Tuesday, 5 May 2015

It's been emotional.....

It's been emotional.....

My legs are back to normal but my body and mind have given up, I'm on that marathon low - feeling down and blue so I thought I'd write about my experience. 

The support and good luck messages started the week before we set off for London - meeting with friends, cards arriving and my phone pinging every other minute. I felt as though I was emigrating and never going to see see people again. It was a lovely feeling that so many people cared. 

With my bags packed and ready we took Benji to school before heading to Paragon Station on Friday morning and he shouted 'Good luck mummy, you can do it!' from his queue to get into class, It brought a lump to my throat. I bless the day that I started the life changing journey that enabled me to get healthy so I was able to play and be active with him in his life as well as be his mummy. I enjoy every moment with him. Benji is of an age now that he is able to and enjoys running some distances with me and will often come and do a 2-3 mile run. He really is my world and he had such faith in me bless his heart. 

With our goodbyes said, a relaxing journey to London followed catching up on messages,emails and post. 

We arrived at the the Royal Garden Hotel Kensington which was absolutely stunning and unpacked before we headed back out and over to ExCel to collect my ever important marathon number. When I got my number it would mean it was official - I really was running VLM. I think it was only at that moment of holding my number 7207 in my hand it seamed real. What had I done? Had I trained hard enough? Would my legs see me through? Would my lungs see me through? I knew my heart would but..... oh boy!

After collecting my number we entered the Adidas boost tunnel which led to the start of what was an enormous exhibition. It was colossal. Company after company trying to sell their wares - sunglasses, gels, trainers, hats, running attire, treadmills, beetroot juice. If you named it and it had to do with running fitness it was there.
Then there were the charity stands. I caught my breath as we walked past the BHF stand, hearts upon hearts with loved ones names on dedicating their race, time and effort to people they held dear. 

A lazy day on Saturday ensued, with me fussing around getting my kit together and taking my now traditional pre race kit photo.  Pre race day for most runners is a pasta night and I was no different. We found a lovely Spaghetti House directly opposite the hotel and early to bed for what was going to be the biggest race day of my life. 

A 6am start on Sunday for shower, brekkie and everything else that needed to be done before planning to leave the hotel at 7:30. Oh boy my stomach was doing somersaults already - it was going to be a looooong day. 

You get free transport in London if you possess one of the all treasured race numbers. Ray travelled with me to Victoria Station where we said our goodbyes as I transferred from underground to overground for the journey over to Blackheath and he headed back to the hotel. It was a tough goodbye that left me empty and lonely - a feeling I'm not really used too but emotions were playing their hand as they always did on the lead up too and including race day. Boarding the train at Victoria brought tears to my eyes and not just from those emotions. The smell of deep heat and others lotions on the train would bring tears to anybodies eyes  - it was so strong!  We all sat in silent respect for the journey we were taking. It was quite eerie. 

With drizzly rain, Blackheath was just a sea of people trying to keep warm and dry under any shelter they could. The start area was cordoned off and I remember the first song I heard blaring out of all the speakers was Gnarls Barkley's, 'I think your crazy'. Oh how apt!!!  I found a chair under a repertory coffee shop marquee and killed a bit of time before queueing at the toilets for the always needed 'pressure wee!' By this time luckily the rain had stopped and it looked as though it was going to be ideal running weather. Cool, not too hot and cloudy. 

The big screens around the start area showed us the wheelchair athletes and the women's elite starting and  before we knew it it was our turn. We were on our way, everyone wishing each other a good run to the bleeps of GP running watches and we were off!!  I knew it wouldn't be my fastest run but run it was going to be. I planned starting on 11:30 minute miles as I would surely drop in my 2nd half. 

It wasn't really long before that overwhelming feeling of loneliness kicked in! You spend months training, most of it was with friends either running the whole or part distance with you with friends or family often on a bike being waterboy or girl and here I was all of a sudden thrown into a scenario of running 5+ hours - on my own - with 34,000 other people!! Why did I feel lonely!? 

I couldn't  snap out of the mind-set I'd gotten into no matter how I tried. The blue line of the marathon route that is painted on the road became my friend. I looked for it on the road and followed it, sometimes disappearing to all of a sudden appear again. That blue line suddenly had become my training buddy, my Fitmums family, my water boy and my support crew!

Mentally I started going downhill at about mile 9. It couldn't have been 'the wall' because I'd fuelled up properly - it was my emotions and my mind had got a grip and just wouldn't let go.  My foot felt as though it had a blister the length of it and I had cramp in my 2nd toe - why? My trainers were comfy, my socks were right, I think I must've stood on a stone at some point or caught it somehow because when I'd finished there wasn't a blister in sight. I remember about mile 11 seeing a lady running over to her screaming family giving them all hugs and feeling insanely jealous that it wasn't me greeting my family. "Ellie get a grip!" was all I kept saying to myself. How many times had I been out for long runs?! 

