What a day! It was the hottest London Marathon on record, with temperature a scorching 23.5 degrees, and somehow I managed to bag another PB!
It’s funny because, in the days leading up to the marathon I felt anything but race ready. It was probably just a case of pre-marathon paranoia, but I had an itchy throat that wouldn’t go away and I was convinced it was the beginning of an epic flu. I decided no home remedy was too weird to try. I gargled salt water and TCP and I kept waking up in the middle of the night asking Clinton to check my tonsils. I would say something like “I think I have tonsillitis” and he would reassure me that I don’t, to which I would say “are you sure?” and stick out my tongue again (…True story.)
I also knew that the heat was going to be a challenge. The story about Callum Hawkins fainting at the Commonwealth Games the previous week was a grave reminder of what heat exhaustion could do to even the best runners.
And while I knew I would gain more from rest and allowing my body to recover than from forcing myself out to try to ‘keep things ticking over’, the reality was that I was doing so little that I felt like a slug and I was twitchy and restless throughout my taper week. I was also a little worried that I’d spent too much time doing my Ironman training (cycling and swimming) that I was neglecting my running.
Despite all these “anxieties”, after a night’s sleep, I woke up on race day feeling really excited. I wasn’t sure what the day would bring but I was definitely going to try to enjoy it. I had a bowl of porridge and a bagel, went to the toilet what felt like ten times, put on lots of suncream, had some pre-race photos and then headed to the start line.
The first 8 miles went by relatively quickly and as the miles crept by, my confidence began to return. I was easily running my target pace and (due to the downhill nature of the first 3 miles) having to tell myself to slow down!
The crowds at Curry Sark were absolutely incredible. It was like a huge wall of sound and I found myself beaming with happiness as I flew around.
Around mile 10 though, I began developing a stitch and it was like a bomb waiting to go off. But it eased off, I found my stride, albeit a gradually slowing stride, and the next few miles seemed to go amazingly quickly. I thought about Clinton at every 5km checkpoint, knowing he was tracking me on the app!
At about 20km, I passed Tower Bridge and I honestly teared up a little bit. Running across Tower Bridge at half way was just amazing! Such a beautiful bridge which made the hairs on the back of the neck stand up, another boost!
Shortly after that, the road was split so I could see people coming the other way. I saw the lead car. I was so excited about seeing the elites. I moved over to the left hand side and sure enough, I saw two elite men speed past and then a few seconds behind, Mo! It was obvious that Mo was some way back, but every runner around me slowed down a little to watch and clap and cheer his name and spare a little willpower for him to get him home. It’s amazing how fast they run. I think I only started a couple of minutes after the elites but those guys were already at the 35km marker when I was only half way!
At around 30km I checked my watch and I was still a little ahead of my projected time (with an average pace of 4:45m/km) but as I was feeling so good, I just rolled with it. It was super hot though. I was drinking every mile and throwing vast quantities of water over my head.
The first point I really knew I was starting to work hard was as at around 21 miles. I looked up and I seriously thought… what? Another 10km to go? Another 45 minutes? It felt so close, yet so far. At this point I was definitely feeling a lack of spring and bounce in my legs. I tried to console myself with the thought that at least I wasn’t running in a rhino costume, or carrying a washing machine on my back…
The heat was also really getting to me at this point. I had that ugly voice on one shoulder suggesting I take a walk, just cool down for a bit. But I knew that if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to get going again, so I ignored the internal whispers and kept running. As Christie Wellington once said: “When things are tough, you get tougher.”
It sounds so cliche but in the last 10km it was all self talking.
“Don’t stop now, keep going.”
“See that guy there? Go get him.”
“It’s just a little pain, get over it!”
I also found that when I smiled, it made me go faster. It’s like I naturally wanted to go faster to show that there was a reason I’m smiling! I don’t know whether it’s because I was smiling but on the straight road back to the Mall I had so many people cheering me on.
“Come on Jess!”
The crowds were absolutely incredible and really did keep me pushing when the legs got heavy. Every time I flashed a smile and overtook someone, the roar of the crowd was amazing. I decided not to look at my watch but try and get into a rhythm that felt comfortable and that I felt I could continue for the last two miles.
I finished in 3 hours 25 mins 25 seconds – shaving 5 seconds off my PB (from the Abington Marathon last year). I would have cried but I was SO TIRED and I was strangely getting pins and needles everywhere. By the time I finished I was probably covered in 80% salt! Disgusting I know.
Given the heat, I was so happy with how I did! I found out that I was in the top 2% of all the women who took part in London Marathon and top 9% overall (including men).
I’m now seriously thinking about running all the World Marathon Majors. I’ve already done London twice so that just leaves Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, New York and Berlin! For now though I need to focus on recovery and get ready for Ironman Barcelona 70.3 in less than four weeks (!!!)
For anyone out there with an aspiration for running London – do it! It’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Ballot entries are opening next week for anyone who’s interested!