The London Marathon was held today and the weather has been perfect for runners, dry but not too hot. The marathon is usually held on the last Sunday in April and places are 'won' by entering a ballot, however there are always places reserved for charity runners (click here for a list of charities for 2020). The ballot for next year's race is currently open and will close at 5pm on Friday 3rd May. Applicants will find out if they have won a place for the 2020 marathon by the end of October 2019.
I joined a local running club called the Phoenix Striders in 2012 and used to run with friends there two or three times a week. I am not a natural athlete but I really enjoy running as I feel it lifts my mood and makes me forget any of life's stresses, it definitely clears the cobwebs! I enjoyed it so much that I decided to enter the London Marathon and was lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it!) to win a place in the marathon in 2012 and 2013.
Runners have to collect their race packs from the ExCeL centre in London a few days before the race and it is busy but you can sense an air of excitement from everyone there. I was nervous about running a marathon but I shouldn't have been, it felt like everyone was in it together, whatever their ability. The camaraderie of strangers is overwhelming and the encouragement all runners and their supporters give each other is extremely heartwarming.
Picture below was taken at ExCeL - I am second from the right, with two fellow Phoenix Striders (Marion and Kim).
Below - me in my new trainer at ExCeL!
Below - all runners were asked to write their name and a message on a row of pictures.
I love looking out for the unusual costumes that some runners wear, when I ran the first time I remember feeling like a shadow was being cast over me so I turned around.... to be confronted by a rhino! I also ran alongside a man from the army who had a huge model communications tower on his shoulders (it looked a little like the Eiffel Tower) and his chum was running behind him holding it steady, they were doing really well until we approached a low bridge! Several of us helped support the chap's tower as he ran underneath at what looked like a very bendy angle!! I also ran alongside an 'archbishop' whose cape was blowing in the wind like a superhero - go Archie, GO!
Below - running next to a rhino!
Below - the Archbishop, Friar and Nun.
Below - fellow runners on their way to the start of the race.
Before running the race I had been told by several runners that there comes a point during the race when you 'hit the wall'. I never experienced anything like that, however I do remember getting to mile 23 and suddenly thinking, boy am I tired, I could do with forty winks! I suddenly felt like taking a power nap!
I was lucky to have got a ballot place but decided that if I was going to kill myself I would do it for a good cause! One of my friends, Michelle, has a wonderful daughter called Cassie, who sadly has a rare brain condition called PcH2, so I dedicated my runs to Cassie. The money I raised went towards paying for specialist treatment at a place called the Adeli Centre in Slovakia, which has really made a difference to her life. Cassie's condition is so rare that the charity is tiny and I was the only runner for her, so this made me determined to do my best.
The first time I ran Cassie was too unwell to come to the marathon and her family cheered me on from home, my friend Michelle said to her husband whilst watching the race on the BBC, "Julie will be along in a minute" and he laughed and said "but there are thousands of runners!", Michelle said two minutes later I nearly ran into the camera in the Cutty Sark area of London! She said "I knew you were coming!", she took a photo of me on TV (it really made me laugh!). The second time I ran, Cassie and her parents came and it made my day to see Cassie sitting on her Dad's shoulders cheering the runners on as the year before she had not been able to sit up unaided.
Below - two seconds of fame (ha ha), running into a BBC camera in the Cutty Sark area of London.
Below - Cassie sitting on her Dad's shoulders; Michelle, Cassie and I at mile 19; and some mad running club chums who had been enthusiastically cheering everyone on!
The feeling of finishing the race is indescribable! I felt proud that I had ran the race, happy because it was a fun experience and moved by the support everyone showed each other. The London Marathon is so much more than proving you can join the 26-ers club, it renewed my faith in the human race because of the kindness people showed each other and the huge bonus is that it raised awareness and much needed funds for a multitude of worth while charities! I haven't been picked in the ballot again, but I count my blessings that I was lucky enough to experience this extraordinary event in my life time. Congrats to everyone who finished it today!
Below - celebrations the next day with friends over afternoon tea, woo hoo!