“If you’re trying to break the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to pick on,” said one BBC commentator. That accurately reflected the mood of this year’s Virgin London Marathon. It was a memorable race for so many reasons, not least Boston. It kickstarted with a 30 second silence, when the whistle blew before the start of the race, instead of the mass patter of trainer clad feet. You could hear a pin drop, pretty remarkable given the 37,000 plus runners taking part. When the whistle blew again, everyone cheered defiantly.
I kidded myself that as I train in Yorkshire on hilly terrain, I’d find the flat roads of London a bit of a breeze. How wrong I was! It was a tough and, at times, very arduous and daunting task. I hit the wall between miles 17 and 19, wondering if I would complete the marathon running at all. But after scoffing more Jelly Babies and drink, my spirits and energy picked up by mile 20. Once I got to the National Autistic Society cheer point and friend Janet Allvey cheering me on at mile 21, I knew I could slowly pick off the miles and gradually make it to the finish line.
The crowds were incredible, shouting out runners’ names consistently along the route. At times, the noise and music was deafening. Some runners got terrible cramps, and I saw a few out for the count. I had a lump in my throat turning onto London Bridge because it is such an iconic and inspiring landmark and I was started to flag a bit. It really lifted the spirits. As for the Cutty Sark and the London Eye, I missed seeing them altogether because I either had my head down trying not to trip over the runners in front, or I was too tired to pay attention!
There were some funny moments. Someone was holding a sign somewhere around mile 13 which said ‘You’ve made it this far, the only option you’ve got is to f***** finish the race’. There were the random fancy dress runners, one wearing a horse head costume, another dressed as a bear. How they managed in the hotter than expected temperatures, I do not know. A runner called John stopped in the middle of the road, near Embankment around the mile 24 mark bent forward like he couldn’t go on any further. Some of the crowd started shouting ‘Get up John, you’ve got to keep going!’ Then a wall of people joined in shouting, ‘John get UP! Keep going, not far to go now! The roar just got louder as more supporters joined in the chant.
I completed the marathon in 4 hours and 34 minutes, feeling very pleased to have finished it in one piece and still running rather than walking, and without injury. I feel so proud to have supported London, marathoners and the National Autistic Society, particularly this year. My head, and feet for the next week, are firmly held high! Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the charity fundraising. Donations are still being accepted until May 21st here. Thanks also to nouriSH me now in Sheffield for their healthy supply of sports drinks that helped to keep me on my toes.