#marafun is a feature in which novice marathon runner, Ellie Smith, will open your eyes to the trials and tribulations of long distance running. A word of caution – this feature will be prone to mood swings and short outbursts of intense self loathing. However, it will also cover the joys of exercise and whatever the weather, Ellie will still be running and writing…
Maybe it was because I purposefully avoided all the triple drains along the route, maybe it was because my cousin, Chris, is an absolute hero, maybe it is because Jason Derulo featured prominently in my power playlist or maybe it is because someone up there put in a good word for me but somehow and against all the odds I have completed the London Marathon! Cue applause. No shame – I am going to milk this one for all that it is worth.
In dodgy homage to Wilkinson’s Afterglow video I give you my marathon journey: 4 months of training, 6 weeks of not being able to run, 1 cortisone injection, 12 blister plasters, 47 painkillers, 5 weeks of physio, 2 pairs of trainers, 15 laps of Arthur’s Seat, 2 marathon nightmares, 2 weeks teetotal, 1 month of rubbish chat, 10 hours in the pool, roughly 60 hours in the gym, 3 tearful breakdowns, 14 Sundays sacrificed but 26.2 miles later and I have officially completed my first (and potentially last) marathon.
The day was simultaneously one of the best and worst experiences of my life. Considering I haven’t been able to run for 6 weeks, I turned up at Greenwich at 9am on Sunday morning and genuinely had no idea how the day was going to play out. My knee had been causing me a lot of grief and the furthest I had ever run before was 15 miles. I had left a lot down to the big day and those 26.2 miles were pretty daunting as I stood in my pen, waiting to be unleashed onto the course. At mile 2 I felt my knee start to ache and I began to panic slightly as it was safe to say that I had a long way to go. However, I began popping the painkillers from the offset and thankfully that made a massive difference. Although, my knee ached throughout the course, it was bearable and when I ran past a man carrying a fridge on his back I knew that I had no excuses.
For four months these 26.2 miles had been hovering over me like the Dark Mark but as soon as I crossed that start line I was finally beginning to come to terms with it and break it down. I was feeling pretty good all the way up until mile 20, smiling, chatting, waving furiously to all my ‘fans’ and soaking up that atmosphere. Then at mile 21 I hit that infamous ‘wall’ and it is one hell of a wall. I grabbed Chris’s arm and proceeded to sound off at exactly what I thought of this whole marathon malarkey using a colourful and diverse use of the English language. It felt like someone had planted lead blocks in my thighs and every step became increasingly more painful. I took complete umbrage to the man who weaved in front of me, to the grandpa who sped past me and to the blistering sun as it felt like the hottest day in the world to my delusional and exhausted self.
My self-loathing complex came into full fruition as I questioned why I had begun this seemingly impossible feat. But then I remembered some of the advice that my seasoned marathon running Aunty had told me – count to 100 and think of someone that inspires you for each of those 5 miles. So I really relied on my mummy to get me through those last few miles – I even cracked a smile when I imagined her running it. As a certified dog-walker, she would have grimaced at the thought of a mile! When I ran past the Breakthrough Breast Cancer stand at mile 24 I really gritted my teeth and remembered all those wonderful people who had sponsored me, who had put up with my terrible chat for the last few months, who had put up with my all encompassing training regime, who had laughed at me and helped me when I felt like I couldn’t do it and had given me that extra push. I felt physically sick but I knew that I was going to complete these last few miles.
Running over Tower Bridge was absolutely incredible, coupled with the fact that my family were positioned just at the start of it, this had to be the highlight of my sporting career. Marathon schmarathon – I really felt like I had this one in the bag.
The well wisher at mile 12 who had drawn a red circle on a piece of cardboard and underneath the caption ‘Touch for Power.’
The atmosphere. Each mile of the marathon is covered by thousands and thousands of supporters. It is truly incredible.
A friend advised me to follow ‘a nice bum’ and Chris certainly appreciated the lady in red leggings running for The British Heart Foundation. We lost her at mile 7 but it brought a smile to both of our faces when we found her again at mile 22.
