Thursday 7 May 2015

My Marathon Journey

There's 24 hours to go until the ballot for next year's Virgin Money London Marathon closes.

It's the leading mass-participation charity fundraising challenge event in the UK, and this year we had more #TeamCF runners than ever!

We'd love 2016 to be even bigger, with even more of you joining #TeamCF but we know it can be a daunting experience, especially for first timers. To help you all get a feel for what it's like, Libby Sears, a first time London Marathon runner this year has shared her journey, from spectator to marathon finisher.

My marathon journey has been one unforgettable experience and one of the most memorable days of my life (so far). It has taken more courage and willpower than I thought possible.

It all started after being a supporter and spectator at the London Marathon 2014. Having watched a very good friend go through her journey, I felt inspired to take on the challenge myself. Thankfully with the help of my wonderful bosses, I secured a charity place with the Cystic Fibrosis Trust early on in the year, so I had plenty of time to get my training into action.

Arriving at the expo on Friday morning to collect my number and time chip I felt completely overwhelmed and inadequately prepared for what lay ahead of me. I was pretty much an emotional wreck, even the gentleman handing me my pack expressed concern at the look of fear on my face. I was petrified, not only at whether I could actually complete the full 26.2 miles but also the thought of letting everyone down. There was no going back.

I woke on Sunday 26 April 2015 with excitement (much to my amazement). I arrived at the Green Start in the drizzly rain and headed for the changing tent to find it full of ladies sat on the floor, in pretty much the same state as myself, constantly feeling the need to wee and looking at their phones. The time passed quickly listening to stories of training disasters (great!) and tips to get through. I was inspired once again at what these people were willing to put themselves through to raise money for charity.

The race got underway, I threw off my jumper, which unfortunately landed on some poor lady’s head!   I was swept along with the crowd of runners and found myself running at a faster pace than I had planned, but decided to go with it, even though in my head I had my friend’s words telling me not to start like a racehorse. 

The first five miles quickly passed and I found myself excited to be seeing family and friends with the CF supporters by the Cutty Sark at mile seven, and there they were just as planned, I felt great and uplifted, it was an amazing sight, full of people cheering, I was feeling great. I had no idea where I was until I saw the Rotherhithe sign and realised Sam and Michelle had planned to watch at this point, as I ran on I heard them shout my name, it made me smile from ear to ear.  

As I approach Tower Bridge I could hear the roar from the crowd, I spotted a friend from holiday who screamed my name and the CF guys going wild; people were running backwards taking selfies, I was tempted to offer to take it for them but was reluctant to slow my pace, I was on a mission!

On I went, through a tunnel before mile 15 where men and women were having a quick unseen wee and a sneaky walk, and a few meters on were Dave, Imogen, Jamie and my wonderful friends. I was so excited to see them, I felt my heart swell with pride, “I can do this”, I was feeling good. I wanted to get to mile 18 so I could see them again; all I was thinking about was who I had managed to see as I’d sped past and who I needed to make sure I saw next time. By now my knee was starting to let me know that it wasn’t happy and my pace was slowing, but thankfully I saw my support group and I managed to fight back the tears as I ran past waving like a lunatic.

Having past mile 20 and getting a phone call from Dave, all I could make out was "see you at the finish”. The next five miles were the hardest I have ever experienced; doubt was creeping in as my knee was unforgiving, the painkillers making little impact. I focused on counting down the miles, knowing I was on the home straight and trying to work out where on earth in London I was; I never have had a sense of direction. I attempted to take my jelly beans out of my pocket but ended up losing the lot in a comedy style throw them in the air attempt.

I had one goal in my head now: “Don’t stop. Whatever you do, keep running.”

The crowds were huge and the noise immense, I could no longer hear the music playing in one ear, so turned it off completely, it was time to dig deep.

Turning the corner at the Houses of Parliament everything changed, my pain had gone, I had beaten my demons, my pace increased and I sped down Bird Cage Walk excited to see Michelle, Lisa and Maria at the 600m mark. There they were, I felt exhilarated, I’d done it. Now to the finish, this was the easy bit.

I waved frantically at my mum and mother-in-law who had sat patiently in their grandstand seats, and crossed the line. The feeling of achievement was overwhelming, waiting for my photo to be taken I was trying not to cry. What an incredible day.

I have raised a whopping £25,500+ for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust thanks to the fabulous Christine and Berenice, my amazing family, wonderful friends and other incredibly generous people. Thank you CF for your support and encouragement throughout.

To Dave, Imogen, Jamie, my parents, Jamie and Hilary Gray, Michelle - Thank You.  I couldn’t have done this without you.

26.2 Smashed

Inspired to join #TeamCF? Enter the Virgin Money London Marathon 2016 ballot today!