It’s going to be a long one!
I woke up on Sunday morning at 6.30am. I didn’t need to get up until 7, but I couldn’t sleep.
My night hadn’t been the best, I kept waking up but I didn’t feel too tired. I got ready, put on all my kit that I had set out the night before and then headed into the kitchen for breakfast. I wasn’t feeling too hungry but I knew it was important to eat so I battled my way through a bagel and a half…not the first battle of the day I was sure.
I was staying at Mum’s house and Dad was going to pick us up at 7.45am. Mum decided to come up with me and Dad so she could be there at the start to see me off.
Dad arrived and I was nervous. I was anxious about getting there on time and with everything okay. But the journey was pretty easy and Dad put on Disney’s greatest hits to keep me calm. As we approached Blackheath we found the most perfect parking spot and with that we were there.
There was a buzz in the air and runners were walking with their loved ones to the start line. As we walked to the Red Start I was feeling particularly calm which was good. Mum said she needed to the loo so I queued with her and then after that we said our goodbyes and I headed into the runners only section.
I went to drop off my bag, got some water and then went to make my way to my start pen. On the way I bumped into an old school friend who I haven’t seen in years. We gave each other a hug and wished each other luck and it was super nice to see a friendly face.
I was in Start Pen 9. That’s the last pen – I must have estimated I would finish in 5hrs and over when I initially signed up because this was a much slower pace pen that I was now currently aiming for.
The crowd were great, they were people dressed up, thousands in charity jerseys, people singing and talking to strangers. When the gun went off at 10am we all got very excited. However as we were in the last pen it did take us 26 minutes to even get to the start line.
Off I went and initially it was pretty difficult to have room to move. I was running at a pace that was obviously a faster and I kept getting stuck behind groups of runners – but I weaved my way around and at about half a mile in I saw Mum and Dad waving their flag and they were wishing me luck.
Before I knew it 5 miles had just flown by! I thought wow if it all goes as fast as this I’ll be in no problem. I’d also managed to see one of my friends and also my cousin and her boyfriend. In fact with both these people I spotted them first and shouted for them!
The first big moment of the race came when we entered Greenwich. It was LOUD. There was so many people cheering and clapping. There were so many people to look at. I knew Mum and Dad would be around here and also my boyfriend Stu was due to be here too. Before the race we had sorted out flags with most of my supporters and I knew what flag I was looking out for for each of them.
There he was. Stu. With the big yellow smiley face flag and he looked super excited to see me, jumping up and down and it was lovely to see him. I wasn’t stopping and kept that memory with me as I moved on. I saw my Mum, my Dad and then the Headway cheering point, the charity I was running it for. Greenwich meant a lot to see all of these people and it was amazing…then I ran past the Cutty Sark! Madness I tell you.
It was so loud, so many MORE people! The boat itself was pretty spectacular and I began to realise that this was going to be a great experience.
The next aim now was to make it to Tower Bridge – the half way point and where I’d see Mum and Dad for the third time. But it was starting to get hot now and there was still 7 miles to go.
‘Oww’ I thought. ‘My arm!’. With all the excitement at the beginning of the race I had totally forgotten to put the vaseline on my arms and as they were moving back and forth one of them was totally rubbing with each stroke. ‘It’s fine. It doesn’t really hurt’ I kept telling myself. But truth be told it did! How was I going to make it through?
‘Mum will be at Tower Bridge Siobhan, she’ll have the Vaseline and you can sort it there. Just keep going, get there and it will be fine!’ So with that in mind I focused on just getting there. But it hurt and I couldn’t get it out of my head enough. ‘Why are people just offering out sweets here? Surely someone will have Vaseline? Will I see a runner get some out? I can ask for some?’ Nope no runners with Vaseline, it’s not happening I just had to keep going.
Then suddenly an angel in a St John’s ambulance uniform was standing there ahead of me, tub in hand. ‘IS THAT VASELINE?!’ I shouted. ‘Yes’ she said and with that I took the biggest dollop of Vaseline and rubbed it all in my arm. I had loads left on my hand and had to wipe it on my leggings as vaseline hands are not ideal for grabbing water bottles with.
