Yesterday I ran my first 26.2 miles. I’m sure there will be lots of inspiring blogs to read this week each sharing their own personal experience of the London Marathon 2015, but I think mine was quite unique.
You see, I started my marathon not with the masses but with only 70 other crazy runners. At 4am. At the finish line. Yes, on Sunday morning I ran the London marathon in reverse.
The event was called ‘nohtaraM ehT’ and I found it a few weeks ago on Facebook after one of the guys from Fulham RC posted it on our members page. I was so intrigued and spent about a week trying to decide if this was just too ‘out there’ to try or whether actually, it might be fun to just give it a bash.
I’ve signed up to my first official marathon in October, Bristol to Bath, which I’m really looking forward to, but if I’m honest, the whole race thing doesn’t excite me. I don’t like the pressure I get from others or put on myself in the lead up to any race, whatever the distance, and with marathons, especially the big city ones, the hype is just overwhelming.
So ‘nohtaraM ehT’ seemed perfect. I could treat it like a long training run, meet other runners, find a comfortable pace, see what the route was like and just see if I would enjoy it. I told myself that if at any point I wasn’t enjoying it, I would just stop, find the nearest bus or tube, and go home. No pressure, no expectations, just running.
I made the decision to do the event at the beginning of last week, so although I wasn’t the best prepared, I felt in my mind that I would be able to complete it and I think that’s half the battle. The furthest I’d run before yesterday was 20 miles at the Thames Riverside 20 at the beginning of March, and since then I’d kept up the longer distance over my weekend long runs and half marathons. I tried my best last week to rest my legs and did mainly yoga and Pilates classes, made sure my diet was on point and I was hydrating well and on Saturday ran a few steady miles and had a good pasta dinner.
So here’s how it went:
- I got up at 2am, waited for a bus in the rain for half an hour and got to the start (finish) at St James Park to head off just as Big Ben chimed 4am. Magical.
- I knew within the first few miles, running in a small group at the back of the pack, that I’d be one of the last to finish, but it didn’t phase me. We were running 9min/miles and it felt comfortable. I knew I could keep up 8.30min/miles as that’s what I’d done running with a pacer at the Thames Riverside 20, so I just kept at it.
- It was dark for the first few hours and amazing to see the London skyline at that time, still strangely buzzing. As we ran on the sun rose slowly over the city, waking up the streets and providing us with a different backdrop to run against.
- Although the route was pretty well marked, there were some points that were trickier, particularly around Canary Wharf, but we followed the blue stripes painted on the road all the way round and as it got later, more barriers and signs went up, leading our way.
- We got to Tower Bridge (half way) at 6am, perfect pacing, and met with Rich the organiser who had set up a snacks station and some others who were joining us for the second half.
- After crossing Tower Bridge, it registered that we were more than half way and I was still really enjoying the whole experience. Every time we clocked another mile, we ran through the official mile marker balloon arches, and as these were set up for the real race, they were counting down the miles we still had left to run.
- Mile 20 came and went, and I was surprised how ok I felt. This was the furthest I’d ever run. Everyone talks about ‘the wall’ and I ran waiting for it to come and hit me, but despite being out on my own for the last stretch, I still felt good.
- The last few miles were quite lonely though. I was running as officials and volunteers setting up were giving me strange looks (some even shouted ‘You know you’re running the wrong way!?’) and my motivation dropped slightly. I then remembered how far I’d come though and kept pace, knowing that I’d be close to my 4 hour target (the start time had been staggered so everyone aimed to be finished at 8am for breakfast).
As there are various different start lines for the marathon runners depending on your number, I didn’t know which start line to head for, but by that point I had joined a group of fellow Fulham RC guys and we all headed for the red start line. After 26.2 miles and arriving at the red start, we were told by the marshals that we couldn’t go any further. I stopped my watch, clocking 4:02 and couldn’t believe what I’d just done. My first marathon. The London Marathon. Backwards. How many people can say that?!
Thank you to Rich for organising the event, it’s now in its 6th year and fingers crossed will be running for many more, and to all the other runners for joining in despite the wet weather at the start. I’m so happy I made the decision to give it a go and surprised how much I loved the entire thing. This community of runners is what keeps me going, it was such a special event to be part of and I was very proud to get to the finish (/start) together.
Congratulations to everyone who finished the London Marathon yesterday! After ‘nohtaraM ehT’ we all went out to support on the course and cheer on the elite, our fellow club runners and the masses. It’s one of my favourite days of the year in London and every time I’ve stood on the sidelines cheering on the runners I’ve wished that one day it would be me. Now I can say I’ve done it. Nearly. Next up, entering the ballot and praying for a place to take part in the real thing!