As I crossed the finish line, the grandstand empty, tired, disappointed, hardly able to walk, tears streaming down my face and in immense pain.  I had at least done what I had set out to do – completed the London Marathon 2012…

October 2011 I found out with 1,000’s of others that I had not got into the London Marathon 2012.  I was quite disappointed as I hadn’t got in the year previously through the ballot – I now know why I as I subsequently became pregnant with Harry so would have been unable to race anyhow.  A good friends of ours, James St Pierre, suggested that I enter via a local charity that him and a few others were also entering through. I did, and to my surprise I was accepted!

At this point I was still a massive 3st 7lbs away from where I wanted to be following the birth of Harry – I could do this though! All the training would help me shift the weight, or so I thought…

By the end of December 2011 I had only managed to lose 14lbs.  I was starting to realise that running and steadily increasing my distance, it was becoming increasingly difficult to decrease my calories and I found the more I ran the hungrier I was!

1 week before the event and I was still 2st 4lbs away from where I wanted to be.  At this point I had to accept that and concentrate on completing the marathon.  I may not have been as lean or as quick as I had wanted to be at that point, I did know that I should be able to complete the 26.2 miles in under 5hr 30 – this is what I looked to achieve.

Nothing can really prepare you for such an amazing experience! The atmosphere was awesome, the people were friendly and helpful and there was a strange bond formed by strangers, all striving for one goal – to complete the London Marathon 2012.  For me it wasn’t only a personal achievement it was the fact that it was the Olympic year in the Olympic City – this seemed to make it all the more special.

As I sat in the holding pen with a group of others running for Farleigh Hospice, we watched the elite runners and wheelchair competitors start on the big screen; my stomach churned. Had I done enough? Had I got enough supplies with me? Would I finish within 5hrs 30? Why was I dressed in long sleeve when it was a beautiful day?! Such a rush and so many questions!  Within no time at all we were ushered into out starting pen.  I was joined with rhinos, clowns, gingerbread men, some guy in a mankini, 4 guys with the cool runnings bob sleigh and many, many more runners – all a little anxious and waiting for the off!

The countdown started “10… 9… 8… 7 I thought I was going to be sick, my GPS couldn’t find the satellites and I wish I could have taken another trip to the toilet! 6… 5… 4… OH SHIT, this was really it, this was really going to happen! 3… 2… 1… and we were off!!! The only way now was forward!  Hundreds of us walked the 1/2 mile or so to the start line, my GPS panic was over and I just kept telling myself to just keep going, doesn’t matter about time, just enjoy the ride and atmosphere.

As I picked up my pace the streets were lined with hundreds of people, people shouting your name and cheering.  By mile 3 I had got into my stride and felt relatively relaxed. I was feeling a little anxious about the whole hydration issue trying to make sure I had at least 2 large gulps at each water station. I heard my phone go and I knew that was my friend, Celia, who had got in through the ballot and that mean she had a different starting point to me.  We were going to try and meet up and had agreed whoever got to mile 5 first would text – at this point I was 1/2 mile behind her and decided that it was probably best to forget the whole meeting up thing.

Mile 8 came and the spectator support was incredible!  Pubs with music and bands playing, people handing out bananas, jelly sweets, chanting and still cheering and spurring us all on. I was feeling quite relaxed and quite pleased as I reached mile 10 as I was on target at that point for a 5hr 8min finish, I knew then that I would easily do it within 5hrs 30! Then BAM! out of nowhere my left kneecap felt like it had been wrenched sideways to the outside of my leg and I had terrible pain in my IT band from my hip down to my knee – OH CRAP! Now what do I do?  I can walk this out surely? It’s just a bit of tension or a tight muscle? I jog walked and after about 1/2 mile the pain was so bad I was in tears, the crowd were calling my name “saying come on SARAH, you can do this, you’re almost halfway”.

