I know I have said it before, but it is worth repeating - i never, ever thought I would take part in London Marathon.
I am so privileged to have worked in mass participation events for so long, and that time includes 4 years working at the London Marathon. I have stood post finish and in the grandstand and watched has thousands of runners complete their journey. I have heard the blast of the marathon theme tune and felt the hair on my neck rise. I have thought to myself you could do this and remembered how bad my knees are.
So to get a ballot place for 2021, on only my third time, including the virtual in 2020, was a surprise and a little bit of a panic moment.
The hours of training, the miles of roads, the early mornings, the training buddies all were building to this weekend.
We left Cardiff on Friday evening and headed to a super Aparthotel in Greenwich. I know Im not good and over think the travel plans on event day, so for me a place near to the start worked so well.
Saturday morning we headed to ExCel early, again having worked here I know how busy it gets.
The new set up of dropping your kit bag before the race worked so well, and you were guaranteed your chosen T shirt size as it was added to your bag there and then. Collecting my bib was just as easy, then the photo frenzy could begin - take any opportunity for a photo!
It was lovely to see some of my running buddies, I think half of Cardiff had a place this year. It was also great to see the guys from Scimitar who so kindly donated my specially designed running top.
Relaxed the rest of the day before a pre race meal with te fmaily and an early, if not very restful night.
It seemed strange eating my breakfast watching the elite race start, not sure it did much for my nerves.
The walk form the hotel to the start was a great way to warm up the legs, then it was time to say goodbye to the support crew (Kate and Lucy) and head through the check-in and find my wave start. I commented "who thought this was good idea" as I headed in and a lovely lady called Vicky laughed and said "my thoughts as well" Turns out we were in the same start area.
We chatted until I found Paul who I was running with, then it was our time to start.
The first 10 Miles
Off we went in our wave Red 17, Im sure that sounds more like a line from Star Wars, and the support form the crowd was incredible. We were blessed at around 2 miles by a priest with holy water, Paul had told me about this on a training run. Joining up with the Blue and Green starts around mile 3 the crowds increased, the music was pumping, the re were High-5s and many shouts of "Baboo' Pauls name on his T shirt, I amy or may not have been encouraging this.
At Mile 6, by the Old Naval College, as planned we met up with Kate and Lucy, a quick refuel then off to Cutty Sark and a Big Wave for the camera, clearly it worked as messages started arriving saying "you are on TV".
By Mile 9 I could feel the early pace starting to impact, I remember saying to Paul "go on you have to run your race now" he is younger than me.
We were with Kerrie and I also wanted to do a mile with this inspirational lady. She is the reason I started running, and the reason why so much of the 2021 race has changed for the slower runners. In that mile so many people were thanking her for the way she spoke out about slower runners treatment. At Mile 10 Kerrie said the same words as I said to Paul - "Go on and run your own race now"
Over the Bridge and Half way
Plodding on in my own way, ticking off the miles I was soon at mile 12, when I remembered I took photos of the mile markers, some seemed further apart than others! At 12 I thought I do a little social media post to let people know where I was, to be honest I had no idea where I was, then I turned a corner and recognised Tower Bridge.
What an experience running over this iconic landmark is. then past the Tower, for the first time and a right turn and towards half way. Pitstop crew were on hand with refreshments and words of encouragement - just what I needed at that point.
On to the Isle
I had heard from many people that this section was hard, it was! You approach the Isle of Dogs along The Highway, with faster runners going the other way, but they are on mile 22 and you are on mile 13. Around the Isle of Dogs there was good support and music and I was so pleased to see my friend Seren on her cheer point, but parts mainly around Canary Wharf feels like you are in a maze. Now it could just be the high rise buildings or the fact you are at Mile 19, or even that the weather changed and we had gale force blasts of wind and a sharp downpour - needless to say this wasn't my favourite bit.
At this point to raise my spirits there was a shout "Nic' and I was joined by Ellie a fellow Roath park Runner, we get everywhere. This was such a boost and I was able to stay in the same group with Ellie from then on, each still running our own race.
20 miles and into the City
As the rain stopped and the sun reappeared I headed past Billings Gate market and turned back towards the city. Miles seemed to pass a bit quicker after Mile 20, but then any mile that starts with a 2 is a bonus. Kate and Lucy were at Mile 22 and as I approached I could hear the DJ playing Kates running song "Siri - Play Mr Brightside" very fitting that this was playing jiust as I saw them.
The increased crowds and the familiar landmarks along this part of the route definitely carried me along, plus chatting to lovely runners all charing their stories, and lots of them from Wales.
The final push
Around Mile 25 I saw Kerry and her cheering team, another great boost, then Big Ben was just ahead, Into Parliament square I chatted with another first time runner who had bee struggling since Mile 15. We joked about how bits of our legs and feet hurt but how the crowds were now carrying us through.
Into Birdcage Walk and back with Ellie we turned the corner and saw the 365 yards to go sign - the best sign in running. Past the Palace and into the Mall - what an experience.
Im sure I thanked as many of the volunteers as I could , everyone was amazing. I collected my kit, and put on my medal - I had done it. I stood where I had so many times before on the Mall - but this time I was a runner.
Meeting up with Kate and Lucy was a little emotional, and the post race mars bar and flat coke highly recommended.
The 1% club - those who have completed a marathon now has another full time member, I know I did the virtual in 2020 but this felt so different.
Thank you to all of you who have supported me on my journey from March 2020 to October 2021, 5k, 10k, half, virtual and now London Marathon.
Thank you for your kind words, your support, your hints and tips.
For plodding along with me, for picking me up when I wasn't feeling the running bug.
For your support for Movember and the research at Cardiff University.
Would I do it again? - Yes of course I would and lots more along the way.
I started this journey with 1 small step - as I crossed the finish line the Marshall shouted
"Just keep taking 1 small step - you've done it"
After 24 years of helping others to achieve their running goals - it is now my time.