Friday, 18 April 2014

It's not when you cross the finish line it's why

Wow. I have no idea where to start with this post. I'd say it's probably a good idea to grab a cuppa and get comfy. It's a long one! Even the thought of it is giving me butterflies and making me teary!

The saying that the person who starts the marathon is not the same one who finishes, is so true. 

Months of training, forcing myself to go out and run in the rain, the wind and the sun all came down to this day. These 26.2 miles. I was scared, nervous, excited. 

Training had been mixed, mainly due to being diagnosed with depression half way through training. There would be days where I would go out and smash 10 miles, I'd push myself through 18. Other days where I struggled to run 6. Convinced I couldn't do it. I knew my legs had it in them, it was my mind I had to convince. Easier said than done. But I had SO many people behind me, there was no way I couldn't not finish. Plus I'm too stubborn to give up. 

I arrived in London on the Friday afternoon and headed over to the Excel centre for the expo with my other half. Registered and collected my number. I think this is when it sunk in, I had my number in hand, I was going to run the London marathon. 43016 has so much more meaning now. 

We had a wander around the expo, which is ironic, Jon and I came here on a date last year, I was playing hard to get & he was trying to win me over. I was planning on coming anyway as I wanted some running advice and inspiration and he tagged along with me. A year later here we are! 

Anyway I've moved off topic. Friday evening we met a friend for dinner, pizza was on the menu - carbs. Conversation was all about the marathon. How was I feeling? Was I ready? Rach was more concerned about the jelly baby etiquette "do I throw them at you or give them to you" Can always count on my friends to make me chuckle! 

Saturday the plan was to do not a lot, in the afternoon all of my uni friends were arriving so we were meeting them for lunch. After breakfast, where my other half are 8!!! Pain au chocolates! We headed to Covent Garden for a coffee with my parents, we then walked to Trafalguar Square for yes another coffee. We basically did the tour of coffee shops. 

We met my friends and it was the first time we had all been together since uni! So glad they'd all made it to London to support me. We went to a little pub for a drink - I was rock and roll on the squash - very jealous of the bottle of Rose the girls ordered! 

My parents and I had decided to eat in the hotel that evening - there was an Italian and an Indian menu. Perfect I could have pasta and they could have whatever they wanted. Until the bar staff had informed us that the Italian chef was off and the Indian chef could only do limited dishes. I'd agreed lasagne was fine - until we saw 4 bowls of pasta and chicken go past. Jon drew the short straw and went to complain, needless to say I got my bowl of pasta and chicken!

Saturday night I slept surprisingly well. I woke up with excitement, my tummy was doing somersaults. I was actually going to run a marathon! We left the hotel at about 7.30 so we could get to the starting pens for 9. We got there about 8.30 and the atmosphere was already buzzing. The train was rammed full of runners - we all had that one thing in common - we were going to run 26.2 miles. Whether it be our first or our fifth everyone was so friendly and chatty which really put my nerves at ease. We stopped outside the starts so I could eat my oats, the sun was already shining - it was gonna be a scorcher! 

Walking over to the red pen with Jon, I was walking so slow. Him dropping me off there meant this was starting - the next time I'd seem him was at the finish! He dropped me off, I had everything with me, my gels, my belt and my trusty black bag to keep me warm! I went straight for a wee as it was relatively early and there wasn't any queues yet! I walked around, chatted to a few people, drank a bit of water and then queued up for a wee again. I didn't need to go but like my mum always told me it's better to try! 

I then made my way over to the pens - it is basically like hearding cattle! The atmosphere was buzzing - so much excitement, and nerves. I was stood by a few people that this was also their first marathon - it put me at ease. It is SO easy to think you are the only one running this for the first time & convince yourself the sweep car is going to overtake you - thankfully this wasn't the case!

Before we knew it we were off - I was expecting a long wait to cross the start line but we turned a corner and there it was. Before I knew it we'd run half a mile and I hadn't turned my iPod on, the atmosphere was electric. I checked my garmin as it felt like I was running so slow. But I wasn't, I was running too fast in fact. I read somewhere before hand "if you think your running slow, run slower" this is so true and advice I would give to anyone. It's so easy to get caught up in the moment and run to fast and not have any energy for later. At 4 miles - wow I know they flew by - I needed a wee. I knew if I stopped know there was a good chance I wouldn't need to stop again. The queues for the portaloos weren't too long - 2 ladies in front of me - we all said the same thing that we hadn't wanted to stop so early - but needs must. Enough about my bladder - I checked my phone - a text off the boyfriend saying my first 5k was fast but good, text from my dad - reminding me to drink water, a text from Mel - whose little girl was stuck to the TV watching out for me! The support was overwhelming!

