Reflection; VLM17

R E F L E C T I O N 


Last Sunday was one of the best days of my life – right up there with our wedding day [soz Dad, who’d have thought you could’ve saved A LOT of money by just getting me into a £39 marathon?! 😂 💸💸💸] From even before the moment the incredible Dame Kelly Holmes wished me Good Luck to even now, to still now, one week on my enthusiasm was through the roof to run this awesome event.

Once a crazed runner, always a crazed runner!

I have to say I disagreed slightly with the second episode of “Mind Over Marathon” – at the start of the episode they mention about mentally preparing for the marathon and the atmosphere… Absolutely nothing could have ever made me guess or understand what I would feel like at the start, end, and entirety of that marathon. It was 1 million, billion, zillion times better 😍 an experience I can barely even put into words (but clearly, here I am about to try!). I am still thinking about it and still talking about it; finding any opportunity to chat about it; I am still “riding high” and happy and as buzzing as ever at the mere thought of it. 

The other day, my friend and neighbour, and now VLM17 running husband (!), Iain wrote his first ever blog; covering his VLM17 experience. Just reading the blog had me welling up in tears over the sheer overwhelming happiness that day was. Gosh it was so, so amazing 💖.

I have to say though; I just don’t think I can write anything like Iain did. But I’ll give it a try…

Firstly, let’s just rewind 7-ish months to a vague recollection I have of my (then) fertility nurse, Debbie, telling me to not go OTT with the running… and me assuring her that once I had run Cheltenham Half that September, James and I were jet setting off on holiday 👙, where I would begin a vast cut-back on the running. I was hopeful that somehow that treatment cycle would have meant we were pregnant, and James and I discussed whilst in Singapore (where we would find out if we were, or weren’t pregnant) naming the bump 🤰🏽 “Raffles” as a tribute to the famous hotel. (I feel the need to add that only whilst bump was a bump were we going to do this!). Almost 3 weeks on from this, we were on the last leg of our brilliant 3 week holiday – not pregnant – and woke up one morning in Kuala Lumpur to an email from the London Marathon Ballot team… I very nearly deleted this email 📧without even reading it, suspecting, as per the last few years, that I hadn’t gotten a place again; I had said to friends and family I wasn’t going to apply again as I needed to cut back on the running 🏃🏽‍♀️ for the sake of creating our family, but something made me open and read that email…. And my jaw hit the floor (or, my chest, because I was still lying in bed!) 😵 to discover I had finally won a ballot place! I hadn’t run in almost 3 weeks, having struggled round a 5k loop in the (beautiful) ☀️ 30+ degree heat of Singapore, and had gained about a stone eating EVERYTHING whilst moving barely anything while sunning ourselves in Indonesia…. Let’s just say we got up every morning we had left in Kuala Lumpur and attempted the 5k loop around the KLCC Park to begin my training! I have to say, whilst I didn’t think it would be easy, I just knew that I could do it; I love, love, love ❤️ running and have been doing it for years, so my plan was to keep up some “gentle” running until the New Year and then begin my training properly… So, of course, my body found this to be an ideal time to become so injured that I had to take over 2 months off – this is the first time I have ever had to take so long off, and I was getting more than a little concerned as every time I saw my sports therapist, he would say “don’t run on it just yet!” – yet by February I knew I had to ignore him and get going – I was now a month and a half behind my training plan, hadn’t run in over 2 months, with only about 9 weeks until the big day! 🗓

FYI, for anyone that thinks they can just “RUN a marathon” with no training; you are wrong… not unless you aren’t worried about being cut off by the 8 hour 15 minute time limit! I knew from my half marathon times that I could finish a marathon in around the 4 hour mark, and so that was always my aim; under four and a half hours. Thankfully, as I have been running for years, I listened to the warm up advice of my sports therapist and soon got back on top of my training plan; but I would never have been able to start from scratch with only 9 weeks to go!

Throughout all of this, I was still undergoing fertility treatment, and a somewhat hopeful part of my brain continued to tell me I wouldn’t actually be running this year because I would be pregnant and deferring until 2018. Even though I personally knew a few other people running or involved with the marathon in some way for once, which would make it nicer to run. Every month when another period arrived, so did the heartache and grief for another month lost with no baby 👼🏼. I avoided doing any longer training runs (over 13 miles) until as late as possible, desperately clinging to the thought that I wouldn’t be running this year, until I could avoid it no longer.

