The London Landmarks Half Marathon…where to start?!
I entered the London Landmarks ballot in 2018, with a view that if I didn’t get into the London Marathon it would be something that was fun to do, and if I did get in I could use it as a training run.
As it was, I did get into the London Marathon and so this half marathon became a training run. I’ve chosen a different training plan this year and at points have been worried I’ve been behind because I keep comparing myself to last year, but I have to remember that this plan is different; and actually a half marathon on this date was exactly spot on for my training!
We had our niece staying for the weekend and so I heading into London early on my own, ready to drop my bag and get ready. I was early and so had a quick banana and made sure I was ready in plenty of time.
The previous week I’d trained to 11 miles but found it really tough with the wind and conditions. My pace hadn’t been there and I’d hoped that it would be with the atmosphere etc for this event. I set off quickly (for me, it’s all relative!) and things felt good. I knew Matt and Elouise were at mile 3 and the noise coming onto Embankment was immense; I wish I’d recorded it! It was constant, and then I saw them; I stopped for a brief second and off I went again. Mile 3 was the first water station and I needed it, it was a warm day.
I made sure I used this event to practise fuelling, something I’m not always on top of in training and something I didn’t get quite right in the marathon last year. At this event though, it was going to plan. I knew my Mum was somewhere around mile five/six having come to London for the day to support me, and before too long I saw her. She was at a part of the course which doubles back on itself so I saw her twice.
Mum then planned to see me at mile six/seven, but post event we’ve decided she was actually at mile eight and wasn’t quite where she thought she was and then moved on thinking she had missed me! All this time I was getting messages from friends with support (particularly Riny and Laura). My pace was still good, and I was feeling good. By this time, Matt and Elouise were in a play park and I wasn’t sure when I’d next see people, bar the finish.
Coming up to ten miles, the mental wall started to appear. It’s hard to describe, but it’s when you start to doubt yourself but for no logical reason – it’s just silly, the mind playing games. I never doubted I would finish, I knew I would, but my mind kept saying “it’s hot, feet hurt” etc and legs felt like I was wading through treacle. A lot of the course went out and back on itself, and sometimes I found that a little demoralising.
I knew my aim for the day was to be as close to three hours as possible and still my pace was good even if I was playing mind games with myself unintentionally. The 10 mile marker was at Tower Hill and I kept telling myself “just 5km left, that’s a short training session.” I messaged Riny and Laura and said “please keep the messages coming!” (they were tracking me on the app). I knew I had Matt, Elouise and Mum at the finish but it felt a way off. Suddenly, my friend and colleague Sarah was there – surprise! It was great to see her and she was with me for just under half a mile, we had a quick chat, and I carried on.
The end of the route felt it went on forever; just under three miles along the Embankment before a hairpin right in front of Big Ben, short section coming back on yourself, and then two 90Ls before the finish. Coming up to the 12 mile marker, both my watch and Strava (two separate tracking methods) told me I’d hit half marathon distance. As I’m slow, quite understandably I have to keep left, but it means extra distance. Half marathon time came up as 3:04, a personal best for me by 50 minutes, result!
At mile 12 were the London Show Choir, and they were singing Defying Gravity. I absolutely love my music and went past with my hands above my head clapping, and to have amazing music, singing and them all acknowledge me back was spine tingling.
I kept plodding up Embankment, and then it was time for the final slog! When I hit the 13 mile marker, I decided there was nothing left for it but a sprint finish. I kicked and just heard people shouting and cheering and my name; another spine tingling moment. I knew my family where somewhere there on the right but I couldn’t look, I could only see the finish. I remember seeing them in my peripheral vision and raising a hand, and I realised a couple of people were coming up on me, so my competitive spirit appeared and I kicked in harder to make the finish line as I didn’t want to be overtaken at that point (I wasn’t). And that was it!
Slow walking afterwards, medal collection and then I waited for my friends and family. Elouise came over and gave me the biggest hug (despite my sweaty state!) and then stayed with me. The event volunteers were kind enough to give her a finisher’s wristband which she hugely appreciated, I swapped to flip flops, and we found a local pub for some lunch. I never want to eat after training, but knew I needed to!
It was a great day, and seeing it as a “training run with atmosphere” was brilliant. I wanted a good run because I knew it would give me confidence to carry forward, and it did. Although April means double the distance, there’s a lot to take from that event and I’m happy. Through my charity place, I’ve access to running coaches so I’ve been in touch with them for some advice/queries but being reminded of the atmosphere/support and practising things “in race conditions” was brilliant. Bring on April!
If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.
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