The flight over to London from Cape Town was fine, although neither of us slept. I find it impossible to sleep on a plane. At Heathrow, we stepped off the plane and realised how cold it was! Then we met the lady representing the Sports Travel company, and we waited for the others off the two flights, our flight from Cape Town and the other one from Jo’burg. I went and bought some breakfast, a roll each and a cup of coffee and an hour later, when everyone had arrived, we were on the coach to the hotel opposite Hyde Park. It was still only about 10am so we all left our baggage in a side room of the hotel where it would be stored until we checked in later.
Then, we caught a tube and the DLR to the Excel Centre, on the other side of London, to register for the marathon at the Expo. Although we had started as a group, inevitably we all got split up on the tube, so went our separate ways. We duly registered, picked up my timing chip and had a look around the Expo. We got Steve’s gait analysed so that they could officially tell him he had rubbish calves and knackered Achilles, and then went and got a bit of lunch before struggling back to the hotel – the tube and DLR was very busy. I didn’t want to do any more walking for a while, as I was beginning to get sore toes and, apart from being very tired, I didn’t want to do any damage the day before the actual event.
After a cup of tea back in the hotel room, we had a rest and then went out for a pasta meal. Luckily, there was an Italian restaurant just up the road from the hotel, so we didn’t have to go far. After eating a bowl of lasagne and drinking a jug of water, we went back to the hotel in the rain and had an early night.
The next day, Saturday, feeling a bit more awake, we spent wandering around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, and a bit of London. It was sunny, but cold – lovely in the sunshine, but not so good when the clouds gathered. We bought some sandwiches so I could continue to carbo load(!) and a few other bits and pieces, and went back to the hotel. We were due to meet Taz and Nick, and Russell and Sarah and the girls later so we had a bit of a rest to prepare ourselves! We had the address of the apartment they were staying at, so we made our way towards it.
We got off the tube at Liverpool Street and started walking in the general direction of the apartment. As it happened, after Taz had called us, we met up with her, and Sarah, who were only a few minutes away, and who were out to buy some food for the weekend. After buying enough food to feed an army, we all walked around the corner to the apartment with it. I was eating pasta with water, while the others ate Chinese takeaway with wine! We left about 9pm. I didn’t want to be too late back because I hadn’t prepared my stuff for the marathon yet and didn’t want to be in bed too late either. I eventually climbed into bed at about 11.30pm after a rainy trip back!
Steve’s alarm was set for 5.30am, and that is when I got up. I put some clothes on and ate my porridge! The bus was coming to collect us at 7am and we had to meet downstairs in the foyer at about 6.45, so I finished getting myself ready and started to look forward to it. It was a bright sunny morning, although very cold. After some group photos, we all climbed on the bus and eventually arrived at Greenwich about an hour later. We trooped off to the Blue start area, which was my start, about 10 minutes’ walk away. A photo was taken of each runner as they entered the Start field and I wandered around to the Changing tent to sort myself out. After that, I found a space to sit and eat my ‘picnic’- or second breakfast. I noticed that the queues for the loos were about 5kms long(!), so I thought I’d better go and stand in one. When you’re in a loo queue for a long time, you tend to make friends with the people either side of you, which helped to pass the time. Both ladies were running their first marathon and they were also both raising money for charity.
I eventually reached the front of the queue (I think it took about 30 minutes, which made the visit worthwhile by the time I did get to the front) and then I took my tog bag across to the relevant baggage truck. After that, I walked across to the pens. I was in Pen 9, along with thousands of others, and passed the other pens, all massively full, along the way. I don’t think I have ever seen so many people all standing together before! It was quite chilly standing there and I was glad I had on an old sweatshirt, which I was going to discard once I had started the race. We stood there, en mass, until about 10am (I think) – difficult to work out as I didn’t have a watch on me (only the garmin) and I’m not sure that the church clock nearby was showing the right time. Eventually, we were off, and started walking forwards. We walked for what seemed like ages, until we got to the Start line, probably some 10 minutes later, and I set my Garmin to run from there. We eventually, were able to move off a little faster and I started plodding.
I tried to keep my pace down. It was very easy to tear off, along with everyone else, and I knew I shouldn’t be doing that. We moved across the fields at Greenwich, then on to the road and through the first village. What an experience that was! It was so overwhelming. I’ve never seen so many people. They were on both sides of the road. All ages from babies and small children, to Grannies and Grandads.
I have never had so much support – people cheering us on, calling out our names, all the way along. They were having parties and picnics at the side of the road, offering the runners food, and some even had brought chairs and seating out to watch in comfort. And the South African representation was amazing too. All the way along.
I managed to run for 16 miles without walking at all, and felt quite good. However, in Canary Wharf, it was very narrow and became quite congested with so many people walking. It was hard to keep running and moving around people and I started walking in small bits until I could get around them. Then my legs started to hurt. Don’t know why they hurt, but that did make me slow down. The weather had been bright and sunny until then too, and it got very warm, but then it became rather windy. The clouds were beginning to gather too. I kept going for the next few miles, but was quite disappointed that I hadn’t seen Steve & Co at any of the viewpoints they had said they would be at. It would have been a bit more of an incentive to keep going for longer if I had seen them, and I found I was slowing because they weren’t around. It transpired later that they had been around but not where I thought they would be. Grrr! Still, I did see two people I know, Lara and Richeldis. They where they said they would be, and it really was great to see them.
At around Miles 23/24, it started getting very windy and started raining. It got heavier and there was even hail mixed in it for a while. Cold! I started to get really cold. I focused on what I was supposed to be doing, and barely noticed the crowds shouting at that point. I had to keep going. Eventually, I saw Big Ben and, very slowly, it got closer and closer, and we turned right, and then ran down along the Mall. Very cold. Very damp. Nearly finished. Finish line came up closer and I got across it and switched off the Garmin. Phew! Hooray!
It was quite hard to walk after ‘running’ for that length of time but my chip was taken off my shoe and I was handed my medal and goodie bag, and I collected my tog bag. Then I went to find Steve and anyone else who was still around. After struggling to get my phone out of my tog bag, a very kind couple who were passing helped me hold my foil blanket together around my shoulders so I could find the phone and not get cold. Luckily, after struggling to make a call, I saw Taz walking towards me, followed by Steve.
The hardest bit was trying to get down all the steps to the tube, but I did it slowly and we eventually got back to the hotel. After a cold soak in the bath (eek) with a cup of tea and some biscuits, I caught a taxi with Steve and Taz to the apartment and we had a take-away meal with the others to celebrate.
The next day we checked out of the hotel and were driven down to Somerset by Taz, where we met everyone else when we arrived. We were staying in a beautiful, big old house with Sam W, John, Finn, Russell, Sarah, Leila, Bethany, Taz, Nick J, Nick G, Amy, William, Jack and Sam P. Oh, and Sam P’s ‘girlfriend’, a huge teddy bear!
Thursday is my birthday, and I have had a lovely body massage, which has helped stretch everything out again. Very nice and relaxing. And lots of birthday cards and presents. It has been a lovely week and thank you to everyone for making it so special. Also, thanks to everyone who has helped me raise so much for Alzheimer’s Research, and for putting up with me during my training.
And a very special, THANK YOU, to Steve, who has borne the brunt of it for the last few years, since I started this ‘project’. I know I’m not always the nicest person in the world at times, and get stressed when, maybe I shouldn’t, but you have put up with me, and I achieved my aim.
Thank you everyone. I now have to close this blog as it has come to an end. I wonder what my next project will be?
p.s. Totally forgot to put my time in of 6hr 1min!
p.s. Totally forgot to put my time in of 6hr 1min!