I’d love to say I was brave, but in reality, there are quite a few things that scare me: heights. Big spiders. Small spiders. That deep-seated fear (which I imagine resides inside all parents) of something happening to my children. And, on the night of 22 April 2017, it was the prospect of running 26.2 miles.
I’d been calm until that point: I’d done my training and was rested (well, as rested as anyone with an up-in-the-night toddler can ever be). And then, as I went to bed on that Saturday night, I had a wobble: I had to run 26.2 miles the next day. Dressed as SODDING Wonder Woman.
If I’m honest, I could not say for sure which of these elements had me most concerned – the running part or the fancy dress part. All I knew was my heart was racing uncontrollably.
And then I remembered a favourite quote: “Being brave is not the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.”
I took a few deep breaths, tried to still my mind and silently thanked Bear Grylls for his words of wisdom.
OK, I was scared, but I’d find a way through.
Perhaps I’m braver than I think.
The day before a big race is often the worst bit: the waiting game is a mental minefield.
As it transpired, on the morning of the race, I woke up focused: I had so much to do (eat breakfast, kiss my kids goodbye, get the train, walk to the start) that the hours flew by and, before I knew it, I was self-consciously donning my superhero outfit in the middle of the green start.
I wasn’t alone: as well as the many serious-looking runners wearing club vests and tiny shorts, there were people in all manner of fancy dress, including fruits and vegetables, a helicopter, Mike the Mod (fully equipped with scooter and passenger), the famous rhino, and a girl running as the Mona Lisa, with her head poking through a giant picture frame. My outfit seemed positively modest in comparison, but I can honestly say in that moment, I was so proud to be running in costume: I was part of the fancy dress elite and the Virgin Money London Marathon was my spiritual home.
From then on, the good vibes kept coming. I’d run London before, eight years ago, so I knew how special it was going to be, but really, this marathon is something else. From the encouragement of the staff and volunteers, to the unwavering support of the crowds (the fancy dress was a BIG hit), to the famous route, it was amazing.
That’s not to say it was a comfortable experience the whole way round (I’d be lying if I left you with that impression). From stitches (which I NEVER suffer with, but for some reason had three on the day), to blisters, to tired, aching legs, a marathon is a mammoth task. But none of this overshadowed my experience and I can honestly say that, while I didn’t exactly love every second, there was no moment that I hated, and no moment that took away from my sheer amazement of taking part in such an emotive, inspirational challenge.
At mile 24, I saw the War Child cheer point – and my family. I got a kiss from my little boy and my daughter hurled her arms around my neck. And I felt spurred on to that finish line, because I desperately wanted to hug them again: and this time not let go.
At exactly 15:05:05, I crossed the finish line, after running for four hours, 58 minutes and 46 seconds – not quite a PB, but I couldn’t have been happier.
My #ReasonToRun was to show my children there was more to Mummy; to prove to myself that, after six years, two children and countless hours of sleep deprivation, I still have it in me to do something epic.
I did it. I loved it. I have felt pretty invincible since.
Is the fact I missed out on a new PB by two minutes and one second playing on my mind at all?
Perhaps a little. For now, I’m setting my sights on a fresh challenge: getting faster over shorter distances.
But I might have unfinished business with this whole 26.2 miles thing. Watch this space…