When I received the confirmation email with my number, 22396, it suddenly became all the more real; barring injury, I was running the 2017 Virgin London marathon. I had lucked out with the final ‘Charlie Bucket’ Ealing Eagle ballot place, and I would get to run as an Eagle in the black and white vest, though it would mean turning my hand to blogging for the first time. I’ll first give a bit of context.
My running journey started thanks to Kelvin; I couldn’t pass up the chance to run in the first ever Ealing Half Marathon in 2012. Shortly after that half marathon, I heard about Parkrun for the first time, andI thought it was just a brilliant concept. I remember the last three miles of that first half as absolute agony, but was proud to have scraped in under 2 hours, and set myself the challenge to up the training and beat the time the following year. This continued year after year, and in 2015 I decided I needed the help of the running club that used to run past the end of my road as I picked up my children from beavers. After 3 months I even managed to take part in a club run. It worked, and wearing the vest for the first time in a race and getting cheered on by strangers was emotional.
Buoyed with beating my time for the 4th time at the EHM I started entering other events, the Twickenham 10 miler, the Serpie’s New Year’s Day 10k and for the first time I continued to run regularly through the winter. I got to know more Eagles and many would talk about the Welsh Castles Relay experience. I didn’t think I would fast enough to make the team, but I also thought I might never be as fit again, and it motivated me to redouble the training. I was overjoyed to make the team, and it didn’t disappoint. Not just the race, but the way the whole event leads to new friendships. The picture is me just after the end of my leg; my expression says it all. Even spending 17 hours on the Sunday very slowly making back to Ealing with a broken minibus showed what a friendly club this is.
It wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t imagine running further than a half marathon. Before I get accused of sandbagging, back in my youth I wasn’t a bad rugby player; I wasn’t the quickest, strongest or most skilful, but I had what football pundits would call ‘a good engine’ and as a flankerI would tear about for 80 minutes trying to get to every breakdown first. But running for 3 or 4 hours is quite different, and I am now a few years older.
So what changed? Well this year at the EHM I managed to run a negative split and finish strong for the first time, high fiving children in the last mile, and in record time. I’d upped the training, and run two other half marathons either side of EHM, and despite my concerns and various aches and twinges, the body had held together. I even managed to run slightly further than 13.1 miles in a training run. With a newly acquired Garmin and Strava account, and now familiar with terms like ITB, plantar fasciitis, maranoia and shit-stop, I was finally considering myself – whisper it – a ‘runner’. I’d enjoyed taking part in different races – relays in the summer evening in Richmond park, the mayhem of a cross country start, the world famous West Walk half marathon, – and found myself reading and listening to the marathon exploits of other eagles enviously.
I still strap my knees up, and my feet were sore at the end of my longest ever run on Monday of 26k, but no-one said it was going to be easy. If I don’t try I’ll never find out. My training plan needs to fit round family life, which means some early mornings and running up the Grand Union canal while my daughter has netball training. So far it is going well, with a new 5k and 10k PB at the Serpie’s Last Friday of the Month and the New Year’s Day race this week. I’ll keep you posted.