Official a Marathon Runner by Becky Fennelly

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I am officially a marathon runner! Well, the term runner may be stretching it a bit as I certainly didn’t run all 26.2 miles. I did cover 27.15 miles though despite sticking as close to the blue line as possible.

The last couple of weeks leading up to the marathon involved a lot of sleeping. I must admit I was exhausted after the months of training and I can definitely say I understood exactly why tapering is important. My last “long” run before the big day was a recce of the first half of the course finishing at Tower Bridge. Given I was running on tired legs and just wanted to sleep it perhaps wasn’t the best mental preparation. All I could think about was how tired I was and how this wouldn’t even be halfway on the day.

I spent much of the week before the marathon anxiously watching the weather forecast flip between 20 degrees and rainy up to 25 degrees, the stormy, then back down to 21 degrees with showers in the afternoon. I am not a hot weather runner and spent much of the warm stretch last summer running at 5:30am to get it over with before the heat set in. Unfortunately, that’s not an option on race day.

A trip to the expo with Che left me feeling quite excited and a lot poorer as I bought one of pretty much everything VMLM branded. This may be the only time I do it so I want all the kit!

Race day dawned and I joined the coach to the start line with the other runners and got to the blue start area with plenty of time to eat my porridge and prepare myself. Polly & I found some space in a tent to stay out of the sun for a while. 20 degrees at 9am does not bode well...

We caught up with a few other Eagles just in time for a poo update from Kieran Santry before joining our start pen. The new wave starts made the blue start much slower in getting going than previous years and we crossed the start line about half an hour later than we expected.

Polly & I had been considering whether we could meet up with Che who was in the red start as it would be nice to run together having trained together over the past few months. However, a text from Dan advised me that Che had crossed the line about 15 mins before us, so if we were all planning to run at the same pace there was no way a meet up would happen.

The first few miles went well, we were on pace and felt ok. We had the course mapped out in our heads and broken into sections between known locations of supporters. Just before 10k we spotted Brenda, the first of our mobile support crew. After a quick chat and a photo we decided to carry on, collecting an ice lolly from a very generous spectator first. Brenda jogged alongside us for a few minutes and may have got in a bit of trouble with the marshalls when she tried to get back off the course.

Round the Cutty Sark we went and onwards to our next support stop in Deptford where Dan, Thim, James & Mark Yabsley were waiting for us with some amusing signs and, inexplicably at the time, a lettuce!

By this time the heat was building and Polly and I were starting to feel it’s effects. We decided to drop back from our planned pace and interject some walk breaks to make sure we got round. We were already seeing people suffering and being treated by St John’s for the heat and we were determined we were crossing the finish line and getting that medal.

Onwards towards Tower Bridge where we were expecting to see Thim again. A surprise encounter with Carol Moran at the mile 12 water station gave us an extra boost. Sadly there was no water left for us. We crossed Tower Bridge looking strong just in case the TV cameras were on us and were delighted to see Thim again with offers of water, bananas etc.

This was about the point where I started to feel pain under the ball of my left foot and realised it was most likely a blister. Unusual, as I’ve never had blisters on the soles of my feet in training and I’d made sure not to get my feet wet in any of the showers round the course.

Heading out towards the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf my foot got worse and worse and the run/walk strategy became a walk/run instead. I have to say, this was the part of the course I was dreading the most, but, as with the whole route, the crowds were amazing. The good weather had brought everyone out into their gardens and there was a party atmosphere all the way round.

We were looking forward to seeing Dan & James again at mile 17 and they didn’t disappoint! We also, finally, after 5 miles, found a water station with actual water left too. This allowed us to take on the electrolytes we had been carrying with us until we could get a bottle of water and we headed towards Canary Wharf with renewed energy.

Next on our list of cheer squads was Catherine Mulrenan and the Run Mummy Run crew at mile 19 and we were pleased to see there was a good crowd still there.
This was the point where my watch informed me we’d done an 11 minute mile. I was pretty certain we had done no 11 minute miles on the entire course and certainly not at this point in the race. Those pesky tall buildings through Canary Wharf were clearly messing with my GPS signal.

Coming out of Canary Wharf round Billingsgate market I spotted the 7 hour pace car behind us and vowed to stay ahead of it. We picked up the pace and cracked on as fast as our blisters would allow.

Mile 23 was a sight for sore feet! There was no chance of a fly-by at this point so we did a slow trot-by. I can’t tell you how delighted we were to see so many Eagles still there despite our slow pace. Having been the other side of the barrier a few times and knowing how the crowd thins out as the day goes on and people go to meet their friends/relatives at the end I had nightmares before the race of getting to mile 23, finding everyone had gone home/to the Wellington and coming away disheartened. However, you guys made sure this didn’t happen and I can’t tell you how happy this made me. Thanks guys! A couple of friends surprised me by being at mile 23 with Dan too.

A mile further on and my boss was waiting to cheer me on outside our office at mile 24. I was so thrilled to see her I tried to sprint up to her for a hug. The pain in my foot when trying to pick up the pace was so much at that point that it marked the last attempt to run and we walked the rest of the race.

Approaching mile 25 I spotted a man with a London Marathon backpack on. I was quite surprised as I hadn’t seen the bag at the expo and was quite upset that I’d missed out on something.

Another surprise sighting of Thim as we circled St James’ Park was a real boost and we smiled as we turned the corner and spotted Buckingham Palace. 385 yards to go! The sight of the finish line and the volunteers with the medals was amazing and Polly & I crossed the finish line together, all smiles.

Having seen all the spectators enjoying pints of beer all the way round the course we were desperate for a pint. Unfortunately my blisters and Polly’s unexpected sore hip meant there was no chance of us attempting to walk all the way to the Wellington so we found the nearest pub and enjoyed a well deserved pint or two before heading home, exhausted but happy.

Things did not go to plan on the day with the heat and my blisters but what an experience! The course was lined with spectators all the way round and the generosity of the crowds who were handing out drinks, sweets, ice lollies, sun tan lotion, wet wipes, oranges, ice cubes , wine (we resisted that one..) etc blew us away. I am so proud to have completed the London Marathon. What a day!

So, would I do it again? The answer is maybe. ..

Throughout this process I have proved to myself that I have the strength and stamina to do far more than I ever expected. It didn’t go to plan on the day as the conditions were less than optimal and that does leave me with the desire to try again to do what I had hoped to do time wise. However, going through all the training again does not mean the conditions will be optimal next time either. Just look at the conditions in Boston the week before! So we’ll  leave it as a maybe for now...

Thank you Eagles for giving me the opportunity to experience this brilliant race and for all your support and encouragement during training and on the day. You’re all amazing