I'm not entirely sure where the next few miles went - it must have been about mile 10 I saw my friends Rach screaming my name - it put such a smile on my face and kept me going for the next few miles - the crowd really do make it - especially when you know them! Next I know we are approaching tower bridge - the half way mark - and me being me got my phone out and took a selfie on Tower Bridge. As you do. I didn't know till afterwards but my friends saw me here - I missed them - GUTTED! Kirsty my friend from twitter also saw me around here. I'm just so glad they saw me - even if I didn't see them knowing they had come out to support me is overwhelming. 

I started to flag here - it was hot, really hot. I got a stitch, I knew what to do. Stop. Breathe. Focus. That didn't work - I text Jon & my dad. A few words of encouragement I was off. After half way it became less of the next mile marker but the next spot I would see someone I knew. I knew Sue, my friend from twitter was at around mile 14 at the Anthony Nolan cheer spot. I came round the corner and saw them on both sides - my eyes were peeled for her. And then she as screaming my name, I ran over for a hug. Amazing - mainly because I'd never met Sue before hand and here she was screaming my name willing to give my sweaty self a massive hug. That kept me going for the next few miles. 

It was at this point the course goes out and comes back - the other side of the road had the mile 22 marker. I was at mile 14. That made me want to cry. But I pushed through, there was no way I wasn't going to finish. It was getting so hot by this point, every water station I was making sure to take on water - my dad was still texting me reminding me it was warm & I needed to drink! Bless him. 

Then I hit my wall. Massively. Mile 15, like absolute clock work. I knew I just had to run past here, get to mile 16/17 and I'd be over it. I stopped and walked for a little bit, rang Jon, his words of encouragement "come on babe you can't stop, quitting isn't an option" well I bloody knew that! I carried on though. Mile 17 came round and I was struggling. I was hot, I needed a wee and my legs bloody hurt. The queue for the toilets wasn't too long, so I stopped, the marshal handed me some loo roll thankfully. I sat on that portaloo and cried. I was in pain, I didn't think I could do it, I was hot. But the pain I was in is nothing compared to what others have to go through. The reason I was running this, not just for my self but for The Menignitis Research Foundation. So I got up and carried on. A message from Mel "come on everyone is behind you show them what your made of" I also had an answer phone message - something I wish I'd listened to at the time - Skye, mels 7 year old daughter saying how proud she was of me, as it turns out I didn't listen to this until Monday night, when I cried. 

It was around here when I was walking for a little bit, playing mind games with myself, run to the next mile marker see how you feel, it because a massive battle with your head, something I face in a daily basis with my depression, something that I am pleased to say I won the battle in one 26.2 miles. It was here when a gentlemen saw my MRF shirt - asked why I was running, I explained my story and he said how it was also his first marathon - unfortunately I can't remember what charity he was running for but he was also running for a cause close to his heart and he said to me "it's not when you cross the finish line, it's why" yes a little tear ran down my face. How true that statement is.

It was around here dad text - "mums at Big Ben with an extra gel for you" I replied "where's Big Ben" his reply "mile 25" I just thought OH MY GOD that's ages away. But it kept me going knowing they were there. 

So I was off, I was under the double figures to go, and after this point I knew I had people around the course, it became looking for them. The best was when I saw my friend Rach again at Canary Warf, thankfully she handed me the jelly babies rather than threw them at me! It's amazing how seeing your friends can keep you going for a little while longer!

Mile 19- it was freaking warm now! My calves were burning, I stopped and the lovely lady from St. John's ambulance worked wonders and gave me a mini massage on them. I can safely say if she hadn't I would still be finishing the marathon now! My friends were at mile 22. It wasn't that far, and once I saw them it was the count down to my parents at mile 25 and then I was done! It was also here that someone shouted was shouting my name, I just thought it was another person from the crowds cheering me on. But it was Matt from twitter. And if your reading this Matt I'm so sorry I had no idea who you were at that point!

I passed the 22 marker, by know I don't think you could have called my form running, I don't know what it was but it defiantly wasn't running. I had my phone out whilst 'running' I didn't want to miss the girls, I passed the big lorry with a band on then I heard my name being screamed. The relief. I so needed to see them, they gave me a hug, and some water and reminded me I was nearly finished. The photo of me and Rhian is SO emotional, it gives me butterflies.

