Sunday 14 April was a momentous day for me. It was the day I ran a real life actual marathon. All 26.2 miles of it!
I was lucky enough to be running with my very own personal trainer, nutritionist and cheer-squad – in the form of Alex! Although he hadn’t done much running training (whereas I had done LOTS) he had decided to run too and would be there by my side the whole time. Phew! (And bless!)
Alex and I had stayed in Brighton the night before, so on the big day we got up, ate some porridge, put on our charity running vests (Fight for Sight for me; Prostate Cancer UK for Alex), and walked over to Preston Park for the start of the race. Almost as soon as we got there we bumped into my sister’s friend Jon who was also running – a massive coincidence when you consider there were 10,000 runners milling around!
We managed to time everything to perfection so that even after Alex checked our bag and I had a final toilet stop, we still got to the front of our corral. This meant we started right behind the 4:30 pacers, which was to prove critical for the rest of the run!
At 9.10am on the dot the moment I had been waiting for with a mixture of dread and excitement for months on end was finally here – we were crossing the start line and I was running a marathon!
For ages we stayed really close to the 4:30 pacers. It felt like I was running much faster than usual (which is a scary feeling when you have so many miles to cover!), but I went with it, spurred on by the thought that a finish time under my initial goal of 4:45 might actually be possible…
We looped around the centre of Brighton for a bit, before heading down to the seafront and running east towards Ovingdean – up hill most of the way! At this point some of the elite athletes were passing us going in the opposite direction. Frustrating though it was knowing that they were so much further ahead, it was also very inspiring.
Around mile 9 we finally turned around and starting heading back west along the seafront. I don’t remember much about miles 9 to 12, except that we saw the oldest pair running together, Clive and Sheila Harburn, who were 70 and 74 years old! And we also saw some fire fighters who were running together carrying a ridiculously heavy ladder. Amazing stuff.
Mile 13 was a special one for many reasons. Not only did it mark the half way point of the run, but it was also the place where I saw (and heard!) my friends Kelly, Sian, Emily and Lucy, who had come down to cheer me on! And I also saw the Fight for Sight cheering station, which provided a helpful reminder as to why I was running at all. Unfortunately I didn’t see my parents, who were cheering me on somewhere near the Hilton, but knowing they were nearby still had a very positive effect on me! And amazingly, it was also around this time that the elite men were passing us on their way to the finish line (already!)
Next we left the seafront and veered inland a bit. It felt very bustly here, and even though we lost the 4:30 pacers, I was helped along by the sound of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 blasting from some speakers! There were loads of people lining the streets here, with little children handing out jelly babies and high fives to every passing runner. But next we were entering the part of the race we’d been warned to dread – the Portslade industrial estate section around mile 20, also known as the Saucony Road to Hell! Everyone had said this was the worst part of the race, because it’s out on a limb so there aren’t many spectators, plus it’s around this point that many runners start to hit The Wall…
But miraculously it wasn’t too bad! The organisers had made a real effort to get some crowds there, plus there were loads of Scope supporters cheering everyone on, and a steel band! In no time at all we were leaving industrial zone for the seafront again (sounds a bit like the Crystal Maze!). The sun was out, the end was almost in sight, and this time I did see my parents, which was brilliant!
The final couple of miles went by in a blur. I remember having a realisation as we passed some brightly coloured beach huts that I had run over 23 miles and hadn’t actually hit The Wall! This had to be down to Alex, who had kept me hydrated, energized and motivated the whole time. Without him, it would have been a very different experience!
By now the finish line was visible and the crowds were going wild! I attempted a little sprint for the last few hundred metres, but in reality I don’t think I actually moved any faster at all! Crossing the finish line was one of the best moments of my whole life. I felt so happy and emotional, and so grateful to Alex for keeping me going and helping me reach a time I never thought I’d achieve – 4 hours and 35 minutes.
Now I can sit back and relax knowing I’ve achieved a massive ambition – I ran a marathon before my 30th birthday in a time I feel proud of. And I actually enjoyed the experience!
(Never again though!)