By Rich English
What a day!
The nerves, the excitement, the pain, the relief, the accomplishment…everything a marathon should be.
My London Marathon journey started back in 2018 as a spectator, from that day I wanted to someday run that marathon.
I contacted Bryce Alford at Jersey Headway about the possibility of running for the charity. After a few months a space was available in the 2020 London Marathon. I immediately said yes.
Headway Jersey is a local charity set up to help and support all those affected by the life changing impact of a brain injury. Having suffered 4 concussions in my life, which two of which were quite severe, I felt quite fortunate not to require the services of Headway.
Winter training was going well, fundraising was going ok, it is always slow to begin with. I felt ready to race, then covid hit and everything shut down. The Marathon was postponed till October 2020, then it was cancelled. I was lucky enough to be able to carry my charity place over to the October 2021 London Marathon.
Like any training, you always doubt yourself that you have done enough training. I had done a marathon in Round the Rock a couple of months prior so I should be ok I thought.
I arrived in London on the Friday before the race to collect my race number and chill. I had hit 20,000 steps that Friday. I thought no big deal, I will totally rest on the Saturday, be off my feet.. That wasn’t the case, a shake out run with Bryce the Brain and some photos at Tower bridge and other landmarks, followed by walking round that day, i had hit nearly 21,000 steps, my legs were aching that evening, which is not great when you are 12 hours away from the biggest race of your life.
So some advice here guys is, totally rest the day before a marathon.
The morning of the marathon, I was awake at 5.30am, kettle on, cup of coffee, porridge and numerous trips to the toilet. The nerves had really kicked in. I took the train to the start location, where I met up with my friend Beth Rainbow. We were in the same starting wave, so as we did in the Jersey Marathon in 2019, we decided to run the London Marathon together.
Over an hour waiting around, warming up, couple more trips to the toilet, we were ready to run. The wave opened and within minutes we were heading to the start and then we were off.
My game plan was to aim for a 3.10 – 3.15 finish time. We felt good, we had hit 5K around 21 minutes, 10k at 43 minutes. Still going strong at mile 7, we had World Champion Ironman Lucy Charles Barclay just ahead of us, we are both big fans of her’s and to have Lucy metres away for around half a mile was just amazing.
Running over Tower Bridge was incredible, the crowds were very loud.
We had hit the half marathon point at 1 hour 32, I still felt great, I was regimented with my nutrition, but I knew in the back of my mind the legs would tire at some point, I was just hoping it would be later in the race.
Mile 19, my legs started to tire, I was getting twinges in my calf but luckly cramp didn’t set in. This is where I left Beth to it, I couldn’t keep at that pace, my legs were done, I was 7 miles from the finish, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. My pace dropped to what I thought was a snails pace but looking back on my splits it wasn’t bad at all. I kept at it, the pain grew and it got to a point where I didn’t even notice or hear a crowd, I was deep in the pain cave, I saw and passed many people walking, stretching on the side of the road. Seeing this, automatically my mind was saying, oh you can walk too, but I didn’t, I kept going.
I checked my heart rate more than my pace over the last few miles, my heart rate was 160 and my breathing was under control, I thought to myself, just keep moving.
Finally I was in the the last mile, then I saw the 800m sign, then the 400m sign, I decided to just give everything I had left, I finished the London Marathon in 3 Hours 15. I was happy, I was exhausted and I had hit the time I was aiming for…I had given it my all.
The crowds were insane, thousands of people you don’t know, cheering for you. If you are a runner, the London Marathon is a race you have to experience. I was amazed at the amount of people who were tracking my progress during the marathon. I must say a massive thank you to Beth for making me push myself and for the company for 19 miles.
On a fundraising note, we have raised £2,530 for Headway Jersey which is absolutely incredible, so thank you to everyone who kindly donated. What an event, what a day.