The week I had leading up to the London Marathon on Sunday was not an easy one. Taper flu reared it’s ugly head on Monday with a sore throat, and despite me resting hard and praying I’d be better, on my last day at work on Thursday I had a hacking cough and my consultant was threatening to put a ‘danger of infection’ label on my forehead. Not ideal marathon prep.
Knowing that the London Marathon organisers allow a generous cutoff for deferrals (8pm the night before the race), I headed down to London to collect my number anyway, figuring I’d either be well enough to run, or could defer, catch up with friends and have fun cheering on the runners. I caught up with wonderful Rebecca who I hadn’t seen in AGES, ate lots of carbs and tried to remain positive.
I went for a short test run on Saturday afternoon and barring a lot of snot rockets, felt okay- my chest had cleared pretty well, I was hardly coughing, and running felt relatively easy. 7pm came and my head was still a swirling conflict of ‘respect the distance; only idiots race ill’ and ‘this is the race you’ve always wanted to do; just adapt your goals and try to enjoy it’. As 7:59pm came and went, I made up my mind: to run the race, aiming for 9 minute mile or so pace, 40 seconds per mile slower than I’d trained for, but would still see me round in sub-4 hours.
I won’t drone on with a mile-by-mile recap, but for the first 16 miles or so, I felt great, running an average pace of 8:40min/mile or so without issue, and really enjoying the massive crowds and iconic route. I briefly ran with super strong Cathy before she headed off to bag herself another stellar time, and then things started to get hard, with my legs starting to seize up and my cough making a re-appearance. I knew Steph was planning to be at mile 21, so focused all my attention on getting there, telling myself if I made it to her it would all be okay.
Mile 21 came and went, and through the dense, wonderful, cheering crowds, I sadly never spotted her. It became harder and harder to keep going now that carrot dangling in front of me had gone, with searing pain in both quads, and sharp pains in my chest whenever I coughed or took a deep breath. It’d have been oh-so-easy to pull out at that point, but with the ghosts of Snowdonia Marathon fresh in my mind, I stuck it out, having a disciplined walking break at the next few mile markers, but forcing myself to run in between, buoyed by brilliant encouragement from the crowds. After an age, mile 25 appeared, shortly followed by James, and I held my head high, determined to run and enjoy every last agonising step of my victory lap to the finish.
I rounded the last corner, saw the finishing line and promptly burst into tears, partly at the sheer relief that I could stop running, and partly with emotion at having overcome a few of the demons that have taken residence in my mind since last summer and the start of a disastrous run of races.
4:01:01 is a bittersweet time when I was aiming for sub-3:40 all the way through training, but I’m proud to have stuck it out, I mostly had a blast, and I will 100% be back to conquer that brilliant course in the future. London, it was a pleasure! In the meantime, I *may* or may not have entered Paris as next spring’s project. One to crack on with when I can walk down stairs without a handrail and looks of alarm from fellow hospital staff, perhaps….
PS. James and I stayed with the wonderful Sarrah and Chris via Airbnb for the race, and I can’t think of a more welcoming, obliging pair of hosts for a weekend. If you’re racing in London, I would highly recommend staying with them- details here.