I’m in that mass of people. We gathered in Preston Park at 8:30 yesterday morning, where I met up with a handful of the Run Mummy Run community, and chatted in particular to one lovely lady [edit: it was Lisa Jay, who was a star!] as we queued roughly forever for the race toilets… And then in the start pen where I miraculously found Jo and Sophie, who I’d met on that long-ago training day at St Katherine’s Docks, and Jo had found Reedy – also running for The Alzheimer’s Society, and about to do it all again in London next week… legend! We watched the fancy dress pen fill up, next to us. People in full rhino suits. A man running for the Samaritans, dressed in a green foam telephone. Amazing, mad people.
We didn’t take long to cross the start line, amazingly. Not even though we joined the queue to high 5 Zoe Ball (what can I say?! Jo was determined…!)
The four of us ran together for the first three miles, and then I adopted my 4:1 run:walk strategy feeling – if I’m honest – a little fraudulent to begin with, as it was a lovely day and I was feeling really good and strong at that point. But my watch kept beeping at me, and I knew it would piss me right off if I didn’t do as it said… so 4:1 it was. Best. Decision. Ever. I spent the whole race calmly confident that I was going to finish. I had time to relax and enjoy myself. I didn’t once feel that it was beyond my reach, or unachievable. Yes, it hurt – the last three miles (“Come on, Reedy! Just a
parkrun to do, now. We can do parkrun!”) were amongst the most painful miles I’ve ever done. No, not true, actually. They don’t compete with the last km of Silverstone… OK. So the last three miles were uncomfortable and fatigued and damned hard work. But not painful, really. That 4:1 strategy was a real leg-saver. A head-saver. A race-maker.
I had a lovely, lovely day. There were tears. There were chats. There was being overtaken by a rhino on the hill up to Rottingdean. Oh! That hill up to Rottingdean was so long, and slow and bastardy!
It was a warm, sunny day with a light breeze which mostly was blowing gently onto one shoulder. Out of the sun there were chilly moments, and I swear there was some rain in Hove, although other people running more or less with me say they didn’t spot it… There was amazing spectator support, and huge camaraderie amongst the runners. I’m really not sure what to say now.
My wonderful Iain was an absolute rock,and he and Sissy and Dad were there to see me at miles 3, 5, 14 and 26 (although I didn’t spot them, at that last one!) with hugs and encouragement and the odd tear (from all of us, I think!). And my wonderful friend Andy organised her weekend training around supporting my little jog and met me in miles 1, 17 and 20. And then they were all there at the end, with hugs and warm dry clothes and more tears – definitely from all of us.
Some of my favourite bits – apart from just the stunning atmosphere and the beauty of running by the sea…:
- A Jamaican street food shack, offering a discount to runners and playing loud music to cheer us on in the very first miles. Impressive effort for 10am on a Sunday!
- The beauty of the Pavilion in the morning sun. I didn’t have the energy after the run to go in and look around, but Iain and Sissy had a quick squizz through it.
- The families having picnics in their front gardens, to cheer us through Rottingdean – and one family in particular, with a beautiful podenco in their front garden, which made me think of Genil.
- Kev, who was running for Clic Sergeant, I think, who had torn his ITB and by the time I met him at mile 12 was heavily bandaged and walking, but determined to cross the finish line. I looked up his results. He did. It took him 7 hours and 23 minutes, but he bloody did it!
- The superstar people in Hove who had chopped up oranges and were handing them out by the roadside. This was around mile 16 or 17 and my mouth was claggy and ‘orrible from all the revolting gels and teeth furred with jelly baby skin. Oranges were deliciously refreshing and stopped my stomach cramping. Just a genius idea!
- A couple in Hove who’d set up deck chairs outside their front garden, she dressed as the Queen, complete with cardboard mask, and he as Prince Philip – fist bumping the runners as we passed. So funny!
- The girl from Birmingham who decided that this was on her bucket list and was running between chemo sessions – she put in a solid performance, and was about half an hour ahead of me at the 22 mile mark, so probably came in at around 5 1/2 hours. Pure guts.
- Sophie and Jo who stayed together all the way around and came in at 5 hours 21. Amazing women, both of them!
- Reedy,who kept a slow solid pace all the way around. I caught up with him at about 17 miles and then fell behind and caught up again as I worked through my 4:1 intervals. He was struggling by mile 23, when I last saw him, but I don’t think he can have been much behind me at the end, and looking through the results, I think he probably got in just over 6 hours 6 minutes. We chatted and laughed and hugged our way round. I don’t envy him, starting again next week!!
- The good luck card from my nephew! I came 3,613th woman (out of 6916, apparently) and 726th woman in my age category… I’ll take that!
My final meeting with Andy at mile 21.5ish was an absolute boon. We’d done a long, smelly stretch up the Shoreham peninsula (it stank of fish!) and I was tired and thirsty but really didn’t think I could take any more gel. The water stations had run out of energy drink by then, but Andy had some isotonic good, salty stuff with her and I swear that is what single-handedly powered me through that final 10k.
I remember crossing the 35km mat, thinking “That’s it! I’m basically done!”. My feet were sore, and I was tired and hot, and ready to finish. I lengthened my walks, and Andy came along and kept me company for about 8 of the last km. As we jogged toward the final stretch, the crowd strengthened and shouted and cheered my name. It was amazing. Overwhelming, emotional. I could feel myself gasping – not for air, but trying not to sob. I so desperately, desperately wanted to stop! But people cheered and yelled and clapped and encouraged the last 2km out of me. I held it together while I collected my medal (just) and completely broke down for my medal photo… so that’ll be an interesting shot, when it’s published!
So that was it! My marathon! There may be others… watch this space. And I’m sure I’ll think of wittier, smarter ways to represent this one. But in reality it was an amazing day out, with the generosity and camaraderie of fellow runners, and borne on a wave of love from my family and friends; those who were there, and those who texted and DM’d me support all day long. Thank you. All of you. You’re absolute bloody diamonds!