After a really restless night in what I can only describe as the hotel broom cupboard, I got up at 6am and reluctantly got in the shower. All I wanted to do was get back into bed and hide, or work out a way to escape! Every day since December all I have thought about was this day, everything I have done has been focussed on this moment. I have eaten, slept, dreamt, lived and not shut up about this day, I have missed friends birthdays, stayed in every weekend, fallen asleep during family dinners, banned anyone from phoning/visiting on Sundays, basically been a pretty shit friend/sister/daughter and have become really selfish. I'm lucky that my family and friends have been very patient and have understood what I have been trying to achieve, and even better, they have come along for the ride!
So after all the training that I have done, it all comes down to today. I got all my kit laid out before I went to bed and checked and double checked it before I threw it all on and then sat staring at myself in the mirror, what was I getting myself into??? Before I knew it I had been downstairs and forced my breakfast down and then it was time to go.
I left the hotel after an emotional goodbye from my Mom and with Helen and James, walked towards Heron Quays to get on the DLR to Lewisham. The train wasn't too busy which was good and I started to relax a little bit. That was a little different though when we got to Lewisham to change towards Blackheath, the train was rammed, but I managed to get on the first carriage after a big hug from Helen and immediately got talking to a girl called Maudie. She seemed equally as nervous and it was also her first marathon, after entering the ballot first time, just like me. We also figured that we were in the same zone and that we would be running at the same pace. As we got off the train it was just a case of following the masses to the start area where we stopped and had a bite to eat, organised our bag and got them safely in the trucks , then queued for the loo. I'll save you the details of the trip to the loo, but you can just follow this link to discover my horror!
The atmosphere was amazing and we were soon soaking it all in. We walked down toward pen 9 and then waited for the crowd to start moving forward. I think it took about 20 minutes to walk forward and get through to the start line, where we both started our watches and started our first steps towards the 26.2miles ahead of us. There were so many people lining the streets and cheers us all on, it was easy to get carried away but Maudie was really good at checking pace and slowing us down when needed. We passed mile one and the atmosphere was incredible! Children were holding out there hands and we gave them high-5's as we ran past and the crowd were cheering our names, I can't describe how amazing it was!
As we approached 3 miles we joined the runners from the red start, and there were cheers from both sides along with some playful boos and hisses as we start running together! I texted Helen to let her know that I was a t mile 3 then much of the next few miles were a blur but we stayed pretty well paced and I looked forward to seeing my family around the Cutty Sark. Seeing them was incredible, I had promised that I would stop and get a hug every time I saw them but at this point I was having such a great time that I ran past waving like a loony!! We ran on and at 7.5 miles Maudie saw her family so we were ready to go! It was still really crowded where we were running and it wasn't long before Maudie and I lost each other in the crowd, I looked around for her but to be honest I don't know if I ran ahead or if she did, I really hope that she finished well and had a good run, and am kicking myself for not getting her number before we started, as she made my day so much more bearable and enjoyable.
I found miles 9 and 10 quite tough, but I was keeping focussed on a guy called Dave, he was running with a huge metal contraption attempting to break a record for the tallest structure to finish the marathon and was having to navigate bridges and telephone wires, and doing an amazing job!
I kind of got lost on where I was and just as I started to panic, I turned a corner and saw Tower Bridge. A huge smile beamed across my face as I realised I was nearly halfway, the crowd was huge and cheering so loud, how I managed to hear Tina shouting me I don't know but I turned to my left and saw her waving frantically at me. I ran over to her and nearly knocked her clean over! I really needed that as I was starting to doubt myself. I checked my watch and I had run 12.5miles in 2h32 and I was more than pleased with that. I had always had something to eat during training at this point so I ate a Nak'd bar as I excitedly told Tina and her cousin Andrew about my run so far. I set off again over the bridge which was amazing, crossing the river is a huge boost and as I did I looked to my right and saw Denise Lewis having a break from her TV duties. I shouted over to her and waved my arms around and she saw me and belted out 'Go Laura Go!' which sent me over the bridge and round to the right towards the Isle of Dogs, and through the halfway point.
