Okay, the children are in bed, I have internet access and I’m awake enough to type so here it comes…the full story of my marathon journey (cue uplifting yet cheesey music as I subtley brush a tear from my eye, overwhelmed by the emotion of it all, and nod bravely to signify that I can – I will [squares shoulders, takes a deep breath] – share it with you. Yes, yes, including the urinals which I know is really all you want to hear about.)
Oh, but first if you want to see more photos have a look at http://www.marathonfoto.com/ and search for me under Clarkson, London Marathon 2011. There are several of me grinning inanely, a couple showing gritted teeth and determination, one of me walking (ahem), a couple as I cross the finish line, and one of me upside down which I think is a nice touch.
And now…My Marathon Journey (me, milking it? No idea what you mean)
My trusty husband and his decidedly bonkers and untrustworthy satnav got me safely to the Expo on Saturday to collect my running number and timing chip. The satnav chose to take us as far into the centre of London as possible* which was exciting because we saw signs that the roads we were on would be closed the following day for the marathon. THE MARATHON!
Most impressed with the efficiency and friendliness of the staff at the Expo and had a quick wander round. One of the rooms had poems all around the walls, written by runners and supporters (not because we’re all natural poets but because there was a prize of sponsor money for the best one) and genuinely the very first one we saw was MINE! Naturally I hid my excitement well and contained myself with taking a photo of it:
I was handed my goodie bag on the way out of the Expo and gleefully rummaged through it. Contents: a can of London Pride beer (gave that to Graham) and a Mars Bar (kept that).
Graham then drove us to the Premier Inn in Croydon despite the best efforts of the satnav to get us to the Outer Hebrides and I completed my carb-loading with a really nice cajun pasta thing at TGI Fridays. And possibly an ice cream sundae. I attached the timing chip to my trainer and safety pinned my running number to my vest, then realised I hadn’t filled in the contact details bit on the back so took it off again. Then I organised things into Clothes To Wear For Running (including runner’s pouch [not bumbag] for iPod, phone, tissues, vaseline, money and plasters, with Dora the Explorer purse pinned on to it to hold Jelly Babies) and Things To Go In My Kitbag (all the stuff I’d need after the run – deodorant, clothes, directions to the restaurant where I was meeting people etc). Then I drank loads of water, watched Britain’s Got Talent and something else equally intellectual…just a sec while I look it up…Sing If You Can, that was it, then I went to bed after checking multiple times that the alarm was set for 6am.
I was awake before the alarm went off, drank some water and ate a banana, had a shower, drank some more water, got dressed, drank some more water, checked that I had everything I needed, drank some more water etc. I’m not listing the number of times I went to the toilet (at this time I was worried about needing to wee during the marathon but also trying to make sure I had the recommended amount of water on board) so you can make your own stats up.
Graham dropped me off at East Croydon station (with no help from the satnav which couldn’t locate satellites until the moment we arrived) and I bought my ticket to London Bridge, then made my way to the platform along with assorted other runners, all carrying their bright red kitbags. The atmosphere was a bit subdued and quiet until the station staff started called out the names people had on their running vests then everyone started smiling at each other. The train arrived on time and was packed – there was an announcement over the tannoy wishing good luck to all runners and saying we were welcome to sit in first class. I was feeling a bit emotional at that point and the announcement almost made me cry!
My little brother, who lives in London and ran the marathon a few years ago, was waiting for me on the platform and came with me on the tube to Greenwich then walked to the start with me (thanks Matt, love you and your awful haircut!). At this point I mostly wanted to go home but followed the flow of runners towards the red start, showed my number and I was through.
I drank my carton of Ribena, dropped my kitbag off at the appropriately numbered lorry (again, so impressed with the organisation) and went to find the toilets. The queue for the portaloos was huge, but then I spotted a sign for Female Urinals with a much shorter queue, so I joined that one. If you don’t want to hear about them, skip ahead safely to the next paragraph. Still reading? Let me direct you to the shewee website so you can see the…[pause while I think of an appropriate word. ‘Tackle’? ‘Equipment’?] ‘adaptor’ we collected before entering the screened-off area (ours were cardboard one use only ones), to be faced with an almost surreal arrangement of what looked like plastic sinks, but without taps. These had thoughtfully been placed in rows facing each other, so one could look straight into the eyes of another lady as a way of avoiding the multiple bare bottoms stretching into the distance. There was much giggling but I’m pleased to say that it worked, the wee went where it was supposed to and I would recommend it over portaloos any day!
From there I went to line up at the start, chatted with a few people, commented on the man carrying a washing machine, those in a bus, a man in an aeroplane, a rhino and a horse lining up with us. Then we all joined in the countdown to the start and slowly started shuffling forwards for about 25 minutes until we reached the start line.
(Don’t worry, I’m not doing a mile by mile account!)
The first 3 miles were physically hard and I had pins & needles in my left foot which made running interesting, but then I got into it and actually enjoyed the next few miles, even taking detours to high-five all the children who were cheering us on. Until the sun came out. It suddenly got unbelievably hot and carried on that way and I felt very sick so had to drop my pace. I am disappointed that I didn’t get round in under 6 hours but I really think that I would have been sick if I’d gone any faster, and at least walking gave me the chance to chat to more people, who had also slowed their pace. And the heat meant I didn’t need a wee on the way round! Having said that, I still overtook loads of runners (fully expecting them to re-overtake me at any minute but they didn’t) and the support of the crowd was phenomenal.
The highlights of the run had to be seeing Graham and Matt at the 13 mile point, then seeing them again at 25 miles when I wasn’t expecting it, and of course finally crossing the finish line. I had expected the last couple of miles to go quickly, knowing I was so near the end but the opposite happened and they stretched out forever.
I was so relieved when my finisher’s medal was put round my neck but as soon as I stopped running I stiffened up, and within a couple of minutes I was hobbling along, discovering new blisters with every step. I still have all my toenails though!
The changing tents had thoughtfully been placed about 10 miles away so I headed for a patch of grass instead and joined everyone else getting changed there (think getting dressed on a beach, but nobody really caring if anyone saw their bits, just making a token effort to cover up), then staggered to the restaurant where I was meeting family and people from the charity DebRA. Okay then, tried to find the restaurant but then took the easy option of phoning my brother to ask for step by step directions in case I went the wrong way.
It was great to meet Andrew and Hannah from DebRA who have been giving email support and helping with fundraising ideas for the past few months, and so, so good to see my family. I had phoned home to share my glory with my children, but one was too busy playing football to talk to me for more than 5 seconds and the other one had been to her best friend’s party and wanted to talk about that, not about me!
We finally made it home at about 9pm after collecting the children (thank you Graham for putting up with me singing along loudly to all my favourite songs on the iPod all the way home – love you!) to find our lovely neighbours had done this:
And that, my friends, is that.
I will write again with my final fundraising total and add more photos in the next few days but for now, thank you for reading this blog.
*sometimes I’m sure there’s an elf or similar sitting inside the satnav, panicking as it tries to find where we are on a map. Then if it gets totally lost it sulks for hours and claims it’s lost connection with the satellites. I do not love this device, can you tell?