Things started to get easier again. My arm felt great and I began enjoying the crowds once more. ‘Really take it in Siobhan’, I said to myself and as I was looking into the crowds another friend appeared ‘Siobhan!!!! GO SIOBHAN’ he shouted. He looked pretty happy and I noticed the can in his hand. Woo! Drink! Drink to my acheivement!
Before long I began to see the tall bits of Tower Bridge in the distance and then as I approached the bridge the pink flag appeared once more – it was Mum and Dad. I ran over to their side and waved. As I got closer Mum handed me a spare gel and I smiled at them both as they cheered me on.
Tower Bridge is a real amazing sight. It’s even more of a sight running on it with hundreds of people. It was super cool! My friend was also going to be on the bridge with the charity she works for, Shooting Star Chase, so I looked out for her flag and gave her a big high 5 when I ran past!
It was breathtaking but with the end of Tower Bridge it means you have to run in the wrong direction away from The Mall until you come back again about 10 miles later. I think mentally this is challenging knowing your so close but then so far away.
‘Keep going Siobhan!’ ‘You’re doing really well’ I kept saying to myself and began to focus on the running. ‘SIOBHAN!’ I heard from the crowd – now this isn’t something new, I have my name on my top and lots of people are shouting my name and cheering me on, but this one felt different, more direct – I looked back and it was my sister’s boyfriend shouting my name and my sister standing there cheering next to him. What a surprise. I had expected to see her at Tower Bridge but that was miles behind now and I had no idea she was going to be there.
I kept plodding along – then I heard the BIGGEST cheer and it was shouting my name!! I looked over the road to the other side where the runners were coming back and on that side of the pavement were two aunties, six cousins and 4 second cousins jumping up and down and cheering!!! ‘YEAH’ I thought as I smiled and waved. Shortly after a man came running up behind me ‘You’re Siobhan. I work with Catriona.’ It was my cousins friend and he had heard them cheer me, they then saw him and cheered him and he caught up to say hi.
16 miles in. ‘Okay 10 miles to go. This is starting to get hard. No! Stop thinking negatively!’ Well in hindsight I was right. Thing were starting to get hard and much earlier than I had thought it would. I was pretty sure I would make it to 20 miles before things started to hurt but my thighs were beginning to tighten up, my hips were sore and my lower back was reminding me it was there. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that at 17, Stu would be there again.
Last year when I went to watch my Dad the first place we saw him was 17 miles in and he looked great. I kept trying to remind myself that ‘it’s just 17 it’s not that hard yet.’ But it was of course a total lie that I was telling myself.
The yellow smiley face flag.
‘It’s Stu!’ I could see he was with his friend Ryan now. I just needed to touch him and as I ran past I held his hand and said ‘This is hard!’ He smiled at me and I went off. That little touch gave me the power to keep going.
‘Come on Siobhan just get to 20! Keep going strong to 20! You’ll be at 19 any minute’. When I run sometimes I cannot think straight at all – I guess my body is concentrating on other places but the saddest moment happened when I reached the mile marker and it was 18 miles. ’18?! What? I thought it was 19? Ohhh!’ I had to try and forget it and just keep going, it may seem a small mistake but at that moment with my legs tightening, it felt terrible.
Things started to pick up again when I reached the Canary Wharf area. Another busy area full of people cheering, drums, music – literally a constant roar of noise. There were people to look at again, exciting things to see and before I knew it, I was past 19, had seen a group of work friends, and had picked up the pace.
However soon after it became quiet(er) again, more and more runners were lying on the side of the road having medical treatment and it began to be a little scary. My pace slowed and I had to avoid the runners in trouble – ‘eyes up, head up, stay strong, stay focused’.
20 miles!! YES I made it! And to reward my efforts I saw another friend.
‘Just a 10km now Siobhan that’s all. You can do this. What I want you to do is make it to 21. That’s all you need to do.’
‘Okay Siobhan this is great well done! The pace you got, it’s good. Keep it. Stay comfortable. What I want you to do is make it back to the family – once you’re there you’ll be close to Tower Bridge again and then it’s easy street.’
