Sunday 23 April 2017

City of London: London Marathon recap

The London marathon wasn't just a normal marathon, because I ran it as the second half of a double marathon.  I got up at 1.30am on the morning of the marathon, made my way to The Mall and ran the entire course in reverse to Greenwich with a group of fabulous friends and strangers.  I then had a quick shower/breakfast/change before proceeding to run it forwards; this race recap is therefore a cut-down version.  (If you're interested in reading the whole double marathon madness recap, you can do so here).
I was late arriving to the London marathon.  However, this didn't turn out to be a problem because by the time I finally arrived at 10.11am, the pen was absolutely stationary like this:
 ...and I didn't cross the start line until 10.33! I started at a gentle pace and during the early miles I chatted with other runners and eased into it slowly, trying to enjoy the crowds.

The time passed quickly but I was really happy to see Surrey Quays coming up as I was excited about seeing a familiar face.  Lo and behold, there was Lee-Anne, who was more excited than I was!  From this point onwards, I realised that I was going to survive this marathon by getting myself from one set of supporters to the next.  Lee-Anne took this photo as I left her:
The next stop was my parents at Mile 11.  They'd kept the banner they'd made for me at my first marathon in Paris last year and brought it with them so I spotted them long before I got to them!

My dad took the other photo as I approached.  It was lovely to see them and even more lovely to be able to stop and have a hug, a jelly baby and a quick chat - in Paris I had a time in mind and barely managed more than a few words before racing off again.  I also had a couple of paracetamol at this point - I was feeling sore already and quite scared about how I was going to manage this whole distance again plus a bit more.   At mile 12 I saw the Guide Dogs stand and there was Dave, who gave me a quick hug and some much-needed encouragement.

The next stop was Matt and Iz at mile 13.  I'd instructed them to buy a huge, ridiculous helium balloon so I could spot them as they were on one of the busiest parts of the course and they did not disappoint - meet Shaznay the Shark...
As I ran past mile 13, I scanned the horizon.  I muttered, "That's not Shaznay.  That's not Shaznay" until another runner looked at me in bemusement and I realised I was talking out loud!  Then I turned a corner and I could see this giant, blue, weirdly shaped balloon and I thought, "That's GOT to be Shaznay," and it was.   More hugs followed and Iz proffered the bottle of electrolytes I'd instructed her to bring.  I'd picked up a bottle of Lucozade Sport at the previous drinks station as I'd run out, after one sip I'd decide it was basically poison, but I'd filled my bottle up with it anyway.  I proceeded to tip it out onto the pavement and refill the bottle with nice electrolytes to Iz's great amusement.

At mile 15 I was seeing Ian for the first time.  Unbelievably he'd got up at 1am,  cycled the entire backwards marathon, jogged back to the hotel, packed all my stuff and driven it across London to another hotel near the finish line, then got on the tube to come and support me.  What a legend.  It was great to see him and he assured me he'd meet me again in a few miles.

I carried on.  This bit of the race was really hard.  I saw my parents again at 16.5 miles, I wanted more paracetamol but knew it was too soon and promised myself I'd hang on until I saw Ian again.  At somewhere around mile 18, a woman in the crowd shouted, "Keep going Alice!" and I don't know why but I stopped and told her it was my second marathon.  I kept saying, "it's so hard, I'm so tired, I didn't know it was going to be this hard," and I can't remember really what she said, just that she gave me jelly babies and urged me on, so I took them and kept running.  The kindness of total strangers helped so much in this race, but that was a stand-out moment for me.

Ian phoned me to try to tell me where he was but I was too tired to answer the phone (it requires effort to pull it out of my armband, but not much effort, so I must've been absolutely battered at this stage).  He texted me instead and I saw it on my Garmin.  By the time I got to him I was in bits.  He tells me I said, "I don't know how I'm going to finish this, I'm so tired, I'm just so tired," and that I thought I was going to be sick.  By that time I'd already had about 5 gels and (I've normally finished a marathon after 4), plus plenty of jelly babies and the revolting Lucozade Sport.  He gave me paracetamol and a hug and some encouragement and I gathered up my remaining strength, put my headphones on and powered onwards.  Not long after I left him, I overtook my 3rd rhino which gave me a much-needed boost.

