04 Sep I ran the London Marathon
It finally hit me yesterday. I ran the London Marathon.
It’s taken just over four months, but the struggle of a three-miler around Edgware reminded me just how far 26.2 miles is. I’m now ready to talk about it.
My marathon journey wasn’t exactly plain sailing. I was supposed to run in 2018, but a clumsy football injury put an end to that in mid-November, just when I was feeling at my strongest.
I kept running through the sprained ankle, hoping it would ease away. Overcompensating, I sprained my knee on the other side.
Six weeks of physio followed, but I got back on the horse far too quickly and focused on getting the miles up for the Hackney Half in May, rather than rebuilding my strength.
Peaks and troughs. I spent the two months after the Hackney Half knee-deep in DIY, unable to break free and hit the pavement.
Winter came back around and offered the opportunity to get some miles in the legs. I felt good for the Olympic Park Half in January and surprised myself by finishing just three minutes over two hours.
Running four times a week, in excess of 40 miles was starting to take its toll by mid-March. Layers of Ibuprofen gel to get out, then stretching, salt baths and tiger balm when back in became a routine as familiar as brushing my teeth in the morning.
The long runs got longer and longer, and attempting an 18-miler in the rain on a two-day hangover was pretty sadistic. The 20-miler just before the tapering period, on the other hand, was a breeze.
Confident enough going into the big day, I thought I could eschew my usual pre-race meal of chicken noodle soup and go for a Thai Chilli made by a friend. First mistake – and it didn’t take long for that to hit home.
Second mistake? Under-eating. This had never usually been a problem for me; smashing through a bowl of porridge and then going straight for a run. But today I had about three hours between finishing breakfast and starting to race; not to mention the three miles I’d walked before getting to the start line. I was hungry before I even set off.
The first 10 miles were straight-forward enough. A gentle pace, so much painkilling gel I couldn’t feel the pains that were no doubt growing in my legs.
Around the 13 mile mark though, hunger started to strike. Gels, jelly babies, Haribo, oranges… The crowds were as generous with their food as they were with their encouragement. But god all I wanted was some toast. rice cake… A pie. Something to fill the void in my stomach.
By 16 miles my pace had dropped and everything began to unravel pretty quickly. I managed to sustain a pattern of walk half a mile, run half a mile. And that’s how it went for the last ten miles.
My aim had always been just to finish, but I thought I could sneak under 4:30. For most of the first half I was on track, but in the end, I finished a few minutes over five hours. And that was pretty disappointing. Gone were the thoughts of just getting, I felt disappointed that it had taken me 40 minutes longer than I hoped.
And that’s how I felt for a good few months. I applied for a place in the 2020 marathon, itching to set the record straight.
In the four months since, I’ve run here and there, but nothing sustained. Nothing like what I was doing before. Fitness levels have dropped, and the waistline has expanded, unused to having so many spare calories.
But in the last couple of weeks I’ve managed to string a few runs together without a fortnight in between. I’ve been enjoying running again, and it’s finally hit me. I ran the London Marathon. I don’t care about the time, I don’t care about how I felt straight after, I ran the bloody London Marathon.