My twin sister Paula and I were very keen runners when we were younger, competing at school events and then with our club the Worthing Harriers. I ran the 800m and the 1500m when I was younger and moved on to the 400m Hurdles when I was a senior competing at county level. I had always said that one day I would run the London Marathon and watched in awe every year at the people who had already taken up the challenge. I never thought for one moment however that I would be running it under such emotional circumstances
I decided to run for CRY after my younger brother Ben died from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome in September 2001 just days after I was married. Paula found out about the charity on the web and entered and when she first told me I was ready to offer my support in helping her to train, but then one night I thought I can’t let Paula go this alone. We’ve always done everything together so I got my charity place in January and started to train.
It was long and hard. I had never run this far before. The training left me tired and sore and it always seemed to rain when I went out on those dark cold nights!
Everything seemed to be going to plan when I came down with a mystery virus with less than a month to go. I was on antibiotics and couldn’t eat properly; I lost 10lbs and felt awful. Everybody tried to talk me out of running and I had my doubts too but we had raised so much through sponsor money that I felt I couldn’t let people down.
Finally I said my goodbyes to my husband Kevin and daughter Jasmine and climbed on a train on Saturday morning with Paula and our huge red smiling hearts. We travelled to London and people didn’t stop asking us about the heart costumes and wishing us good luck and complete strangers saying they’d look out for us on the TV.
We booked into the hotel and registered and tried to relax but I was so tired from my illness that i went to bed early only to lie awake for hours worrying. The morning arrived and we went down to breakfast and forced ourselves to eat something. Then before we knew it we were on our way with the other CRY runners to the start.
I was very nervous now as even the walk up the hill to the start seemed to leave me breathless but I told myself it was just because we had to carry all our bags and the costumes.
We lined up and everyone was really chatting with nervous excitement and the gun went off and everybody cheered. We slowly edged our way to the start and some people were even breaking into a jog but I refused to run any further than necessary and we found ourselves very near the back of the whole race! Finally after 20 minutes we went through the line and cheered we had started!
I jogged the first mile slowly trying to take everything in and it seemed to come really quickly and we all cheered as we went through and I thought this is going to be exhausting if we have to get this excited at every mile when Paula turned to me and said that was a 12 minute mile, too slow and did I mind if she went off without me. This was a scary thought but I didn’t want to hold her back, she was much fitter than me and wanted to run a decent time. I just wanted to get round in one piece so off she went. My race plan was to start slow and get slower!
The first time I saw my family was at the Cutty Sark and it was very emotional. I wasn’t expecting them here because we knew it would be busy so it was really great. I went over and hugged and kissed them, they were all crying and cheering me on and I thought I must look terrible so I kept saying I was all right just slow. I asked about Paula as well because she was too far ahead for me to see now. They said they would try and see me again before the end and I said yes please because I might not make it to the end!
I carried on jogging and walking and drinking lots and also using the loo lots which I thought must be a good sign. I walked up the hills and jogged down them and if I felt like I needed a bit of support I ran along the edge of the road where lots of children were holding their hands out to slap, or giving out sweets. The crowds were great cheering me along at this stage and calling out my name although I was called an apple, cherry and a tomato instead of a heart which I kept correcting until I found it too tiring and just smiled or waved back.
When I hit about 12 miles I thought well this is the furthest I have ever run and everything from here is a bonus. The pace was very slow by now and my legs were very sore so I walked much more and only jogged when I felt I could, which wasn’t very often. It was at this stage that I realised just how much training you really need to do to run the marathon and I was beginning to have my doubts about finishing at all.
Infact, I told myself at about 15 miles that I would drop out at the very next first aid station and say how sorry I was to everyone but I just couldn’t do it. It was just too painful. Then at 18 miles I saw all my family again! They were cheering me on and saying how I looked so fresh so I didn’t have the heart to tell them all about how I didn’t want to go on. My dad walked along beside me and offered to walk the rest of the way with me but I said I’d be ok and that I see them all at the end. It was very emotional and I had to fight back the tears, I just didn’t have the energy to cry right now. The next mile was the longest of the whole race and the pain was almost unbearable but I kept telling myself that this was nothing compared to the pain of losing Ben and I had to finish this for him and for CRY.
When I got to 20 miles I said to myself it’s all-downhill from now on. I started counting down the miles to the end that I never thought I’d see. I walked with two other people and joined in with their moaning about aches and pains, and then I stopped for a massage. The guy who did it for me promised that he would get me to the end with no more pain. He lied!
As I made my way along the last 3 miles the crowds cheered us on but some of them were so encouraging that I realised how awful I must have looked by now. I also now had to walk on the pavements going up and down the kerbs because the roads had been reopened to the traffic, it made it even harder on my legs. I was also fighting my way through the crowds of people who had seen their family and friends finish already and were now going home! Some of them were amazed that I was still going, it had taken me so long and a photographer stepped out and took a photo of me and asked me if I was the very last person! I started to panic then thinking that all the officials would have gone home and I wouldn’t even get my chance to cross the line and kiss my medal as it placed around my neck. It didn’t speed me up though I was just stuck at this pace now but even more determined to finish.
As the last 300m or so stretched in front of me I saw my family again. My husband hopped over the barrier and walked the rest of the way in with me trying to encourage me to break into a run but I couldn’t, my legs were too sore and I didn’t want to risk collapsing altogether and not finishing. Then finally I could see the finish line and just kept going straight ahead. I crossed the line and found that I was too tired to be emotional now, I just felt bad that my family had waited so long for me. I grabbed a sandwich and forced my self to eat, after all it had been nearly 7 hours since I started. I took it all very easy walking back to the tube station stopping and resting but I wouldn’t sit down because I knew I couldn’t get up again. When we all finally got home I sat in the bath and hoped my legs would feel better the next day but they didn’t. In fact, I couldn’t walk for a few days but now I’m fully recovered and I’ll always remember my marathon day and the mixture of emotions I felt when I completed it.