London Marathon Report. My first race since THR.

Two weeks ago I ran the London Marathon. It has always been on my bucket list of races that I absolutely must do before I die, so it just feels so apt that this was the one that happened to be my comeback race.

This time last year, I had only just started running again. Having been inspired by Safin Hassan’s victory in last year’s event, I then went out and ran a half marathon distance for my long run that afternoon… and then took weeks to recover because I was not ready for it!

I’d already entered a race for that summer, but it got cancelled by the organisers at the last minute. In hindsight, it was probably just as well because I was still not ready to be putting in that kind of mileage and managed to injure my knee during training. That put me out of action for a good couple of months.

It was during this time that I started applying to charities to run the London Marathon. I was feeling utterly bereft at being forced to rest, and the insufferably hot summer was not helping in the slightest. Having decided on Asthma & Lung UK and the Royal National Institute of Blind people, I put in my applications to both. I have severe asthma and am visually impaired, so my chances were pretty good for getting into both of them, but I expected to have to wait a while for a response. Imagine my surprise when ALUK came back to me the very next day with an offer! I jumped on it immediately. It did, however, mean that when RNIB came back to me a few weeks later, I had to decline them.

Whilst I was not exactly enamoured with the idea of having to fundraise (I am terrible at that sort of thing!), being part of a team really lit a fire under me. Team Breathe, as we called ourselves, really bonded well over the remainder of 2023 and we kept each other motivated to keep up the training.

I did experience a bit of a wobble during Dec and Jan, when my own self doubt and impostor syndrome kicked in with a vengeance. We really can be our own worst enemy sometimes. In addition to that, my cataracts grew back and the UK experienced a particularly bad storm season. I live in the Lake District, in a particularly exposed area, so we got battered by back-to-back storms at times. Then, when things cleared up, the ground was either iced up, or so waterlogged that getting out for a run was nigh on impossible. My training all but ground to a halt.

Whilst all this was going on, my Team Breath teammates were logging some impressive hours on Strava and starting their 16 week marathon plans. I was still stuck undoors with fences, shed foors, and bits of tree blowing past my windows. In the end, I had to bite the bullet and purchase a treadmill. It was the gamechanger that I needed. Of course, I still had to assemble the beastie, which weighed over 100kg, so I like to claim that my 12 week training plan was actually 13, because of all the heavy lifting I did the week before. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I knew that a 12 week plan was going to be intense. I knew that I had left it awfully late to get properly stuck in. But I also knew that I was not quitting. Not now. Not ever.

In the end, I actually think the shorter period of intense training was for the best. It had me peaking at just the right time, before my body decided that enough was enough.

Fast forward to Fri 19th April. The trip to London was a big deal for a country girl from the North. The excitement was palpable; I even dyed my hair in Asthma & Lung UK colours! I had a very early start that morning and a very long day of travel. It was such a relief to finally check in to my hotel, but there was no time to rest yet. I still had to get myself to the ExCel and pick up my race bib (#6263). Fortunately the hotel was within walking distance, but I was already cream crackered after my long journey, and I ended up getting hopelessly lost. That was 20000 steps logged when I really wanted to save my legs.

After collecting my race paraphernalia, I spent ages finding my name on the big wall. Try doing that with cataracts!

One particularly infuriating thing about the expo stands is that they are all on a slightly raised platform which catches a blind person right in the toenails everytime you smack right into it and trip yourself up. My hip was even starting to hurt after a rather bad stumble, so I decided that was my cue to get out of there. I managed to get back to the hotel without getting lost this time, and ordered room service. No more walking today unless I absolutely had to!

The next day was spent taking it easy… until I didn’t. I wanted to eat out, so took the tube into the city centre, ate lots of pasta, and got lost again. Another 14000 steps. Oh goody.

Sunday race day! Oh the excitement! Getting to the start was pretty uneventful until I actually got there. It seemed that being in the yellow start zone was throwing off the marshalls, who kept directing me to the red zone. I was getting stressed. Fortunately, somebody managed to point me in the right direction and I got to the starting pen just in the nick of time. That’s a hattrick for getting lost 3 days in a row!

