The time I ran the London Marathon

It’s Marathon Week in every sense this week. It’s all we runners can really think of. After Monday’s horror, I personally am so very glad about The London Marathon this coming weekend. It feels like an opportunity to band together as runners across the world in support of those who suffered. I know two people running it…the lovely Madeleine and my friend Gillian. I ran it in 2004 and loved it, it holds a very special place in my heart. So in honour of both London and Boston  2013…here’s a very late race recap!

Alas it was in the days before digital cameras, and all my printed photos are in someone’s shed in the UK. So I’m dependent on Google Images. 




I am 29. Young, hot, no grey hairs. Crazy in love with this tall, clever, blue-eyed, silver-haired gentleman. (Nothing hotter than a younger guy with silver hair). I’m into running (half marathons), he’s into me.  And we’re somehow offered two free places to run London in April.  We say yes in a heartbeat and start training.

I followed the free Runners World plan that, in those idyllic days, they published free on their website. I followed it To The Letter. I roped the Boyfriend (as he was, in those days) into most of those training runs. We ran in the early mornings before work. I would run semi-long on a Wednesday night through dark, cold (often wet) London streets. We would both run our long runs together at weekends. In the UK, running clubs organise races, as opposed to professional companies like here in the US.  This makes them less ‘spectacular’, but considerably cheaper. And running clubs put on races of increasing length throughout the Spring so that as your training plan dictates 15 miles, 18 miles, 20 miles, there’s usually a ‘race’ of that distance on that weekend. So we drove round the South of England doing ‘races’. Our most memorable was a 20 miler in flat, agricultural Kent, through smelly cabbage fields, during a hailstorm.

And before we knew it, it was Marathon Weekend. I remember my goals were a) to run the whole way and b) to do 4.30. We picked up our numbers at the Expo, loaded up on pasta, slept well and then got the train in the dark through London to Greenwich, where I just remember several uses of the Portaloos and taking four Imodium. (I didn’t poo for a week).

What do I remember about the race? I remember the intense excitement as the claxon went off and we started through Greenwich. I remember skipping from sheer excitement during the first mile. I remember working our way round a supporter-filled Cutty Sark and missing my friends in the crowd.

cutty sark
Cutty Sark

I remember the grottiness of Rotherhithe giving way to the milestone that is Tower Bridge. I remember pushing the pace a little as we approached the bridge…and in retrospect, I remember leaving the Boyfriend in the dust! He has never let me forget that.

London Bridge Source
London Bridge

On through Docklands, seeing my parents as I ran into the Docklands loop and my housemates at mile 18, beaming and yelling. I remember getting to mile 20 at the Tower of London and thinking that this was new territory for me now. I remember the small patch of cobbles at the Tower. I remember starting to fade along Embankment at mile 22 and pushing myself on. I remember seeing a work colleague at mile 23 and the surprise was just what I needed to energise myself.

Embankment! Source

I remember fighting back tears at Buckingham Palace as I rounded the corner and looked up the mall to the finish line.

Nearly there... Source
Nearly there…

I remember kind of crying during the official photo, so the photo is abysmal! I remember my parents taking ages to find me at Horseguards, but eventually my mum hugging me and asking me to NEVER do this again. (Parenting a child with a heart condition must always be scary). I remember hugging the Boyfriend (45 mins slower than me) and us walking back to the tube to get home…and I remember projectile vomiting a torrent of orange energy drink against a white, porticoed government building.

It had been the most amazing day. I felt great from start to finish. The weather was glorious, the supporters around the course were fantastic, the atmosphere was electric. I’d trained well, ran sensibly and ended the day with a) having run the whole thing and b) a time of 4.32 which I was very happy with. No blisters. No lost toe nails. It was one of the best days of my life – the sense of having worked harder for this than anything ever in my life and having achieved what I set out to do.

I won’t do a marathon again – the risk, for people with heart conditions, of running a marathon over a half marathon is fourfold and I won’t take that chance now I have a Dude I adore. But I am so very glad I did one, and that it was London.

Good luck Gill and Madeline and all 30,000 of you. Enjoy it. Think of Boston and run a little bit harder for all of us.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Nic J says:

    And I followed in your wake, 365 days (+ 1 hour) after you!! The hardest and most exhilarating experience. I’m not sure I took it as seriously as you, as I spent most of the Embankment section on the phone to family and friends “I’m in the marathon!” – then I saw a belly dancing troupe giving a demo, which reminded me of Grandma – it’s a bit difficult to run when you choke up, although it also made me laugh (that would have been the kind of thing she would have loved to have done). Crying at the woman taking my chip off. Crying at my housemate who phoned me to see if I was alright and could only get blubbing from me down the phone – how we managed to meet up I still don’t know. What larks! Was it brilliant? Yes! Would I like to do it again? Yes! Will I do it again? No – I don’t have a dodgy heart but there are parts of me that I now know aren’t built for that kind of distance, so I’ll be sticking with halfs from now on as well. Short enough to be manageable, long enough to be a serious challenge.
    I normally cry at the London Marathon these days (watching on TV). The sight of everyone lined up wearing black armbands (given out to all runners when they collected their numbers at the expo apparently), will be overwhelming. We might not physically be there – but we’ll be there… x

    1. Cathryn says:

      I cry watching it too, both live and on TV! I’d forgotten you ran it too, I know Debs did a few years later. Glad we did it.

  2. Madeleine says:

    Lovely post Cat, thanks for the encouragement. I’m now feeling extra excited and even more nervous. And yes, Nic, it will be very emotional with the armbands (which they are giving out at the start now) and the 30 seconds silence before it starts.
    I’m looking forward to Sunday and all the excitement it will bring. I too normally cry watching it on the TV so I’m sure I will shed a tear or two on the way round.
    And I’m running for two special people in my life who have both been affected by Breast Cancer at different stages of their lives, but neither any less awful than the other.
    I’ll be me in my oh-so-attractive bright pink Breast Cancer Campaign running vest so look out for me in the crowds!!

    1. Nic J says:

      Will be watching out for you! Best, best BEST luck, and enjoy!! x

    2. Cathryn says:

      You’ll rock it! Take tissues 🙂 You’ll be finished by the time I wake up so I can check your results!!!

  3. Jen says:

    Great recap – and 9 years later! I’m impressed!
    I’m also glad that the London Marathon is this weekend. I hope it heals a lot of wounds and is a good thing for the running community. We could use a good race right about now!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I was amazed about how much I still remembered. Just snapshots in my head but they were pretty vivid. It was a great day!! Come on London!!

  4. Carlo says:

    Thanks for this – great post. Great that everyone’s rallying together. We’ll be watching this weekend too….

    1. Cathryn says:

      Have a great time, it’s always so much fun to watch. I always cry.

  5. bt says:

    This was the first time I saw this post (from your link from from your #thankyoupaula post in 2015). So great! Impressive memory reporting so many years later. Well done on both the run and the recap. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Cathryn says:

      I think that because it was my only marathon, my memories remain fairly sharp. If I’d done 10, they would probably get a bit foggy.

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