Running the London Marathon for CRY
I still can’t quite believe I’ve ran a marathon! But, we did it!
In October 2015, I had two big things on my mind, I was awaiting the date for my electrophysiological study to both confirm the diagnosis of my Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome and to hopefully cure me and I was also awaiting the ballot results of the Virgin London Marathon Ballot for the 2016 race.
I was one of the very fortunate people to be accepted in the ballot for the London Marathon but then came the date for my operation – January 2016. Just three months before the marathon when I should be well into my training plan. I waited until I had the operation and unfortunately, I was just too poorly following it to even contemplate running the marathon. The recover took longer than I had anticipated and it was during this time I found CRY and was reassured by other members that the feelings and discomfort I was experiencing were normal. I reluctantly deferred my marathon place to April 2017 and allowed myself to recover properly without the stress of thinking about marathon running!
As the year went by and I began to recover I hit another hiccup with my training, developing an acute shoulder and rib injury that left me unable to run, exercise or even drive for several months. During this time my husband Chris took up running and he decided he would love to run the London Marathon too. When the ballot results came out he hadn’t got a place so we decided that as CRY had supported me so well it was time to give something back and Chris applied for a charity place with CRY. We were thrilled when he was allocated a place and we both pledged to raise £1,900 between us. We set up a fundraising party and bombarded Facebook with all our training runs, information about the charity and emailed colleagues and friends asking for support. Incredibly we raised of £4,200 in total! It was such a wonderful feeling to be able to give so much back to a charity and know that other young people could gain a diagnosis much earlier than I did.
We are both very determined but neither of us are particularly fast or graceful when it comes to running. This marathon really is the biggest challenge we have ever undertaken. We had trained religiously, giving up our Friday evenings to run miles after 40 hour weeks in work. We managed to get to 21 miles in training and even completed a gruelling 20 mile trail run in torrential rain as part of our preparations. Marathon weekend arrived, we were as prepared as we could be and both terrified and excited in equal measure.
We travelled to the expo on the Saturday to collect our race numbers, we were fortunate enough to meet Paula Radcliffe and have her sign our race numbers. Sadly, I lost my Gran a few years ago and she was a huge fan of Paula – it was wonderful meeting Paula the day before such a huge challenge and knowing how impressed and proud my Gran would have been. It was an emotional moment.
The next morning, we set off for the start, as I had a ballot place and Chris had a charity place we had to start in different pens – this meant running the first four miles separately. Luckily I met up with a friend in my start pen and we ran those first four miles together. As I crossed the start line I looked to my left to see Prince William, Prince Harry and Princess Kate waving at us – I jumped up and down and waved like a crazy lady and Prince William gave me a beaming smile and a wave right back. I knew at that point the day was something I was never going to forget.
I got to mile four and stepped to the side to wait for Chris, unfortunately he had started 20 minutes later than me so I had a long wait. I cheered on the other runners and soaked up the atmosphere. It was incredible. I spotted Chris running towards me, we said our hellos and as we headed off on our journey together shared our stories from the morning.
Running past the land marks of London was incredible – rounding the corner and heading towards the Cutty Sark was fabulous, the crowds roared and people were already handing out sweets and shouting our names. I felt like a celebrity. The miles passed by quickly as we approached mile 10 where I knew my parents and brother in law were waiting. On spotting my mum I burst into tears, as did she, as the enormity of what I was taking part in and achieving took hold. I just couldn’t quite believe I was here. My parents have always chuckled at my lack of sporting ability and I think they are still in shock that I actually did it! They had the most amazing experience watching us!
We made it to the halfway point as we crossed Tower Bridge, once again the crowds were phenomenal and we spotted a TV camera above us – we gave it a wave – not thinking much of it, only for me to be bombarded with messages from friends at home saying they had spotted us on the TV! The support of the crowds is like nothing I have ever experienced, I couldn’t believe we were already at halfway. I was feeling strong and enjoying every second.
As we approached Canary Wharf at around mile 15 Chris began to struggle with cramp in both of his thighs. Luckily there were St Johns Ambulance medics and Physios every few miles and we stopped a number of times for Chris to receive treatment – this was a godsend and something we didn’t know was available on the course. We can’t thank the teams who helped Chris enough. From mile 15 onwards it became a real struggle as Chris’s discomfort worsened. We kept grabbing sweets from the crowd and I did my best to continue to soak up the atmosphere whilst trying to support Chris through a difficult time.
We saw family and friends a few times again on the course – having them there was such a boost, especially as the blisters set in and the pain levels increased. Our paced slowed but our determination didn’t, despite everything we kept on going. As we headed through the park on the approach to mile 26 and Buckingham Palace it hit me again what we had achieved, we were now minutes from finishing the London Marathon! We crossed the finish line with the biggest smiles on our faces and stopped to hug and congratulate each other. I then promptly burst into tears seconds after receiving my medal! My phone rang within minutes to the sound of congratulations from my parents and then we hobbled away to collect our belongings.
At the end of the run we were exhausted but through the crowds we spotted a wonderful man in CRY t-shirt beckoning us over. Once again we were congratulated, he took our belongings to carry them for us and took us to some seats and provided us with food and drinks. Several volunteers were at the greeting point and they told us how they support the charity as they had lost children to various conditions. Sitting and listening to their experiences and the support CRY has given them made it really hit home how important it was for us to raise this money for CRY to support other families in similar circumstances. We may have had a difficult 6 hours completing the race but this is nothing compared to the troubles they have been through in their lives.
We climbed into a minibus and were taken to a hotel where we received a round of applause and an additional medal and had our photos taken. We were then able to have a full body massage – which was needed and a warm shower, hot food and of course the obligatory glass of Prosecco to celebrate. We were exhausted but on such a high after a phenomenal day.
The following day, as we returned home from the train station, we received a congratulatory email from the organisers of the Marathon. The email had been sent to all 37,500 finishers. And who’s finish line photograph had they decided to use? Ours! There we were, arms I the air, CRY t-shirts on show to the world and now 37,500 people had a copy of the image! WOW! We couldn’t actually believe it and thought it must have been a personalised photo until our friends all contacted us to tell us we were famous!
What a phenomenal experience, we have already entered the ballot for next year. I’ll just try not to think about the 5 month training plan leading up to it! Thank you to Cara and the rest of the CRY team who supported us so well throughout our fundraising and on the day. You were all brilliant and it was an honour to run for you after everything CRY has done for me.