The Road to London (and 26.2 miles round it!)
Rewind to September 2013. I was content with life, carrying a few more stone than I should but everything was good apart from rapidly approaching 30, and constant restructures at work stressing me. Then my whole world collapsed, I found myself in a very dark place and 3 stone lighter in the less than 3 months. Concerned for my well-being, my sister in law recommended I started running. I didn’t even own any trainers! Exercise was something that I only attempted periodically when I decided I needed to lose weight. Now, looking like a skeleton that was the last thing I wanted. I was assured that the happy hormones were what I needed as well as routine and focus whilst I rode the wave of this crisis. When she suggested running, my immediate reply was ‘I can’t’ and her reply was Couch to 5K.
So I started- couldn’t even do 30 seconds. But was told to stick with it. And quickly it became a little easier, and combined with a circuit training class, I did start to feel a little better. I gained weight, but not size and by April I was able to do 5k in about 40 minutes. I was a runner!
Inspired by many friends who completed the London Marathon that month, I applied to the ballot. Swiftly to be told ‘Don’t worry about your moment of madness, nobody gets in through the ballot anyway’. So, I researched and applied through Crunch to represent Kidney Research UK. Now I had a fantastic X-factor style sob story- nearly died from Kidney Disease, a week from certain death, massive surgery, survived, got fat, the end. I was also pretty good at fundraising- me and Rafa raised some serious money in the past through sponsored walks!
Needless to say, in true X-factor style, I was the first one picked to go through to the lives (I mean the Marathon) so July, faced with the prospect that my 5K struggle needed to turn into 26.2miles of glitter, I contacted the Flyers. Words of wisdom from my initial post from Ian Anthony, Keith and Michelle Payne. I headed down to woods and struggled with 2 miles- aching abs the next day. Longer ‘runs’ and the likes of Maggie, out the kindness of their heart tried to pull me through.
But the turning point was August/September, when inspired by Amanda and Diesel, I got my precious boy involved. Running with the flyers and my boy became fun, and the miles just kept adding up as I pushed forward with the Passingham Plan. My training was somewhat marred by Anaemia which almost hospitalised me, and a cold that remained for 8 weeks (I thought running was meant to make you healthy?!) but I kept going. Watching my training buddies do Brighton was painful. I wanted my marathon, I wanted to be with the Flyers. Thankfully Matt had agreed by this point to be my knight in shining armour and get me through.
So onto the day itself. Oh my god. I thought I was going to my death. I could hardly eat, felt sick. At Southend I met a St. Johns Ambulance lady, who started telling me she was at mile 25, and there you see some ‘really serious stuff’. Not what I needed to hear- didn’t even feel confident I would make it that far. Thankfully, that conversation ceased when Alex arrived. Onto the train got more flyers at Westcliff and we found those who had got on earlier. My main man joined at Basildon and told me about his partying the night before, and his carb loading of party food washed down with a few beers. I expected him to know everything- but in a very relaxed fashion admitted he didn’t even know where we were going. When the Volunteer flyers left us, the dread and reality hit home even more. But Matts very relaxed approach started to rub off on me, and my anxieties of the race turned to more to the fear of a public toilets. Arriving at the very busy start, it was like a party atmosphere. Matt kept me talking and managed to somehow even get a smile from me.
And we were off. We started quite quick. For the first 10k Matt kept asking ‘Whats our time?’ I would reply ‘Quicker than we need to’ ‘Well lets slow it down then’. The atmosphere was electric, I felt pins and needles when we would pass a particularly big crowd, or a band. I liked the rendition of ‘Rocket Man’ from a pub singer somewhere in East London! The Amy Winehouse a few miles on was a bit ropey though! We played spot the dog for a while, in which Matt was surprisingly knowledgeable about dog breeds! He said he wanted a spaniel. But this quickly became a confession that actually he doesn’t want a spaniel. He wants Diesel. We also made a few imaginary food orders as we passed restaurants and agreed that you need to order about 4 snack wraps to be satisfied with breakfast at Macdonalds. Before I knew it, about 8 miles had passed. Couldn’t tell you much about the landmarks I passed as I was too drawn in by the crowds. It felt like the Royal Wedding or something major. It was something major, and I was taking part.
