In April my running bestie Michelle ran the London Marathon for the Miracle Babies Foundation. She’d worked hard all year with her training, and impressive fundraising to go run the race of her life. Here is her recap…
Our travel to London was off to a bumpy start when Mr Miracles managed to clock me in the eye with his carry on case while boarding our flight to Dubai. Lucky for us both I didn’t head to the marathon with stitches or a black eye – although I did cry into an icepack during take-off and the lady sitting next to us looked nervously at him for the rest of the flight.
We arrived at the Emirates Business Lounge and I realised he was worth keeping, if only for his Qantas Club membership. We were on 6am time and managed to restrain ourselves from demolishing bottles of Moet and a Yum Cha feast during our stopover.
24 hours, 4 movies, 8 meals and about 6 hours sleep later we were receiving warm chocolate cookies at check-in to our hotel, the Doubletree Hilton Hyde Park.
I headed out for a 10km run around Kensington Palace and Hyde Park and was shocked at just how cold it was (and it was probably the warmest day of our trip). The park is so beautiful and at this time of the year even more so with all the spring flowers out, and plenty of paths to explore.
I started second guessing my race gear, and checking the weather forecast fanatically, in addition to the daily weather forecast updates from Scott. The following day I had a 4km run, including some faster 60 second intervals and it was so cold tears were streaming and I was seriously panicking about how I was going to react on race day.
We had decided to check out the event expo on Thursday as we thought it would be less busy than the later days – even though that meant missing out on hearing Dennis Kimetto and Wilson Kipsang speak. I don’t usually get in to Race Expos that much – I’m not really into trying new hydration products or running kit, however there was so much to see. I took the obligatory race photo that Miracle Babies Foundation had requested but there were so many fun things to check out and selfie/videos to take part in. I ran part of the New York marathon using and interactive treadmill app by @Abbotts, I had a taste of the Lucozade Orange drink that would be available on Race Day, grabbed a 3:45 pacing band and a long sleeved London Marathon Tech Shirt.
I was excited to find out that the London Marathon shoe was the Brooks Ghost – similar to the Brooks Glycerin that seems to be working for me lately. I picked up a pair of those too – best holiday souvenir ever!
The presentations ‘What to expect on Race Day’, ‘Mental preparation’ and info about the Runner’s World pacing groups were really entertaining and informative and did settle the nerves quite a lot. So after ‘not really being into race expos’ we realised that 4 hours later we hadn’t eaten lunch – not great prep. Going to find actual food seemed more important than staying longer to listen to nutrition advice!
Trying to see as much as London as possible, yet not walk TOO much was challenging and ‘Maranoia‘ well and truly set in with random pain in my left knee, aggravated by lots of stairs. We met up with Coach Scott and his partner Tracy on Friday, got some great food tips and ended up ‘hydrating’ during a mini pub crawl, followed by dinner in China Town. I ran most of my marathons last year and many training runs with Scott and to have his support in London was incredible.
On Scott’s recommendation we headed to parkrun Fulham Palace on Saturday, checking Ben’s result at his 100km Anzac Challenge on the way. I planned to run the first 3km of parkrun at Marathon pace (I was supposed to be taking a rest day but as if you can go to the UK and not parkrun) then walk the rest. When Garth fell behind in the first km and my GPS was playing up I ended up finishing the 5km at marathon goal pace – oops… The good news was I ran in a singlet and was not too cold, and my knee didn’t hurt at all while running. We had our post parkrun coffee in a Palace and met some really nice parkrunners.
We got back to the hotel to find out they were opening the restaurant early on Marathon morning – which solved the breakfast fuelling issue. Garth went out sight-seeing while I spent the afternoon resting, following the Fremantle Dockers game online and watching a Channing Tatum movie – then met our cousins who were Honeymooning in London for a ‘healthy’ Burger and Sweet Potato Fries (My pre-marathon tradition – I know right, such an Athlete!) The messages and support from home were amazing and after Ben’s awesome result and the Dockers win I hear from Matt with “Well that’s two good results…rest is up to you now girl…”
A 10:10am race start on Marathon morning was a very different experience – no need to wake up super early; 7am breakfast and then off to the train, still second guessing my transport decisions. In the end our decisions were spot on. Garth travelled with me to Cannon Street (a central London station) and then headed off to relax with a warm drink and find his spectator position on course. He had plans to meet up with Scott and Tracy during the day.
