For years I have said that I would never be interested in running a marathon but having applied (in a moment of madness or drunkenness) for a ballot place and being accepted, I felt I couldn’t really decline the challenge. Plus it offered a fantastic opportunity to raise money for charity.
So, several months later, there I was lining up with hundreds of people for … the portaloos. No one told me that this was the first obstacle to overcome before reaching the start… They must have hired every portaloo in London and there still weren’t enough! Anyway, much later than I had planned, I made it to my starting pen only to realise that I was in a less advanced starting block than I’d hoped. However, being small I managed to wriggle my way to the front and resolved to go with the flow and do my best to push ahead where I could.
In fact, the start was so well organised that once we got going I managed to get down to almost a 9 min mile pace within a couple of miles, although dodging some of the costumes presented an interesting challenge (Shakespeare’s cloak kept flapping up at me whichever way I tried to overtake!). Unfortunately, once we merged with the other starter group around 3 miles, everything slowed down again. I had just regained my speed and positioning when I had to pull over to nip into a portaloo (no queues this time luckily) – and – would you believe it … when I got out … Shakespeare had caught up again! From mile 5, despite the unexpected heat, I managed to settle into a comfortable pace (around 8.40 min mile) for the next 5- 8 miles and it was quite breathtaking first catching sight of, and then, passing around the newly renovated Cutty Sark.
I had a bit of disappointment at mile 9 when I passed my family without them seeing me but at least it allowed me to stop scanning the crowds for the next few miles as I knew they wouldn’t be there. (Luckily, they saw me at mile 25 so they knew I was OK!).
Tower Bridge was another high point and although my watch was playing up I knew that I was pretty much on target for a sub-4 hours by half way (1:55:59 according to official statistics!). Perceptually, I found it got tough quite quickly from then on (miles 14 – 20 around the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf seemed to take forever!) but looking at the statistics my pace was surprisingly consistent.
Around Mile 23 I was taken by surprise as my calves started to cramp (never happened before) and I had to stop several times to stretch over the next couple of miles. With my watch non-functioning by now I had to rely on other runners who assured me we were still under 4 hours if we kept up the pace. Those last 800 metres were the longest I have ever done! But then, it was OVER and all pain temporarily forgotten until negotiating steps down to the Underground on the way home! A friend called my husband with my time of 3:53:17 before I knew myself!
Although, I’d had plenty of advice (thanks Tom, Frank and Mike), I don’t think anything prepares you for something of this size (38,000 runners) especially as my largest race before was 1500! I found the crowd support both empowering (and sometimes overwhelming) but I was really glad I had put my name on my vest (and that there were loads of ‘Jo’s’ running!) because I seemed to hear ‘Jo’ called everywhere!! It was an incredible experience that I feel honoured to have been part of. Also, thanks to everyone who has helped me raise almost £1000 for Cancer Research.
Jo Marriott Place overall: 9094 Gender: 1802 Age cat: 360 Time: 3:53:17
Gemma (running with the Croft place) also had a great first marathon with a fantastic time.
Gemma Mallet Place overall: 5839 Gender: 973 Age cat: 599 Time: 3:37:47