Adverse Camber

I started this blog to get me through the London Marathon 2011. It was quite a challenge as I only started running on the 3rd of May 2010. I finished the marathon with painful blisters and quite a lot of money for a great charity!

This blog is now taking me on a new journey - to a fitter lifestyle aided by running.

Monday, 18 April 2011


The alarm went off at 5:30am and for once I didn't press snooze, today was too important to sleep late and I had too much to do - like try to eat and apply copious amounts of waterproof mascara.

All my kit was laid out on the sofa and my bag was all ready too. I didn't want to forget anything.

I managed to eat almost two slices of toast with peanut butter, but my heart wasn't really into eating.  I had my vitamin C tablet in half a pint instead of the usual pint of water as I didn't like my chances of finding a toilet when I needed it.

I dressed and then slathered my feet in vaseline and slipped into my trainers.  The vaseline is meant to stop rubbing and chaffing and all the way round there were SJA members in their hot uniforms with outstretched, gloved hands offering vaseline to stricken runners.

I had chosen my route, not taking one of the bizarre routes offered to me on the TfL website, and needed to catch the first train to Kings Cross.  At the train station I looked eagerly for other runners, but I must have been the only person to represent East Barnet.  However, when the train came in I noticed a man in the front carriage with a bib on and then in my carriage there were two people who I quickly went to sit with to ask them what route they were using!  Deekes (or so the name on her chest proclaimed her) was going to the Blue Start and was running for Cancer Research.  Richard was from the Midlands and running for a leukemia charity.  He was going to the Red Start, like me.  For all of us, we established, it was our first marathon.

Richard followed me as we changed trains and we chatted en route.  On the DLR a man and his wife sat opposite us and I asked them where they had travelled from (Harrow) and we compared notes about how awkward it was to get to Greenwich.

We were lucky to get on the DLR at Bank as it filled up rapidly at later stops, some people could not get on and had to wait.  Getting off at Greenwich we followed the crowd and prayed the person in front actually knew where we were going.  A slug up the hill is probably the last thing you want to do on a day you're running 26.2 miles, but there isn't much choice when that is where the start is.  At the top of the hill Richard and I went our separate ways and I went to hang out under a tree near my kit bag truck.

It was impossible to make phone calls so I texted Su to tell her where I was and settled myself under the tree (after going to the loo, of course - remember the old maxim, queue for the loos and then when you've done, queue again).

I was probably at the park by quarter past eight, so I had some time to wait - but it didn't seem to take any time at all.  I was in the queue for the second time when I saw Su and her friend Chris and managed to hollar across the park to get their attention.

Su, Chris and Elizabeth
After our last loo trip we headed towards our pen (number 9 right at the back with all the people in silly costumes) where we hung around at the back because we didn't want to get stuck in the middle and head off at everyone else's pace.  
I wanted to beat this guy!
 I eyed up most of the people in costumes, hoping I would at least be able to beat the most cumbersome ones!  I was to run into the rhinos quite a lot over the course and although he didn't know it 'Rhino Michael USA' became quite important in my race.

At the start everyone seemed to be going at the same pace, which told me a lot of people must be going too fast, I deliberately hung back.  We did well for the first six miles, which were our 'warm up' and stuck to a pace in the vicinity of 13 minutes per mile.  Unfortunately then it really began to get hot and hot weather and I just do not go well together.  I am designed for cold climates, I shall never forget a holiday to Italy when it got up to 40 degrees celsius - my whole body swelled up and I couldn't even put flip flops on my feet as they were so huge.  So a predicted 18 degrees for race day was not welcome - unfortunately it got hotter than that.

It was probably about mile 7 when I took the first painkiller for a heat-headache and despite everyone else lapping up the atmosphere the loud speakers and other noises were nothing but an added discomfort to me!  I was worried about getting heatstroke so I kept a bottle of water on me and kept taking small sips, at one point I stopped sweating so drank more to try and counter the effects of the sun and heat.  At mile 9 Su needed to go at a 12 minute mile and I just couldn't do more than 13 or 14 - any more and I think I would have ended up on the floor.  We agreed to go our separate ways and as soon as she went on ahead I felt relief - I slowed down and tried to stick in the shade to cool off, I also ran through every hose and shower on offer!

I had intended to take lots of photos on the way round but it was such a struggle when feeling light headed that I decided to concentrate on just getting around.  

Tower Bridge was just amazing (shame it's slightly less than half way!), I passed Denise Lewis and her TV crew - I saw later on the TV that all the men she interviewed gave her a peck on the cheek, hardly surprising as she was beautiful.  The disheartening bit was after TB when all the speedy people coming back from Docklands passed you on the other side of the road.  Somehow Liane (another Aspire runner) saw me and called out my name, I was walking by now so she was probably concerned but I waved and smiled to her.  She looked great and made fantastic time for her first marathon.

The bonus is I still took 6 minutes off my half marathon time at the halfway point, it was probably more because I wasn't following the racing line and my garmin constantly told me I had gone further.  Later on I tried to stick to it as much as possible, but spectators were wandering on to the course to get closer to the runners and quite often small children were standing on the blue line.

