From zero to marathon in 18 months, Charlie recalls her experiences at this year’s Virgin London Marathon and gives us the rundown on how the other BVR members got on.
So, having said I’d never do a marathon, and then 4 months after stupidly pulling my own name out of the club ballot for the club place, the day was finally here. Sunday 26th April 2015 was Virgin London Marathon day and the day of my first ever marathon!
05:55 and there’s a knock at my door… it was time, my lift had arrived! Farnham runners were kind enough to organise a bus that myself, Steve Low and ex-BVR runner Lisa Spratling all used, whilst Laine Shoeless Shepherd just about made her own way there (ask her, but suffice to say, if you enter a race and they send you info in the post, do have a quick nosey at it and don’t put it somewhere safe without at least opening a few pages!). It was so nice travelling with 2 experienced marathon runners, even if Steve did tell me it was likely I would sprain my ankle due to all the bottles on the road (fortunately did not happen to me, but to quite a few runners around me!).
Having been fretting about getting burnt after the fantastic weather we had at Fleet, I instead was complaining about the rain and freezing temperatures (OK not freezing but very cold!). Arriving at Blackheath walking across the fields to our allocated start meant wet feet and trainers – not a good combo pre-marathon! However, I made it to the blue start and straight to the portaloo queue for the first time. Then was time to vaseline up, sort myself out and then queue again for the portaloo, then hand my bag over to the very efficient baggage lorries and then round to pen number 8! Arriving in the pen, the atmosphere was buzzing – everyone excited and raring to go, trying to keep warm. Not long later, and the crowd was moving forward… uh oh, it’s start time… slowly walking to the start banner, stripping extra layer off by extra layer, slowly getting colder but also more excited! Then suddenly the start banner is there and we’re off! How I didn’t cry at this point I have no idea – the crowd at the start cheering you on from the off, and the realisation that I was about to (hopefully) become a marathon runner and what’s more, run the London marathon – every runner’s dream run – was overwhelming.
Even running the first few miles on a miserable cold Sunday through relatively poor parts of South-East London, the crowds were out in full force. I knew I’d never do an amazing time, especially for my first, so I made a pact with myself to enjoy and embrace it and that I did. I think I high-fived the hands of every child in East London, and just soaked up the atmosphere, and the landmarks, the first one being the Cutty Sark and the first TV camera spot – big cheers and waves from the running field!
The first 8 miles or so went so quickly, I couldn’t believe it…how was I 8 miles in already? Then I knew my dad and boyfriend John were not far away so spent the next 5 minutes running scanning the crowd and then I saw them… uhoh, more tears! Quick hugs all round and a quick pose for a photo and I was off again through the streets of Bermondsey and then there’s the second big landmark – Tower Bridge! Definitely took a few moments to savour the memories I was going to make here! Everyone told me the crowd here would be incredible, but I was so not prepared for that! A massive wall of cheering all the way over the bridge! Coming off the bridge and you start seeing the super-fast runners coming back the other way along mile 22-23 and it occurred to me I might catch a glimpse of a celebrity or better still, our very own Steve Low, and lo-and-behold there he was – big cheer out to him and then I crashed into a traffic cone! Fortunately managed to stay on my feet, or I might have been able to really blame Steve for a sprained ankle!
On we continued, through to the Isle of Dogs, Poplar and Limehouse, hoping to catch a glimpse of my family again, but “sadly” the spectators were too many and so they couldn’t get on the DLR in time to beat me, but I was blissfully unaware so kept scanning the crowd for them which sped the miles up too. Whilst all at BVR have been great with getting me to the start line ready for the big day, one thing that no one can prepare you for is the crowd! People told me they were great, but nothing can prepare you for random people cheering your name and cheering you on – I was so sure I must know some of them, but I didn’t recognise a single one, until mile 23 and BVR runner Bill Hurley was there with his wife, my colleague, yelling my name! A very welcome sound and sight!
So we then head into the last 3 miles along the Embankment where the crowd seemed to get louder and larger! Thank goodness as now I am suddenly thinking “my knee is going to give way any minute!” Cue emotions of gut-wrenching sadness, regret at not being better and pain! So much pain! I took my paracetamol having already taken my strong ibuprofen at mile 10 before my toe pain really kicked in! However, I kept going, had a (quick) little walk, which clearly the crowd felt I didn’t need as they began cheering me louder, “Come on Charlie, dig deep”, “Charlie you can do this”, “Last mile Charlie” so off I was, and suddenly I turn the corner and “WOAH, Big Ben” argh! I am nearly there! Round another corner and this time I heard a “Go Charlie” I recognised and turned and saw John and my dad! A quick cry, wave and yell of “My knee b****y hurts!” and then I’m off again, knowing I am less than 1km to the end! In fact, there’s a big sign “800m to go”. I am going to do this, it’s going to happen. Then round another corner and there’s Buckingham Palace, I’m sure the Queen gave me a wave. Round another corner and there’s the mall, and a big screen showing Chris Evans finishing not far in front! I can now see the finish gantry!!! It’s so close! My knee is killing, my legs are screaming “stop it, let us rest” my toe is cursing me, but I muster the last bit of energy I have and dig deep and run a bit faster, arms in the air and across the finish line! Cue the tears! I have become a marathon runner, and I have done a marathon so many runners are desperate to do – it does not escape me what an achievement this is! As a facebook and phone addict, I get my phone out of my pocket and am overwhelmed with the texts and facebook messages! It’s clear that to what seems like most of BVR, and other friends, my challenge today has been in the forefront of their minds and I am so overwhelmed by the support!
But I wasn’t the only BVR member there, we had some fantastic achievements from all at the club (past and present). Steve Low did a fantastic time in his 96th marathon of 02:55:23 beating Eggheads very own CJ (a little bit of BVR payback), Lisa got an amazing PB and a good-for-age time for Boston and London again of 03:36:20 and Laine got an incredible 06:40:57, becoming the first person to complete the London Marathon with no shoes on! An amazing debut marathon time for someone who I understand last year was in a wheelchair due to chronic pain! I can’t imagine what it was like for Laine with no shoes on – my feet hurt in trainers and I got so stuck to the floor around the Lucozade gel stations…all I can think is eurgh! Well done all BVR – some great times and great personal achievements, which I am sure wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for BVR!
A few lasting memories from the day (there’s a lot!)
- The crowd, man, the crowd!!
- Tower Bridge!
- The bands playing and the runners singing along and cheering!
- The showers – a welcome relief even in the not nice weather!
- The sticky floor from all the gels!
- The volunteers and marshals – the unsung heroes of the day!
- The man dressed as Pamela Anderson in Baywatch with dried blood on his thighs and butt – I thought I was in pain!
- The finish line and the achievement!
- The number 22315.
- The time 04:42:17 of my first ever marathon!