It actually felt kinda surreal when I went over that start line. It still hadn’t registered that I was actually here. I am actually doing this!

Of course, about a kilometer in, when the London air started doing a number on my lungs, it all started to feel real at that point. That’s when I was forced to slow down to a speed walk and the impostor syndrome started trolling me. “You can’t do this!” said that voice in my head. “What made you think you could do this?”.

All I could do then was engage Stubborn Mode and soak up the atmosphere. I did not come here to quit, nor did I come here to hate the whole experience. I was determined to make the most of it, even if I was not going to get the time I’d initially hoped for.

London is certainly quite an experience. The crowds lined the route right from start to finish. They were yelling their support and high fiving the runners, whilst handing out jelly babies and Haribo. That certainly saved the day towards the end when I was running out of energy gels!

Cutty Sark was the first point where the noise became so loud, it was deafening. It was almost too much. Almost, but not quite. I was absolutely buzzing at this point, and my lungs had settled enough that I’d managed to find a pace that was comfortable.

I was feeling so good that I even forgot to be self-conscious about my weight. I’m still carrying a lot of steroid weight, albeit considerably less than before I started training. I’ll never forget being in hospital after my hip replacement, when 2 student nurses were bathing me. One of them suddenly blurted out “Are you pregnant?”. All I could do was outwardly joke about it, whilst crying inside.

A little further along, at Rotherhithe, I knew that my charity had a cheer point set up and was I looking out for them. It was not the most visible location for them to set up shop, but I certainly heard them. They made up for their lack of visibility by the noise they made! It was also so nice to chat to teammates along the route as they passed me. Let’s face it, everybody was overtaking me, including some chap dressed as a BT phone booth. And several minions. It could have been the same minion, but you lose track after a while.

Then came the greatly anticipated Tower Bridge. This is the section that everybody talks about, yet it is over far too quickly. It certainly lives up to the hype, though. I encountered another teammate who started recording me on his phone whilst yelling “Go Team Breathe!”. I dutifully whooped and performed for the camera as best I could. I was tempted to get my own phone out, but was suffering from a bad case of fat fingers. In the end, I decided that the risk of dropping my phone was too great, especially whilst being jostled by other runners who were also performing for the crowds and not necessarily looking where they were going.

All too soon, the moment was over, and you turn right towards Canary Wharf. It is at this point where you are faced with the devastating sight of the faster runners already at mile 22, heading in the opposite direction. This was then followed by somebody in the crowd very helpfully shouting “Almost halfway!”.

Hang on? What do you mean, “almost”? Suddenly it seemed to take forever to reach the actual halfway point, which passed pretty anticlimactically, apart from me smashing my toes on every speed bump on those narrow twisty streets.

Note to self: London has LOTS of speed bumps.

It was at around mile 16, that I really started to suffer. Tripping over all those speed bumps was not helping matters, and my left knee was starting to complain a bit, along with my left hip. This is the non-surgical side, so I suspect I had started favouring the right side in an attempt to not hurt the artificial joint. All I ended up doing was hurting the good side.

The asthma was also acting up and it took all the mental strength I had to keep my breathing regular and controlled. My legs felt like they were not getting enough oxygen, but at the same time, I did not want to drop my pace, so I doggedly kept going. Stubborn Mode got cranked up to maximum. The crowds tend to thin out a bit around here, but in some ways, it afforded me the opportunity to get myself into an almost meditative state. It is what was needed to hang on to every last thread of control that I still had over my own body.

One of the spectators handed me a paper bag full of jelly babies, which proved to be a lifesaver. My slow pace meant that my energy gels were running low, and I’d been doing copious sums in my head as to how best to ration the rest. Now I wouldn’t need to!

It wasn’t until mile 20 that I started to return to the land of the living. I heard somebody yell out my name and say “You’ve broken the back of this! You’ve got this!”. It gave me an enormous lift and I immediately started to feel better.

