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Lucy Hale forgets about time and enjoys the experience of the toughest London Marathon on record

The memory of my name being pulled out 12th at the Marathon Marshals After Party last year still feels like it was yesterday. You know just how much you want it in those seconds, I was thrilled, shocked, but so happy. Perfect, I thought, time to put right my previous best of 5hrs and 3 minutes. Getting under 5hours was the aim. Time flew by and the real training began… an early calf injury set me back a good few weeks. The doubt set in and as the day got closer sub 5 got more distant.

 

As a second timer at London I didn’t experience any of the first time nerves I had two years ago. It was all excitement… the build up, the good luck messages, the finishing line, the medal! I ignored the fact my mind wouldn’t let me think about the small bit of the running I’d have to complete in the middle. I’d done it before, it’d be fine.

 

So Marathon week came round with a weather forecast that meant all my training in the cold, the rain, the wind, the snow left me questioning my ability to do this. But still feeling excited I stood filled with pride watching the Queen about to start the race on the big screen in the red start, listening to the National Anthem. If I finish between 5hours 15 and 5hours 30 I’ll be happy. Off we go. It’s hot but it’s ok… I’ve got this. 5 miles in, it’s really hot, I don’t really got this anymore. Lots more water then I’m used to taking and I have to stop at the toilets for the first of a thousand stops. Once I’ve stopped it’s harder to get back in the rhythm. The 5hrs finish is long gone. 5hrs 30 will be just right. But every mile I’m getting slower. Just not used to this heat. My running always seems to tail off over the summer months. The crowds are amazing. Such a buzz hearing your name and making eye contact with that person. I always call out “Thank you!” But sometimes I just had to mouth it.

I saw my family at around 10 and then 11 miles. It was so welcomed, I stopped for a short while. Their encouragement gave me a boost to get going again and I continued walk/running and looking forward to crossing Tower Bridge. It didn’t disappoint, just what I needed at that point as I ran across towards the Highway. Here it got tougher, more walking for longer. By 14 miles I was really questioning what I was doing! Still so far to go. It was a constant battle between mind and legs. When my watch showed 3hours 50 mins I remembered this was the time I’d done a 20 mile run a few weeks back so getting to only 16 miles at this point was crushing. The moment I passed my previous London Marathon time was really tough too, knowing I was still over an hour to finishing (And that was only if I ran it all).

Slowly but surely I passed each mile marker. By 20 miles I was tracking 0.7 miles over which was a real blow. But the miles kept on passing. I saw my family again along the return leg of the Highway. I felt terrible I’d kept them waiting for so long in the heat but they were so lovely and reassuring. By now I was really struggling… a blister on the base of my big toe and knee not feeling great and such heavy aching feet. It was less painful to run than walk but harder to get going each time, 6 hours passed. I ploughed on and saw more family at 40k.

 

Last push, I was going to do this. The more I ran at this stage the more the crowd would call to me. Such a boost. The last two miles I found I had more energy than during the whole run… but going so slow and on my feet for so long had left me hurting a lot. The crowds deepened at Big Ben. I didn’t quite have it in me to run all the way so slowed down at the 400 meters to go sign gearing up for my finish…. turning in past Buckingham Palace was amazing. I am there. I’m going to do this. Deep breath and go. Running that last bit felt amazing. The struggle of the whole run forgotten in an instant, the time was irrelevant. I had done it!!!

 

vlm medals

A medal and a hug from Tracey – perfect. Then I got to see Lisa, Caroline and Monica. Is there a better group of people than Sandhurst Joggers to have waiting for you at the finish. We are so lucky.
The pain then multiplied…picking up my bags and walking off I had years in my eyes but

the after marathon buzz kept me going. So many messages of support. All worthwhile. It didn’t pan out how I hoped. But I loved it all (easy to say that now). My official time was 6hrs 34 mins 59 secs. It’s too early to feel OK with that right now. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed. I felt cheated that I can walk down the stairs OK today (although I’m told tomorrow will be worse so I might retract that bit!) But I also know what I’d tell anyone else in my situation. It would be all the kind, caring, reassuring things I’ve been told today. I do seem to have a love/hate journey with my running. But it is just that, a journey, and I’m not at the end yet.

 

The London Marathon is such an amazing event, the support from anyone involved is incredible. I know what a privilege it is to run this amazing course and I have been lucky enough now to do it twice.
So would I consider doing it again? 100% yes and I already can’t wait!
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