As I was getting closer to where I could remember they were I was looking out for their flag and I saw another that I recognised!?! Roisin, my sister. Once again in a place she didn’t tell me she was going to be. I ran to her side of the road and as I went past I told her how it was getting hard. It wasn’t easy anymore, it wasn’t a breeze and I needed to get the negative out again I needed to tell her.
Before long I made it to the family again! I could hear there cheers as I was approaching and it was the first time I thought I might just burst into tears – they were all here cheering for me and they were all willing me on so much and my heart was literally so full at that moment. But as I got closer I knew I needed to smile at them and with that the tears subsided and mile 22 was in the near distance.
‘One more Siobhan. Get to 23.’ I saw Stu and Ryan again! ‘The next time I see them I’ll be done.’
23 miles. ‘YES! COME ON! 5k left’.
From this point it was now super busy, there were even more people everywhere. But it was also the point that I knew I’d finish it. There’s no way whatever happens I won’t be able to run 3 miles. I saw a few more friends, some unexpected, some were.
Before I did the marathon I was warned about the Tunnel of Doom – a tunnel by Embankment where no crowds can go in, runners are crying, some stretching by the sides, you can only hear footsteps, breath, tears and huffs. It was in the near distance then all of a sudden, before I entered the tunnel, on a footbridge I saw a pink flag. ‘That looks like Dad’s flag’ I thought.
‘GO ON SIOBHAN. NEARLY THERE DARLING’ Dad shouted. And I looked up and there were my parents waving and cheering. Mum waving around another pair of gels – how she thought she’d get them to me from up there I don’t know – but I didn’t need them. What a great place to enter the Tunnel of Doom.
It was as the people said it would be but I kept running and near the end was light and loud music, a tannoy and cheering people. I kept running. Out of the tunnel.
The London Eye in sight. I kept running.
24 miles. I kept running.
Then Big Ben in sight. ‘You’re so close now Siobhan just aim for Big Ben’.
I saw my running club friend Mike, I heard SO many people shout my name over and over. These strangers willing me on in the last few miles.
Big Ben got closer and closer and after that Birdcage Walk just happened. There was a sign 600m to go. ‘One and a half round the track, that’s all this is!’ Then there was a 400m sign. ‘That’s just one lap of the track – you can do that.’
Then around the roundabout and there it was – the finish line.
I ran as fast as I could! I think I ran a bit earlier than I should have but I wasn’t stopping now.
Arms up and across the finish line in 4hrs 16mins and 05 seconds. It was over. I did it!
I did it. I ran 26.2 miles.
I got my medal (sadly no sign of any royals for me) and then because I had finally stopped running after 4 hours my legs started stiffening up even more and I developed a nice little shuffle to collect my bag and walk all the way along The Mall until I caught up with Mum, Dad, Stu and Ryan.
It truly was the best thing I’ve done. It was hard, it was challenging but it was amazing and I did it.
We traveled to The Cock Tavern Pub after to celebrate and there were all my supporters and extra family and friends. I celebrated lots and was on the biggest high. It was so lovely to see everyone there and a big thanks to everyone who came out to the pub and the race!
The next day was another challenge in itself. My legs were sore! Going down stairs? That was out of the question! I walked no faster than a shuffle for the full day. But I had a medal and I felt like the pain was worth it.
By Wednesday my legs were back to normal but still best to rest up for a while.
The London Marathon was ridiculously well organised. The Buxton Water stations were all well supplied at all times, the volunteers smiley when they handed out the bottles. The bag drop/pick up was easy. The route was amazing! It was everything it needed to be. The worst thing about it was that it was over.
Overall, I have currently raised just over £4000 (£4,500 with Gift Aid) for Headway and I am proud to have been able to help them. (If you still want to sponsor me you can the link is below.)
For me this can’t be the end of my marathon career. I have more in me. I need to do this again! It’s hard but it’s rewarding – keeps you fit and is like nothing else I’ve ever done.
So even though it’s a break from marathon for the rest of the year I won’t stop running and it’s not the end…It can’t be.
I’m running the London Marathon to raise money for Headway, the brain injury association. You can sponsor me here: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SiobhanSharp
To find out more about Headway and what they do visit their website here.