> April 2012 (Gothenburg, Sweden) – one week left. Feels like I’m on a cloud. Despite my first important client meeting which is held the week before the marathon (new job requires new planning in training!), there was no stress. Great support from the small ones as well. Then it was Friday. Packing took some time because of weather forecast in London that changed all the time. Forecast: 60% chance of rain and up to 12C warm. Travelling at night to Gatwick, take the train to my friends who live at Kilburn station. Sleeps half-good and deep.
> Saturday, April 21 (London, UK) – Waking up with the sun and birdsong. Yep! So it is in London too. After breakfast and a little chat with my friend, I travel to the ExCel center where I will pick up my Bib number. The journey takes ca.45 minutes, I go to one station too early (although it is right to marathon the day after! Body just want to run!). It is quite “silent” on the ExCel. Found help to retrieve number (went to “Overseas Runner”, but my number is for UNICEF Golden peasant, you will go to another stand). Feels unreal. Go and register my time chip, is congratulated by the official because I start in Group 3 of “The Mass in the Red Group.” Then I start going round and round … So much to look at, to buy, to test. Decide on a couple of running socks only. Listening to some coach / expert words of support and 2.5 hours later I go back home. Short visit to Decathlon to buy a pair of easy training-pants, because I forgot mine at home (can be good to have on marathon day before & after the race). At home, my friend has cooked couscous with chicken and we talk a lot about the marathon and training. My enthusiasm can sometimes feel “slightly-over-the-top,” but my friends share it easily! Decide to go for an easy 5K run around the house – afternoon sun and heat stops me halfway to take off my extra top (no longer in cold Sweden!). The evening ends with spaghetti bolognaise and a lot of talk. The time is 9:30pm, I go to bed, but not sleep until 11pm. Going through my notes on the track, double-check my clothes (I decided ¾ tights, short-sleeved T-shirt, UNICEF singlet and windbreaker. Prepare my gloves, son’s cap and sunglasses, too. And then I sleep.
> Sunday, April 22 – no clock is needed, the birds are up already at 4:30am. Go up quietly while my friends still sleep and eat my breakfast. Drink some water. At 5am I get up from the bed again and shower. Feels like time is going really slow, feels good, feels tense. Drink some water every half hour. Have had my running gear on since kl.5:30 and now at 7:04, I go to the station. Meeting a girl with a red backpack. We smile at each other, we understand each other, we talk a bit. It’s her first marathon. She is a bit tense. Waiting for the train, several red-bags-people show up. All smiles modestly to each other. Once on the subway, it soon becomes black with people (ok: black and red 😉 – insane how many people are heading to Greenwich and not just runners, but also their families. A little chat this and that. Turns myself into my own thoughts (which helps the cap!). Then it was time to get off at Greenwich. A sea of people is already there, just to keep up. I stop and ask a couple for a “before-marathon-image.” Then I smile. I am so proud of my UNICEF singlet. The time is now 8am. No queue to the bathroom, so as good to take the opportunity! Talking a bit with people around, watching mostly and enjoying the sun. After leaving my red bag, I want to focus on myself. Decided not to run with cap, just sunglasses. The sun is shining, little wind and no rain until 2pm according BBC. 15 minutes to start. Group 3 is not so large and before us are 1st and 2nd groups pretty small too. Not many in costume there. 5 minutes left to start. I turn off all sound and listen to myself. No questions about why, how come … Everything is just … good.
Then was the start. And nothing happens. It takes 3 minutes before I reach the start line. And then begins a super-slow first mile. I had read about it, but did not think it would be soooo slow! It takes a bit of patience, but there are people everywhere, running and screaming. For a bit of fun and passing time, I look at my pace-bracelet: wearing both 3:20 and 3:25 (just in case!).
First 3 miles go very well. I slow down a bit to ensure that not all of the energy is used in the beginning. A funny thing is, when after mile 3, all runners (Red / Blue groups) blend together at a slight slope. I decide to continue to run to the rhythm between 3:20 and 3:25 and it feels good. Talking a bit with people, find a woman who is aiming for the same time and we run together a few miles before I leave. There are just so many people, it is just crazy! Impossible to compare with Dubai (fast track, some people) or Budapest (first marathon and not knowing what to do else than smiling all the time to the new experience)… Looking around to see whether my friends found a spot we discussed about and they show up!!! and cheer for me just a little after mile 9, It gives some extra strength. Have heard the cheering and calling for all the names around me (bright idea to have it on the t-shirt!), and to hear my name is just … GREAT!
There were some “little boring / quiet” parts in the middle of residential area, where a donkey running beside us for a while (yes! I promise! Really thought I was hallucinating when I heard it first and saw afterward). Still not many in funny costume in front of me. An apple passes me. Just enjoying and checking my watch and pace-bracelet – perfect 3 minutes from the beginning are still fine fine and my speed is right for my goal.
And then turn right and it’s ALREADY Towers Bridge. Where was the difficult “Jamaica Road” that I read about? The experience on the bridge’s just hard to explain. Everyone is there for us, they scream everyone’s (my) name, I smile to everyone, I just FEEL good. It feels like winning the race! Turn right again to the part that is meant “a bit quiet with people,” but I do not see it that way. Have taken my gel a little earlier than during training. Those ones are taken in three rounds, so must plan right. At mile 7/8 and then mile 14/15 disappear the first two gel. Feel super good. Look at the UNICEF cheering team at mile 13/22. Fun!
Then mile 17 just arrive. Don’t know what happens, but stomach is cramping, I continue to run, but it gets harder and harder. The head is no longer in the race. Looking at my watch too often, it does not help the brain and it continues to be difficult. From that moment I stop several times to walk, run and walk again. Feeling almost half bad when I walk and hear everything halting around. Must focus-MUST FOCUS. During the last bridge, I stop at the toilet and try to throw up as the stomach keeps cramping. Not working. This cannot be ending here in the dark under a bridge!!! Get some support from Luigi and Super Mario running with me and cheering for a while… Just started to run again.
Then begins the longest two miles of the race, as a trance. I see Big Ben, and the 800m sign, walk a bit and finally running as fast as I can those last 600m (which feel like double), smiling and waving to the audience.
Stop my watch at 3:26:51. Walk a little, difficult to breath, let the marathon photographers take a picture, get my red bag with my stuff. Oops, now I take a look at my medal. And walk to the UNICEF meeting place. I sit there with other UNICEF runners, feels a bit like a family (especially since mine did not follow). A little picture-time again, chat with others, and all-in-all, everyone congratulates. Then it was time to go home. My leg cramps every time I touch them, but it is just to bite the bullet and start walking!
Home again. 15 minutes in ice-cold bath, pizza for dinner and just chat about the marathon. My friend’s husband wants to sign up for London 2013 already. Thought it was funny to see me and run. Inspiring he says.
> Wednesday, April 25 – Fly back home. Stayed a few days to a conference with the job and now fatigue. Massage on Monday was well deserved and my legs feel pretty good. Forcing myself to not run for a few more days.
> Friday, April 27 – receive confirmation that I will run in NY marathon in 2012 (saw the change in my profile yesterday but did not 100% on it). It gives a small patch of the 51 seconds that crushed my goal. London was an incredible experience. Running for UNICEF gave extra good feeling. Not only the run but also the fundraising. People on the sidewalk cheering and screaming made it all so perfect. So worth the workout, and extra sweat for several months! Maybe I register to the next London Marathon 2013 …
first half 1:37 / second half 1:48
Improvement by 3 minutes compared to Dubai for the first half marathon, but miserably ended the second half. Cramp in the stomach never happened during training… Some work to do still!