Monday, 22 April 2013

The Virgin London Marathon

Me, just before leaving
Hello blog lovers.

This is the blog that have I have been waiting to write up for months now. It is finally here! So, grab a coffee, turn your phone off, put the closed sign up and chill for a few minutes. After months of training, in freezing weather, having to put off some days training when the weather had been just too awful to go out in. And then having the back injury two weeks before the marathon, I am pleased that I am now writing this blog. This run is dedicated to my mum and dad. I can't believe cancer claimed both my parents. My beautiful mum. She would be very proud of me.

After a not totally restful sleep I got up feeling very excited. I showered and headed to the kitchen to grab some porridge.  then back up stairs to get into my running gear. Everything pinned into place, my race number, 3215, my black ribbon and a picture of mum on the back. I checked again how secure the tag was on my shoe and then sat and waited for the off.

The Old Boy was driving me there. He tried to get as close as possible so that he could walk some way with me, but he had to leave me just outside Blackheath station.  I wasn't going to get lost or go the wrong way, as there were hundreds of people heading to the Blue Start.  I was chatting to one lady as we walked up, she said that she had tried several times to get a place in the VLM but without success.  I was beginning to realise how fortunate I was.  I said good by to her and then took this picture as I made my way to the runners enclosure. The organisation was superb! Everything was signposted, you knew where to take your kit bags, it was just perfect.

Blue Start Up Ahead.

The butterflies started in my belly, I was glad I arrived early so that I could find the loos.  I saw a queue of ladies and joined in, only paying attention to part of the sign! As the queue got smaller I noticed the ladies grabbing a cardboard .... erm....chute (although I didn't quite realise what it was for) I presumed it had loo roll in, or maybe wipes. How wrong was I!  I got to the 'peeing' area and there were urinals, thats right urinals and the cardboard chute thing was for you to stand and pee! I wish I could have been that posh bohemian woman, but I am not. I like my comfort, and I like my privacy (although on bike rides I have been know to use a private though!  Still it was an eye opener, and maybe something I should 'practice' with. If all ladies carry something like that in the handbags on a night out then we too can use the erm, public facilities! Next time, remember to note, Ladies Urinals are exactly that!

Ladies, will know what this is!

I me up with a couple of other PWR's before we went to our start zones, they were in the zone 6, I was in zone 9. I stood chatting with them, and then said goodbye as they went to their zone and I went to mine.  As I was walking along I heard my name being called, it was Spider! He had spotted me heading for my zone.  A quick chat with him and then I continued to my zone. Apparently Mo Farah is also somewhere in the Blue Start, but I am guessing he is probably in zone 1, (and he is also only doing half!)  The atmosphere is extraordinary, everyone is excited. Although our thoughts are with those in Boston, not one person mentioned the terrorists. They had no part in our run today, they had instilled no fear in us.  The crowds went silent at the sound of a whistle. Thirty seconds before the start of the race, there was hush as we remember the those killed and injured only last week.

A few moments later the mass moved forward...then stopped! Then moved forward once more, slowly at first, slowly walking to the start. It seemed ages before we eventually stood on the mats that says 'Your race starts now'  You couldn't ask for a more perfect day. The sky was clear, the sun was shining, the crowds were happy and cheering.  It all seemed so surreal that somewhere on a t.v. screen people are watching all this go on. I saw a camera and just waved at it. Maybe my daughter Jenna will see me in Australia!

The first mile went by in a daze, "Go on Donna you can do it, only 25 more miles to do" was the fav chant for that section, but it was all said in a good humoured way, and I am sure they are all in wonderment of it all, I know I am!

I kept up a steady pace, and took in water. The weather was brilliant for spectators, but not having really trained in hot weather, I am using the advice from everyone to keep sipping at water. The Old Boy even made sure I had water in my kit bag that he told me to sip until race time! So it was no surprise to me then that I needed to use the loo. Being an Old Girl, I thought it best to use the first loos I see!

