Well. I am going to write down some thoughts whilst things are fresh in my mind. I suspect this will be quite long, so feel free not to read on ;)
I slept reasonably well, woke at 4:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep but that was OK, to be expected. We had breakfast (my usual pre-long-run rice pudding), kit on, off to the station. We had planned on taking the 7:03 from Twickenham, which wasn’t showing on the boards. Eeep! Transpired all was well, it was running. We waited for the train, writing 5, 10, 15, and 20 mile splits on our arms.
Scrawling 5 mile splits up my arm…
The train arrived, on we hopped after meeting up with Chris and off to Waterloo. I think we look more relaxed than we felt!
Sharon and Crispy looking ready to go
Met Danny at Waterloo and then off on the train to Blackheath, crazy! Trains were so full, just unbelievable numbers of people. We walked up to the start area, the sun was shining, nice and cool. All good. We did the usual, “queue for the loo, come out, then practically get back in the queue again” thing and before we knew it we were dropping off our bags and going to the start.
David told me that at every mile marker (generally a big arch of balloons) he was going to press his lap button and leave me a kiss, so that when I pressed my lap button, I could collect it :) I only missed one kiss which was mile 21, I never saw a marker for it. So not bad.
So, back to the start. I lined up in my pen and it only took about 20 minutes to get over the line. The first mile was nice, fairly clear and easy to run, Ann went past me looking great. I kept calm and just pootled along. The second mile was funny because of the speed humps and the marshalls were there with signs, shouting, “hump”! Of course, there’s always one clever so and so who shouts, “Not right now, I’m busy”…haha. Ahem. I knew that the Runner’s World 11 minutes per mile pacer would be close by and sure enough, the group was there. They were flying along though! Goodness, it felt fast.
I had heard the best advice on Marathon Talk, where Tom advised that instead of auto-lap on your Garmin, you turn that off and press the lap button yourself when you go under the mile markers. Seriously, I was so glad I did that, thank you Tom. I thought that most of my miles were spot on for 11 minute miling, but when I looked at my Garmin it seemed like about 6 miles were too fast, even though I thought they weren’t. Hmmmm. I will analyse it more later. When I can bare to look at the data, right now I cannot.
So I carried on, really not believing I was doing the London Marathon. I was very pleased to see Cutty Sark, as it’s been a while since she has been uncovered - and in the sunshine was very beautiful. I had a good look as I ran by, with her on my left. I can’t really remember the next few miles, clearly uneventful apart from the runner who nearly tripped me dashing behind me to a water station and a lot of weaving from people wearing MP3 players. Ggggrrrr. I still don’t understand why you would choose to do the London Marathon wearing headphones, not only is it dangerous but don’t you want to hear the crowds, DJ’s and bands?
So, there I was, tripping along…when my head/brain/legs decided that they didn’t like it anymore. I think it was somewhere in the 11th mile that I first walked. I walked with purpose, head up but couldn’t understand why I was needing to walk. I really couldn’t. My head couldn’t understand it. I should have been more than able to go that pace, for much much longer than that. It’s very disconcerting.
The next bit I remember is coming around a corner, and seeing Tower Bridge. I was walking (again!), so I made one of me deals which was to get to such and such a place and then run, so I did. I saw Ann again at this point and we went along together for a little bit. Then I felt OK for a little while, I knew that soon I would be through Halfway (I went through Half on target) and then I was whizzing along (well, it felt like it to me!) into Narrow Street, where I knew Kirsty, Liz, Mike and Orlando would be. I saw them from quite a way off and gave a big wave. They were shouting like mad and it was so wonderful to see them. I had said to Kirsty before that if I was going well, I wouldn’t stop, I would just squeeze her hand - and that’s what I did.
I can’t remember much about the next couple of miles but somewhere at close to 17 miles, I felt hideous. I think it was in my head. Suddenly I was upon “Mudchute” - which is the Pirate support point. I walked by, calling over that I didn’t like it. I hadn’t planned on stopping but decided that in actual fact I wanted to. I saw Holly and told her I hated it. Then I walked back up to Meldy and Ditchy, saw Jj and Happychap. Sweaty, salty hugs and me saying, “I hate it, I really hate it, I’m not doing it again”. There waiting was Seren, who ran along with me for a while until I banished her - when I am running badly, I am better to be on my own so I don’t bring others down with my negativity. Bless her, we had a chat for about a mile I think and then off she went. Actually we went a bit back and forth, “Don’t I know you?” she said to me :) In this mile I heard Deb and Simon from Ranelagh cheering for me and I called to them that it wasn’t good, I didn’t like it. Next I knew Simon was alongside me, telling me to be strong. A little further up the road and Nicola and Stuart were on the left, cheering and shouting, waving the Pirate brolly (bet they were glad that they had that later on when the rain started!).
