Running London

I had a ‘big birthday’ approaching and decided to mark it with a series of achievements.  I went to night classes to gain two extra GSCEs, one in maths which I’d failed miserably at school.  I went to a rock concert, I had never been to one having married and had children very young.  And I ran the London Marathon!

I applied and got in through the ballot first time – I didn’t appreciate at the time how “lucky” this was.   I decided I’d better have a bit of a go at running, so decided to run across the park to school  to pick up the children.   After less than a hundred yards I had to stop, breathless with stars in front of my eyes – how on earth could I do 26.2 miles in four months time?

Luckily, a  friend, who had been a football coach, offered to help me train.  The day I ran a whole circuit of the park was cause for celebration – it was all of 1600 metres.  After I had managed to complete 11 circuits of the park John decided I was ready to go on the roads.  He cycled beside me and chatted, telling me stories of his days in football.  Though I wasn’t really interested in football, I didn’t have the breath to tell him! Scouse John, who was quite a bit older than me would also tell me stories from his days in Liverpool, meeting the Beatles and working on cruise ships.  All this kept me going through the ever increasing mileage of the long runs.  In between, we had speed training , hill training and ‘fartleks’ – don’t ask!

Eventually marathon day arrived, John couldn’t come to watch, but my husband and all the children did.  We had to get up at 5.30am in order to get to London in time.  I was dropped off at Greenwich with my kitbag. Out of the early morning mist,  were  hundreds of other runners  coming from different directions all heading to the start.  It felt as if I was going into battle, I didn’t know how long it was going to be till I saw my family again and although I was with thousands of others, I was on my own.

The start area was pungent with the smell of liniment, people were stretching, applying Vaseline to delicate areas and adjusting their fancy dress costumes.  The queues for the portaloos were huge and some (men) obviously counldn’t wait and went behind the trees instead.  Helicopters were circling overhead and through the loudspeakers came the  ‘Chariots of Fire’ music,  my stomach filled with butterflies, this was it, I was in the marathon!

I was at the back of the start and from the time the gun went off till I crossed the start line, almost 15 minutes had passed, and we were still only shuffling along.  We all squashed through the narrow gate out of the park and  onto the roads of Blackheath, which were lined with people.  They were cheering and waving and clapping.  The pace started to get quicker until we were jogging quite comfortably. At three miles, the other start  joined us and there were good humoured ‘boos’ and hisses at the ‘rival’ group.   The atmosphere was fantastic, bands were playing, children handing out sweets and slices of orange to runners.  At about 7 miles we rounded a corner and there was Cutty Sark, I gasped with astonishment at her beauty, I haed only ever seen it on tv before, I had never been so close.  The adrenalin rush kept me going until  Tower Bridge, I had butterflies as I ran across – I was doing it – running London! I waved at all the cameras, I was overtaken by a rhino, a caterpillar and someone dressed as Elvis, but I didn’t care. Once over the bridge, my family were waiting at the side of the road and were cheering me on madly.  I needed that because pretty soon we headed out the the Isle of Dogs, which in those days was pretty grim.  There were buildings on Canary Wharf with windows blown out from an IRA attackl.  There were not as many spectators as the docklands light railway didn’t exist then.  It was bleak , but the runners made their own entertainment, we chatted to each other, sang songs and when were coming off , we knew it wasn’t far to the finish.

We went under Tower Bridge and there was my family again, of course they hadn’t had to cover 10 miles to get there .  This lifted me again,  I was starting to feel tired.  Then the Tower of London’s cobbles beckoned, though they were covered with mats, they were still punishng to already hot, swollen feet.   Now there was only about 4 miles to go.  “You’re nearly there” the spectators were shouting, “You can do it”.  I tried to smile, but it was turning into a grimace.  Big Ben showed the time at 2.45, I couldn’t believe I’d been running so long.The crowds  were now 10 or 12 deep lining the route, the spring sunshine lighting everything up,  Buckingham Palace and the gardens look glorious and as I turned into Birdcage Walk I felt a sense of elation, I knew I was going to finish.  The moment of crossing the line was as happily emotional as giving birth!  Each finisher was  given a medal and congratulated by one of the marshals, I felt as if I’d won an Olympic event.  And just like after having a baby, I said  “Never again!”

I’ve now just applied for my 10th London marathon – can’t wati to run London again.

3 Responses

  1. I did a run for life for breast cancer. Only 5K but such an adrenalin rush! I would love to do the marthon. My son’s future MiL did the Moonwalk & I said I’d think about it! Brill! so what will you do when you’re 30?;)

  2. Oh wow! I didn’t know you did this!

    I have just decided to try and start running a bit. It’s posts like this that keep cropping up that have encouraged me to give it a go. The feelings you all describe sound so exhilarating – I want some of that!

    Running across London sounds like an fabulous experience. I can’t believe you’ve done it so many times!!

    It’s official. You are my new hero 🙂

    • I don’t run very fast, it took me 5 hours. The secret is not running so fast that you can’t talk, so you either have to run with a friend – or talk to yourself!

      Thanks for your kind comments x

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