I ran my first long training run (16.6 miles) on one of the worst weathered days of the year. There were brief elements of sunshine, but mostly horrendous, battering wind, rain and even some hail ⛈. It was awful; but I did it, and even better, I could walk the next day, and run a day after that! And so the “highs” started. I knew I could do this. I still continued to undergo fertility treatment, and didn’t do my second (and last) long 20(.4) mile training run until I knew I wasn’t pregnant (and the weather couldn’t have been more opposite; the hottest day of the year so far!). Somehow, that month was the easiest month I have ever experienced knowing I wasn’t pregnant. I don’t know what on earth I was thinking previously, but it took Debbie saying it would be much better to run this year, than next year with a new-born; and it suddenly dawned on me that yes, trying to run 26.2 (or in my case 27.5) miles having had a baby just months before, inevitable gained baby weight, milk-leaking boobs and sleep deprivation 😴 that comes with a baby, would NOT be an ideal situation to run a marathon in..!

And so, it finally felt right for the first time in my life, to not yet be pregnant. To run my first marathon knowing I had another friend running it meaning the extra personalised support along the route, and, poignantly – given my own ongoing battle – to run the first Mental Health Marathon.

 

What now feels like a rapid fast forward; the big day arrived. Without realising it, I had subconsciously developed what our neighbourly “Wilstock Run Club” were dubbing “Maranoia” in the week preceding the marathon. I was super excited, but my calves were refusing to co-operate and were tight, heavy and painful for the four runs the week before the marathon. Fortunately, a massage the Friday night before the big day, alongside pure elation on the day, meant that maranoia had disappeared by the time I crossed the start line.

Almost crossing the start line!

Despite encouragement to enjoy and take in every step, I just don’t remember stuff [standard Karen 🙄]. I know from seeing the second part of the fab “Mind Over Marathon” programme that I managed to miss the brilliant Duke and Duchess of Cambridge alongside Prince Harry at not only my start zone/line, but also mile 6, as well as me failing once again to listen to my gut instincts to head left at the finish line to get a medal from them (Hence my picture is of the back of Harry’s head and the side of William’s, and NO Kate!)

Prince Harry’s head and Prince William…

Although there were some points when the weather felt insanely hot, it wasn’t any warmer than when I did my 20 mile training run, and as there was no evil rain and barely any wind/breeze, the weather conditions were more or less perfect by my own standards… I only have *slight* tan lines….😉 I discarded my orange long sleeved top base layer and pink fleece to Rosie and James at the start and donned what must be the thickest bin bag known to man which also got chucked mere metres after the start line. This is an oddity for me; I am normally found running in layers upon layers because I am ALWAYS cold and I do not like the wind and the rain! I think the sheer excitement, plus the absolute masses of people were surrounding me in a nice warm glow..

Spot me in the bin bag (Thanks Sally for this!)

Getting to my “Blue Start” was surprisingly easy thanks to my London-travel-expert Rosie 🦄, and, as someone who has run A LOT of half marathon’s, I can’t even describe how surprised I STILL am that I only needed one last pee on the walk up from the DLR, before I joined my zone… Usually I leave the toilets and re-join the queue immediately for several last emergency toilet stops (yep, maybe too much info, but normally several nervous number 1’s and 2’s!) I guess my body understood the sheer excitement my mind was in and hadn’t quite realised what was to come! 😄

App results

I was bouncing off the walls as I headed to the start line, seen off by my wonderful husband James and one of my besties Rosie. As I walked further forward I spotted another of my besties, Becky, alongside her sister Kate, Mum Sally, her two children (one of whom is my goddaughter Ellen 👧🏼, and the other my honorary godson Ollie 👦🏼!) and their cousins Charlie and Jake stood at the metal fence of their hot-air-balloon-area searching the crowds for me. I remember excitedly bounding up to them like an absolute maniac; jogging and jumping over already-discarded layers of clothing from other runners up the bank to try and kiss them all through the fence, before pouncing off back towards the start line. I think all of the kids, even the 2 I see fairly often, were slightly alarmed at who this bin-bag-wearing nutter was! As I approached the start line far quicker than I thought I would (crossing at just under 9 minutes after the “gun”) I remember looking up to see the start, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of runners and spectators, and felt myself welling up slightly at the pure size and unitedness of this event, before the excitement took over me again and I started my running properly some way before the actual start (all this adds up towards me running 1.3 miles OVER the 26.2!) – which is definitely how I didn’t notice the Royal’s 👑 as I crossed the start line….!

