Winging my way round the London Marathon

2 weeks ago, I was one of the 48,200 runners taking part in the London Marathon. From a rainy start at Greenwich to a sun-splashed finish at Buckingham Palace, I smiled, grinned and laughed out loud my way right round the city – proved by the 149 pictures of me identified by creepy facial recognition technology! Here’s why 5 hours of pounding the streets in a tutu, wig and wings made me so very happy…

Why running the London Marathon made me smile so much my face ached (as did my feet too, quite a bit, obviously.)

  1. I raised loads of money for the British Red Cross. Thank you so much to all my sponsors. I was very proud to be running at nearly £100 a mile for such a great cause, particularly considering how active they are currently in Ukraine. Altogether, over £60 million was raised for charity.
  2. I got a place! It’s nearly impossible to get a place to run London through the ballot, and raising so much money for a charity is hard. From my mother-in-law’s highly lucrative jam sale to every euro I was sponsored online, I’m very fortunate to have so many generous supporters.
  3. I did ALL the training. I only missed a week through illness. Huge thanks to my family for helping mind the kids! And, where we live is beautiful. We have loads of great running trails near us in Wiclow, Ireland. I only had to run in the rain twice, hardly ever on pavements and never in the dark.
  4. I didn’t get injured. This amazes me. I’m heavier than I should be, 45 years old and don’t cross train enough! As I zig-zagged through the puddles at the beginning and the droves of zombie walkers at the end, I thought my knee might suddenly give out, but it didn’t!
  5. I love the costumes. The rhino, the T-rex, the telephone box, the firefighter in full gear, the crazy bee outfits, it’s incredible what people are mad enough to run in.
  6. I got to be famous for 5 hours. I ran in a bright red wig, tutu and wings, with my name on my shirt. I had hundreds of people calling my name and cheering me on. “Great hair, Lizzie!” “Looking good, Lizzie!” “Lizzie, you look amazing!” Running London with your name on your shirt, is a huge ego boost. So good for the soul. I actually reapplied my lipstick about 8 times (no mean feat while jogging) just to keep up appearances. I smiled so much that I had to stretch and rest my face going through the two short tunnels along the route.
  7. I loved being part of such a huge event. There’s something amazing about being one of so many humans all doing the same thing at the same time. Such a range of abilities and ages, yet for those few hours our paths literally converge. I got chatting to lots of different people along the way, including a 70 year old lady on her 14th marathon, but I couldn’t keep up with her!
  8. I achieved my goals. A) Not to die. B) Not to walk. C) To run it in under 5 hours. I didn’t walk at all (except for while glugging water at some of the stations), and I made it in 5 hours and 3 minutes. I think zig-zagging through the zombie walkers did slow me up a bit. Some were walking pretty much from the beginning, but a lot were walking by the end. But, all those first-timers are why London has such great crowd support which I was totally spurred on by, so I can’t complain. Much. They do all lie about their expected times though! I started in one of the last waves based on my expected time of 5 hours. I then had to overtake literally thousands of people who must have all reckoned it they were going to run it faster than that!
  9. I got to take a break from being a mum. As a usually full-time mum of 3, it’s hard to make time for yourself. Everything about doing the marathon has been pretty self-indulgent, not least my 5 day mini-break over to England to run it! During the 4 months of training, most of my runs have been while the kids are at school, but there was always my freelance copywriting, house-hunting, shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry that I should’ve been doing. Inevitably, some of the longer runs fell into the weekends where it’s seriously antisocial to be going off running for 4 hours and then be knackered for the rest of the day, leaving my husband and or mother-in-law to deal with the kids! But… I think that’s a bit why I did it. I needed something that was just for me.

How did it go?

A friend dropped me off near Greenwich station around 10.40am for my 11.15 start. It was raining heavily. I didn’t want to get out of her nice warm car! I was wearing a charity shop jumper and a bin bag, with my costume bits in a carrier bag.

Wearing my bin bag by Greenwich Station

I headed into Greenwich Park, put my post-race bag on the truck, found the portaloos – which weren’t too bad at all, just a 5 minute queue. I got to my start pen, and reluctantly stripped off my bin bag and cosy jumper, felt very silly putting on my costume in the rain. Quickly, I did my activation points, praying they would give me a boost! As I made my way to my starting pen, I got a tap on the shoulder from Yon, a smiley little lady also running for the Red Cross. We crossed the start together, she looked very light on her feet!

With Yon at the start! #teamredcross

Thankfully, the rain lightened up as we crossed the start line and settled into our paces. I love the supporters in Bermondsey and Lewisham, speakers pumping out drum and bass, people getting properly stuck in to the drinks and smokes. One day, I swear that’ll be me, cheering on the lunatics as I get stuck into my third pint at 11.30am.

The Cutty Sark at mile 6 was a welcome landmark, a wonderful crowd and a very tight squeeze, we all had to walk for a bit. It felt pretty claustrophobic. A lady waved a yellow microphone in my face asking me for an interview, but I was too surprised to agree. I didn’t realise it was the BBC until I got swept past and immediately regretted not saying yes!

Half-way there

I felt euphoric coming over Tower Bridge at mile 13. Amazing cheering from the crowd. Magically, Yon appeared next to me as we passed the Red Cross cheering point. They were going insane, I thought initially for me, but then I realised they were all Yon’s family and friends!

Tower Bridge – half way!

The worst bit of the marathon

After the glory of Tower Bridge, the crowds thin out and then, for miles 13 and 14, you are on one side of the street, with all the runners who are 7 miles ahead of you coming back along the other side of the street.  I didn’t really hit “the wall”, but for me, this is the hardest part. It feels wrong, like you’re running the wrong way, and the people coming towards you all look exhausted and yet they are so nearly there! Very dispiriting.

Nearly there

Then, you loop off around much queiter areas around Shadwell Basin and Limehouse till you reach Canary Wharf. At that point, I hit a top speed of 80 mph according to my tracker app! But I think it was just Strava going nuts bouncing off the tall buildings.

Hitting 80mph in Canary Wharf

Finally, you rejoin the road where there are the people running towards you, miles behind you, STILL slowly coming. You feel very glad you are not them!

Then, you feel like you hit the home straight. You start recognising landmarks again: Embankment, London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The crowds just carry you along on a tide of support and cheering. I saw the Extinction Rebellion climate protest in full swing, a few of the demonstrators peacefully waving us on with their tall flags.

The glorious finish

By Buckingham palace, I was running as fast as I could, pure emotion driving me along, although, in the photos I look like I’m barely moving! I was attempting to pick up my pace for the last 2 miles to make my 5 hour goal, weaving my way between the walkers. In the end, I finished in 5 hours and 3 minutes. I’m delighted with those results and just so glad it’s all over!

At the finish line with my medal!

Will I do another one?

Not any time soon, I’ve other fish to fry, but never say never. This was my third marathon, and I loved taking part.

I’m still thanking my lucky stars that I didn’t get injured, working up to the big distances from nothing in just 14 weeks.

I’m definitely 2 stone heavier than I should be, and that extra weight must take it’s toll on my knees the long runs. For me, running does not equate to weight loss; I get starving hungry and feel entitled to eat way too much! So, I think the next goal is to run a bit less and eat a lot better. I’ve lost the weight before, I can do it again.

I’ve carefully packed away my wig, wings and tutu. I might need them again in a few years…


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