What can I really say? The London Marathon was exhilarating. It is the largest annual one-day fundraising event in the world. Running with 38,000 people who all believe in a cause is humbling. It is also distracting in all the best ways. I spent my time watching charity supporters whoop from the sidelines, reading my fellow runners' pinnies and by mentally calculating how many unique causes there are in the world. The London Marathon is where runners don 'fancy dress' aka costumes for their cause. It is where I saw a barefooted Jesus running with a cross and a giant nipple costume advocating the importance of breast exams. It is where Rhinos were seen charging over Tower Bridge in an effort to draw attention to the endangered species. And it is where an impressive number of strange Guinness World Records are set. It is hardly just a Marathon; it is pride and energy and goodness all set to a beautiful backdrop..
From the gun, it took me about 20 minutes to cross the start line and then it took a few miles of fellow-runner-dodging before I was able to settle into my pace while the mass of runners thinned out. I spotted Malcolm & Margaret (Waves Trust) around mile 8.5 and waved to my first team of supporters. I stormed Tower Bridge at mile 12.5 with energy and gusto; a moment when my little American heart felt fully British. I was ecstatic to see my friends at the halfway point on the bridge. I pulled off to the side for a hug and a 'hi' and to motion at the scene around me. In awe, I knew that this was the stuff memories are made of. Running on I saw another set of friends at mile 14; friends I haven't seen for months equates to additional exhilaration. Running into their arms, I gave some sweaty hugs before moving on again. I saw the same groups again at mile 17, 22 and a sudden unexpected appearance of a friend at mile 23 rendered me speechless as all I could do was wave and smile and gasp as I ran past him. Lucky he spotted me.
I was bowled over from the energy along the Themes from miles 23-26.2, where I ran directly at Big Ben (!) with the London Eye to my left and an unending crowd to my right. I was giddy. And my Anglophile heart soared. In the last mile(ish) stretch of London pavement, I ran past Westminster, through Green Park and by Buckingham Palace. As I rounded the statute of Queen Victoria to the Finish Line I had a flashback to 2011 when I was a spectator on that very corner watching the Marathon. And then I ran 'like Bill Nighy was at the finish' and with a short speed up I was done. I had gone and run a marathon! Goal achieved. I stopped to take the official photo and walked on to collect my bag and find my friends. My time? I wasn't sure, I hadn't been tracking myself. I'd had to tap into the app to find out.
I made my way down the Mall to find my two groups of friends had come together, arm in arm, wearing shirts that spelled out Tori. I stopped in my tracks and was quite literally speechless. I had half expected myself to cry at the end but I think I was more personally touched at having completed 20 miles in training. After all what was another 6? Instead, I was streaming with adrenaline, oozing with happiness and drunk with gratitude for having an amazing cheering squad, Team Tori as they dubbed themselves. There was no moment to reflect, that came later.
The obligatory medal biting moment (which I don't fully understand) and group photos ensued; evidence of memories collected. Then with high spirits, proud friends and stiff but working legs, we set off for the Waves post-race reception followed by pints, pubs and dinner with even more friends. Lucky me, I had fared pretty excellently. No bathroom needs, no chafing and I still had all my lovely manicured toenails! I had run 26.2 miles in one of my favorite cities in the world, surrounded by good friends and supported afar by many more. My only weakness, quite literally, was my Achilles. The tendon had inflamed around mile 6.
Total Monies Raised:
£2,182.21 (with gift aid: £2,219.96) Above and beyond by goal. More to come about the team total and where the money is going...
Would I do it again? I would. For me, it isn't about the running itself, it is the experience - the place, the vibe, the crowd, the friends and the cause. I don't think I could ever run marathon's for the sake of running. I need it all. And that may be a tall order to fill. I do know that I'd love the opportunity to beat my time as I was a bit disappointed. Next time I'll take into account the time it takes to get away from the mass crowd and fellow-runner-dodging. And now that I'm back in New York, I've started physical therapy to heel the inflamed tendon and to prevent future problems. This week the sports med doc told me my left leg is slightly longer than my right causing hip alignment problems in long distance running. Who knew? #Runningproblems