The Virgin Money London Marathon 2019

Years ago I never thought I would have attempted (and finished!) one marathon, let alone two. But, people change and time impacts on decisions. After 2018, I said I would never do a marathon ever again but when Dementia Revolution were announced as the official charity of the VLM 2019, I applied for a place and was successful.

I learnt a lot in 2018 and have previously documented here how my training changed; sessions four to five times a week, personal training, etc. I felt in much better shape and hadn’t been nervous at all until the cold struck and I felt absolutely awful.

Having checked into the hotel, I used Deliveroo for the first time on the Saturday night, and had some pasta for dinner. I was really struggling to stay well hydrated as the cold/virus really seemed to be sapping things out of me and no matter how much I drank, I had dry lips and didn’t seem any better hydrated. Before I knew it, it was time for sleep and a relatively early alarm. I didn’t sleep too badly, but had some “interesting” dreams where I missed the start amongst other things.

Marathon day came and I was up, showered and ready. I had planned to get the DLR to Greenwich and take porridge with me. As I picked it up ready to leave, I dropped the pot down me… not a great start! I cleaned up and headed off, but later than planned. Unfortunately the result of this was I missed the “Team Dementia Revolution” team photo which took place at 9am, but I managed to catch up with many fellow revolutionaries at the tea pavilion which had kindly been reserved for our use.

I sat and drank water, ate a banana, checked I had everything in my flip belt, went to the toilet and thought about the day ahead whilst talking to fellow revolutionaries. We all went off to the bag drop together, and watched a little of the TV coverage on the big screen in the park. We then headed off to the start pen and I decided to split from them and find the 07:00 pacer. Originally, I’d been aiming for 06:30 but the cold had left me feeling rough and I adjusted my plans.

Before too long it was time to start, and off we went, a small group of us following Ann-Marie, the pacer. She put her bluetooth speaker on and the run/walk plan started. Ann-Marie was doing two minutes run, two minutes walk and I wish I’d known this in advance as I would have trained to these timings (I found these out the week before). The minutes per mile time she was aiming for was slower than I was used to from training, but I found I was really struggling with the cold and around mile three I dropped back slightly. I’d really wanted to go with a pacer for the camaraderie, support and as it would remove some of the mental calculations, but it wasn’t to be.

The first person I saw on route was Matt, at mile 3. I didn’t stop (bar sneaking a quick kiss!) and there was a Dementia Revolution cheer station out in full force which was great to see/hear too. At mile 4 I was on my time plan, so things looked good! Next up was Mum at the Cutty Sark, I texted her in advance and asked for some jelly babies out and no water (it was easier than fiddling in my flip belt!) and having grabbed a handful, off I went again.

The next “milestone” for me was mile 10, where I hit the wall in 2018. I saw someone else struggling here and kept my head down and kept going; it was nice to get through this section after struggling there last year. By the time I got to mile 12, things were starting to hurt just a little; frustrating having gone further in training! I exchanged a couple of messages with people, and knew Matt was waiting at mile 13.

Tower Bridge was great with noise and support, and having turned right after crossing the bridge, I suddenly heard my name being shouted. I looked across the road and there was Kate (an ex colleague) and her son, Finlay. Familiar faces were great, and off I went again where a short time later I found Matt – followed by Mum 200m later, as a surprise! I shouted at her that Matt was close and they should meet off, and I went off.

My half marathon time was a little down on what I wanted, but it was still on track. Around mile 14, the 07:30 pacer caught up with me, Jo. I’d met Jo at the start and it was good to see her. She tried to take me with her, but it wasn’t quite to be. Somewhere between 14 and 17 I saw Lucy, a friend I made last year thanks to the marathon. She gave me a massive hug and screamed at me to catch up with Jo. Lucy had been messaging me all day and kept messaging me after seeing her too.

I knew Mum was waiting for me at mile 17, and I hit the wall around the time I saw her there. I don’t know what made me hit the wall this year; I’d worked much better/harder at fuelling this year (forcing myself to fuel and having a plan I actually stuck to), physically stronger, mentally stronger etc. But, there was no doubt about it, the cold definitely threw me.

Mum was with me from mile 17, Matt joined us at mile 20, friends (Cheryl and Darren) at mile 22, more friends (Laura, Chris and Gill) at mile 23 and Lucy and Tom at mile 24/25 ish. Chris had come down from running a marathon earlier that day himself! Seeing familiar faces, as well as all the messages I could see on my watch, was great. Somewhere around mile 22 my six year old niece, Elouise-Mae, called and there was definitely lots of support for me.

I found this year slightly odd, because there were points I did doubt myself which is completely unlike me and thanks to support, nagging, people there etc I got through. There have been some well documented articles since the marathon about how slower participants are treated, and I don’t intend to go into them here. However, I experienced them in full in 2018 and to a degree in 2019. London Marathon have contacted me as part of their investigation, and I’ve provided them with information and images/videos on both years. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

I ran The Mall as I planned for the finish, and collected my medal. I then walked ever so slowly in a bit of a daze towards the bag collection and all these parts of my body I didn’t know hurt, hurt! I took some photos with my medal, and collected my bag before finding Matt, Mum and friends. I realised they were ahead of where I was about to walk out, and we were walking down parallel parts of the street. I then started to feel really ill and faint and Matt ended up jumping the barrier to join me. I really wanted to sit down (which nobody else wanted me to do!) but it was the best thing. Matt tried to feed me a pretzel from my goodie bag (it tasted like cardboard), I took on some water and Gill and Chris got me a blanket. After a while, I started to feel more human; not before Gill and Mum had kindly removed my trainers and socks and swapped them for flip flops! I had felt quite ill during the marathon, worse than I can remember, and even worse at the end!

All I really wanted was a diet coke, and so we decided to head off to the local pub. I decided it was also time for a bottle of prosecco although I drank it very slowly; as Matt said, he could tell I still wasn’t right! We finished our drinks and then got a black cab back to the hotel and had dinner. I was a little stiff, but in surprisingly good shape (and better than last year!).

Taking part in the London Marathon for Dementia Revolution was a great experience. The support within the group was fantastic, no question was ever too small or too silly and being connected to and able to share hopes and fears with fellow revolutionaries was great. The Facebook group which really brought us together is still going, and I hope it will for some time to come.

To have finished the London Marathon not once but twice is something I never thought I’d do. I might not have hit the time I wanted to this year, but I finished within the cut off and on The Mall which were my two aims. I think one of the key things I’ve learnt is nothing will ever go quite to plan, but it’s given me a belief that I can achieve things I never previously thought possible.

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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