Running the London Marathon in 2015 was the best day of my life, and I will not hide from the fact I was gutted when I did not get a place in the 2016 race. But, I still found myself wrapped up in the race's magic this year thanks to the fact my friend was running. As race day neared it had almost felt like I was due to be running again. I nervously watched the countdown on social media, got excited by preview snaps of the expo, course and medals, and literally could not wait until Sunday 24th April. Needless to say, there was no way I was not going to be in London on race day. My friend had supported me in 2015 and I could not imagine not being there for her. My friend's journey to the London Marathon start line had also not been perfect due to a horrible injury which had sidelined her for five weeks. Many probably would have not picked up the training again, or would have not been physically or mentally able to; but she did. So even before the race had started I already felt so incredibly proud of her.
I stayed over at my parents' house in Suffolk the night before the marathon, and then made an early morning journey to London. I barely slept race night, full of nerves and excitement again; and when I got off the train in London I found myself power walking to Tower Bridge. The sooner I got there the better I felt, knowing I could claim my spot for the next few hours. My friend had stood with my other friend and supported me on Tower Bridge last year, and seeing them at roughly the half way point had given me such a buzz of energy and motivation for the second section; so in my mind it was a perfectly placed spot.
Tower Bridge was already buzzing when I arrived, charity banners, balloons and signs spanned its length, and there were huddles of equally eager spectators positioned. I chose my spot exactly on the mid point of the bridge and claimed enough space for my friend's family to join me. It was a cold, fresh morning, and the wind whipping across the bridge made the wait for runners seem extra long. Hats were pulled from bags, gloves were dug out of pockets and hoods were pulled tightly around ears as we all kept our eyes peeled down the road. The elite athletes came first and as ever I was inspired by the wheelchair and ambulant athletes, and amazed by the speed of the elite men and women runners. Then the trickle of 'regular' runners started to appear. It was almost scary the way runners began to then take hold of Tower Bridge, the numbers gradually building until the bridge was abreast with marathoners. I clapped enthusiastically, not only warming my hands, but to support all their efforts and to add to the unforgettable memories I knew they would be creating.
The worst part of the wait to spot my friend was the complete failure of the London Marathon tracker app. It never worked and so locating her relied upon using the less precise website tracker, which only gave 5km splits, and also our knowledge of her rough running time. As the time window arrived when we expected her to enter the bridge the anxiety within me was so high. I was unbelievably scared of missing her, or of not being able to flag her attention. Thankfully I spotted her, and she heard us screaming her name - a massive relief. I can remember when I ran across Tower Bridge the sheer joy of seeing my friends, but also the feeling that the moment was just not long enough. It was the same when spectating. The adrenaline rush of seeing her felt like a blink. I wanted to be able to shout and tell her how strong she was looking, and encourage her further, but there was just not the time! You almost feel like for the determination and effort your runner is exerting you want to give them so much more!
Once my friend had passed us, we left Tower Bridge and headed straight for the finish. It was odd to think as we made our relatively short journey across London that my friend was out there, winding her way around a much more scenic route to the exact same point! It was perfectly timed that as we arrived at the finishing straight, the runners we had first witnessed crossing Tower Bridge were starting to enter the finish. I found it hard to watch some who were now struggling, knowing full well the pain they were going through, and also just how blooming long that stretch down The Mall feels! But it was also great to be able to cheer on some of the same faces.
The anxious wait to spot my friend then began all over again. It was worse this time, and I was continually refreshing the website tracker on my phone, praying for her to get the 40km point, meaning she was roughly entering The Mall. When she did I was then transfixed, madly scanning runners trying to pick her out. I was so relieved to spot her again. I never heard my friends shouting me when I was running down The Mall as I was completely zoned out; so I knew it would be tough to grab her attention. But we did, and I was again so pleased she had heard us and that we were able to give her that final push for the finish.
Walking away from The Mall to the runner 'meet and greet' you fully realised just how loud the crowds are down that stretch. The atmosphere in London was all I remembered as a runner, and at numerous times during the day I had wonderful flashbacks to my own race. Some moments I have been able to recall with such precision, but others I had almost forgotten about until I was actually back in the city. What I can remember clearly is the wait after finishing trying to find my friends and family, battling the crowds and just wanting someone to celebrate with - and also rid me of my heavy bag!! So again I was anxious to get to my friend - I tell you being a spectator/supporter is definitely not an easy or relaxing day!
It was an emotional moment greeting her, all that she had achieved over the last few weeks, and the challenges and setbacks she had overcome, suddenly felt like they had been truly rewarded. It was one of those moments when a hug says a million words. I wanted to cry but I knew if I started I probably wouldn't stop, and I also felt I wanted to be as strong as my friend had been, not only over the last 26.2 miles of running, but throughout the last sixteen weeks of her training. I felt pride, joy, happiness, relief and just so inspired by her.
My 2015 London Marathon memories are some of my most treasured, and today I was able to add more to them, and experience the pleasure of seeing my friend create her own. It makes me so happy to think that there were thousands of other runners out there creating the same special moments too - just confirming what an amazing event the London Marathon truly is. For this reason, my thoughts also go out to the family and friends of David Seath who sadly lost his life on Sunday.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...