So, there was me in the depths of despair for nearly 3 miles. It was very odd, really a strange experience. I was making all these mental calculations, all the “well, I’m not going to go sub-5 now, what will I do?”. I decided that I would walk for 2 minutes at the start of each mile and then go from there. It took me a couple of miles to decide that! Clearly there was poor blood supply to my brain at this point ;) Somewhere in Canary Wharf (I think) I saw Kay, who had come up to cheer on. I was bimbling along and suddenly heard my name being shouted. I looked to my left and saw Kay, I went over and gave her one of those salty, sweaty hugs and told her it was so hard. She was very positive and sent me on my way. It was so lovely to see her and spurred me on again.
We came around a little corner at about 20 miles and I could see the Gherkin! Hurrah! I suddenly felt a bit better. Odd. Somewhere in this mile I took a quarter of orange from a little person by the road (contraband!), which was the nicest thing I have ever put in my mouth. I chewed all the lovely cold juice out of it and then spat out the flesh (didn’t want to eat it in case of tummy problems). So there I was, going along, having a little walk when i realised it was Fetch Point coming up - I hadn’t remembered that Kirsty, Orlando and Mike would be there, but they were. Yet another cuddle, yet more saying how hard it was. Hmm, recurring theme for the day ;)
After the 22 mile point (which I was happy to see as I hadn’t seen a 21 mile marker), I realised it felt mostly down hill. Funnily enough, I have just watched the marathon coverage and seen a lorry with a band playing on it. I remember the woman with the microphone saying, “Only a couple of miles to go”…and me yelling back, “4 miles, 4!! A couple.” Pfft! I got to mile 23 and thought, “It’s only a parkrun to go, anyone can do a parkrun”. This cheered me up for a while. I calculated that I could still get under 5:20 if I could keep going and minimise the walking. Mile 24 was quite nice, running through the Blackfriars Underpass. It was cool, dark, away from the blazing sunshine, quiet and I was overtaking loads of people as they were all strolling through! David reckons it’s because there are no crowds to see you walking. I really liked that Underpass. I walked up the exit to the tunnel, taking on board some more lucozade with my final gel and set off again.
It wasn’t long before I saw the big Stragglers flag a little bit before 25 miles. I ran by and saw the lovely Ray cheering me on, I gave them a big smile and carried on. I knew that it would be over soon. I still could get under 5:20.
With just over a mile to go I saw the Houses of Parliament, which was cool and the sky was really getting dark. We rounded the corner and I heard a shout of, “Go Ranelagh”. I looked to my right and it was David! I was delighted to see him, so delighted.
*Sharon running up Birdcage Walk, not responding to her name, only *
In the distance I could see a sign, “800m to go”. Only 800m? Two laps of the track? Brilliant! It went on for fecking ages though, seemed to take forever to 600m to go. I was running along, overtaking people all the way, which was good (not for them I realise). I rounded a corner and there it was. The, “385 yards to go” gantry. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to do it. I glanced at my watch and saw I would safely finish under 5:20. I was running towards the finish line and as I saw the photographers, I was crying, so I will no doubt have ruined all my finish photos. As soon as I crossed the line, Darren (who was volunteering on the finish) came over and gave me a hug. Guess what, I told him I didn’t like it ;)
I walked to get the chip taken off my shoe, then got my medal. The thing that really had spurred me on. The lady put the medal around my neck and I stood and looked at it and burst into tears. She said well done and looked like it had got a bit smoky ;) Walked over to have my photo taken, then to get my baggage and then headed down to the exit, I heard and saw David through the little fence. It was like talking to him through a prison barrier! I was sobbing and telling him I hated it and then I said, “Please tell me you got your time, we can’t both have fucked up”…he told me he had. Hoooray! Then I cried some more at the happy news.
Plodded along to the designated meeting point of letter R. Saw Kirsty and Orlando, had a massive cuddle and started to cry again. Then David was on his way and we saw Heather, more tears (no wonder I was dehydrated!) and in the pouring down rain we decided to walk to Waterloo. It was definitely a good idea - and I am sure it has helped my legs today. Met up with Danny and headed home, regaling one another with tales of the day.
