Running the marathon was almost the way I dreamed it would be. Some parts surpassed my every expectation. The cloudless blue ‘Auckland’ sky in Greenwich Park at the start felt like a gift. The atmosphere in the starting pens: pure carnival, helped perhaps by being just one pen in front of fancy dress costumes including two people running as a Bactrican camel, a man encircled by the Blackpool Tower and a runaway bride. It's true too that I felt a little less celebratory at mile 17, when they had all overtaken me, but being beaten by a Bactrican aside, this was a day of dreams and achievement.
The moment I decided to run the marathon was 11 months ago. I had a three day old baby and could barely walk. After hobbling into my local park, I decided that it was time to follow that long cherished aspiration.
And yes, I’m glad that I did. I’ve learned so much about friendship, about being flexible without getting too far off course, about the small steps that close the distance between where we stand and where we want to be.
Aside from the buzz in Greenwich Park, other highlights were: crossing Tower Bridge, passing the Cutty Sark, the first glimpse of Big Ben, and going over the finish line without blisters. Getting my medal was an amazing moment: one I can neither describe nor forget.
Many, many people went ‘the extra mile’ so I could run 26.2 miles. I won’t do a ‘Gwinnie”, you know who you are, and I would like to say thank you to everyone who sponsored me, sent encouraging texts, phoned with the latest nutrition advice, cared enough to worry, looked after me, gave me somewhere to stay when the tube lines were offline, and cheered me on. A special thank you also to my family, whose love, encouragement and practical support are simply incredible. The kind lady in Narrow Street, who gave me a banana when I was suddenly starving was like a longed-for angel. Never before has a banana been so luscious and alluring. Bless you.
My post-run celebrations were a little clouded by collapsing on the underground, and spending the evening in A and E at St Thomas’ Hospital, but even there, I felt I couldn’t have been among nicer, more interesting colleagues. A huge thank you to the team who sorted my sodium.
I did this run for the Merlin doctors who are more altruistic and brave than I could hope to be. Their work inspired me throughout my training. Their brave example, and the courage of so many helped by Merlin, got me through the tough moments in the race.
As I write this, three parakeets of the same vibrant green feather that I spotted on my first long run around Richmond Park back in December, are trilling in the tree outside my window.
Seeing them reminds me of how far I’ve travelled on this journey. Of the many thoughts I had during my training, along the marathon course and in the days since, three have been loudest and most persistent. I’d like to close this blog with that trio: Don’t limit yourself. Go as far as your mind takes you. Your legs will forgive you.