So I made it! After weeks of training, I finished my first marathon and am still on cloud nine. Despite everyone’s warnings, I set off too fast and finished 8 minutes slower than I hoped, with a time of 4 hours and 38 minutes, but still, my determined streak tells me I’ll be back for more to beat this.
So here we go, the 26 things I hadn’t realised about running 26.2 miles.
1. Nothing prepares you for running alongside 30,000 other people.
2. It’s hard to slow down – the adrenaline is pumping, you’ve made it to the start line, negotiated train delays and the female urinals (one world – she-wee), and you’re finally off. Everything anyone has ever told you goes out the window, and you set off far too fast. By the time you realise, it’s hard to slow down.
3. Pacing, where do I start? It takes a runner far better than me to recommend how to run a negative split, but if I could go back a week, I’d forget my plan of clocking up ‘extra time’, reaching the first few mile points quicker than expected, and follow the slow and steady wins the race plan I’d hoped for.
4. You’ll probably cry, a lot. The best and worst day of my life, one moment that definitely sticks out is leaning over the barriers sobbing on my dad’s shoulder at mile 21. It’s as much a mental challenge as a physical, so wear waterproof mascara (if you’re going to bother with makeup that is).
5. Runners are an amazing bunch – from the footage of the club runner ruining his time to help a stranger, to the people I met on the start line, the overwhelming feeling of camaraderie was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
6. You’ll block out the bad bits – I’ve gone from never again to ‘when does the ballot open’ in two days. Although my boyfriend is repeating the words ‘NO MORE RUNNING’ it really is a bug.
7. No words can explain the joy you feel when you see the finish. A moment where I felt so lucky to be running such an iconic marathon, seeing the flags and hearing the crowds roar on the mall will stay with me for a long time.
8. You’ll instantly miss it – after months of training, carb loading and planning my life around runs, it definitely feels like something is missing. I’m sure I’ll feel different in a few weeks, but for now, waking up and not checking my training schedule feels odd.
9. Seeing people on the way round keeps you going. From my parents and brothers, to my running club friends, the support of those close to you makes it so much better.
10. Everyone will tell you to ‘enjoy it’ and you’ll probably question what they meant.
11. The showers – my advice, avoid running fully under them unless you want to feel soaked and freezing for the next three hours.
12. Wear suncream! My burnt face and vest tan was an unexpected addition at the end of the marathon.
13. Take the water, even if you don’t need it straight away. The gaps between water stations feel longer as you go on, so drink before you feel like you need to.
14. Don’t experiment with anything new on the day. Running the London marathon, you’re handed bottles of Lucozade and gels every few miles. I completely avoided them, sticking to what I had trained with. However tempting that cold Lucozade might look, it’s not worth it.
15. Start counting down after ten miles. It will make the time go quicker and doing the maths will distract your tired brain.
16. Write off walking down the stairs for the next two days.
17. You’ll feel exhausted. Both after you finish and for the next few days.
18. You’ll cringe when those photos come out – does everyone look so in pain/ awful when they’re running or is it just me?
19. You won’t be able to think or talk about anything else for a few days. Did I mention I finished a marathon on Sunday?
21. You’ll feel freezing. Your body has lost everything – carbs, protein and the sugar from those jelly babies you took from strangers. Make sure you’ve got at least one jumper in your kit bag, and try and find something to eat, however sick you might feel.
22. The extra half mile walk to your kit bag will feel like the longest walk of your life. If you’re like me, you’ll have already been in the St. John’s ambulance tent, your legs will have seized up, and you’ll wonder how everyone else is managing to not walk like a duck.
23. Knowing you’ve made someone proud is an amazing feeling. Despite those extra eight minutes, the hugs and congratulations at the end made it all worth it.
24. Put your phone on flight mode – the texts of good luck will make you more nervous, and if you plan on listening to music for four hours, this is the only way to make it last.
25. You won’t sleep the night before. I tried it all – from lavender oil to a warm bath before bed. Friday night’s sleep is more important, so don’t stress if you’re still lying awake at 3am.
26. FINALLY, if you’re not injured, you’ll be running again within a couple of weeks, despite all those vows to ‘never run again’ on the day.
A final thank you to all those who followed me on this journey and helped me raise over a thousand pounds for Beat. As you all know, this charity changed my life and I urge anyone struggling to call their support line on 0808 801 077.