Amy’s London Marathon Story
26 miles of running around the spectator-packed streets of London, how hard could that be? We spoke to Amy, a physiotherapist at our Specialist College, to find out and discover why she took on the London Marathon in aid of Henshaws.
I remember clearly when I signed up to do the London marathon. I was about a month into my new job at Henshaws when the latest edition of the rocket was sent around asking for willing volunteers to run in aid of Henshaws. I told myself at this point that it had always been on my ‘bucket list’ to run a marathon – I’m not really convinced that I even have a bucket list, but it seemed like such a good idea and such an amazing thing to be able to say that I’ve done. I just didn’t take much notice of the fact that it meant I actually had to run it to be able to say I’d done it. But, hey, what better reason to do it than for Henshaws! I managed to rope my boyfriend, my brother and my university friend into doing it with me – I wasn’t facing it alone!
So I set about it. I started with jogging a little circuit that was near my house, it was just over 5km. It was a really nice route that had just enough of a hill to challenge me but was flat enough that I wouldn’t find it too hard and lose all interest immediately. I quickly got to the point of needing to up my distance; my body sort of told me I should do this, as well as all the runners’ blogs that I read along the way. I needed to increase the distance now that this felt easy. I still kept this route as my short, fast run that I now did once a week. For the other 2 runs, I used one as my ‘medium tempo’ (see I’ve got all the lingo now) run, in that I would just jog at a comfortable speed – not too fast but not too slow; and this was the run that I kept to about 8 -10 miles. I tried to do this once a week but I’ll admit, there were some weeks that I didn’t manage the full distance or didn’t do this run at all because my legs were just too tired.
About 3 months into my training – so I guess about halfway through, I started really trying to up my distance. So one weekend I set off on a ‘long’ run. I told myself, rather than aiming for distance, I’m just going to see if I can keep running for 2.5 hours. And off I went. And to my amazement, I managed it! I ran solidly for 2.5 hours. This was the most running I had ever done! Psychologically it was really tough going because it was just so dull. It felt boring to keep running so it was a constant battle with my own mind not to stop. Physically I felt pretty good – I set off running so slowly that it meant I found a pace where it felt like I could just run and run and run. Run Forest…run! That was the turning point for me! After I’d cracked that, the rest of my training wasn’t so much of a psychological battle.
I got so much satisfaction from being able to run non-stop for 2.5 hours, that I suddenly just felt the urge to do more; and suddenly running was a pleasure. I kept upping my ‘long runs’ to the point that I ran 22 miles in training. However, at this point, I was also suffering from a bad knee at this point. It was part skating injury and part running injury but I ended up having a scan of my knee which showed I had a joint effusion (fluid on the knee) for which I had a steroid injection into my joint. This made it better for a time but the week before I was due to run the marathon, I was still in lots of pain and I was told I shouldn’t do the marathon as my knee was that bad. But I was so stubborn and determined that there was NO way I was doing all that training and hard work, to end up not running.
So off to London we went. We had to go and pick up our running bibs the day before and this was from a conference centre where there were hundreds of stalls and events going on, all to do with running and the marathon. The buzz was infectious! Soon I forgot that I even had a bad knee.
On the big day, I remember being at the start line with my boyfriend beside me. This was it! I was about to set off on the biggest challenge of my life! It was a mixture of emotions. It was so easy to over-prepare for the day, to over-think it and send yourself crazy thinking of and planning for every eventuality that you might encounter along the way. Have I got enough flapjack? Should I try and carry some suncream round with me because it’s going to be the hottest marathon on record?! Should I wear a bandage on my knee? –no, because you haven’t ever worn one so you don’t know what it will be like to run in one – don’t change anything; if you didn’t do it in training, don’t do it today! Your mind works over-time. Soon we had set off and were on our way to running the furthest we have ever run! The atmosphere was incredible. All along the way, there were people lining the route, cheering, shouting your name, telling you how amazing you were, encouraging you to ‘keep going’. Complete strangers, all coming together in support of your journey, to help carry you along your way. They had sweets, oranges, water and ice lollies in hand offering them to runners as we went by, they chanted, played music, cheered and clapped – all helping us through the heat and the exhaustion. It was amazing.
My boyfriend told me to go ahead at mile 10. He was really struggling, partly from having not reached a long enough distance in his training but mostly because he was also carrying a knee injury. It took me ages to accept it and to leave him behind but I knew that if I stopped running to walk with him, that I wouldn’t have finished the run. He shouted at me to leave him. And I did. That was the hardest thing about the whole thing. The crowd absolutely carried me through the last few miles. Without their support, I would have bowed out before the finish. My knee was so painful it had almost gone numb. I had progressed from a spritely Bambi to a hobbling wreck. I actually cried at mile 21. I was so overwhelmed. It all suddenly hit me. I really felt the struggle from mile 23-26. I was at mile 23 when I really needed to see someone I knew in the crowd. I knew my family were at Waterloo Bridge, but I had no idea where this was in relation to the start or finish line. I SO needed to see them and get the drive to carry on. I was on my last legs. Mentally and physically exhausted.
Then there they were, at mile 25. I heard my mum shout my name and I ran over and collapsed over the barrier; ‘mum I can’t do it, I’m exhausted! I don’t know where Craig is’…. ‘You can do it, Amy, keep going, there’s only one mile to go, you’re nearly there, you’re doing it!! Craig is fine, he’s had to stop but your dad is on his way to meet him’. Poor Craig had managed to keep going until mile 20. He had painfully struggled through another 10 miles on his own before having to admit defeat. I was so proud of him but also so devastated for him that he hadn’t managed to do it. I had stopped at 25 with my family and felt I couldn’t go any further. My sister started running alongside the barrier with me, giving me the last push I needed to get to the finish! Finally, the finish was in sight. I crossed the line, got a medal flung around my neck, a goodie bag thrust into my hand and I just collapsed in a heap of emotions on the pavement.
I was so relieved it was over, so proud of myself that I had just run 26.2 miles. I was reunited with my brother at the finish line – he had passed out and had the St Johns ambulance guys attending to him. We both looked grey. There’s a selfie on my phone that I found that I have no recollection of taking of me and my brother at the finish line. We look awful! As soon as we stopped running, the stiffness set in, we could barely walk. We managed to slowly hobble to where our family were and we all then slowly crossed London to kings cross where we were soon on the train on our way home. We chatted and reflected on the day and were so thrilled to have done it but so relieved it was over.
All in all, we managed to raise just shy of £2.5k for our efforts. This was a mixture of sponsorship from colleagues, friends and family, and also from cake sales and stalls that we held all in an effort to raise more money. People were so generous. There are so many events going on these days that so many people are asking for sponsorship that we thought we would really struggle to raise any money, but it’s amazing how supportive people are of you taking on these challenges for a good cause. People were all too happy to sponsor us. We are so proud of our achievements and for the awareness and money that we raised for Henshaws. What an experience.
So in short, would I do it again? Probably not. But, would I encourage others to do it? Absolutely! It’s such a test of resilience, of metal and physical toughness and an amazing way of raising awareness and money for a good cause. I am so proud to be able to say I have run the London marathon and I encourage anyone that has even the slightest little bit of curiosity or drive to try a marathon, to do it! There were so many different people from all walks of life all doing the marathon in their own way. Walking, jogging and running….in a wheelchair, on stilts, in fancy dress, barefoot. Anyone can do it, in any way they want to and the sense of achievement and pride afterwards is something that everyone should experience. Yeah, the London marathon….I did that!
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