• 9 years of waiting
  • 7 failed ballot attempts before being lucky enough to have been drawn for my club place for April 2020
  • April 2020 cancelled
  • October 2020 cancelled
  • Deferred to April 2022 to give the world time to recover
  • The race then moved to October 2022
  • ….and a train strike the week before

Although I may not be the fastest, I am determined, and nothing was going to stop me from making that London Marathon start line.

This is the one she’s waited for – Ian Brown/John Squire

Since I took up running there’s been one race on my bucket list, the London Marathon. It’s an iconic race, one everyone has heard of and one I’d watched on TV for many years previously. If I told people I ran a marathon, they’d ask if it was the London one. Finally, I had my chance and  I wanted to enjoy every moment.

Training had been challenging, but I knew I had put in enough effort to run the course at a leisurely pace. Having no time goal meant I went into this race feeling very calm and relaxed.

However, the journey to the race posed a challenge as a train strike forced me to take an overnight bus. Although I had hoped to sleep on the bus, I was unable to do so. This lack of sleep was not ideal before a marathon, but I was grateful and content that the bus got me to the race on time.

the London Marathon

The Expo

I arrived in London at 6:10 a.m. feeling exhausted and in dire need of a strong cup of coffee. My first stop was London Excel to collect my race number for the London Marathon. While I could have asked someone to collect it for me and slept in a bit longer, I wanted the full experience. Despite the long line to get into the hall, the number collection process was fast and easy. I also took some time to check out the booths at The Running Show and ended up buying some delicious flapjacks. Afterwards, I checked into my hotel for the night.

Race morning

I woke up feeling a bit colder than usual. I had my breakfast of porridge with banana and Biscoff, along with a cup of coffee and an Imodium to prepare for the day ahead. Despite the intense heat of the summer, I’ve come to enjoy wearing shorts for my training. I dressed up in my latest ASICS wild camo kit and made my way to the starting point.
The London Marathon is a massive event, with three different start areas converging around the 5km mark. I was in the blue wave, but a few of us realized as we boarded the train that no trains were stopping at Blackheath, where our start area was, due to the train strike. However, we noticed the clear signage at the Maze Hill station and walked together to the start. It served as a great warm-up, as we had already walked 5,000 steps before the race began. The baggage drop was quick and easy, and then it was time to head over to the starting pens. Everything went according to plan, thanks to the amazing volunteers who helped us stay on schedule.
the London Marathon

During the race

And just like that, we were off. I was finally running the London Marathon and for the first three miles, I was just so excited to be there. I refused to wear headphones because I figured I might not have another chance to experience this and wanted to absorb every second.

The energy and excitement of the event were unparalleled. Thousands of people lined the streets, making it impossible to find a moment of quiet. The course was quite crowded due to the high number of runners, and it became even more congested when the three separate starting areas merged. Additionally, the ground was littered with a sea of bottles at the water stations, so you had to tread carefully.

I didn’t look at the route beforehand because I wanted it to be a surprise, but I read an article by Holly that highlighted the most memorable parts of the race. I focused on Cutty Sark at mile 6, Tower Bridge just before halfway, and Birdcage Walk near the finish line. The miles passed by quickly, and I enjoyed chatting with other runners and admiring their costumes. I almost missed the Cutty Sark due to being so busy. I continued ticking off the miles until I reached Tower Bridge, which was one of the most unforgettable moments of the marathon.

Although everyone warned me I would be in tears by this point, I was too hyped to cry. The stretch after Tower Bridge was mentally challenging, as faster runners passed at mile 22 while I was only at mile 13. However, I remained unfazed and continued having a great time. Around mile 15, the weather began to warm up, which was surprising as rain was predicted.

the London Marathon

Digging deep

The most challenging stretch of the marathon for me was between miles 22 and 25. Many people around me were walking, and the course’s narrower areas were congested. I lacked the energy to manoeuvre through them and opted to embrace the lively atmosphere while plodding on. Despite my Garmin being slightly off due to the tall buildings interfering with GPS, I spotted the Houses of Parliament, signalling that the finish line was near.

Birdcage Walk seemed endless, and after enduring the longest 400 meters of my life, we turned onto The Mall. The finish line came into view, adorned with flags from Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. As I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Charles won’t be too thrilled with all this commotion in his front garden!’

And the result

I finished the marathon in 4 hours and 37 minutes and was pleased to see my friend Alan volunteering at the finish line. It’s always nice to have a friend who surprises you with chocolate in their coat pocket!
Once I received my medal and exited the finish area, I retrieved my bag, put on a warm jumper, and headed to the Royal Park to call my Dad. Unfortunately, he didn’t see me on TV as the coverage ended at 2:30 pm and I didn’t run fast enough. I’ll have to work harder next time!

Despite the years of longing, I finally achieved my goal of earning a medal. More importantly, I now have cherished memories of an unforgettable day.