From our hotel in Limehouse there were three options to get to the start but decided to savour the atmosphere and get myself to London Bridge to get on one of the ‘official’ trains to Blackheath – slightly disconcerting at Limehouse DLR station with everyone else on the other platform heading in the other direction but stuck with the plan. London Bridge station was heaving but easily found the Blackheath train – it was rammed beyond belief. But as we wandered down the platform the last two carriages were almost empty so we hopped on and had quite a pleasant journey, unlike those in the earlier carriages who were all getting quite cosy with each other!
Arrival in Blackheath bought a bit of a lump to my through, as you walk up the main road the park opens out in front of you to thousands of people all heading towards the runners admission point – with helicopters buzzing, hot air balloons, blimps and the faint smell of ‘Deep Heat’ you know you’re somewhere special. After years of watching this on TV, I was finally here, actually part of it. It was all very relaxed in the blue zone a bit like one big picnic – everyone was sat down on bin bags eating bananas, or queuing for the toilet – which by race standards had pretty fast moving queues! The big screens showed the elite women and wheelchair races starting and then it was time to move to our pens. I was quite lucky to be in pen 5, I was quite amazed as I wandered into my pen that one of the first people I saw was a fellow DLR Runner! We had a brief chat and I realised once the race got going that I completely forgot to ask her name! I’d been ill in bed with a bad cold most of the week so didn’t really decide on my race plan until the morning of the race. I’d decided to take it really easy until halfway then see how I felt, but I was in the pen with the RunnersWorld 9min pacer – my take it easy plan went out the window as my competitive instinct overtook me. I felt ok on race morning and with all the excitement decided sub 4 hours would be fine – 9 min pace, same as Oakley – easy!
The start of the race is a bit of an anticlimax really – no siren or anything obvious just marshals asking us to move forward until eventually we walked underneath the starting gantry – we were off. The first two or three miles didn’t really move much more than snails pace – there was just no room to move. I could still see the 9 min pacer in the distance and thought I’d gradually catch up over the next few miles which I did. Only problem was there was a very large group who were attached to the poor guy like limpets – whichever side of the road he moved to, they all moved with him and made it quite difficult to tag along to so decided to run my own race.
It was as well, felt really good for the first 6 miles. Started taking on gels at 6 miles, still feeling ok. Then started to look out for the DLRR cheering squad and my sister who were all going to be south of the river. Only problem was, I knew roughly where they’d said they’d all be, but got the sides of the roads mixed up! Saw the DLRR group at around 11/12 but I was on the opposite side of the road and no chance of getting across (imagine crossing the M25, twice, in rush hour!) so didn’t get a chance to wave or acknowledge them, but was still nice to see them there. I knew my sister would be on the approach to Tower Bridge but still managed to miss her too! Once over the bridge we were just about halfway and could see I was just less than 2 hours – so even though it wasn’t an even pace, I was on target.
Through 14 near our hotel were my husband and friends and I saw them! It was great to see the gang, they’d got balloons with ‘Run Chips’ on which was lovely and I realised after the race they’d all got ‘Run Chippers’ on their shirts and bags as well – you can’t buy support like that. I gave them a good smile and a wave and moved on towards the Isle of Dogs (or the Isle of Pain as it turned out!). From 15 to 20 things started to fall apart – it wasn’t the wall as I was fuelling well throughout the race, my mind was fine, but my body just didn’t want to work. I’d run this distance more than a few times in training but I just couldn’t move properly. I can only think that the cold I’d had all week had taken its toll. I got my jelly beans out and tried to plod on but it was a real mix of walking and running (although according to my Garmin I wasn’t moving that slowly – still sub 10min miles). Coming round to mile 21 I passed our hotel again and joined ‘The Highway’ which you basically follow to the finish. ‘Only’ 5 miles to go! I’d stopped looking at the time by now as it was all about getting to the finish. My quads were burning and my calves were on the brink of cramping – I stopped once to try to stretch them but it hurt so much I decided it hurt less to run with them tight! My sister jumped out at me near mile 23, and a bit further down were my husband and friends. I was so pleased to see them. I plodded on (I thought I was running, but my Garmin stats say otherwise!) and it was lovely to see the DLRR cheering crew. Again, I managed to be on the other side of the road – I’m not very good at following instructions! But it was still a boost and reminded me how far I had come and what a fantastic supportive club I’ve joined.
With Big Ben in sight I knew the finish was nearby, as you come into Birdcage Walk a big sign tells you there’s 600m to go, never has 600m seemed so far but I rounded the final corner in front of Buckingham Palace to see the finish line – it was the hardest 365 yards ever, but I did it, remembered to smile as I crossed the line, before stopping my watch and bursting into tears. I’m not one for crying but hey, you only finish your first marathon once eh?
Time – 4:16, not the sub 4 I originally had in mind, but after injury and illness I’m more than satisfied with that and gives me another reason to enter next year!