Ray rang and tried to talk to me bless him but I was in a bad bad place, He explained where he was standing so I'd see him at mile 14, hopefully by which point I'd have sorted my head out! - I hadn't!  I literally fell into his arms sobbing.  Everything hurt, my head, my heart, my feet, my legs and my ego.  I stopped for a couple of minutes and had a pep talk with him, I took some painkillers and he sent me on my way with ever ounce of encouragement, love and strength he had and boy did I need it. 

I had phone call after phone call from my friends and my gorgeous family ringing and encouraging me, they knew I was battling and they were trying so desperately to help me out of the place I was in. 

The next 4 or 5 miles were steady away. My pace had slowed considerably but I was still running -  just.  But my heart was breaking - every time I thought of someone something random would happen: 

Every time I thought of Ellie and Rory I would run past an MNDA cheering point or someone would run past me with an MNDA running top on. 

Frankie crept into my mind and I instantly saw Juvenile Diabetes, not Diabetes UK it was specific!

My good friend and running buddy Bev rang me a couple of times bless her and she works for McMillan, why was there a sea of green McMillan t-shirts just before she rang?

Then Poppy came to mind and in a sea of people - and I'm talking crowds of people 10 deep on the roadside, on a cool, now completely dry day there was a lady stood with a huge umbrella up. An umbrella covered in poppies!!

At the beginning of the race whilst I was sat under the gazebo, I'd set my iPod up to play my running album and at one point I needed a bit of entertainment so pressed my headphones to start playing. Why, oh why, oh why had it completely bypassed my running album and jumped to a random album on my iPod and was actually playing one of my dads all time favorite songs - "I'm Just a Country Boy" by Don Williams?!?! 

It was the last straw. At this point I was sobbing almost uncontrollably. I was wasting much needed energy on my emotions but then it struck me that someone, somewhere was telling me that everyone was there for me - it had taken nearly 10 miles but it was the turning point I needed. 
I thanked Dad.....and Charlotte.....and Abbie, Gramps, Ken and everyone else up there for being with me, I wasn't alone at all. I had a sea of people around me and more importantly above me pushing me to the end. Between them and my phone calls I'd been taken out of my 10 mile hell. 

I saw Ray again at 21 miles but this time with a smile on my face and a determination that would knock anyone over. My frame of mind was back. This race needed finishing and I needed it in the bag. I was ready to give the last five miles my all. I gave him a quick kiss and the biggest hug I could muster and off I went. 

The last phone call I got was from my mum at 25 miles.  I cried when she rang, I was hurting so much but she took all the pain away just by telling me how proud she was of me. 

The London marathon is something to behold and some of the other memories I will take with me are..... 

I have to say without doubt the crowds stood out to me as the biggest memory. All through London they were phenomenal, sometimes you just needed your own space and at those points it was a little over bearing but they were awesome nonetheless and certainly got me through the miles. 

but some other memories that are etched in my mind..... 

The organisation and the marshals were outstanding. 
Playing cat and mouse with Rory the Rhino. 
The Shard. 
The Cutty Sark. 
The ostrich that I overtook because he was having his photo taken with some friends in the crowd - only to overtake me again to show he actually had much nicer legs than me!.  
The wheelchair athlete struggling to get up the hill. 
The man sat by the roadside sorting out his blisters. 
The Isle of dogs. 
The 70+ year old lady running looking at the floor constantly because of her deformed spine. 
The lady at 26 miles having to stop and stretch to see her finish the last .2 miles over the line. 
Canary Wharf. 
Being overtaken by a giant pair of testicles!! (I kid you not, but Mr Testicles didn't get in front of me for long!!) 
Big Ben. 
The finish line on the Mall with the crowds screaming your name, clapping and cheering you right over the finish line. 

I wanted sub 6, I expected 5:45, I would've liked 5:30 or under - I finished the London Marathon in 5:45:41.  It was without doubt the hardest race I've ever run but also the most unbelievable experience I have ever encountered.  I've always said my body wasn't built for speed - it was built for comfort but ......it's a body that I work hard and one that no matter what I put it through it sees me to the finish.

Would I do it again? Hell yeh - I'm in the ballot and I now have a time to try and beat if I'm lucky enough to get through the ballot again that is. 

All I can say to my running friends is - if I can do it anyone can... and I couldn't have done it without their help and support or the help and support my gorgeous family and all my wonderful friends. 

I arrived home to more cards and gifts and a huge banner made by my beautiful little man (with the help from his Auntie Jeanie!) and I realised all over again just how blessed I am to have such precious people in my life. 

What's next for me?! I've one more race to do (Beverley 10k) before I set off to remarry my amazing, supportive and loving husband all over again for our tenth wedding anniversary. On a cruise with some of our closest friends and family. Much needed "us" time and to say I'm excited is an understatement.

Until next time. 

Much love