A long time ago…London (pt II)

Did you watch the highlights programme of the first London Marathon? Or take part in the 2.6 Challenge?

Either way, I’m sure you were inspired to do a marathon yourself (my advice, count to ten and seriously reconsider that thought ;) – DD)

And as a reminder to what an amazing event the London Marathon is, we have another excellent race report to enjoy courtesy of Alison Dargie.  

 

London Marathon

Sunday 26th April 2015

Report by Alison Dargie

 

I’d never really seen the appeal of a marathon: hour after hour of trudging round interminable training runs in preparation for er, hour after hour of trudging. Where’s the fun in that? Now and then, around April time I’d see the clips of beaming runners streaming down the Mall and think maybe I could do that… but then I remembered that I’ve cried in four out of the last five ten milers I’ve run and spent the last four miles telling everyone who passed me that I was never, ever racing anything over 10K again.  At one finish, as I wiped the snot and tears from my face, my daughters told me they’d had to give up counting me in because they didn’t know numbers that big.

But then this year I turned 40 and as Terry told me in the pub: ‘you don’t want to get to the end of your running and never know if you could have run a marathon because you never tried’. So this year I decided to try.

Now I really, really hate pressure, so instead of thinking of the marathon as one big, scary goal, in my head I made the whole 16 week process my marathon: with every 5 o’clock get up, every pitch-black slog up Salters road, every solo interval session I’d be nailing my marathon challenge. And if it didn’t come good on the day, well, I’d have done all I could.

The start was like a dysfunctional picnic: a couple of hundred women sitting round in a marquee dressed in a mix of rain-wear, race-wear and bin-wear, fuelling up on Lucozade, gels and energy bars and discussing a) how lucky we were to have our own toilets b) how the waiting before was the worst and could we just get on with it and c) how we’d just be happy to get round. Judging by the mad dash for the front when we finally made our way to the course, this last bit was mostly a big fat lie.

As we shivered on the start line in our club vests, breathing in the familiar scent of sweat and liniment and keeping a lid on the slow fizz of adrenaline bubbling between fear and excitement, it felt like any other race day. But as we ran out onto the streets of London and into the roar of the crowd it was clear that this was nothing like any other race I’d done. The crowds cheered us literally from our first step to our last, helpfully drowning out all my fears and worries (26 miles to go! Ahh!) with waves of enthusiastic support. Although I couldn’t hear myself think, I still managed to hear the Tyne Bridge support crew yelling for me at various points and see Gemma waving the Tyne Bridge flag.

As none of group two was there, I had to find alternative pacers and stuck behind a Londoner called Steve who seemed to have a particularly vocal support team. Every corner we turned another group of fans cheered him on so naturally I assumed he was some sort of local hero, perhaps completing his 52nd marathon in a row to help save orphaned bunny rabbits or some such. He eventually pointed out that he had his name on his vest and was running for charity.  At some point I lost him, perhaps after I accidentally hit him with a half empty water bottle? Must work on my distance runner’s etiquette.

Marathon training does crazy things to your distance perspectives – the weekend before I’d relaxed with a ‘12 mile sharpener’ –  and the miles ticked by fairly calmly up to the ten mile point where I had one of the gels I’d been carrying in my bra and felt energised and also more comfortable. Next year I am going to work out a less scratchy method of fuel transportation. (Another small margin, right there.) At some point in the middle third I had my customary mental wobble but the cheering was so loud I could barely hear myself whine so I just got on with it. Apparently I slowed down a bit to the consternation for Sinead who was tracking the TBH marathon runners from the pub. Luckily Izzy was on hand to reassure her that a ten second drop didn’t necessarily mean my marathon was going to hell in a hand-cart. (The whole tracker thing felt just a little bit Hunger Games for my liking – mine malfunctioned on my partner’s computer so for several hours my family thought I’d bottled it on the start line.)

Ok, so, I realize there were lots of iconic sights – ships, palaces, bridges and the like – which I feel I should mention but if I’m honest, they were totally wasted on me: even as I ran down the Mall past Buckingham palace (I think?) all I was really looking at was the clock which told me that if I just sprinted (‘sprinted’) a little I would not only break 3 hrs but also beat toilet man. My daughter, whose relentlessly positive attitude to running will be familiar to readers of the junior website, had looked up the record for fastest runner dressed as a toilet (2:57) and made it known she would be disappointed if I was beaten by a man carrying a cistern.

I was delighted (flushed with success? No?) with my victory over toilet man until I heard that Tony Carter had overtaken Paula Radcliffe. My plan was to run inside 3 hrs and never run another marathon but turns out it was actually an amazing experience and I’m already looking forward to another one next year. Massive thanks to Si and TBH for helping me do something I never thought I could and to Morag for very generously sharing her accommodation and support team with me.

Alison

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