I also ordered some helium balloons, a couple of confetti cannons and a smoke grenade to add a bit of drama. Ben organised some champagne and we bought a new coolbox and packed plastic glasses and a folding table and chairs. I arranged for my mum and dad, my best friend Lee-Anne and my daughter Iz to come along. Closer to the time, my lovely running friends Chloe and Paul also entered the event meaning I'd have company throughout and some extra people to celebrate with. Ben had also entered the half marathon. I was getting very excited! I was also a bit nervous because the weekend before the race I scratched my cornea taking a contact lens out, and had spent much of the previous week in a lot of pain. I'd managed to go into work but couldn't drive and had to wear sunglasses all the time. I'd not done any running other than a 5k two days before. Then again, after all this planning, and after all the hard marathons I've run, there was no way I was going to give up easily. I would give it my best shot.
In the race briefing, Traviss pointed out all the runners doing their 10th marathon in 10 days (there were quite a few of them!) and then told the assembled company about me and my challenge, and highlighted that I had brought cake so I got a cheer for that!
And then it was time to set off! I had run the course before and it is a very, very simple out and back route.
On the second lap, I took one, laughing that it wasn't as easy as I thought...
After 2.5 laps it was time for Chloe to finish. She was delighted to find that she was 1st female in the half marathon and got a special "Winner" badge for her medal!
While we were stopped, my daughter Iz appeared. My parents had just arrived, but had parked in the other car park, and sent her to find us. I was planning to cut the cake (so that it could be shared with all the people doing the half as they would be long gone by the time I finished) so Iz stayed and watched that before going back to collect my parents.
Chloe went to get a cup of tea and a change of clothes and Paul, Ben and I set off to complete the third lap. One of the particularly lovely things about these local races is how lovely the other participants are. So many people said, "Congratulations" to me as I was running. It made it even more special.
Paul and I ran together for the first half of lap four, chatting away. As we passed the loos, he wanted to stop so I decided it'd be a good idea for me to stop too. He told me not to wait and he'd catch me up. Unfortunately, due to faffing on an epic scale, I took ages, and by the time I was back on course I could only just see Paul disappearing into the distance. I noodled on, eventually seeing him after he turned around and was on his way back. He was laughing. He'd thought he was behind me, so had done "the fastest kilometre ever" (his words) without realising he was actually getting further away!
In any case, it was fine. I noodled along some more, stopping to take photos of the motivational words written on the pavement. I was starting to feel quite tired, but my eye was completely fine which I was very relieved about.
Paul had waited for me (also lovely as he must have been standing around for 5 minutes, never great in the middle of a race) and we ran the last lap together. I'd arranged to meet Ben at the bottom of the slope going up to the finish to put on all my medals and collect the smoke grenade. He was there waiting, and it took a couple of minutes to put on all the medals. I'd weighed them beforehand (4.7kg) and it was really funny putting them all on. Paul said I looked like Mr T which was amusing because only earlier I had been going on about how much I love milk as a recovery drink. I tried to make the smoke grenade work, but when I pulled the cord, nothing happened, so I abandoned it*.Once I had all the medals on, I started making my way up the hill, with Paul and Ben following behind.
As I passed Lee-Anne and Iz, they set off the confetti cannons on either side of me. I absolutely love these photos....
It was such a joyful moment!
And here it is from another angle!
Biodegradable of course.
I had a few photos taken with all the medals but to be honest I was quite keen to take them all off. Despite having run the marathon distance 100 times, I've only actually done about 7 other official marathons, so I'm still 45 marathons away from joining the "official" 100 marathon club. By then I'll probably have run nearly 200 marathons!
Then I gave a short speech, which I hadn't originally intended to do but Ben encouraged me to write one the day before. There is a video of it but it's too big to put here, suffice to say it was quite a cute moment and Ben was right, it was a good thing to do.
And then we opened the champagne and some alcohol-free fizz that Paul and Chloe had brought, and we all had a few drinks. Lee-Anne had brought me a running mug (which I love) and a bottle of sparkling wine from Kent (awww, so thoughtful!) and I received a couple of lovely cards:
I'll do one more post with some stats and my thoughts on all the counties as a whole, but for now this is the end. People keep asking me, "What's next?" which is always a tricky question. For now, I've signed up for another 100 miler next summer so I don't just give up running - sounds funny but it's actually very easy to just sort of let things slide at the end of a big challenge! After that... who knows? I do have a bit of a plan... and I'll post again here if there's any news. So thank you all so much for reading, feel free to make a donation to my chosen charity if you've enjoyed my blog, and I promise I will keep you posted.
* It transpired later that the smoke grenade was NOT intended to be hand held as it was in fact a firework (I hadn't read the instructions properly) and required an 8m radius. Its failure to work narrowly averted turning my last marathon into some horrifying trip to A&E. Yikes!Photo credits: Ben, James, Chloe, my dad - thank you all