I made it over the line 5 hours, 30 minutes and 41 seconds after I stepped over the start line at Blackheath. It was a bit slower than I'd expected before I set off, but was exactly where I'd hope to be by about 18 miles.
The runner's area at the start
Having said goodbye to my wife at the entrance to the Blue Start it ended up being a bit of a close shave to get into the correct starting pen on time (a massive queue for the toilets was to blame)
The Blue Start - pen 7
It only took about 10 minutes to actually make it over the start line which was a lot quicker than I'd expected and after that the nerves just fell away. I passed a fair few people in some incredible costumes early on, including someone dressed as Blackpool Tower (I think). I also saw the brother and sister going round on stilts (who later broke the world record for such a feat).
What anyone who's run the London Marathon will tell you is that the sheer number of people on the streets shouting for you as you run past them is incredible. The thing is, it's so difficult to articulate how much that helps. You never want to slow down or stop to walk in front of people who are rooting for you so much.
Within the first couple of miles there were children and adults holding out their hands for a high five as you ran past them. The number of people congregating on the streets at pubs, landmarks, water stations and mile markers is pretty much constant the whole way round (as you enter the Isle of Dogs around mile 14 it's temporarily quieter, but not for long)
I'd arranged to see my wife at mile 6 (Maze Hill) and I had some friends coming in to see me too. Getting started so quickly meant that I got there a bit quicker than I'd anticipated but did see my wife cheering me on which was a welcome boost about a quarter of the way in
That's me in the middle - 6 miles in
I was pretty much on my own for a while after that. I remember running through 12 miles and thinking that I'd nearly be on Tower Bridge which was something I'd been looking forward to. I slowed down a bit as I turned the corner onto Tower Bridge Road so I could take a few seconds to remember it. I saw Denise Lewis interviewing someone halfway over and remembered thinking that I'd expected Tower Bridge to be longer and it was pretty much over before I knew it.
I knew the first Diabetes UK cheer point was coming up shortly after and it was great to see so many people out there urging me on. After about mile 14 it really started to feel like the mile markers had been deliberately placed further and further apart. My times had settled into a fairly steady 12 minute mile pace which was good. I'd done the first 5 in 52 minutes and I reached 15 in 2:55. I'd crossed halfway on track for a 5hr finish which would have been incredible.
Me looking rough at mile 13 - courtesy of Diabetes UK
Despite vaguely knowing Canary Wharf a little bit having been there for work a few times, it really felt like I was never going to get out of there and start the long run down towards Victoria Embankment. It'd been a little demoralising passing halfway and seeing hundreds of people running back the other way but I'd expected it to a degree.
I got to around 22.5 miles and really started to feel deflated - my feet hurt (from what turns out to a huge blister on the sole of my heel and two decidedly bruised toe nails) and my ankle had started hurting at around 18 miles. The final thing was the heat I think. It hadn't been very hot, but it was certainly warmer than forecast (and with a distinct lack of rain) and I just started to feel like I was going to throw up so I slowed right down for about a mile. I just wanted to finished and for once I remained completely sensible and did the right thing. I read all the tweets, texts, e-mails and facebook messages I'd received to try and focus myself a bit too.
I saw my Dad (who'd travelled down from Sheffield) at miles 23 and 24 which gave me a big lift and I started jogging again around then I think. The exact events between 22 and 24 are a bit of a blur if I'm honest. I remember one guy in the crowd giving me a massive shout and then him and his mate giving me a high five but I have no exact idea where that was.
Me looking even rougher at 25 miles - thank you Lindsey for the picture
I'd been texting my family every 5 miles (roughly) and at 20 miles I figured I was on track for a 5:30 finish which I desperately wanted to achieve and I think that helped keep me going at the end. I saw my wife and friends right at the 25 mile marker which gave me a great boost too - seeing familiar faces in the crowd cannot be underestimated at all.
Having got Westminster in my sights, I knew where I was and where I had to get to which gave me a final kick on. Most of the official photographers are set up from mile 25 onwards (when you look your absolute worst!) so I headed up Birdcage Walk with heavy steps and a few feeble waves.
Applauding the Diabetes UK cheerers at Big Ben - courtesy Diabetes UK
As I hit the top of The Mall at Buckingham Palace I felt surprisingly unemotional. I'd expected to be in tears as I hit the finish but I felt oddly relaxed. I think it's because I'd imagined myself running the last 300 yards so many times and it dawned on me that the last 26 miles had all been about this moment. I slightly rue the fact that a bloke in a rhino costume beat me over the line by a few seconds but he and I had been trading places all over the course and he didn't half run a good race.
I remember clapping the crowd in each of the stands as I ran down towards the line and I remember seeing people banging those plastic tubes together as I looked round. I crossed the line and had my timing chip taken off me before getting my medal. The finish area is a bit surreal as there's loads of vans with kitbags on, people shouting at you to move for your finisher photos and stuff. I looked round and a woman to my right in dayglo pink just burst into tears. I gave her a hug and told her it didn't matter now she'd finished.
The finish area looking back to Buckingham Palace
I picked up my kit and my goody bag and hobbled down to Horseguards Road where I saw my wife, my Dad and my friends and I just burst into tears. I honestly can't explain how emotional it feels to see those you love after something like that.
|(L-R) Dave, Lindsey, Tina (Mrs B), Me and Dad - thanks Jill for taking the picture|
Running the marathon is an incredible experience and it's left me with so many memories. I truly believe I won't ever forget it. I've got photos, cheer-cards and so much memorabilia to look back on in years to come.
I owe a great debt of thanks to so many people as well. Obviously to my long suffering wife for putting up with me throughout all my training and doing a great job of organising everything on marathon day. I love her to bits. Thanks also to everyone who made the effort to come and see me over that weekend and cheer me on on the day. It meant so much to me. Special thanks to my in-laws who took on the difficult task of looking after my daughter for 3 nights - that's incredibly appreciated and it made the weekend a lot less stressful. Thanks also to Ellie at Diabetes UK and Tonya at The Sheffield Children's Hospital Charity for all their help as well.
And thank you to everyone else who sent me messages of support and wished me luck over the weekend. I lost count at around 100 - I tried to respond to all of them but I'm sorry if I missed you. Thanks also to everyone who donated - my current total is £1356 which is an incredible effort. Thank you so much.
Finally, I don't think this post would be complete without mentioning Claire Squires. She sadly collapsed and died on Birdcage Walk on Sunday, less than a mile from the finish. She was raising money for Samaritans (incidentally, where my dad volunteers). Her loss is incredibly sad and my thoughts go out to her family at what must be an impossibly difficult time. Her fundraising page has since racked up over £366,000 which I think shows an incredible amount of public support.
Someone asked me if I'd be lining up again next year and I don't think I will. My 'athletic' focus for 2013 will be the Sheffield Half Marathon but I'm not going to rule it out for some time in the future.
I'll probably have a bit of a break from blogging for now, but I'll be back in some form or other in a few weeks I expect. You can always get in touch with me on Twitter (@BroomOwl) should you so desire.
Thanks for reading - I appreciate this has been horrendously long but I wanted to try and do justice to an incredible day.
Talk to you soon