Run Happy: London Marathon
This past Sunday, I ran the London Marathon. I had deferred my place from last year, so the build up to this thing felt somewhat monumental. I’ve reached a stage, both in my training and in life, where I just have to do things my own way. I was never going to follow a marathon training plan. I teach spin six times a week, so it just isn’t realistic for me to be able to get four or five quality runs in. My main priority is the people who come to my classes – my energy is for them and I want to be at my best. So, my attitude to training for this marathon was pretty lax. I didn’t want it to stress me out or have me worried. If I wasn’t going to enjoy the race, I wanted no part of it.
And this approach was a God send, lemme tell ya. I knew a ton of people who were running the marathon and were complete balls of stress for four months. I was doing one or two runs a week, going at my own pace (I never cared about time), exploring new bits of London and save for one bad run, I really enjoyed the training.
Arriving at Greenwich Park for the start was really when the scale of this thing hit me. There were 37,000 people running this year. The energy and buzz was palpable. After a sunny week, race day morning turned out to be cloudy and cold. We stood shivering in the start pen. I was surrounded by tons of people who were making the classic marathon mistake of downing bottles of water. Finally, we got going and I kept my sweatshirt on for the first three miles before I finally warmed up.
Here’s what hits you about London Marathon pretty much instantly: SO MANY PEOPLE. I have honestly never experienced anything like it. Literally thousands of people lined the streets at every point to cheer on total strangers. There isn’t a stretch that doesn’t have people wishing you well.
Now here’s what people don’t tell you about London Marathon: *leans in* *whispers* The route is kinda meh. I had no clue where I was til we got to Tower Bridge and even then, that was followed by a lot of nothingness. I live in London and I adore this city. If you have the opportunity to close the roads for one of the biggest events of the year, why would you not have people running through Piccadilly Circus and take in the grandeur of Regent Street or a ton of other well known London highlights? I mean, the Isle of Dogs ain’t exactly one of the city’s best bits. But I tried to look past that and just focus on the experience.
I was running really well up to about 16 miles, then miles 16-20 nearly bored me to tears. I put some music on to distract me, I had a few little dance breaks. My focus had been on just getting to Mile 21 where I knew my wonderful Run Dem Crew’s cheer squad was waiting. I needed that boost and having that to look forward to definitely kept me going.
Past the 20 mile mark and the anticipation of seeing my crew was immense. I could hear them before I could see them. Off in the distance I saw massive pictures of the faces of other people in the crew who were running. I was so close. Then I saw my friend Lawrence who had posted himself up probably 200 yards before the cheer spot and I ran to him like he was a long lost relative. He scooped me up in a hug so big, I thought for a moment he might’ve broken one of my ribs. For a second, I was overcome by the sheer lovelieness of that instant and let a tear just trickle down my cheek. I almost couldn’t let him go. ‘Take in the energy!’ he said. And with that, I ran on to my crew. As I approached and more faces in the crew spotted me, the noise grew, the cheering went crazy. A smile so wide spread across my face and before I knew it, I was being pulled into hugs, people were jumping out onto the street, a confetti cannon went off and I took a second to dance in it. It was all a blur but I kept spotting the faces of my friends and wanted hug them all and absorb that energy.
Whenever I’m looking for a moment in my life where I felt pure, unadulterated joy and happiness, my mind will undoubtedly flash back to that. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
My wonderful friend Sarah jumped in with me at this point to run the rest of the way with me. We took walk breaks (and dance breaks, obviously, because this is me we’re talking about). Sarah fed me jelly babies, made me laugh, tied my shoelaces and just generally made that last five miles an absolute breeze.
The crowds as you get closer to the end are something else. The roadsides are just swelling with people, each and every one of whom will give you a cheer, a smile or a pat on the back. I caught sight of another couple of friends and ran to hug them. I hammed it up for the official photographers, stopping to indulge them in a series of silly poses while the crowd laughed. Screw it, if you ain’t having fun by mile 24 of a marathon, it’s not time well spent.
Finally the never ending stretch of Embankment came to an end and I turned onto The Mall for the finish. The crowds were so unbelievable at this point, I felt like I was in the Olympics. I picked up my pace to finish strong. Crossing the line, I grabbed my medal and just kept walking. Outside of the race finish, I blended in with the regular Sunday tourist crowd around Trafalgar Square before jumping on the nearest tube, medal swinging from my neck and biggest smile on my face.
I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently about how I’m in a place where I’m really surrounded by good people and good energy and this day was the perfect embodiment of that.
This week has been funny. I was straight back to teaching spin with back-to-back classes on Tuesday morning (recovery tip – just keep moving.) People’s first question when they hear you ran a marathon is ‘what time did you do it in?’ To those people I’d say, re-read this post. I honestly haven’t even checked my watch or looked up my chip time. I’m just not interested. It was never about time for me. I trained for this marathon by teaching six spin classes a week and doing one long run. I felt good the whole way around and my recovery time was less than 24 hours. I smiled, I danced, I laughed. So whether I ran it in three hours or six is completely irrelevant to me. I ran it HAPPY.
Bottom line, I’m just thankful my body lets me do these things. I’m glad I may have inspired a few people along the way and most of all, I’m damn sure glad I did it my own way.
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