I got to mile 11 and the tears were now about disappointment and not wanting to let people down. I made my way to the next St Johns ambulance after being stopped previously by 2 St John’s people to see if I was ok, all I could do was nod at them as the tears fell and I kept going. I knew I needed to get it looked at – this was my first stop with St Johns.  I carried on after this stop, by which time it has become impossoble to even jog.  Every time I bent my leg, my knee was being pulled out to the side.  Just as I found a comfortable position to move, the muscles in my lower left leg hurt, so I had to switch to another position.  Not yet halfway the prospect of walking the remainder of the distance, in this much pain, was quite overwhelming. I wanted to carry on, I wanted to finish, I wanted to be at my party 6 days later having achieved what I set out to do.  I completely broke down at my next St John’s stop and after pulling myself together I asked if they could give me a strapping to give the knee some support.  They made me wait a full 10 minutes to make sure I was ok, so thank god, I had stopped my GPS every time I was seen 😉

I crossed Tower Bridge, doing nothing more than a walk and cried the entire length. So disappointed that I could not run across one of the momentous landmarks I had been really looking forward to crossing.

I hadn’t heard from Mark (he was bringing all 3 kiddies to come and watch and hopefully cheer me on at some point) at all at this point and I felt like I just needed to hear his voice I called him and in tears I told him what was going on. He told me that if I was in too much pain I should stop and it was ok if I felt I needed too.  I knew that I just could not stop; I had to keep going.  As I rounded the corner into Narrow Street, in Limehouse, having just being over taken by 2 boobs (yes, really!) I saw Mark and the kiddies there waiting at the side.  Needless to say, there were more tears and after a big hug and high fives from the girls I was back on my way. This was the point that I told myself if I was going to do this, I had to do it without tears and just get on with it; one step at a time!

I set myself a new goal: To complete the London Marathon within the allocated 8hrs 15 minutes in order to receive my medal.

I just kept walking being spurred on by the crowd and fellow runners.  3 runners stopped to help me and see if I was ok, 2 more offered me their knee supports and supporters also called out messages of encouragement.  I made it to mile 17, by which time the pain had worsened and I was now resorting to walking with my left leg straight.  Again I felt I should stop and see if St John’s would give me some paracetamol, maybe that would help?  I was conscious that I was still 9 miles from the finish line, I just had to focus on getting to each mile; mile by mile, step by step.  I was seen by a physio, the strapping removed and was given some paracetamol.  Mark and the kiddies had caught up with me again at this stage.  This was the point where I was advised to withdraw from the race.  I just looked at Mark and said “I have to keep going”.  He gave me 3 ibuprofen and said they would walk with me for a bit.  This got me to mile 19, by which point I felt like the pain had eased, thanks to the painkillers! I said to Mark “I’m going to carry on, I’ll see you and the kiddies at the finish” with some high fives, a caffeine sports gel, I was off and managed to jog the next 1/2 mile. I soon realised this had not been a good idea – the jogging!

As each mile went by I just found myself closer to the finish.  The streets had started to clear, there were a few hardcore supporters still there cheering.  Mile 22 and the heavens opened, I now knew why I had worn long sleeves ;)! A Macmillan Cancer Support Stand was packing away and offered their ponchos, which I gladly accepted! I was now walking with a group of people one older gentleman and a younger lady (their names I did not get) were very kind to me and on speaking to the man this was his 4th marathon! Now he must have been in his late 60’s, if this wasn’t something to spur me on the I don’t know what was!

I had managed to pick up my pace, although still only a fast walk, and I remember seeing Big Ben approaching and I felt so relieved; I was so close! As I headed to Parliament Square the chimes of Big Ben rang out – I felt like they were just for me! I was in the home straight! As I approached St James Park a youngish girl came out from the side and walked with me and told me what an amazing job I had done and that I was so close.  I was still a little disappointed at this time and with mixed emotions I ran, yes I managed to run the last 200m, as I was pretty damn sure I was going to run across that finish line! With mixed emotions, I ran past the empty grandstand and hobbled across the finish line, tired, hardly able to walk, tears streaming down my face and in immense pain.  I had at least done what I had set out to do – completed the London Marathon 2012 AND within the 8 hrs 15mins.

I had a personal time of 6hrs 53 and an Official time of 7hr 20.

Would I do it again?

YES! Most definitely! I would not change the above experience for the world, I am truly grateful to have been given an opportunity to take part and to finish.  My experience taught me many, many things, mostly about myself!

I will RUN a marathon, the complete course, and within 5hrs – try and stop me!

Yours in taking one step at a time…

Sarah xXx