I saw a sign saying loos this way at around mile 5, I slowed down to see where they were. I looked over to my right and saw some chaps facing the billboards, I then saw a lady run over and squat next to them! Well, I'm sure VLM would have provided better loos than that, so I carried on running, and hoping, to find the next loos! Which I did, by the way, at mile 7.  Also at mile 5 was the Lucozade fuel stop, I grabbed a bottle of this to get some sugar into me. I don't have the Old Boy with me now supply me with chocolate! I tried to spot some people I knew in these first 5 miles, but the weather has bought out everybody to cheer us all on, and it was just impossible to spot people.  I was hoping that I was going to be able to spot my family and fellow PWR's on route. But at least I would know roughly were they will be.

The next 5 miles I kept up a steady pace, not the pace that I had trained to do, I think the weather is really affecting me and so I was slower.  Although the sun does put a smile on every ones faces, to run or workout in the heat is something else!  There is water every mile, I grabbed a bottle of water and kept it with me as I jogged along.  Again something that I have not been training with, although I did have a go with Spiders 'Hydration' system  on a couple of training runs, with the bottles on the hips, which I didn't like anyway.  But I soon got used to having the bottle in my hand.  I didn't take a bottle at each station, it was a very warm day, and there are going to be a lot of warm thirsty people about.

When I came running around the corner and saw the Cutty Sark, I just smiled! What a lovely ship she is!  The last time I saw her, (well apart from last Wednesday when I went to the expo) she was in bits, some of the bits were at Chattam Dock Yard.  It's such a shame she has now been shrouded in glass because before hand she looked magnificent. 

I kept running through Deptford and into Surry Quays, when I was young it was know as Surry Docks! But I suppose Quays sound a bit posher! That is where I got my first phone call. It was the Old Boy asking where abouts I was. I told him I was just entering Surry Quays. He then said he will see me at Tower Bridge.  I was looking forward to seeing someone I know, even though all the way round, so far, I had a smile on my face. Well who wouldn't when thousands of people are calling after you 'Go Donna, you can do it!"  The crowds really do spur you on.

The next five miles are where I should start to see people I know, unless some of them have gone to the next cheering spot. I am still jogging along, but not as fast as I wanted to. Maybe I should have trained in a sauna wearing a shell suit!  I was very glad of the water stops (every mile), and of the Lucozade fuel stops (every 5 miles). I was getting slower, but I was taking dextrose to try and give me extra energy. But what with the warm wheather they seemed really dry and very hard to eat, I only ate a few of them.

Getting to the 12 mile marker was exciting, because I knew that I will be seeing Tower Bridge, and hopefully family members and PWR's. And I wasn't disappointed. There at mile 12 were the PettsWood Support Crew! There was a massive cheer from my right. I turned around to see where it was coming from, it took at few seconds to focus my eyes on the faces in the crowds! I saw Singstar Jo and Illustrious Leader! There were others, but my eyes would just not focus in time! I really wanted to go over and have a hug, but I had only just got myself jogging along again.

Me at mile 12

 When I turned the corner and saw the bridge, I just smiled! It looked beautiful. I have been to the bridge numerous times, but today the sight of it took my breath away. It had taken me 2 hours and 43 minutes to get here, with still a bit more to do to get to the the half way stage. I won't be getting a PB for a half marathon time! The cheering from the crowds was ongoing. I felt like an athlete! I had to check up the road to make sure that it's not Mo they were cheering, but that it was me 'Donna! Donna!"

There was I, me, The Old Girl, Donna, running over Tower Bridge, running in the most famous ionic marathons in the world, and I was feeling every bit proud! So what if its not the fastest marathon in the world, it's my marathon, I'm pacing at my own pace. Mo Farrow will have stopped along here somewhere! He is a DNF. When I got to the other side of the bridge, we turned right. I could see the faster runners running on the other side of the road. I was in total awe of them, they only have to run another few miles and they are home and dry! Yet here I was just finishing the first half, and feeling very achy!  I then heard my name from across the other side of the road, where the faster runners are. I looked over and there I saw Naggy Neighbour! "Go on Donna, you can do it, you have done so well" I felt totally lifted by tha.  I was still looking out for my family, I know they are on their way, but maybe they missed me or I missed them. It's that difficult to spot people!

