London Marathon 2011: The start


37,000 people ran the London marathon yesterday.  Each of us has a story.  Some are filled with happiness and success; others with pain and disappointment.  But, each and every one of us has done something that we’ll never forget.

This is my story.

5am.  Alarm went off.  Had 2 hours sleep.  Crept down the stairs trying not to wake my family up.  Sat on the kitchen counter and forced my porridge down.  One by one my family piled in – groggy-eyed and talking rubbish.  Anything to distract us all from the fact that in a few hours time I’d be running the marathon.

Dad arrived just after 6, so we could head down to Greenwich together.  Meant I didn’t have to think about anything – just follow the crowds and get there.  All my kit was laid out.  Arm bands, vaseline, compede, lucozade, energy gels, you name it – I got it.  “You look like a ninja!” mum said.  I was pleased with that.

“It’s time!”  Dad said.  So I put my trainers on and we left the house.  It was one of my favourite moments, sitting on the underground and watching an ever-increasing throng of runners with red bags sipping lucozade and looking focused.  I was about to be a part of something massive.

At this stage I was sloth-like.  With two nights of no sleep, I didn’t want to expend any energy unnecessarily.  I didn’t think about lack of training, put the nerves to one side…”enjoy the day – enjoy the experience!”  I was wide-eyed and curious.  Looking behind me as we veered towards the red start in Greenwich Park, all I could see was a thriving river of runners.  Hoodies with holes in, and lyrcra shorts.   Skew-iff race numbers and playschool names etched across vests.  It was nothing short of amazing.  There were absolutely thousands of us.  My cousin Joe and his girlfriend Jennie joined us, and we joked as I made light of my fears and pressed on to the starting point.  I bid farewell, tight hugs as if they were my last, and bee-lined to the port-a-loo, pausing to gawk at Jonathon Edwards (who is incredibly tall by the way, and has the most striking silver hair!)

Once I was through the gate I had a healthy hour to kill.  I looked around me and soaked up the atmosphere.  Watched groups of people stretching on plastic bags, and scanned the crowds for any fellow Oxfam vests.  It was pretty warm so I decided to put my bag onto the lorry – looked like some sort of war-camp scene.   Lobbing our belongings onto numbered vehicles, tagged and milling in bewildered circles.

“Laura!”  And there was Rachel.  Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  Energy and enthusiasm just spilling out of her.  She looked like a true athlete, and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself.  Stood there like three of her rolled into one with “Hippo” adorning the back of my vest.  I knew then and there that this day and our stories were going to be very different.

People weren’t lying when they said the queues at the starting points were going to be mega.  Would have attempted the she-wee female urinals but figured that I had quite enough hurdles to conquer for one day.

By the time I emerged from the plastic cubicle everyone was charging towards the starting line and I felt a rush of panic.   This is really happening!  And then I felt a niggling irritation on the side of my foot.  Ripped off my shoe and sock with blinding speed and whacked a last-minute compede on, and set forth.

The beginning of a race is very telling.  No matter how well you’ve trained, or not.  How prepared you are, or not.  You have good runs and bad runs. It usually takes me about five minutes to decipher between the two.

The gun went off, we watched the elite men begin on the big screen and there was a surge of excitement through the crowds.  It was brilliant.  And then the mass slowly edged towards the red bands of the start.  I talked to the woman next to me.  She was running in memory of her mum, and we shared fundraising stories and training troubles.  Were equally shocked by the inappropriate banter of the man on the speakers.  Wished each other luck as we crossed the line, and this is how it all began.

Five minutes in – I shifted gears emotionally and psychologically and did a quick stock-count of my reserves.

It was going to be a bad run – but I was up for the challenge.

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One Response to “London Marathon 2011: The start”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    On tenterhooks for the next installment …..

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