Hazel has written a report on the London marathon which she would like everyone to share. It is, in fact, a tribute to everyone in Troon Tortoises who has supported her since she first joined us two years ago. There are many of you who have encouraged her and run with her but special thanks to George McGregor who looks after all of us but was always determined that Hazel be a full member of our Club.

London Marathon 2010
I was very fortunate to travel to London for the Marathon with two experienced marathon runners, Anne as guide runner and Anita. They both knew the ropes in terms of the expo, getting around London and importantly encouraged me to drink water for two days beforehand – and lots of it!

When we walked into the expo and the marathon theme music was playing, it just made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end , you can’t help but feel part of something big. The people at the expo were incredibly welcoming and helpful. The advice given by two sports psychologists (part of the Virgin stage) stuck with me; the crowd will get you through the first third of the marathon, your training will get you through the second third and your mind will get you through the final third.

I had felt nervous, verging on petrified about running the marathon, actually I was petrified that I wouldn’t make it! That unknown quantity beyond 22 miles had been freaking me out! However, I woke on the day of the marathon feeling surprisingly calm, I just kept telling myself this is what we have trained for and if it’s your mind that gets you through the final third – I’m hardy!

As we walked into the start area there was a real party atmosphere, Bruce Springstein blasting Baby we were born to run – totally upstaged by Anne singing at the top of her voice. Can you believe this woman’s talents, guide runner extrordinaire and she can sing and even did both while going round the marathon!

Although within the start area there were about a million portaloos, we nonetheless queued behind another 50 people for a last wee before actually going to the start. Such a long que for the loo we got to the start with just minutes to spare – which meant I didn’t have time for any last minute nerves. The pace was nice and slow to start with, utterly packed and soon we were into cheers from the crowds. The pace picked up a little bit, the comfortable pace and massive crowds meant the first 8 miles went by in a flash. We were in good company – spiderman, scoobydoo and men wearing curly wigs and dresses with running shoes of course. At Cutty Sark we were almost bulldozed by a running ice-cream cone. At this stage the course was still utterly jammed packed, but we thought just a few more miles and it will open up.

I had joked with Anne that no matter where we were on the course , when we passed Sir Richard Branson she was to get her phone out and take a photo of me with him. If only we had known we were right behind him and passed him at around 12 miles, cleverly disguised by his butterfly wings. By the half way point we realised that the field was not going to open up at all, this was really positive as we just relaxed, soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed ourselves.

We had our names on our vests and people from the crowd were shouting to us as if they knew us. Loads of people thought we were either twins or sisters! I think the catch phrase from London has to be looking good girl – shouted with a really strong London accent. The crowds were just incredible, it was a very emotional experience to turn a corner to be met with a welcoming wall of noise, cheers, horns blowing, people shouting your name. I just kept thinking I can’t believe these people who don’t know me have come out to provide this tremendous support. I have never experienced anything like it in my life. It was amazing and just carried you around the course.

One of my concerns about the marathon was whether I would be able to hear Anne above the crowds, which on the day was absolutely fine. The course was so packed Anne had to give me an almost constant stream of instructions and had to invent a new instruction ‘pause’ when runners had slowed down to get around someone walking or everyone had jammed up because the route had narrowed. In these circumstances we found ourselves putting the brakes on, something we were not accustomed to and it was sore on the legs within the first ten miles.

The distance began to kick in for me at 23 miles, my legs felt heavy and tired. At this point I kept thinking that I have to go to Ciaran’s school on the 10th of May to tell them all about the marathon. I just kept thinking, I have to tell them I finished, I want to be able to tell them I ran the whole way – and the thought of not letting Ciaran and his schoolfriends down and all the people who had given sponsorship and sent messages of support really kept me going until I felt a bit better at 25 miles. I actually found myself gritting my teeth a few times. Throughout Anne was describing what was going on, people we were passing who were in fancy dress – we passed a donkey, giraffe and four fat controllers carrying Thomas the Tank. We met another blind runner, whom we had met a couple of times at other races, as much as I felt sure he must have sustained an injury or was having a bad day, he gave us loads of encouragement as we passed him.

With 800 meters to go to the finish another runner clipped me as we turned right. The next thing I knew I was sliding along the road surface on my front. I heard a first aider ask Anne if I needed oxygen. I realised they thought I had collapsed and got up and shouted to them that I’d been tripped up, but was ok to continue. During this time there seemed to be silence. Anne told me later that the crowd were completely silent. When Anne came up to me and handed me the running rope the crowd started to chant Go go go! When we started to run the place erupted, it was an intensely emotional moment, the wave of support from the crowd just carried us to the finish. With 200 meters to go to the finish Anne asked me if I wanted to sprint to the line! I honestly wasn’t sure if I had it in me to sprint, I did try to speed up, but I don’t think you could call it a sprint!

The sense of achievement when I realised we had actually finished the marathon was just amazing. It had been such a strong personal goal to run the London Marathon, it was just fantastic to achieve it.

The magnitude of what we had achieved started to hit me on the way home the next day. All the way round the marathon I was just in awe of Anne, her ability to instruct and direct me round the course, describe what was happening around us, runners fancy dress costumes, bands, singers, banners, mile markers – all details that meant I felt fully included all the way round. If Anne felt tired at any point, she didn’t show it. Her concentration, enthusiasm and good humour did not falter once. The marathon was a really special experience for me and much of that was down to Anne and her willingness to take on the challenge of guide running round a marathon course.

Another aspect of the weekend was having the opportunity to travel with and get to know Anita, Stephen and his friend John. Anita had a bad fall during the marathon, resulting in her requiring 11 stitches in her mouth. It is a real testament to Anita’s strength of character and determination that she completed the marathon with such a severe injury.

All in all an amazing experience, I loved running the marathon and now would like to look towards a quieter event to see if I could run it closer to four hours.

A huge thank you to everyone in the club for your encouragement, support and text messages of support over the marathon weekend.