How Does It Feel To Run The London Marathon

Last weekend marked what would have been the London Marathon, I remembered asking my sister a few questions not long after she had passed the finish line in 2018. I know how much time and energy goes into preparing your mind and body for a race like that (not personally, I might add) and I cannot fathom how all those who were training towards this year's marathon have been feeling these past few weeks. We have noticed on our daily walks how many more people there seem to be out for a run and I can imagine that the roads may be getting even busier as people blow off some steam. 
In some respects, as sisters, we are alike. When it comes to running... we are not. My sister, Grace, very much takes after my father who also completed the London Marathon in 2009 and like father & daughter, they both find solace in tying up their trainers and pounding the streets for a run. Like mother & daughter, when we all lived under one roof, we preferred the slower paced yoga and pilates classes and despite being a gym member, I was more keen to make going to the gym about what I needed to do to enjoy lunch in the restaurant after with friends!

Side note: Both my mother and I have discovered there is some joy in running since then. A lot in fact. In 2019, we both discovered the 'Couch to 5k' app and managed to actually stick to the three runs a week (give or take the odd week). After years of both of us saying "We can't run" it felt good to prove to ourselves we absolutely could. I managed to train up to a 10k which I completed in late September last year - the second ever longest run of my life and a PB of 1h 10m. For someone who couldn't run straight for 10 minutes straight not many months before, this is an achievement of which I am super proud. Now that Spring has arrived, my mother is back repeating the Couch to 5k (there is also a Couch to 10k extended podcast you can train to) and I'm seriously missing it! As soon as I am fit to run post-birth, I hope I get back on it. I've even noted in my Goals list for 2021 I'd like to do my 3rd 10k.

Back to the long-distance runner and the marathon! If you've ever wondered what it feels like to run a marathon, read on. If you've ever wondered whether running for 26.2 miles around London can actually be enjoyable, read on. My only single comparison is perhaps sky-diving when I jumped out of a plane in New Zealand and whilst I'm incredibly glad I have done it and have the video footage to prove it, I would never do it again - so how does that compare to considering a second London Marathon?

WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION FOR RUNNING THE LONDON MARATHON?
Grace: It's a challenge I've always wanted to take on, ever since I started running. Seeing my friend Lale run and experiencing the atmosphere of London as a spectator in 2017 made me realise I had to make it happen for 2018.

HOW WAS YOUR TRAINING FOR THE BIG RUN?
Training was fairly straightforward and for the most-part the reward of successfully upping the mileage week on week outweighed the hardship / sacrifice. Naturally, there were some exceptions. Such as when I lost 3 weeks training to a tight IT band which left me hobbling about - all because I’d yet to learn about foam rolling! Or once I’d reached peak pre race mileage (20 miles) but still had long runs left to do, often in terrible weather conditions. That’s when the mental endurance battle started kicking in.

HOW DID YOU FEEL THE NIGHT BEFORE?
Mostly calm with a distinct tinge of excitement. And rather full from all the pasta! 

HOW DID YOU FEEL AT THE START LINE?
Excited. Fairly focused. Ready. Not a total adrenaline frenzy (just as well, needed to conserve energy!)

"I was living the experience I’d been waiting for."

WHAT WAS THE ATMOSPHERE LIKE?
At the start line, it was lovely! Everyone was really friendly, positive and pumped. A mild sense of apprehension around the heat (had been confirmed it was set to be the hottest ever marathon).
HOW DID YOU FIND THE RUN?
In some ways as tough at Mile 7 as it was at Mile 25. It felt harder than I thought it would at Mile 7 and better than I thought it would come Mile 25.

High points: 
  • Fire brigade getting their hose out (around mile 7-9 I think) to cool us all down properly 
  • Seeing my family near Bermondsey
  • Running over Tower Bridge looking up at the view with bright blue sky back drop 
  • People shouting ‘amazing Grace’ ‘you’ve got this’ ‘looking strong Grace’ 
  • A couple cheering for me and making rhymes from my name ‘Go Grace, you’re looking ace, keep up the pace’ 
  • Seeing Rose and Lizzie on the final straight towards Buckingham Palace
  • Accelerating and overtaking people on the home straight 
  • Smiling most of the way around  
  • The cheer from friends and family on arrival at the picnic 
  • Mum & Dad saying they were proud
  • All the kind message of support from friends, family and people I barely know or hadn’t seen in ages - pre and post the race. 
Low points:
  • Running belt bouncing all over the shop during the fast & hilly bits early on. The thought of dealing with it jigging around for the next 4 hours was not ideal...
  • Seeing two women and a picnic table quaffing Prosecco one mile and two men sucking on ice lollies the next... torture in 24C! 
  • Running alongside Miss Whippy Guinness World Record attempt which meant a mile of people yelling ‘ice cream’ ... I would’ve bloody loved an ice cream!! 
  • Seeing people collapsed / injured en route being looked after by paramedics 

DID YOU LISTEN TO ANYTHING ON THE RUN?
My Marathon Mix whilst waiting on the start line and then up to around Mile 10/11. Nothing but the crowds after that. Marathon mix tunes were all about positivity, accomplishment or had distinct positive associations for me personally. 

WHAT WAS THE CROWD SUPPORT LIKE? 
Absolutely incredible. The crowd really made the whole experience. Any future marathons have a lot to live up to in that front. 

DID YOU HIT "THE WALL" AT ANY POINT? 
Nope. Pleased to report I did not. Sounds awful. 

HOW DID YOU KEEP YOURSELF GOING? 
Between the crowds, sunshine, regular water, showers and liquid sugar on hand, what’s not to like? Reminding myself that I knew I could do it all the way up to 21 miles and that I would do it from there on because there was no other reality in my mind. 

"Knowing how much I had wanted to be exactly where I was, doing what I was doing for so long and now I was getting to do it and it was just as - if not more - fabulous than I’d hoped!"

WHAT WAS IT LIKE CROSSING THE FINISH LINE? 
Great, surreal. Almost anticlimactic. It wasn’t, just calmer for me personally than I’d thought. 

WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE TO NEXT YEAR'S MARATHON RUNNERS? 
Follow a training plan, they work! But use it as a guide, listen to your body, when it needs sleep don’t do the early run. When it needs 2 or 3 consecutive rest days, take them. Invite and lap up the support of friends and family, it’s invaluable and really the best bit.

WHAT'S THE ESSENTIAL MARATHON TOOLKIT?
  • A good pair of trainers and Hilly marathon socks. I came away with no blisters and all my toenails intact! 
  • Comfortable storage for phone/gels/keys, this was my biggest bugbear, still yet to crack it. 
  • Pedicure the week before (toenail reinforcement)
  • Sturdy sports bra 
  • Breathable clothing
  • Suncream & cap if it’s sunny

WOULD YOU EVER RUN ANOTHER MARATHON?
Yes yes yes. Again, again! 


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