I headed to the Greenwich start zone from there – a great decision as it was the first stop on that route so there was plenty of room on the next train. After using the facilities at the train station and dropping my bag at the trucks (all so well organised) there was not really much to do – runners were drinking last minute tea & coffee and then frantically lining up for the portaloos.
I headed to the big screen to watch the start line footage and charity runner interviews. I was quite nervous but spent the next 15 minutes watching the screen and chatting to a lovely English girl doing her first marathon which completely relaxed me (thank you random girl, I hope you had a great run!) I took a photo with a Minion for Gary, and headed to the start pens.
I had registered in the 3:45-4:00 start and the Pacers at the expo had been very helpful, and confident that getting to the front of that group would be easy– surprisingly it was. The 3:45 pacers started at the back of the pen in front of me and while I wasn’t paying that much attention to them it was reassuring to see them at several points during the race.
I parted with my 2 old warm jumpers on the side of the road – so wearing a singlet, shorts and some very attractive Union Jack Gloves from a discount store in China Town; I prepared to freeze during the estimated 10-20 minute wait to actually cross the start line. When the gun sounded and we all moved I was surprised. We didn’t go far, but we were moving and I was surprised to see that the clock was only at 5 minutes when I crossed the timing mat.
I felt quite emotional crossing the start line. I’m not even sure what I was thinking about just felt like I was about to burst into tears. I haven’t really felt that before during a marathon. Even crossing the finish line at Perth Marathon last year, with my goal time, a PB and holding my 6 year old’s hand, I was just happy, excited and relieved.
I managed to settle into a pretty consistent 5:15 pace from the start and was surprised at how much room there seemed to be – I thought the start would be so congested. Running along still holding in the tears I hear cowbells, think of Didi and nearly lose it.
There was a guy playing tune and singing along karaoke style from his 1st floor balcony – very entertaining. Minutes later I pass Batman (Clinton) and 23 weeks preggers chick (Natalie), then Army Man (Ben), all kitted up, boots and all, carrying what looked like a very heavy pack. OMG… here come the tears again…
The blue and red courses merged and I was a little shocked to hear everyone booing each other. Seriously? Is that what they are doing? No high-fives? No cheers? We were approaching the first timing mat and as I crossed with a 26:12 split I felt relieved. The pace felt fantastic although the course was becoming more and more congested and I was trying not to stress about the slowing pace. I was there to enjoy this event after all, right?! I approached the next timing mats with another 26 minute parkrun but it wasn’t until around the 14km mark, that I really did relax and stop worrying that the pace was up and down around 10 seconds/per km.
Running around landmarks like Cutty Sark where the roads were a lot narrower, made it hard to maintain that comfortable 5:15 pace, and running in areas where there were thousands of spectators screaming, blowing horns, ringing cowbells, dancing and singing out the front of pubs and homes, or bands playing, made it hard not to get caught up and run too fast. Every now and then someone would scream out “GO AUSTRALIA!” or “GO MICHELLE!” – more and more towards the end. You could really only work out the general area it was coming from and give a bit of a wave behind you. I was looking out for Garth, Scott and Tracy. I knew Garth had a flag with him but didn’t know where exactly they would be. I didn’t really expect to see them but kept a look out for Garth, the flag and Scott’s red hat (which he probably wasn’t even wearing that day).
Around this point I passed a priest and again started calling people their ‘parkrun’ name as I had earlier in the race with Batman, Army Man, the Cowbells and 23-week Pregnant Chick. The Priest was Tom.
Around 20km I once again started feeling teary. It just all felt too soon. It’s been such a huge year, with the inspiration and support from Miracle Babies, my friends, family, sponsors and everyone , it has just been an absolutely wonderful experience. I thought “I’m just not ready for this”. I’d done the training, felt great, and was ready for the RUN – I just wasn’t ready for it to all be OVER. Coming up to the Tower Bridge which I knew was going to be one of the biggest highlights I was really just trying to hold it together. I also thought “OMG there’s going to be so many photographers here and here’s my scrunched up crying face”.
The Tower Bridge was loud. I thought Didi, Nat and their Cowbells were loud. Trying to take in the course and landmarks was almost impossible. The atmosphere was really overwhelming at times.
Coming off the bridge I passed Tigger and Pooh (Dan and Rich) – a couple of the happiest runners I know – so that put a smile on my face.
