What a lead up. Completing the NY marathon in November last year I knew I wanted to have a go at another world major. They are my idea of fun. The training, the travel and then the actual event. London 2019 was the obvious choice as it was a perfect excuse for me to visit Charlie and Georgia. All I had to do was get through the stupid jaw surgery and start running again. I love training for an event and this was going to be fun. I missed out on the ballot, so got my entry through Prosport. Such a great group of like-minded people, all having the goal of finishing a 42km run in front of Buckingham Palace.
Race morning went smoothly. 5.30am breakfast and a 7am bus trip down to the start with the Prosport crew. It was pretty cold and we all huddled up in our op shop gear waiting for the start which was about 2 hours away. Plenty of laughs, bananas and vaseline were shared. We were all in the second wave of the blue group - supposedly capable of running a 3.5 hr marathon. I would have been very comfortable with that 35 years ago.
The start wasn’t nearly as impressive as NY - no policeman with firearms, no national anthem and no city views. Just lots of shivering, excited people ready to make their way to Buckingham Palace. I had taken strong painkillers and was told to take a couple more about 2 hours into the race. Just about to start, I peeled off my layers, but kept my gloves on.
There were 3 different start areas and each area had several start groups. There wasn’t really an issue with crowds once the running started. I was pretty sure that my body wouldn’t cope that well, so decided to just run to feel and try to get to the finish as quickly as possible. Once I started I was so excited. Absolutely no need to run with headphones as the crowd support was incredible. One of the funniest things was about a mile into the course, we went down a road that had numerous speed humps. On each hump there were two volunteers whose roles were to alternately call out ‘hump, hump, hump, hump’ - that was so funny!
I had a mini panic when I realised I had missed the first drink station. They do occur every couple of km and it certainly wasn’t hot - I was pretty sure if I collapsed it wouldn’t be from dehydration! There must have been at least 15 drink stations along the course and no paper cups. Plastic bottles with spout tops were used, which I was amazed with. Whilst they were so easy to drink from they seemed an unbelievable environmental disaster. Made me smile thinking of all the protestors in London for the last couple of weeks who had been camping out, causing havoc in the streets and supergluing themselves to various landmarks in support of climate change. I guess the protestors weren’t amongst the 42,000 people who were running with me and I’m pretty sure they weren’t one of the wonderful volunteers on the day. If it had been in Melbourne, poor Rimo would have been so stressed as it was quite a windy morning and his many thousands of cups would have been flying down St Kilda Rd.
10kms in, I was feeling great and took one of my gels. Had to take one of my gloves off to open it and continued running with one glove. Post race, Charlie said I was doing a Michael Jackson impersonation. There were so many people running in crazy costumes, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make the highlights footage! Next gel at 20 km, my hand was so cold I had to ask someone in the crowd to open it for me.
The crowd were absolutely incredible - bigger and louder than NY I reckon and that’s saying something. For most of the course they were on both sides of the roads at least 5 rows thick. There weren’t too many people who ran with their names displayed - the elite had names not numbers, but the Prosport crew had names and numbers. I felt that I had as many people cheering for me as Sir Mo did!
The absolute highlight for me was running over London Bridge. It was just before half way and I felt great. I had tried not to look at my watch, but knew I was running well. I saw the photographers there and even cracked a smile and gave them a thumbs up. London Bridge was so impressive, colourful, beautiful and such a London landmark leading onto the Tower of London nearby. There were a couple of tunnels we had to run through and in one of them a runner yelled out ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’ it was amazing how many people joined me in yelling back the echoey ‘oi,oi,oi’. What an event!
At about the half way mark, the course did a 15km loop and in parts I could see some of the faster runners returning, I even saw some of the ‘named not numbered’ elite runners. I had gone through the first half faster that I had two weeks earlier in Central Park - I couldn’t resist looking at my watch. I was doing so well. Thought that if I had gone half an hour quicker, I might have seen Kipoche, Sir Mo, Ketaney and the Aussie runners Sinead Diver and Jack Rayner running. That would have been so awesome.
30km, another request to the crowd to open my gel and I just couldn’t decide whether to take more painkillers - I was told I probably should. I was hurting so I thought yep, just take them. Unfortunately one dropped on the ground and when I bent down to pick it up I knew I was in big trouble. Obviously I kept going but I felt really nauseous and light headed. I knew my great run was over and I just had to try and hang on and get the job done. To be honest I don’t really remember much of the last 10km. Thankfully London Eye and Big Ben with its scaffolding momentarily caught my attention. I did end up walking a bit and so wanted to rip my ‘Wendy shirt’ off - I should have turned it inside out. I reckon there should be a rule that you don’t cheer anyone who is walking - no one running wants to walk. I was so close to screaming out ‘shut up’ but that might have taken over from my Tower Bridge highlight. How funny would that have been though. It was even worse when I started ‘plodding’ again - the cheering was unbelievable. Oh god, I hated that.
Even at the one km to go sign I couldn’t pick up - I was gone. Not really my knee, my quads were smashed. Yep, being AWOL from training the last couple of months sure caught up with me. Thankfully I was back to reality for a moment when I heard a familiar ‘mum, mum, mum’ from the crowd. I turned to see Charlie with a huge grin on his face and then saw Georgie in her pink beanie running through the crowd cheering and smiling. That was so special after all those kms to see those two smiling faces there to support me! I knew Georgia and the rest of the Nobles (with the two prams) would have been squished in amongst the crowds as well. I don’t remember much of the last 500m, apparently the flags lining the Mall were amazing. I was oblivious to the photographers on the finish line so I won’t be updating my social media profiles with a smiling ‘Wendy does London’ photo.
I do remember that wonderful feeling of ‘YES I DID IT!’ once I plodded across the finish line. Pretty amazing that less than a month ago I couldn’t run. I had so much support from family, friends and the Prosport team and that sure helped get me to Buckingham Palace. And whilst the Queen wasn’t there to present me with my medal, I probably wouldn’t have remembered it anyway. I believe Prince Harry was there to congratulate the top ‘named not numbered’ runners. I don’t think he greeted me, but maybe he did.