I still can’t believe I’ve just run 26.2 miles!
In January I started training for this year’s London Marathon. I surprised everyone as I was going to run with only 3 months training behind me. Normally, you need 6 months. I’ve never run a race before. I wanted to raise funds for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, in memory of my hearing dog Smudge. My training regime was 2 or 3 sessions a week on the gym treadmill, with the occasional street running thrown in with a local runner’s club, and a Saturday personal trainer workout followed by a martial arts class with Darren of Meade TKD. Darren is blind and a 3rd dan black belt – he believes that nothing is impossible – which was a great attitude to have. Every trainer should have this attitude! I didn’t do any long runs as I was so bored with running on my own that I just couldn’t face it, and instead I put in lots of short runs on the treadmill. My muscles were so tight that I got tendonitis in my right leg, pulling my kneecap off to one side. I treated this with visits to a physio and sports massage, and using a foam roller. My tip: start using a foam roller daily when you start training, don’t wait until you are in pain!
I’d had issues with getting the right pair of trainers and had 3 pairs that gave me pins and needles, so in desperation I bought a pair a whole size bigger on the day I picked up my runners number, a few days before the race. I had a 2 hour massage at Venus Inspired in Chigwell, and a facial which was just wonderful, the massage left me with a very sore back (which was better by race day) and the facial was so relaxing I almost fell asleep. Lovely!
On race day it was scorching hot. I stuck plasters on sensitive bits and wrapped plasters around my waist, where the waistband of my trousers might rub. I packed my iPod with neckloop, iPhone with direct audio connect leads, and a book (just kidding). I started off the race by listening to music on my iPhone, this was the first time I had used a neckloop and it worked very well with an activated T-coil program on my cochlear processor.
Start line – It took 20 minutes to get to the actual start line as I was in group 9, right at the back of the 35,000-strong crowd. It was a party atmosphere and I had a really good feeling about this race.
Miles 1-7 – I had an annoying stitch for the first 5 miles and ran through that. My shoulders were very sore, they felt as if I was running with them around my ears (I probably was!). I spotted a friend Jamie standing at the roadside at mile 5 and it was lovely to get a supportive hug. It was really quite weird running around my old neighbourhood in Greenwich. My longest run to date has been 7 miles and at the 7 mile marker, I was surprised that I could just keep going, my body did what I wanted it to do and kept moving forward. I had warmed up now and was running comfortably.
Mile 12 – The halfway point. It was lovely to turn the corner and see the majestic Tower Bridge rise in front of me. As I ran over Tower Bridge, I had a psychological shift and started thinking about how many miles were left, instead of how far I had to go. As we ran through Wapping, the faster runners were passing us in the opposite direction on their mile 22, and I looked at them thinking “I’ll never make it that far!”.
Mile 17 – All of a sudden, it was as if someone had waved a magic wand – everyone else around me started walking – they had “hit the wall”. My quads started to hurt, but I kept pushing through the pain. I slipped into a walk/run strategy. I was getting a constant stream of messages of support on my phone, which was just awesome. I was expecting to be running around the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and enjoying the views, but we were running underneath the walkways and through long dark tunnels – certainly the least interesting part of this course.
Mile 19 – I saw the Hearing Dogs banner, I whopped when I saw my friends there and elbowed everyone else out of the way to get over there for some much-needed hugs. My iPhone battery died at this point, and so did one of my cochlear implant batteries. I was now totally deaf in one ear. I switched my other cochlear processor to the usual everyday program so I could listen to the cheering of the crowds, which was fantastic – they really made my day. I had been worried about sweat affecting my processors but I had no issues at all. I dug deep and kept pushing forward, one foot after the other. I felt like Pacman, eating up the miles, one by one. Each mile seemed longer than the last. I was getting tired.
Mile 20 – My quads got worse and worse. At this point they were killing me but I didn’t want to stop, I wanted to finish the race – only 6.2 miles to go! I stopped to stretch – St John Ambulance came over to see if I was okay and gave me a quick thigh massage. After that I was walking a lot, in quite a lot of pain. I was walking/running past a lot of street parties – it was hard to watch people with huge plates of hamburgers and glasses of wine enjoying themselves as I ran past wanting to feed my gnawing hunger pangs! I had a bit of banter with people in the crowd and that helped to lift my spirits. So many people were standing there handing out sweets, oranges, drinks, or just with the palms of their hands out for me to touch as I went past. I loved this ‘London spirit’.
Mile 23 – Funnily enough it started to hurt more to walk than it did to run. I had sort of got used to the pain in my thighs and was running more, then my lower back started to hurt which I really didn’t like. My feet were sore by this point too – thankfully, I don’t have a single blister anywhere. I kept pushing forwards.
Mile 24 – I ran past St Pauls. Not far to go and I really wanted to push.
Mile 25 – Running down the Embankment, past all the tourists, the cheering crowds were getting much bigger now and I was pushing, pushing, pushing. Really happy.
Mile 26 – Outside Buckingham Palace, I turned the corner and saw the finish line, but when I got there, a roadside notice said ‘800 yards’ …! GROAN. The next notice said ‘600 yards’, then ‘400 yards’, ‘200 yards’ – then I saw the real finish line with all the photographers lined up, and shot through with a finish time of 6:39:54. I DID IT!
I really loved running this race and the best thing of all was the support I got from my friends and the cheering from the crowds. I look like I’ve just been on holiday as I caught quite a sunburn. My legs are very sore and I can’t lift my left leg at all today, so I have learned how important it is to stretch. Tomorrow will be interesting as the pain is supposed to really hit you at 48 hours after the event. I am still in shock that I’ve managed to run so far. I’m so happy I can’t stop grinning.