting into tears. This happened about every five miles, for pretty much any reason at all; on Tower Bridge I saw a runner get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend, then a Dad stop and hug his wife and children, and then the crowd cheering on the guy next to me when he stopped to walk until he started running again.
I was totally unprepared for the incredible level of encouragement and kindness from complete strangers, standing outside for hours and handing out food and drinks just to cheer us on. I can't even begin to express how much of a difference that makes when you're on Mile 22 and you just want to curl up in a ball on the pavement right there and then. The atmosphere was incredible and 100% made all the lonely hours of training worth it.


I didn't quite realise what a huge deal it was to me until I'd actually crossed the finish line. (Where, obviously, I finally burst into floods of tears.) I've never really worked that hard for something and I didn't realise how great it would feel to have actually finished it. Admittedly, I was beaten by a Tardis, a giant cheesestring and 'the London ladder man', who carried a huge ladder on his shoulder the whole way round - but I finished nonetheless! I've actually been really lucky; I haven't had any serious injuries, and looking back on it, it was almost enjoyable...

The ballot for 2016 opens on Monday and if anyone feels like giving up six months of their lives, I would totally recommend entering it. Something like £30 million was raised by those running the marathon this year and everyone does it for such inspirational reasons; it's an amazing challenge to be part of. And really, if I can do it, anybody can. I spent the entire time willing it to be over and swearing I would never do it again, but now I'm not so sure... 

P.S... If anyone is feeling generous, my fundraising page is still open. It's for an amazing charity that I support called the 24x7 Special Needs Trust, who have made a specialist hotel so that those with special needs and disabilities can go on a family holiday just like everyone else, without having to worry. Any donations would be gratefully received, big or small! 

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