Sensing you will have been anxious since I left you on a rhino-infested blog precipice last week, it seems only fair to declare that Canary Wharf is now behind me and that I am back wearing ‘normal’ clothes, albeit a little creakily.
It’s ten years since I last ran a marathon on this scale (yes, I know the distance is always 26.2, but if you’re measuring spectators, then London is much larger/wider/louder). My goodness the race has grown in every aspect apart from length – and quite honestly, I wish someone would consider shortening it down to about 22 miles.
Loved it though.
I’ve spent the last week eulogising about how wonderful people are – both the runners and the supporters. I now have more material than I could have dreamed of for my ‘did-I -tell-you-I’ve-run-a-marathon-yes-I-surely-did-but-you-didn’t-run-away-quickly-enough’ one woman show. Tickets may not be selling fast, but quite honestly I’m still quite happy listening to myself replaying the myriad examples of kindness, humour and madness I encountered last Sunday. I love a sensory overload.
Being someone who runs on her stomach (no official photos available because this technique obliterates my running number) I was particularly thrilled about the catering on the course. Although I ran with my own runner’s pantry of cereal bars and energy gels, I was easily lured towards anyone brandishing bananas, jelly babies (naturally), gummy bears and – towards the end – a plate of jammy dodgers.
It was the athletic equivalent of a Farmers’ Market; a run-past feast of sugar and carbs. Heaven, even with blisters. I had to draw the line somewhere around Shadwell though when an exuberant spectator brandished a tubberware container full of jellied eels under my nose. I didn’t see that trip hazard coming. Fortunately, somewhere on Commercial Road, runners’ culinary etiquette was restored for, although I’m not a fan of Lucozade sports drink, I discovered that I love their little cups of lucozade jelly beans, and, get this, Ooho capsules (biodegradable pods made from seaweed) filled with the orange stuff. We know how I love to try something new.
The other major change since I last ran the London marathon (get me) was the London Marathon tracker. Even if I had wanted to lie about my time (it’s fine, at some point in the future I will learn to live with the fact that I JUST missed the 4 hour mark) I wouldn’t have been able to. It turns out that the world and his dog had been tracking me from their sofa since my 10.40 start in Blackheath and they knew my every stumble, split time and toilet break (I’m joking about the toilet break because I was too scared to stop for a wee in case my family thought I’d met with an accident when the tracker paused).
If you ever want a demonstration of how important your supporters are, then my tracker does this nicely. Favourite Son (FS), Favourite Daughter (FD) and their posse moved around the course at a much quicker speed than I did. They shoe-horned me onto the train at London Bridge, then popped up in Shadwell, and then again twice on the Commercial Road before meeting me at the finish (love them for their optimism). Returning on the Commercial Road, I knew where to spot them and my knee was by then having a crisis of confidence. (I think my stomach was also still recoiling from the sight of those jellied eels). I’d slowed down considerably and although I hadn’t hit a wall (I was far too full of sugar for that) my legs were starting to doubt that we would be finishing in any semblance of style. I weaved across the other runners and dived in for a family hug. The tracker shows it all – you can see the slow down and then the little running smile that follows after being reminded that I could do this. My pace picks back up and Mama J jogs on.
Other favourite parts of the day I hear you ask? Seeing two people dressed up as slinky dog was pretty impressive. Need a great fancy dress costume? Saw a dustbin in half and attach a tumble dryer vent hose in between. Job done. Another highlight was being reminded by a fellow runner on Bird Cage Walk, ‘how wonderful is this?’ which reminded me to look up and soak it all in. Then there were the banners that spectators make for their loved ones. So many signs saying; ‘If Trump can run America, you can run this’, ‘pain is just a word for French bread’, and ‘smile if you’re not wearing underwear’ just distract you from the distance (which stubbornly remains at 26.2).
Any disappointment? (No I’m fine about the finishing time, honestly, It’s still a PB.) None at all until I read the BBC News website yesterday: ‘London marathon runners ‘called fat and slow’ by contractors’.
Well, actually no I’m not. I’m outraged. Any runner who can stay on their feet for 7 hours and still be smiling is an ultra marathoner in my book, regardless of their size. Perhaps those running ‘experts’ should have taken a look at those runners’ vests and seen the personal stories that had inspired these lovelies to don some lycra. Love them to bits – the runners – not the flipping critics who wouldn’t recognise stamina if it slapped them around the face like a jellied eel.
Anyway, I refuse to let such ignorance cloud such a brilliant event. I’ve floated through the week – well, ok, I’ve walked gingerly through the week but I have been seen climbing stairs and I have tentatively led a yoga class (thanks class for bending to the occasion with only limited demonstration going on). This morning I returned to morning boot camp and our instructor had us running backwards up a hill. Story of my marathon -download the tracker for further details.
Moving forwards, I get to support my two lovely training buddies at the Newport Marathon this Sunday as they run their first 26.2 miler. They’re going to have a blast. They are both a little bit hesitant about donning the rhino costumes I have made them (selfish considering the amount of papier mache involved), but we’ll get them round with assorted jelly sweets and some tracker love. If you need me, I’ll be the loud one shouting in the crowd; ‘How wonderful is this?’