My supporters. Seeing my friends and family along the way made such a difference. When I saw my flatmates at mile 18 it gave me such a boost and when I saw my dad and my brother with 800m to go it gave me that extra surge.
The medal. It is pretty substantial and I greatly enjoyed being congratulated by random people as I hobbled/ waddled back home.
Free travel on the tube. Every cloud has a silver lining and I could get very used to this.
Centre of attention. My brother would fetch me anything I wanted and my dad has never been so attentive!
You can eat whatever you want! McDonalds, chocolate, ice cream…
Crossing that finish line. It is the most incredible feeling in the world. I collapsed literally straight after as my legs told me exactly where to go and Chris had to support me all the way to Horse Guard’s Parade but when that medal was placed around my neck I felt so proud and euphoric.
4h. 12 minutes. Never, ever, ever did I think I would achieve anything close to this. I had hoped but after injury struck I realised that I would have to adjust my expectations and was expecting something a lot slower.
Mile 21 to mile 26.2. This was an absolute nightmare. Clearly not used to running this far- my legs were crying out for me to stop and yet I knew that if I started walking I would never start again. This was the ultimate battle of mind over matter.
The last 800m. It doesn’t sound far – I had pretty much just run 26 miles so surely I can handle the last 800m. Apparently not – it hurt SO much.
My legs. I physically cannot walk properly. If this is what old age feels like then I want out. I look ridiculous as I waddle around my house, stairs prove the ultimate challenge and lowering myself onto the loo is comparable to those last 800m.
My ‘celebratory’ ice bath. The searing pain of lowering myself into this was mind numbingly sore.
Missing Hugo Taylor of Made in Chelsea fame. Apparently I was 5 minutes behind him. Gutted doesn’t even come close.
It’s amazing to think that there are over 36,000 runners on the day: all with their own individual and unique story as to why they are putting themselves through the 26.2 miles. Whether it’s trying to beat a personal best, running in memory of a loved one, ticking it off the bucket list or raising money for charity, everyone has their own story and that’s a lot of stories and a lot of emotions.
169, 682 people applied for a place in this year’s London Marathon so if you have thought seriously about doing it then my advice would be to sign up – if you get a place then surely it is meant to be?! Pick a charity or a cause which really means something to you as you need a reason to get up in the middle of January, when the weather is grim and to get out there training. It is one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever done and whilst my legs are actively discouraging me from ever doing it again I know that the pain will subside and I will mostly just remember the pure joy of having completed those 26.2 miles. If it was easy then everybody would do it but you just have to remember that ‘Pain is temporary – glory lasts forever’.
I managed to hold off on listening to my iPod until mile 20 and then ‘treated’ myself for the last 6 miles. Withhold judgemen t- I was in a low place at this point and my playlist reflects this.
Jason Derulo – Ridin’ Solo
Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue
R Kelly & Public Announcement- She’s Got That Vibe
Ricky Martin – She Bangs
Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough
So I am officially no longer a novice marathon runner, although hardly an expert.
Forgive me for giving it one last push – http://www.justgiving.com/EllieandChrisSmith
If you have enjoyed my blogs and can spare £5, £10 or whatever the amount may be, then please donate. In the time that I ran the London Marathon, 24 men and women were diagnosed with breast cancer. I ran for Breakthrough Breast Cancer because I hope that one day people will no longer have to suffer from this disease. But this is impossible without your support. Chris and I have raised around £6,200 so far which is truly humbling. To anyone that has donated I would like to extend my warmest gratitude. I was running for a very personal cause and I have been so touched by everyone’s support – it really means a lot to me.
Here’s a last thought for you.
‘Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Great journeys are made with small steps.’ Anonymous.
Over and out. x
Ellie Smith is 20 years old and she is currently studying French and Spanish at the University of Edinburgh. Ellie has a sense of humour similar to that of an immature ten year old boy and sites Blades of Glory as one of the best films ever made. She is obsessed with Russia, Mini Eggs and Ryan Gosling. The Holy Trinity in her eyes.
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