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Caroline Stuart battles through the pain barrier to claim her marathon PB at London

“Marshaling the London Marathon is always a fantastic experience”- that’s what I said last year after a very long but amazing day. When I got home I received that dreaded question “Did you put your name in the ballot?” Of course I had but I wouldn’t get in so no need to worry about that. Mmmmmm I thought to myself when I see I am near the top of the Marshall list… apparently I did get in!
Training went well until the first slightly longer runs hit 10 miles and a sharp pain in my right foot literally stopped me in my tracks. I remember thinking later the next day whilst sitting in A&E that my London race was over before it had really started… luckily no fracture, just lots of rest needed! Regular visits to the physio continued who was quietly confident he could get me ready if I took it easy and followed a plan.
Sunday morning 5am wake up call came round too quick!! I’d been so so nervous all week, more so than when I’d run it before.. couldn’t really work out why? Perfect weather conditions when we got off the coach, 3 visits to the toilet and it was already time to put the bags in! Only me and Royston in red pen 6 so we headed to the baggage trucks but I managed to lose him there, not a good start! Lining up at the start a familiar face tapped me on the back! Only thing now between me and the start line was the most annoying bloke behind us telling the most awful jokes .. anyone looking for a PB just needed him following them the whole way!!
Easy through the start line, bit stop and start in places, Royston and I managed to stay together for the first 14 miles, good team work passing and picking up water and lucozade at each station.  At times the pace was a little quicker than intended but then we’d get caught up to a walking pace and felt fine again. The sun was getting up now and the heat in places was quite unbearable. I knew my family were waiting just after Tower Bridge, I dived to the right hand side and managed to catch a glimpse of my husband and son waving a gel at me. Grabbed that and off I went again. Royston said he was going to drop off at some point soon, a few minutes later I turned round and he was gone.
From the start line I’d been running a Parkrun in my head each time so 15 miles seemed to come quickly along with Royston’s help. I had my camelbak on which I’ve trained with for lots of runs – I could feel it starting to really rub on my skin on my neck and was happy to see a St Johns ambulance hand smothered in Vaseline … I scooped some as I ran past and that really helped.
The last part of the next Parkrun to mile 18 was really tough. At mile 17 I suddenly felt a pain on the inside of both my knees, not one I’d ever felt before. By mile 18 the pain was now in my left leg and in my foot… CRAMP… never before have I ever suffered so started to question how I would get through the next 8 miles with this excruciating pain…
Mile 20 was the next target. As soon as I got to the target balloons I had to give in and stop. holding onto a barrier for dear life while stretched my left leg. Why why was this happening and why today?? I walked for the count of 20 and then started running again –  it had eased a little but not much.
Now I decided to start counting down in km not miles to change my way of thinking although this didn’t help and I felt that each km just wouldn’t come. The sun was beating down with no shade in sight but I knew my family were waiting at mile 24. I could see the London Eye and I knew they were close but I kept looking and couldn’t see them. I grabbed another barrier and stopped to stretch as the pain was unbearable. I didn’t want them to see me walking! It hurt more to walk than it did now to continue running. I carried on and saw another gel waving at me! I shouted CRAMP at them and carried on.
The last bit left but it seemed to go on and on and on. I had my eyes fixated on Big Ben but I had to stop again and limp on my toes. Then I felt a friendly tap on my arm … The lovely Jackie shouting at me “come on, only 10 more minutes, 10 more minutes and it’ll be over”. I just couldn’t muster the energy to keep running… off she disappeared… then I had a sneak peak at my watch .. I could still make a good time. The next thing I remember is seeing “800 metres to go” and thinking my daughter can run 800 metres so I’m damn sure I can. The 600 metres board didn’t come quick enough.. I don’t remember 200 metres feeling so long! I looked at my watch… still a good time and still a PB. I hadn’t run through so much pain to come away disappointed… round the corner and I could see the finish line… I had to pull up again… “Come on, pull yourself together” I shouted at myself. Looked at the watch again. Needed a real shift on to make it.
John King medal & tshirt vlm
I don’t remember anything else until seeing the lovely Claire Hobson with that gleaming medal. I’d looked forward to seeing the “385 metres to go” sign… missed it completely! As soon as I felt the medal I cried like a baby.
I managed to find my family through a Horse Guards Parade and a quick exit to get home. A new marathon PB and lots of money raised for my charity so all in all a great, amazing day… however one tinged with a lasting memory of cramp that will forever be etched in my London marathon 2017 memories.

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