And then I arrived at Mile 21.  Mile 21 was literally the best mile of any marathon ever.  First of all I saw the Project Awesome crew.  They all hugged me and I remember feeling quite overwhelmed that they'd waited for me even though all the other PA runners must've already passed some time earlier.  Then they pointed across the road and I saw the Frontrunners crew, who I'd only told I was running the day before, and they'd ALSO waited for me! I was delighted and ran across the road, weaving around the runners to hug them too.  I crossed back to Project Awesome, who presented me with a chocolate digestive, then pointed across the road again and there were Midnight Runners!! WHAT?!  I weaved across the road again, for even more hugs from the crew.   I carried on, with a massive spring in my step from all the love, which basically carried me through the rest of the marathon. I literally couldn't believe that all these people had hung around for an extra hour or so just to wave at me for 30 seconds, I was almost tearful, what an absolutely phenomenal group of human beings.  Don't ever underestimate what a difference you can make by supporting someone when they're pushing themselves to the limit.  Thank you all so, so much.

Photo credit: Máté Fülöp

I saw Matt, Iz and Shaznay again at Mile 22, by which time I was feeling much perkier.  Matt made a joke about how Shaznay was species-fluid and identified as a cuttlefish which make me laugh.  I kept going and not long after that passed Tower Bridge again.  By this time I only had about 3 miles to go, all of which was along a very familiar route which helped enormously.  I was excited about the tunnel under Blackfriars bridge because obviously I've never run under there before (it's usually full of cars!) and when I got there I was amazed that literally EVERYONE started walking because there's no spectators.  I even took a photo as I couldn't believe it!  I was on a high by then and ran past them all feeling quite proud of myself.
As I passed the 24 mile mark, the crowds were fantastic and at Mile 25 I overtook my 4th rhino.  The last mile is just a blur, I can barely remember it to be honest.  I turned the corner, and ran down the Mall:

...And then it was over.  I finished in 5 hours, 28 minutes and I ran the entire way - no walking through water stops, no walking in tunnels.   I asked an official to take a photo, which was terrible, and I took an equally terrible selfie.  
As I walked through the finishers area, I looked at my Garmin, which was just about to die, and it said I'd run 1538 steps.  What?  Oh, wait a minute.  I'd run 101,538 steps.  It had to roll over because it doesn't go up that far.  I have broken Garmin.  Unbelievable. 

I met up with Matt and Iz, Lee-Anne, my parents and Ian in Duke's bar and drank champagne cocktails and showed off my medal.  

Monday 10 April 2017

East Sussex : Brighton Marathon recap

I signed up for Brighton marathon because I hadn't got into London and I wanted to be sure of a spring marathon.  However, as it turned out, I ended up with a place in London as well, so by the time Brighton rolled around it felt like a training run.  I'd hoped to run it in 4 hours 30 minutes, though I'd really struggled to do that just a couple of weeks earlier.   Then I found out that my friend Tom was running it as well, so we agreed to meet up at the start and run it together. 

The marathon was due to start at 9.15am, we rocked up at 8.45am and the park was awash with people.  It was predicted to be a pretty hot day for April and was already warm when we got there.
It took ages to cross the start line but that was lucky as Tom's train had been cancelled and we only met up a few minutes before our wave set off for the start line.  The marathon went down to the seafront then along towards Rottingdean and inland a bit before looping back.  There were quite a few places where the race was going in both directions.

Lots of pretty sea views!  Running with Tom was really great as he's run loads of marathons so we had lots to chat about, and because he usually finishes somewhere over 5 hours, he was pacing me to not run too quickly.  As a result I had a really enjoyable run because I often go too fast and then struggle at the end.  As it was warm, the pace was absolutely ideal and it was really lovely to have company, a rare treat for me.  We chatted about how Tom's best time was around 5 hours and I thought we were on track to beat that today, he was a little more circumspect about that possibility.  As the marathon progressed, we clearly had a good shot at it and despite being utterly knackered, Tom put in an amazing performance in the last mile and we crossed the finish line together in 4 hours, 57 minutes and 11 seconds.  He even pulled off a sprint finish which left me struggling to keep up!
Feeling suitably delighted with this, we got our medals and took some photos. 

And here's the official race photo:

There is a slightly sad addendum to this story, which is that we didn't really finish in 4:57.  Due to tiredness and stupidity on my part, I had forgotten to turn off the 'Auto Pause' setting on my Garmin (something I always do before marathons).  As a result it was showing our moving time, not elapsed time.  I didn't discover this until the following afternoon, after much ranting about how the chip time was totally wrong.  Sigh....