I am not going to lie, the next four miles were just bloody miserable.  The marathon plays such havoc with your emotions - you train, train, train and always think you should be able to do better... the only things that stopped me dropping out were the fact I had raised over £2, 000 and I don't like quitting anything!  So, I gritted my teeth, reigned in my misery and trudged on.

By mile 17 I was running again, albeit at a slow jog.  I completely missed my charity because my friends suddenly appeared on the left and I was so overwhelmed seeing them I didn't notice Aspire which I feel really bad about as I must have been the last Aspire runner they were waiting for!

These photos were both taken by Sarah at 17.5 and trust me, I look better than I felt!  In the photo on the left you can see the Aspire cheering post in the crook of my arm - I only knew where they were when I looked at this photo afterwards!  I kept expecting to see them further down the road and was disappointed that I never found them as I was looking forward to meeting the lovely people who have been so supportive over this marathon journey!

Now if you recall I said Rhino Michael became quite important?  Well after Su went on my whole aim became to stick to the same distance behind him, then I wanted to draw level with him, then overtake him and stay ahead of him.  I could tell how far behind me he was because the cheers suddenly got louder behind me!  At one point he got ahead of me so I had to catch him up all over again, surely a guy in a heavy, cumbersome and hot rhino suit couldn't beat me?

This photo was on mile 21 (the one I named after Sarah and Hilary).  By then I was walking as I wanted to finish as soon as possible and having looked at my garmin it was clear I was able to maintain a quicker walking pace than running.  So I figured I would just have to walk the rest of the way - and as quickly as possible!

I saw my friends again here (it was a surprise and an absolute delight to see them), but just round the corner my left heel decided to rip apart into a huge blister.  Man!  I'd forgotten how much big blisters can hurt!  I haven't had hardly any over training and certainly none of that magnitude!  I can only think that it was a combination of extra distance, hot weather and associated swelling!  I'd toyed with a few mantras up to this point and then changed it to a muttered 'f**k, f**k, f**k' as I hobbled off down the road and tried to suck in the pain.  Don't get me wrong, I know I was lucky - there was a puce pink faced girl collapsed and surrounded by SJA at mile 6 and at mile 26 there was a man being propped up by two of his supporters as he couldn't use his right leg at all - but blisters hurt!

I then started getting really light headed and I knew the heat was finally getting it's way with my body.  I just got it into my head I had to keep my legs going and stay upright, as long as I stayed vertical they couldn't drag me off the course.  I was breathing very deliberately too, trying to power through and was doing a pretty impressive power walk which was overtaking people!  At one point a SJA woman asked me if I was okay and I said I was and smiled, thinking - I have got to finish, I cannot collapse!

I was so glad I named the last five miles after special friends, as I just kept thinking of them as I plodded on.  Ros' mile was the really light headed one and then Jackie's was the most agonising.  By the boyfriend's mile I knew the end was possible.  I wasn't taking in any of the sights, barely noticed St Stephen's Tower (home of Big Ben), every part of me was concentrating on the next few steps.  I was rigidly sticking to the blue racing line as if it could somehow pull me across to the finish. 
My friends were there again at mile 25 and it was really hard going by then, I don't know if I managed to smile or say hi then - I just had to keep going!

I honestly don't remember very much of it, the crowds were there as they had been all the way... I didn't even see Buckingham Palace which is a first for me.  The signs just seemed to keep going on and on, 600 metres, 365 yards, 200 metres... it was agonising!  The time on the clock said 07.09 and I knew I was 21 minutes behind that because of my later starting time, I got it into my head that I had to cross the line before 07.10... so I sprinted over the line.

It was the weirdest thing - finishing.  Suddenly I had done it - something I had never dreamt possible, but never - ever - thought I could do.  And I had done it.  I had finished the London Marathon, a dream since childhood that I had never seriously considered attempting until Su said 'why not?' in Starbucks almost a year ago.  I wanted to cry with the emotion of it all, but no one else was crying so I sucked it all in!  I got my medal and a really rubbish goody bag (the contents of which mostly went to the boyfriend) and went on a search for my kit bag.  I was waiting for my bag and I decided to call the boyfriend to tell him I'd be out on Horseguards in a moment, as I said goodbye to him I felt my right heel rip - it was seriously like someone was flaying my skin.  I swore loudly, probably giving the old man behind me cause to decry modern women and burst out into tears - but they were the wrong tears!  They were tears of pain, not emotion!

I had to hobble to the end to get my kit bag as it had been moved, the only way I could walk was to perch on the ball of my foot.  As I hobbled to Horse Guards I saw the boyfriend before he saw me and prayed he would look my way so I wouldn't have to walk all the way over to him, by some miracle he did and then I cried the good tears of achievement!

Getting home was intersting and rather painful, getting up today has not happened because I can't actually move!  This is worse than the one time I went cross country skiing in Norway!

The blisters are huge, I am sure the muscle tears are too - but so is the pride and feeling of achievement and that wins!

The proof!

PS I wasn't the only one to feel the heat, look at BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth's blog. London is a tough marathon - you train in cold weather and then after you start to taper the hot weather kicks in.  I think it must take a lot of experience to deal with the sudden heat!

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