Sharon with her medal on the way home
I knew it would be tough. I have enough involvement in my life with marathon runners and Ironmen to know it’s tough. It was hard in a different place though than where I expected. Everyone talks about the marathon being two races, one of 20 miles and one of 6.2 miles. Except it wasn’t like that for me. Mine was a race of three parts. Start-17 miles, pretty happy overall, still on target time. Miles 17-19, really, honestly, horrendous. Mile 20 onwards, overall much better again, especially from mile 23. I think once I had realised my sub-5 target was gone, I lost heart. I had to really talk to myself to get going again but I did it. I think my negativity dragged me down, if I ever do another marathon, that’s something I really need to work on. I have a tendency in life to look on the “down” side of things, which didn’t help me yesterday. I definitely need more self-belief. However, I then re-assessed and worked out the best time I could get from the day and worked for that instead, so that’s a positive too.
Yesterday, my overwhelming feeling was that I had let everyone, including myself, down. I couldn’t stop crying about it. I still feel like that, I think it’s going to take a long time for that feeling to go. I am so disappointed. I know what I am capable of and something (my head?) took it away from me. Right now, I cannot ever imagine wanting to run a marathon again. I also know that feeling changes for many people, so I shall never say never.
So, here I am, Monday morning, reading my lovely messages and texts again. My legs are feeling OK. I can walk downstairs pretty normally. I am still gutted - and I am trying very hard not to be. I am trying to look on the positives of the day and I am starting to feel a bit proud of what I have done, so that’s a good feeling. I finished a marathon, not many people do that, I have an awesome medal, a cool Finishers tee and I raised lots of money for Macmillan - thank you so much for all your donations, I’m sure it’s part of the reason I kept going. I also loved the training, I liked it much more than the race itself! Even better for me is that David got his Good for Age (GFA) time, so he is guaranteed entry for the next two years without having to go into the ballot. I am so proud of how he trained and then executed his race plan. Amazing :)
There are so many people who have helped me get to the start and through the day. I have received so much love and support from everyone, so many amazing messages and emails and cards. I am very lucky. I am bound to forget someone but I want to try and list as many as I can, more so that I can remember. So bare with me. You can look away from the Oscar style speech now if you would like.
To David, who has been strong for me all these weeks, despite everything going on. He essentially was “forgotten” as the London Marathon became all about me. I love him so and I am so proud of him. He’s fabulous. I think he’s a keeper ;)
To Kirsty, who was such a wonderful supporter on the course and has been so supportive through my training. It’s been so lovely being able to run with you again, everyone needs a running buddy - and for a long time, we couldn’t run together. Now we can :) Only one Colin cake has disappeared so far…!
To Ann and Ray, who have helped me more than they will ever know. I carried Ray with me in my head, “Sharon, slow down!”. Sadly I took his advice a little too literally! Ann, you will be back, I know it. I’ll train with you but I might not actually stand on that start line again!
To Heather, who seemed to have faith that I would do it when I never really thought I could. You are such an awesome marathoner and so very inspiring.
To Tom & Helen, who have been incredibly supportive of my road back into running. From the Marathon Talk, “Jantastic” in 2011, which set me back on my running path, to all the advice they have given me. Their friendship, love and support has been invaluable. H, I am so proud of how you ran yesterday a mere 6 months after giving birth! So wonderful and so strong.
To the Twitterati and the Wingers, who have put up with my selfishness and moaning and reporting back of splits after every run! You have given me such great advice, as a result of your wealth of experience. Thank goodness I have you all. Special thanks to the beautiful Waffy, who was the only person besides David who knew the extent of my foot problem after the Cranleigh 21 and who kept me calm when it was happening. Her foot held up yesterday, too :)
To Paul, who I personally blame for me doing this. If it hadn’t been for parkrun, I would never even be able to run a mile, let alone a marathon!
To Liz, Mike, Orlando, Simon, Deborah, Nicola, Stuart, Kay, Darren, the Ranelagh Harriers and the Stragglers, thank you for your shouts yesterday. It’s amazing that people take the time out of their lives to come and cheer runners on. It means so much.
After a bath, Skins on, looking at toenails and chaffage (good for me on both counts, not so much for David on the toenail front!), we went to the annual Ranelagh post-marathon get together last night, for a natter and a nosh and a Crabbies or two ;) Shiny medals ahoy!
David & Sharon with their shiny medals
Oh, for the mini-stats. I finished 28828th (36672 finished) in 5:16:55. I was position 1551 in my age group, with an age graded performance of 45.6%.
So that’s it. My London Marathon. Done and dusted. Phew. If I was to describe it on one word, I would say, “Overwhelming”!