By half-way I was still on for sub 5 hours, but told Matt that I knew it wasn’t in me. So we had plan A, B and C in place, the best case scenario being 5.15. I had some gels, some sweets. People were offering all sorts to the runners but at mile 16 I saw a man with Stella. Go back 18 months ago, and Stella was my best friend. And boy did I want her company now. I turned to Matt and said ‘Nobody is giving beer out are they?’ and with that he ran back, and I saw him on the corner neck a can! That was torture! So at the next beer crate, about a mile later, I asked for a bottle and was gifted it! Running along at mile 17 with a bottle of Fosters, this Marathon is actually quite fun! At mile 18 I wanted to really slow, because I wanted to run through Poplar strong, so I started moving slower, but before I knew it, I could see Martin and Graham. Time to pick up the pace! A hug with Anne who was guarding a lamp post and onwards. Next to Samantha who told me ‘you’re doing great! You are on for 5.05 at the moment!’ and told us Maggie was round the corner. Hugs with Maggie, Shout outs over the megaphone from Alex, more hugs and shouts from all the flyers- my speed picked up through Poplar. The flyers lifted me.
The miles became even more of a blur from then. I saw my mother and father in law and sister in law twice, a friend had climbed up some scaffolding at mile 22 and was cheering me on. Everyone I passed was shouting ‘Go on Vicky’ ‘Keep going Vicky’ ‘You’re doing Great Vicky’- I felt like a celebrity! As we entered some tunnel at around mile 22/23, I witnessed the remains of evidence of why you must try gels before you race. Crap, literally! Someone had soiled themselves and had to abandon their pants! Which reminded me of earlier on when Matt said ‘look at all these people with cramp, and needing first aid, you don’t, you’re strong, you can do this’. Well, I certainly hadn’t soiled myself!
When I realised there was just a parkrun left, I looked at my watch. If I had it in me to do my parkrun average, I could still get sub 5. But I said ‘My legs feel fine, my feet are fine, my back is fine, my breathing is fine, I just can’t’. But he kept me going. Soon enough we were at 800 metres left ‘Just 2 loops of an athletics track’. Then I saw a Flyers shirt like a flag high above the crowds, and Michelle shouting ‘Go on Vicky, You’ve got this girl!’. 600 metres to go and a turn around the corner. 200 metres to go- a man collapsed on the floor and 2 people trying to pick him up. ‘Is that the finish line?’ I said ‘Yep, come on, lets finish strong’. The grandstands weren’t so full as I’m sure they were earlier, but there was still a buzz. Matt turned to me and said ‘Hand in hand?’ and grabbed my hand as we ran across the line together. He gave me a big hug and I held it together. Probably because the reality hadn’t hit me. Now as I write this i’m in tears! What Matt did for me on Sunday was probably one of the kindest gestures i’ve ever been shown. When I wanted water, he got it for me, when I needed to slow, he slowed, when I needed to pick up speed he gave me a gentle nudge. Lets be honest- he isn’t a 5 hour marathon man. He could have been on that train home a lot sooner. He could have got a time to be really proud of. But perhaps, arguably of more value, he should be very proud of the kindness she showed to someone he didn’t really know.
I feel physically pretty good, no more aches and pains than I’ve had after long training runs. Bit of chaffing in dodgy places, that, if I hadn’t run a marathon, would almost certainly make my fella quite suspicious about what I got up to whilst he was in Vegas! But i’ve had a little run tonight, and I feel OK. No appetite at all however- which seems to conflict with everyone elses experience! Kidney Research UK put a lovely spread on at the post race reception and all I could manage was half a bagel. But it was worth going to so guest of honour Rafa could get his medal for his sterling training efforts.
Will I do it again? No. Unless they open entry to dogs. Or I quit my work, devote my life to training hard, and I can run it with Matt again in a time he wants to achieve! Neither of those are sadly gonna happen!
But I can’t wait to help the next lot of Newbies on their way to this achievement which will stay with them a lifetime. And i’m really looking forward to marshalling next year!