The next couple of miles I was feeling a little warm, I plodded along as best as I could. At mile fifteen the lucozade fuel station was handing out gels. I thought I would grab one of these. I thought it would be ok as the lucozade drink had been ok so far.  I found it difficult to rip open the packet as I had greasy hands from the vasoline I used to stop the chaffing on my arms.  I ripped it open with my teeth, I must have looked like I was really hungry as I greedily tore open the packet! The flavour and the texture of this gel seemed at lot more agreeable to me. It wasn't as nasty as some of the other gooy stuff I had tried.

But I was needing the loo again.  I saw the sign say 'Toilets here' and joined the throng of people. Not only were the runners using these but there were plenty of people with plastic cups of beer in the queue! I was talking to a young girl as we stood waiting, but then all of a sudden I felt very unwell indeed. I became all light headed, and I felt as if I was about to pass out. My stomach cramped up and I wanted to throw up! I had to leave my place in the queue and go and sit on the kerb with my head down.  After running this far, this particular Old Girl found that  very difficult to do! Getting down there was not a very ladylike manoeuvre at all. It was all ass up, hands down for support! Not a pretty sight!

The mashalls came over and asked if I was ok, I mumbled that I would be fine, but I just needed to sit for a while and get my head clear.  Eventually the dizziness went and the nausea passed. I felt I just needed to get going and try not to let it affect me. Just then I had a call from my family. My daughter rang me, she then passed it around to the rest of them. I told them about my little moment. And my brother told me to stop, and not to continue. I assured them all that I was going to be fine.There is one thing that I don't want, and that is to go home without my medal! The loo stop will have to wait until the next time. If I have to pee the I am going to have to try the whole bohemian thing again, but without my 'pee-mate'

The next few miles was very tough going. I'm afraid I cried! For just a split second doubt crept into my head. Have I really over reached my mark! Is this an impossible dream for me? Just for one second, I thought that. Then I remembered why I am doing this in the first place. The answers are No! This not the end of the run for this Old Girl! I am going to finish, even if I am the last person to finish. And the medal, well that would be good, but finishing has now become my aim!

At some point before the 20 mile mark, I can't quite remember where, a lad of about 9 and his little sister was offering out jelly babies, I was walking along "Come on you, you should be running." I said "I will soon"
"What if we run with you, will that help you"
"I will in a minute" I replied
"Come on, you can do it, we will run with you"
And with that they started to run along. How could I not run next to him, the pair of them just melted my heart and gave me a little boost, more that any gooy gel or sports drink could ever do. A chap walking along next to me laughed sweetly at them. "Don't run to far from your mum with me, " I said to them, and they said "No, we shall leave you now, you going to be ok now" Again my heart melted.

The last five miles! Can you believe that I have made it to 20 miles! It was touch and go, and it still is! My tummy is cramping up something awful now! The sun is making a glorious day, and my shoulders are soaking up every sun ray. I chuckled to myself as I looked around at everyone. My thoughts were "What does a British person do when the sun comes out? Why, they get their kit off and soak up the rays!" I don't think anyone running today thought about suncream, or maybe that is just me!  Typical Brits, come back from a day out frazzled and lobster looking! 

At some point along here I spotted someone I knew! It was Julia and her husband Snail (Brian) with the family, Jonathan, James and Brians mum Helen, who is a totally inspiring lady. She runs the park runs, and she cycles her bike, up and down hills, she is 75 years old and has hip operations! She has run several marathons, and inspired her son to run  marathons. And he had to enter another one, because he couldn't  his first effort, he couldn't beat his mums fastest marathon! Of course on seeing them, the tears just wouldn't stop falling from my eyes! It was just so good to see them. I gave them a hug. And walked on. "Keep those arms going" Helen said. I waved goodbye to them.

I was heading for another tunnel, and I noticed people up on the top of the bridge and I decided to wave. Just then I heard my name called out again. "Donna, hey Donna!" I focused my eyes and I say my friends Pat and Paul! Paul is the pastor of my church, and they did just what they said they would do and came along after the service to cheer me on! I waved and smiled as I saw them and then they disappeared from view as I went under the tunnel.  I came out and looked back, but I couldn't see them. I'm not sure how the road system works up top, if they could have gone over to the other side. Still it was good to see them. But they I heard them as they came along side. "I'm catching up" Pat said. And I stopped for a quick chat and hug.