For a couple of kms you could see some of the faster runners heading back in the other direction (I named the first of the speedy dudes I saw Roberto) and spent some time cheering for these faster runners, including several of the vision impaired athletes.
I had taken a gel at 10km, a few sips of Lucozade at 15km and another gel around 25km. My stomach started feeling a little queasy but it wasn’t until around 30km that I allowed myself to start thinking in ‘parkrun’ measurements – as in 2 parkruns to go. More specifically “Just 2 parkruns without pooping your pants, Michelle”
Around this point Speedo Man (Abdul) ran past. Sitting in the gutter was some dude vomiting (my stomach lurched again), people stopped on the side talking to the volunteers, stretching out cramps – including Spiderman & Ironman (AK & Matt R). I found out later this was around where Garth, Scott and Tracy had been watching the event – they saw so many of the same costumes that I did, but despite scanning the crowds of runners and following the on-line tracking didn’t see me run past.
Running along the Embankment I saw a guy dressed as Princess Kate with Baby on Board signs. I was hoping there was a photographer so I could have a photo with the Princess. There was a lot of excitement here as you just knew there wasn’t far to go and Big Ben was just up ahead.
The temperature dropped suddenly and I found myself having a little trouble breathing. I was still running at a comfortable pace but realised I was having a mild asthma attack. Another man nearby dropped his Ventolin and I briefly considered asking him if I could borrow it. I started panicking that if I had to stop for medication would they let me continue… there was less than 2km to go so I just tried to calm myself down and continue.
Heading around Buckingham Palace into the mall they suddenly opened an extra lane in the road and there was a huge TV camera pointed right at me so I picked up the pace for the final sprint, rounded the corner waving at the camera and completely forgot to wave to Queen Liz or really even pay much attention at all to the Palace. I looked ahead and decided that the man dressed as a Cactus was NOT going to beat me and headed over the finish line with a 1:45:25 on my Garmin (1:45:18 official time).
Immediately a medal was placed over my neck and the very friendly volunteers offering congratulations and hugs. Official photographers took photos in a couple of locations and I was pleasantly surprised that you could pick up your finishers bag with a correctly sized Tech T-shirt. In previously years it was a one size fits all basic T-shirt so that is what I had expected.
I checked my phone reception and called Garth thinking I may have quite a walk and wait ahead of me but surprisingly I was able to call from the finish line, and Garth, Scott and Tracy were already at there waiting for me. I couldn’t see Garth, Scott & Tracy initially and when I called again they said they were just underneath a flag “come find us”. I looked around and said “Nope, I’m near the B meeting point. There’s a big bin I’m just going to sit here and you can come and find ME.”
We headed back into London to find somewhere to celebrate – Tracy is like a ninja moving through the streets of London, the rest of us just tried to keep up. Every pub we found was packed and the toilets were either upstairs or downstairs – a deal breaker for me as my stomach was feeling a little dodgy and I knew I wasn’t going to be moving quickly on stairs.
We decided to head back towards our hotel so I could shower and change and meet back up with Scott & Tracy for a Sunday Roast and Beers somewhere local. I looked pretty sad and sorry for myself on the train wrapped in a foil blanket just trying to hold my stomach together, but felt much better after a warm shower, fresh clothes and a pint (or 2) back at our local, the Champions Pub!
Next up is the Gold Coast Airport Marathon on 5th July. Apart from some calf tightness and tendon issues in my left foot I’ve recovered pretty well and on track to achieve my sub 3:40 goal.
Over the past year I’ve achieved some amazing personal goals, we have raised over $21,000 for Miracle Babies Foundation – a wonderful charity that I’m very passionate about, and along the way we’ve met and been inspired by some truly incredible people.
To our friends, family and sponsors reading this – thank you for all your support, donations and involvement in our fundraising events. Thank you Mum and Dad for looking after the kids, and to Garth for sharing the experience with me (and for foot-rubs, putting up with early morning alarms and taper niggles).
Big love to my running besties, Nat & Didi (and your little Miracle Babies) and to those training buddies who kept me company on long runs – Cordelia, Renee, Cassie, Adrian and Daniel – thank you.
Ben and Scott – always encouraging, coaching and inspiring – you guys are the best. We are all so lucky to have you in our running community.
Thank you to my corporate sponsors:
Jodie Burgess – One Agency, Watch Wise, the Swiss Watch Box, Climate Wise Construction, Absolute Domestics, Barris Accounting and Floral Image
Thanks to Brooks Running for the Glycerin 12’s