My awesome cheer squad! 🦄

I remember the happiness emanating from everyone more than the sights of London themselves. I remember how funny I found myself when we reached the first mile marker, announcing happily and still excitedly out loud “Only 25 miles to go!!”… 🤣 with a few others around me laughing. I counted down in my head like this most of the run, but I didn’t share the same kind of happy enthusiasm for it at miles 23, 24 or 25……! Those last 3 miles honestly felt like there was 26 miles between each one of them. I can clearly remember the voice in my head saying “WHERE THE FCUK IS MILE 23?!” and probably almost immediately thereafter (but it felt like forever) “WHERE THE FCUK IS MILE 24?!” etc! I remember – despite my time not actually being that fast – that the first 13 miles seemed to fly by; I didn’t even notice passing the O2, and I didn’t give the Cutty Sark much more of a glance either! I took in Tower Bridge a little more, purely because I had been specifically told by a friend to soak up that moment, but I couldn’t help but find myself thinking that the slight hill up to Tower Bridge wasn’t very nice!! For me, the landmark that I remember the most was the beautifully green, tree lined street which lead up to Canary Wharf; Canary Wharf rising proudly at the end of these beautiful green trees; I remember thinking I didn’t know that road up to Canary Wharf was so beautiful and how lucky those that work in “the city” are to have such beautiful, vibrant shades of green surrounding them! 🌳🌳

I also remember desperately trying to remember all the crazy-costumed people I saw. The one that sticks in my mind the most, I quite literally said out loud “JESUS CHRIST” when I saw him…. A guy running barefoot, carrying a cross on his naked back, wearing what appeared to be just a white cloth, dressed as, well, Jesus Christ himself. I laughed at myself when I realised, as it was seeing his bare feet that had made me say “Jesus Christ” before realising that’s who he was dressed as! I also saw the rhino 🦏, various dinosaurs 🐉, a postbox, a tree 🌳, a few people dressed in chainmail or as wonderwoman, a smurf, Batman & Robin 🦇 and the absolutely insane guy carrying a tumble dryer (I am glad he achieved his WR!)

 

There was not a single point along the entire route of the London Marathon (with the exception of an underground tunnel, which I think is acceptable and also didn’t feel particularly horrendous considering!) where the streets were not either lined with supporters, or absolutely rammed full with supporters! People with funny signs with messages of support – “This is Virgin on ridiculous!”, “Don’t shit 💩 yourself Abi!”, “Your feet are only aching because you’re kicking so much ass!”, “Shortcut ⬅️!!” are just some of the messages I can remember that I loved, but I know there are so many more I can’t quite put my finger on as I write this! People had cow bells, clappers and their own voices must have been practically non-existent by Monday. Pubs, pop-up’s and other venue’s along the route blared out 🎶 music, musicians clubbed together to play the drums (Caribbean drums are my FAVOURITE to run to!), the bagpipes, brass bands, etc; anything and everything and anyone and everyone was out supporting that day. It is what makes the atmosphere of an organised run so brilliant. Hundreds of thousands of people from all different backgrounds come together as one, big swell of happiness all cheering for the same goal, and boy, do I wish we could come together as a nation and live in happy harmony like that on a daily basis. You cannot help but smile; and I did; a grin from ear to ear the whole way through (the odd picture which suggests otherwise is a lie…!)

Thumbs are up still 👍🏾! Just a slightly more tired grin!

However, despite the amazing all round support from the general public, there is clearly nothing like being cheered on by your own friends/family. It was evident in Iain’s splits, and it is evident mine; minutes per mile for the times I saw friends were 8:53, 8:37, 8:28 (my fastest mile; AT MILE 20!!) and 9:33 (Mile 25!); they worked out as some of my fastest splits so it is clear seeing your own people makes a difference – I wonder what I could do if I had someone at every mile….!! James and Rosie (& eventually Jon, once his lazy ass was dragged out of bed 😜  !) managed to get round and cheer me on from no less than FOUR amazing points of the course; although I missed them once, because the third time I was too busy jumping (running) for joy at the sound of Iain’s wife Dasa screaming my name and cheering me on.

