I'm awake, I can't sleep. My bag is ready, my race kit is laid out. I'm really going to do this. I'm going to run the Virgin London Marathon with no training.
I am dropped off my by husband and young daughter (clapping and waving happily at me and she has no idea why) close to the blue start where I will complete last minute preparations, drop my bag in the luggage trucks and make my way to my starting pen. I chat to a lady named Sandra who is approaching her 70th birthday and from Bromley (close to me) and we wish each other luck.
In the loo queue again, nerves are taking hold of my bladder but not my mind. I have done this before I can do it again. I have no time in mind as such but I'd like to be ahead of the bus that goes round collecting runners who will finish in less than 7 hours... I really don't want to be on the DNF bus. There is no shame in this, I just can't face being on a bus that is going at 4 mph for what will feel like an eternity. (I imagine it to be not entirely dissimilar to the episode of Father Ted with the Milk Float).
I am in my starting pen, its packed with runners who are flinging off their extra layers by the side of the course waiting for the start. It happens, or it doesn't, we edge forward slowly towards the start line as the pens ahead of us start to pick up pace and run over the start line, determined and starting their garmin's as they cross the first chip sensor mats.
Already I am swept up, I have a walk/run strategy (I would be stupid to do much else at my current level of fitness or lack thereof), but I start with a run not a walk, but its the first mile and everyone watching is so expectant. Just before the first mile I see the bright pink coat of my daughter, held aloft by my husband, she grins as she see's me and reaches her arms out for me to take her. I give her a kiss and a cuddle and set off on my way again.
After 3 miles my garmin is not working - no satellites located - and I am regretting the extra layer I added on this chilly morning. I quickly whip of my vest and long sleeve top, replacing the vest and ditching my shirt at the side of the road. Much to the surprise of a helpful police officer who was asking if i was okay as I stripped to my sports bra!
I spotted the PWR flag and stopped for a quick snap knowing that the water station manned by this fantastic club was coming up soon. As I ran through I could hear Karen with the megaphone (or she can throw her voice very well), I grabbed my water and one by one they all realised a fellow PWR was in their ranks and they all started to cheer, I got a surprised cheer from Donna... not surprisingly as nobody knew I was running. This really raised my spirits and I continues on my way, walking for 10 minutes and running for 10 minutes.
A comfort break was required, frustrating to queue whilst taking part in a 'race' but hat's how it goes. I passed the Cutty Sark and its roaring crowds, by this point I was pretty fed up with my Garmin and was unable to work out if I was on track or not. I knew to avoid the bus I needed to keep my average pace at 16 min/miles or less. I started to wonder what the hell I was doing, why had I decided to do this today. I was at 8 miles and I was pissed off.
I carried on grumpily, until I looked at my wrist and realised I had picked up a pacing band at the expo, I could use this to work out if I was on track. Much happier that I felt I had some control back I carried on looking forward to the next major landmark... I turned the corner and there it was, Tower Bridge. Awesome!
I was under my mile targets for a 6 hour marathon by about 8 minutes which was good and gave me some wiggle room. Next stop, the halfway point and then its all downhill... mentally at least! I looked across at the faster masses and saw some other PWRs I shouted hello to Chris B, then soon after saw Phil and Jenny but they didn't spot me. I was feeling so much more positive about the whole thing now. I checked my phone during one of my walking intervals and saw a message from my husband saying he was at Canary Wharf waiting for me, what lovely news. as I started up an incline I saw another PWR runner and as I apporached I saw it was Matt S, we had a quick hello and I continued on my way.
As I approached the 30km marker I once again spotted my little girls pink coat and waved at them both, she was once again delighted to spot me and I stopped for a cuddle which gave me a lovely energy boost. Matt passed me and gave me a pat of encouragement on my shoulder.
I was in a great place now, I was enjoying the crowds, my husband advised me my pacing was very even and especially brilliant with no training - they don't call me the metronome for nothing hahaha!! I was getting messages of support from people all of which spurred me on.
I saw some great posters and the supporters were on great form if not a bit tipsy now after hours cheering and drinking. You're in for a treat if you're a runner named Ollie, "ollie ollie ollie oi oi oi". Another comfort break was on the cards although the queue moved faster this time but still added a good 5 minutes stoppage time.
Soon enough I was at the 20 mile marker, I stopped for a picture and once supporter was cheering me on as I did it. Only 2 Parkruns left to go. That's definitely doable! In celebration I took a Jammie Wagon Wheel being offered by some beer swilling members of the crowds and enjoyed it as I entered my next walking interval.
I saw a few ice cream vans and silently cursed myself for having no change on me for a 99. So I kept on going, my energy gels and Lucozade supplemented by the kindness of strangers mostly in the form of jelly beans.
Soon enough I was to see my support crew again as they waited for me just under London Bridge, only a few miles to go and I may have been a little giddy and delirious. I'd lost my advantage now and was looking at a finish time of just over 6 hours by my calculations.... and this was fine by me. This couldn't be right could it, no training, a baby later and no running but pretty much just nailed this?!
I was buzzing now with less than 3 miles to go and I heard a familiar voice, I ran across the road and got a hug from a former work colleague and friend. What a nice surprise for us both. I kept going, I could feel my pace had slowed a little and running was getting tougher as I felt a sharp pain in my big toe (I think a blister may have just popped... yuck). Onward I went, I wanted to run the last 200m so I opted for a bit more walking, less running for a while and then it was upon me... 800m to go, 400m to go.... I could see the finish line, I started my run towards the line, I crossed and was handed my medal by a smiling volunteer (not a prince), I looked around in wonder, being congratulated and congratulating other finishers. I went for my finishers photo.
I'd only gone and bloody done it! I was gobsmacked and thrilled all at once, I had made a crazy decision (it wasn't the first crazy running decision and surely wont be the last) and it had paid off. My legs were aching, I was scared to look at my toes but I had just run the London Marathon with no training!
My support crew were at the finish waiting for me with a meatball sub... could this day get any better?
On the train home we spotted fellow PWR #mikethemod and congratulated each other. What a fantastic end to a surprising and thoroughly enjoyable day.
#reasontorun #runninglondon #thisgirlcanuk
NOTES: As a trained running coach I would not advocate running a marathon without training. Whilst its true that I did this one without any training I have run 3 marathons and one ultra marathon before (albeit a couple of years ago pre-injury and pre-baby) and knew what I was letting myself in for. I also have some very supportive friends and family. Thanks you to everyone and your words of encouragement, this was not a secret marathon, I really did just decide 3 days before!