With renewed spirit I power walked towards my final few miles. Passing the mile 22 marker I was wondering when I would see my family. I welled up again as I thought about mum and dad. How I had been with them in their final days. Both were still fighting to the very end. Dad was over the moon that the operation he had had seemed to have worked. The 're-wiring' of his tummy and tubes meant that a tiny bit of food he had eaten finally had made it out at the right end. Mum insisting that her internet not be turned off. The pain they both had been suffering was nothing to what I am feeling right now, and mine will be gone with in a couple of days. Tears came rolling down my face. But I held back the sobs.

I managed to pull myself together. I power walked my way towards the next marker. Just before i got to the 23rd mark I heard my little brother "Don, Don" I saw him,  he had is arms opened wide. I ran towards them. He was sobbing and I was sobbing as he hugged me "I'm so so proud of you, so proud"  is all he could say. I saw the lady standing next to my family, she was wiping a tear from her eyes too.  I looked down the line and I saw my family and Karin (Naggy) was there as well, 18 of them! All cheering me, I was in tears as I hugged and kissed each one  "See you at Admiralty Arch" The Old Boy said.

Here is a couple of pictures they took.

With my heart bursting and a wet, teary face I JOGGED onwards to the final 3 miles. Just before I got to the marker I looked at my right hand side as a particular loud roar got my attention. The PWR crew were still there! Mrs Hippo was leaning over the fence, I saw Jogging Hippo waving. I was still jogging, I was still smiling from seeing my family, I so wanted to stop and hug them, but I thought I wouldn't be able to jog again if I stopped right there and then. I waved at them, I was just so happy that they was still there!

This picture was taken by Ray aka Jogging Hippo! I think he captured the moment very well at mile 23!

The last mile marker. I could see it. I had gone back to a power walk again. I tried to pick it up, I tried to jog the last mile. I just couldn't do. I told myself off! "Just do it Old Girl" I said. But my body was refusing to do any more than just power walk. I heard the chimes of Big Ben. "Is that clock showing 4  or 5 o'clock" I just couldn't fathom it, maybe it was even 6, I just couldn't get it. Running down Great Goodge was just amazing. The whole crowd seem to be chanting my name! I picked up my pace again and jogged along, the crowd cheered even louder! Is this really happening? I was amazed that there were still this amount of people waiting to cheer on the marathoners! It was just the most amazing situation ever, I was overwhelmed, and I'm afriaid more tears!

My family moved me, my friends moved me, the crowds moved me and the bands, marshals, St Johns brigade, all moved me to tears.I was blown away.  The 800 meters board showed. Ahead of me I could a donkey. I remember someone telling me not to be overtaken my teddy bear, or mole, or anyone in a suit.  That had happened. But now I have a race on my hands. I am going to over take the donkey. He had overtaken me a couple of miles back, but now I am going for it. I urged myself to get going. I cried again because I wasn't going fast enough, but this time I didn't hold back the sobs, every step was tears and sobbing. "Don't worry, you're nearly there, keep going" a concerned runner said. 400 meters the donkey just a head of me now, I can do this! I can over take the donkey. 

I did it! I over took him. But now to get to the finish. I looked a head I couldn't see it. It turns to the right! I went through some more mats, I made sure I was running on them, I wanted my chip to register. I can see the end now, running towards the end. The men and ladies in their yellow jackets at the end of the tunnel with the the medals! I can see the time, it was reading 7 hours and something. Have I really been that long. I can see the mats, the mat that will record my time for the final time. I stopped. Just before I stepped on the mats. I looked up at the clock, I looked at my Garmin, I couldn't see the seconds ticking away on my watch as the 'low battery' was covering it. I looked up at the clock again, "How long had I stopped so far. This last minute is for Boston. I want to give the people who had died, and had been injured my last minute of my first marathon. God bless you and keep you.

My medal, A very proud Old Girl!

My geeky stats. (oh and by the way, Mo Farrow, I heard, didn't even complete the half!)


  1. Fantastic blog Donna. Very Inspirational!

  2. You did it!!! Well done Moosh!!!

  3. What a great post Donna, very emotional and funny. I really enjoyed it, thanks!

    1. glad you enjoyed it Duncan, thanks :-)