 

And finally, the “600 metres” sign came into view, swiftly followed by the footbridge announcing “385 yards to go!” I was almost there. Buck Pal looked gloriously inviting underneath the blue skies, and for once with no crowds specifically around it; instead, everyone was turned to face away from the palace, cheering on the 40k runners in their final 400 metres, and finally 200 metres. As I turned away from Buckingham Palace onto The Mall I heard the voiceover announce “If you are finishing around about now, you might well get someone very special handing you your medal!” and I glanced up to see the Duchess of Cambridge on the big screen handing out medals 🏅. Instinctively I felt like if I headed left, I could be one of those people; but in the last 200 metres a combination of self-doubt and memory failure meant I aimed for the middle, and then forgot completely that they were even there (hence photograph being the back of Harry’s head and the side of William’s before I was swiftly ushered away!) as I happily crossed the finish line, quickly calculating that I had managed a sub 04:30 time in a haze of pride and overpowering happiness.

So, so happy!
 

I was overwhelmed last week with the amazing support, messages of love and encouragement. I felt so, so loved, and I still cannot get over how fantastic the tracking part of the VLM app was; because within seconds of crossing that finish line, I had tonnes of congratulations texts, whatsapps, emails, messages on facebook, instagram and twitter from all of you fabulous friends and family that had been tracking me every step of the way.

Top right – just over the finish line!

One of the best things I saw were these words from my goddaughters mother “what an inspirational godmother”. As part of my ongoing mental-health crisis, I always worry that I’m not “good enough” – there is no limit to this enough. I’m just not ever good enough. It’s mostly subconscious, but I’ve promised to always be there and be the best for her and I wonder sometimes if I am a good enough role model now – now that I no longer work full time or have my career goal of power woman to lead her path. With all my crazy 🤕 mental health issues; and yet they still chose me. They still knew I was an absolute nightmare with food (& I distinctly remember holding her tiny days old body, clinging her into my arms whilst refusing to eat lunch) and yet they still believe in me to be her godmother. I love this little girl, (even if she’s still not so sure about me, even when I get her her one true love; food!) way too much. But can she STOP growing already?! I’m excited to see who and what you become in life – but it needs to happen slower baby girl….. (Tangent!) 

And so, a week on. After 2 days and 2 sleepless nights of severe leg achiness, an over-optimistic failed run attempt on the 3rd day, I’ve now managed two 3 mile runs. I’ve had several alcoholic drinks 🥂🍹🍸 5 out of 7 night’s, eaten out three times, takeaway pizza 🍕once, demolished 15 hot cross buns, several bars of chocolate🍫, Haribo, skittles, protein flapjacks, energy/bounce balls, Lucozade sports and probably not enough water. My total distance that day was an insane 30.7 miles – I doubt I will ever top that “magic number”! I think, a week on, I have finally satisfied all my cravings and am ready to get back onto eating healthier! But I still find myself talking about it at any given opportunity… however, can someone tell me how on earth I have a fairly large graze on my right butt-cheek?!

Magic number..

VLM17 you were absolutely amazing, and despite hating being wrong, and constant promises I’ll never do another marathon – I have to admit my friends were right.. And if I can still run and love it as much as I do now after children… London, I’ll be back…! Even my insane husband is encouraging me to apply for next year, saying if I did somehow get in and was {finally} pregnant/just given birth, I could defer until 2019…. I am thinking about it…!!

Grinning as I reach the finish!

I know over the years I have inspired friends to run; it makes me so happy to feel like I am actually achieving something in this world; I am a typical millennial in that sense! And so, if you’d like to experience the absolute exhilarating and fantastic atmosphere of (a) marathon – VLM18 ballot opens tomorrow people! If you want an absolutely amazing day and experience of a lifetime – DO IT! I’ll come and cheer you on just to experience the day again! 🎉🎉🎉

I did it!
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4 thoughts on “Reflection; VLM17

  1. Inspirational, Karen, and the fact that you’re seriously contemplating doing it again just shows what a fantastic person you are. Well done, indeed. Janice x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my gosh Karen, I’m totally blubbing reading this – you are so amazing & such an inspiration!!!! TOTALLY good enough & a wonderful role model in so many ways #thisgirlcan #thisgirldid !!! Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haaaa hahaha Cathy!! Here’s something to make you laugh instead then – your comment just popped up on my phone whilst I was walking Rufus – in those mere minutes I had totally forgotten I’d sent you the link to it and was laughing out loud at myself when I realised how you’d found the blog 😂 xx love that hashtag – #ThisGirlDID !! Xx

      Like

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