At around mile 22, I had my second wind. I really wanted to speed up and empty the tank all the way to the finish line, but my knee had other ideas. It was starting to complain more loudly, so I figured it would be wise to listen to my body and maintain my current pace. It was definitely the right decision.

The later stages of the race brought new tripping obstacles in the form of empty water bottles, which would get kicked into the road by runners. We were all meticulously careful to drop our empties at the side of the road, but once the pile of plastic reaches a critical mass, they end up back on the road, along with empty gel sachets. Going past the Lucozade stations was a special kind of yikes, as the road was both sticky and slippery at the same time. Your shoes could not find their grip on the sticky stuff. I just tried as best I could to stay in the middle of the road when a Lucozade station loomed in the distance.

The last 3 miles took FOREVER! At this point, it was all a bit Shaun of the Dead out there. As usual, the crowds were amazing. Hearing them shouting your name, telling you how awesome you are, is just the best feeling ever.

At mile 25, my charity had another cheer point, and my goodness they were impossible to miss! Whenever they saw one of their runners, they would erupt. I’m surprised any of them had voices left by the end! They were cheering me on and yelling “1 mile to go!”. I so wanted to speed up, but the knee was having none of it.

Turning that final corner at Buckingham Palace was another absolutely surreal moment. Just as it was at the start, it did not feel like any of this was real. I was numb.

Having rounded the corner onto the Mall, I could not see the finish line at all. The sun was peeking out from behind the clouds and I was blinded by the glare. My only clue as to the nearness of said finish line was the spectators in the stands shouting my name again and telling me “You made it!”. On hearing that, I could not hold it together any longer. I started sobbing my eyes out and ugly cried the rest of the way.

But they were happy tears. I hobbled over the finish line in 7:03:10.

I did eventually manage to pull myself together enough to take a finish line selfie and stop my watch. After collecting my medal and my kitbag, I made my way to the charity reception just down the road, where they treated us to a hot meal and a free massage. As to why they chose to serve chilli, that will always remain a mystery. I did not feel the effects immediately. It was not until the tube ride back to my hotel that the rumblings began. This, in turn, led to me having to leg it from the station to the hotel, Boris Karloff style. Fun times indeed.

The next morning, my legs did not feel too bad… once I got going. I decided to do the tourist thing as it was the perfect way to keep the legs moving. Somehow I found myself revisiting parts of the route, already overwhelmed by nostalgia. I was also very impressed by how quickly the streets got cleaned up after the event. They were spotless and you would never have guessed that just 24 hours ago there was a water bottle apocalypse.

The whole experience was just beyond words. These are memories that will be etched into my brain and heart forever.

For those of you who are recovering from surgery and still easing yourself back into things, I just want to say that you’ve got this. You CAN do it, but you will need to be patient with yourself. Don’t listen to the devil on your shoulder telling you that you can’t.

 

If it is permitted, I’d like to include a link to my charity fundraiser on JustGiving. I have really struggled with the fundraising side of things, so would be extremely grateful for any and all donations. Fortunately I have until 21st June to hit my target. Thank you so much 🙂

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tarryn-winfield

 

 

Home Forums London Marathon Report. My first race since THR.

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    • #20946
      Almighty Bob
      Participant

      Two weeks ago I ran the London Marathon. It has always been on my bucket list of races that I absolutely must do before I die, so it just feels so apt
      [See the full post at: London Marathon Report. My first race since THR.]

    • #20949
      TJ
      Participant

      Very very inspiring!

      I ran today 3 miles . This was my first run after hip surgery in October.
      Very inspiring to read your story and loved the pics. Keep it up.

    • #20950
      OB
      Participant

      Reading your story was a great way to start my morning. Tremendous run on your part with plenty of obstacles in your way to try to detour your goals….but you concord them all. Congratulations!

    • #20972
      nhazlett
      Participant

      Inspiring post! I am almost 6 months post THR and ran my first continuous 3 miles today. This helps give me hope that I will get to the marathon distance next year!

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