This week will end with the one of the greatest days in the lives of thousands of people. Yes, it’s London Marathon week. Runners from home and overseas will descend on the English capital for their first ever attempt at the 26.2mile distance.
Termed the ‘the great suburban Everest’, the race has become the ultimate bucket list challenge for the everyman. It is an event that inspires and motivates like no other in the UK.
A marathon is a huge challenge, from the elite field through to the charity joggers. All will experience some dark moments and most – not all - will emerge to cross the finish line, having overcome serious adversity during the race.
For the first timers, the experience has special significance. The training is now behind them, they have soaked up all the advice from experienced marathon runners, read up the tips from running websites, magazines and books and now they are meticulously planning their race day.
Everything from what tube line to get to the startline, where to consume their first gel to what points their family and friends will be supporting them from. Despite all the planning, all the preparation, there is still so much they don’t know. ‘Will I hit the wall?’ ‘What pace is realistic?’ they might be asking themselves.
One thing they can be sure of is that if they get to that finish line, it will be one of the greatest days of their lives. I still recall my first marathon at London 2004 with the same cherished affection. It was hard. Really hard. Much harder than I’d even dared imagine. But I learned a lot in those 3 hours and 48 minutes.
I had resolved to run every step and at around 18 miles, it began to really hurt. No longer was I running like I had on those jaunty six milers I had started my training with back in January. This was something different entirely.
I had to dig very deep and face up to some serious self-doubts. But, lifted by seeing loved ones on the route and being urged on by the truly incredible crowds, I gritted my teeth and made it. Crossing the line was everything I’d hoped it would be. A feeling of sheer joy washed over me.
I still remember the volunteer who placed the medal over the neck at the finish. He grabbed my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said: “Well done. You’ve done something amazing today.” I never forgot those kind words.
Sunday will be incredible for thousands of runners. I hope it will be It will be a day they never forget too.