My London Marathon

Posted by / Thursday 28 April 2016 /
Marathon

I’ve never been an athletic person. So on the Sunday morning of the 2016 London Marathon, I was wide awake at 5:00am, my nerves an absolute mess.

I felt so under-prepared for this epic race, even after nine months of dedicated training. I was new to running, and probably shouldn’t have set my sights on such a big achievement. But I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, and I knew that the bigger the challenge, the more money I could raise for Action for Children. Now was the moment of truth.

Gabrielle-Marathon

I trudged up the hill to the starting point. After handing over my kit bag, I lined up at the back of the crowd at the start line – I was going to be a slower runner, and I was wearing a Canadian flag (as an homage to my home country), which sort of counted as fancy dress. So I was relegated to the back of the pack. It took 30 minutes of shuffling, but I finally crossed the start line.

Ready, steady, go!

Surprisingly, up until Mile 10, I felt like I was floating on air. The atmosphere was electric, I was making good time, and bursts of sunlight made the course seem magical. I crossed Tower Bridge (filled to the brim with spectators), then jumped for joy when I saw Action for Children staff cheering me on at Mile 13. But when I reached Mile 15, I started to feel incredibly weary. The spectators here were thinning out, and the barriers were being removed. By Mile 16, I had resorted to walking, my legs in complete agony. 

It was grey and cloudy now, my surroundings unfamiliar, industrial and decidedly un-cheery. I started talking to myself to keep myself from stopping and giving up. I told myself that I had to reach the finish, no matter what.

At Mile 19, I found that I had the energy to start running again, in short bursts. I ran through Canary Wharf, where the cheering roared up again. When I hit mile 21, I knew the end was near, and I was so eager to just walk the rest of the way. But I was behind schedule – I had to start really pushing it to make it to the finish before the 6 hour mark.

What I remember most about those difficult few miles (from about 16 to 20) is noticing that the marathon brings out kindness in a lot of people. I remember the elderly lady handing out handmade cheese sandwiches to runners on the Isle of Dogs; the groups of young people holding cardboard signs with red circles drawn on, with the words “PRESS FOR POWER BOOST”; hundreds of charity runners who were clearly struggling but still moving, wearing tshirts emblazoned with “for mum, for granddad, for my infant son”; a fellow runner who, when I stopped for a walking break about 5 miles from the finish line, turned back, grabbed my hand and gently said “come on, you can do this”.

Gabs

The last 6 miles are a blur. I jogged past a lot of other runners. My legs really hurt. I remember people shouting my name. I was cheered on by Action for Children staff at Mile 25 – and I remember seeing my boyfriend waving a sign in the distance, stuck in the crowds.

Before I knew it, Big Ben was towering above me. I turned a corner (or two), passed Buckingham Palace, and then looked ahead – I could see the finish line. I could also see the clock ticking - I had 3 minutes before my time hit the 6 hour mark. So I ran as fast as I could, not allowing myself to stop until I reached the finish. When my foot hit that line, I closed my eyes in relief, and I immediately started crying. It was over. I had made it in one piece.

Will this be my last marathon? Maybe, maybe not. But on Sunday, I proved to myself that I could do things I thought were impossible. And I knew that for each of the hours that I put in to that race, as difficult as they were, there was sponsorship going to Action for Children that would go on to affect young people’s lives in a positive way.

And that made the whole experience worth it.

Top tips for new runners attempting a marathon:

  • I suggest signing up for at least one half-marathon before you run the marathon – it will help you figure out how your body behaves during a race, and you’ll have a chance to adjust your habits before the big day.
  • Be brutally honest with yourself about how fast you can run *comfortably*. Don’t feel ashamed if it’s slower than other runners you know – this is your journey, and you’re running more than most people out there.
  • Run for a cause that’s close to your heart, and visualise it while you run – it will give you the courage to keep going when times get tough.
  • Remember: The human body isn’t designed to run for such a long time – but with enough willpower, you can make your body do incredible things for a great cause.

I've so far raised £1600 for Action for Children – and I’m so close to reaching my fundraising goal. If you're feeling generous today, please consider sponsoring me at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/grdesmarais.

From everyone here at Action for Children we'd like to say a huge congratulations, well done and thank you to Gabrielle! Without people like you supporting us we couldn't do the work we do. You're brilliant!

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