As I was running through mile 14, I started to find it really hard. Runners were were coming in the other direction and were themselves running through mile 22 and all I could think was geez, I still have that all to do! I pushed on to mile 15 where I did what I really didn't want to and I stopped and walked for a few minutes. I was so cross with myself, but I was able to again soak in the atmosphere. I then saw a familiar twitter name @jbeccx on the back of another runners shirt and shouted out to Becca and introduced myself, after a quick hug we chatted for a little while and it seemed she was using a run/walk strategy too. I left her to it as she was seeing lots of people that she knew and pushing though miles 16 and 17, continuing with my run walk and really enjoying myself.
As I approached mile 18 I saw my Mom and Andy, I needed a hug here as my feet were in some pain and I was feeling sorry for myself, I grabbed a drink and a couple of wine gums and Mom told me that there were lots of people around the next couple of miles. I was worried about Dad as I hadn't seen him but Mom assured me that he was at 20 miles waiting. Off I ran and sure enough at mile 19 I saw my Aunt and Uncle and stopped for a hug, started off again and ran only 20yards and saw the guys from Regency Runners!
Again I was so excited I tried to tell them all about it in 30 seconds, had lots of hugs and some photos and then I was off, I wanted so badly to see my Dad and Lesley and as I headed around the corner, passed the steel band (which was amazing!) I could see him waving, and even better, he was with my sister. I again waved like a loony and had more hugs. At this point I knew it would be the last chance to stop and talk to someone whilst I had something to eat so again had a Nak'd bar and a drink, plus Dad wouldn't be able to wait at the end for me so I really wanted to stay with him for a while, I felt awful that I had missed him at Cutty Sark. I carried on and continued with my run walk strategy, I was having so much fun I couldn't believe it but by this point, my feet felt like they were shredded.
At mile 23 the heavens opened and the drizzle that I had pre ordered had been mistaken for torrential rain and I got drenched! The head wind was even worse so I had to keep my head down, I tried to run but with the wind I was wasting energy so decided to walk until it had calmed down. I came out from under a bridge and checked my watch, I had exactly 3 miles left to run. I didn't care how much my feet hurt I just wanted to go! I turned on my iPod as by this point the rain had driven a lot of supporters back home or to the pub and got suprised a mile down the road by my Aunt and Uncle again who had been joined by my cousin Tom, it was Tom who ran last year which gave me the stupid idea to try it out myself, grrr!
I could see the London Eye and Big Ben and it was the most glorious sight I had ever seen! I was so close and I wasn't stopping now. It felt like I was running at 5k pace but I was actually running much slower! I turned into Birdcage Walk and kept running, saw the 26 mile marker in the distance and turned up the volume. The crowds were all still out cheering and calling my name, pushing me to keep going for the last half a mile. At this point I heard my name being chanted and turned to see my Mom with a crowd of people around her punching the air and chanting LAURA LAURA LAURA! God knows how she had managed that! I waved and called out to her 'I'm bloody doing this! Yes!' and kept going down Birdcage Walk and turned right to see Buckingham Palace. I couldn't believe that I had made it this far! I only had this last stretch up The Mall and I was done so I tried to finish strong (errr or I just shuffled I can't remember!)
I don't think I quite worked out what was going on around me for a few seconds. A medal was put around my neck and I was ushered up to have my tag removed, the marshalls were so lovely and were congratulating me and the other finishers as we all tried to take in what had just happened over the last 6 hours! I got my goody bag and walked up to get my bag off the trucks then rang my sister. I told her I had finished and she burst into tears, I walked straight past her and when I saw her we both hugged and cried. Helen is what you call a proper runner, she didn't get a place in the ballot and not long afterwards discovered she was pregnant, so this journey had also been for her. One day I'll be running like her, chasing sub50 10kms! But that's the next challenge!
So after getting changed in a portaloo (they wanted to take the changing rooms down, grrr) I met up with family and friends and had some photos taken before my lips started to go blue and I was told to get home!
Oh, and I suppose you want to see the medal? Well, I do only do it for the stuff!!
I don't feel like I can go before I talk about the tragic events that took place today. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, Claire Squires died today whilst running at mile 25 on Birdcage Walk. She was just 30 years old. This makes finishing all the more precious. If you haven't already, click the link and donate on her justgiving page. Thank you. x