Now the countdown to my parents and the finish. At mile 24 I'd stopped and was stretching my legs, an old lady came over, asked me if I was ok, gave me a hug and told me how incredible I was. She reminded me if my gran, which made me slightly emotional. Right mile 25. I was determined to run this last bit completely - plus I didn't want to be walking when I saw my parents!! That's the competitive streak in me! I passed the mile 25 marker I saw Big Ben, where the heck were my parents. My eyes were scouring the crowds for them, I so needed to see them. I hoped they hadn't thought they'd missed me and gone to the MRF stand to meet me. Thankfully as I turned the corner I could hear my mum screaming my name from a good 300yards away! I had a massive hug, I cried, mum cried, I had my gel and I was off. I was so close to the finish line, I was going to be a marathon runner. The emotion was overwhelming. 

The sign for 800m to go I heard my name again, it's amazing the ability you have to differentiate someone you know shouting your name to the general crowd. Emily a friend from uni another hug another well done. I needed it. 

Running towards Buckingham palace, the guy with the fridge on his back, I figured if I crossed the line with him then I had chance of making it on TV and my niece and Skye who had sat watching it all day would see me. Unfortunately, he somehow made a sprint finish, with a bloody fridge on his back!! But I'd done it I crossed the line. I didn't cry, I thought I would have, I felt a bit numb, so emotional yet unable to express them. Everyone around was congratulating me, for a little bit I forgot about the pain. Not for long walking up the ramp to have my chip cut off hurt like hell!

I finished in 5:29. I wanted 4:45 but given the weather was 18 degrees I'll take it. Hell I don't care about the time I've just run a bloody marathon!

The first person I spoke to was my lovely little niece - she'd called to say shed sat and watched all day but hadn't seen me but said well done. I still didn't cry - was I supposed to? I collected my medal, and goody bag and made the way to the big 'M' where I was meeting everyone. Rach, Jon and Becky were by the exit for the runners. Apologise for the sweaty hugs guys! I swear the M was the furthest place away, I just wanted to sit down. 

I got over there, Dad was there along with the lovely Sue (who gave me another sweaty hug) and Kirsty. I've been talking to these ladies for ages on twitter and text. There such good friends to me despite never having met them before but now I finally had! 

So many hugs, so many congratulations, so many photos. All for me, it was such an overwhelming feeling. Chocolate cake was calling my name, I needed food! Within half an hour of finishing I'd eaten a chocolate cake, toffee crisp, protein bar, protein shake and a bottle of lucozade. But you know what I burnt 3422 calories I was gonna eat what I wanted!! 

The walk to the tube hurt, a lot. But not as much as the ice bath when I got back - the poor people in the room next to me must have wondered what the hell was going on!

Despite the pain it was so worth it. Not just the shiney medal, or the marathon runner statues but the fact I've fundraised so far £4000 for The Meningitis Research Foundation. That's what the amazing thing is. And you can still donate if you want to, here is my just giving link.

I still get butterflies thinking about the experience, it was amazing, random people you don't know shouting your name, driving you that extra half a mile or mile. It was tough I won't lie, I wanted to quit the pain was incredible but not as incredible as the sense of achievement, the amount of pride I have, and the emotions that brought with it. It's worth it to see those you love proud of you. I didn't just run a marathon, I'd lost 5 stone to get there and I was raising awareness of Meningitis. The pain I experienced at mile 17 when I wanted to throw it all in is nothing to what my parents suffered losing my brother, and what others who have experience this cruel disease have felt. That's what makes you dig deep and carry on. 

I learnt that I can do things I never thought possible, that I am a strong person and can overcome things despite the circumstances and what the little voice in my head tells me. 

I saw a friend yesterday for the first time since the marathon, she said I looked content and happy. It's so true, I was stressing myself out incredibly with the anticipation of the marathon, thankfully my body has waited until now to make me feel like I've been run over by a bus! The marathon for me as well as the fundraising and the personal achievement, was like closing a door. The day I found out I had secured a charity place in the marathon, was also the day I booked my termination. It's like the two went hand in hand together. And although I am incredibly luckily to have run my first marathon I can't say I wish it had been under different circumstances. But I did it. And I'll do it again. 

Like people say - if it was easy everyone would do it. But I'm so proud to say that I am in the 1% of the population who have run a marathon. And yes I've already applied for a charity place for next year and will be entering the ballot on Tuesday. 

I'd just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped me get across the finish line, the donation, the time, the effort, the good luck messages, the words of encouragement, those around the course. I couldn't have done it without you. So thank you.