Many of you have followed my marathon journey these past 10 months so I’d like to give you an insight into my London Marathon experience. The feelings behind the smiles you see.A weekend away in London to participate in one of the biggest marathons in the world. I was beyond excited, nervous. You name it. I had that emotion. We travelled to London on Friday 26th April, we attended the “expo” and registered our places and received our official bib numbers. Trade stands galore, an overwhelming amount of pride surged through my body, I was actually doing this. We had a great day. We laughed until it hurt and we were raring to go.Saturday saw a chilled day. Family arriving (which wasn’t planned and I was over the moon) a trip to Bannatyne gym to keep these marathon trained muscles going as tomorrow was our stage. Our 26.2 lap of honour after months and months of gruelling training and injuries.A nice early night planned as my alarm was set for 5.30am. As my alarm brought me into consciousness I started to prepare for the biggest challenge of my life. I got dressed and I was ready. I had pre loaded my feet with compeed (as you know I’ve suffered heavily with blisters) I had KT tape wrapped around my body, (a roll of bubble wrap would have been more cost effective) I was ready to leave. I woke Matt up and burst into tears. “I’m so scared” I balled at him through sobs and sniffles. “You’ll be amazing babe, you’ve got this” a quick good luck cuddle and I was off. I met Tim at the hotel entrance and we headed to the nearest tube station at Vauxhall. We had no idea where we were going. But as any northerner will know, reading instructions and directions isn’t in our blood… We will “wing” it. Entering the tube station I clocked a man standing on his own with a red draw string bag hung over his shoulders. Wearing shorts and a pair of running trainers. Brilliant … I turned to Tim and whispered “we will follow this guy he looks like he knows where he’s going”. As I looked at him he spoke. “Ah at least I know I’m going in the right direction” that was it, we had a tube buddy and I was following him no matter what. We met a few others along the route but this guy had it planned. Winner. We asked his name and we found out he was called Tom. We chatted away, he was as nervous as we were but we were the comfort blanket each other needed. We got to Greenwich park looking for our charity, Sense, and their flags as we were meeting for a team photo. Nowhere to be seen. We were ushered up what I can only describe as the biggest hill in history (or at least that’s what it felt like and not what I needed prior to a 26.2 hike around London). We reached the top and there it was. Greenwich park. The start line.Tom had stopped for a well needed coffee and we waited for him just the other side of the entrance. We headed into the park looking for our charity only to realise the meet point was outside the park and we had been to early and we passed it. Never mind. Let’s set up camp and look out for some similar charity vests. 8am at this point. Tom stuck around with us, we started this together and we finished it together. We met other runners and then it was time for Tom to take his bags to the luggage trucks as he was in an earlier wave than we were… (He was a proper athlete 🤣) but first… a picture.If you’re reading this Tom. Thanks for your help buddy, we couldn’t have got there without you. 💕Cut a long wait short we were entering our pen a mere 2 and a half hours after we arrived. This is it. I’d had 3 nervous wees in this time and now it was my time. My victory lap. If only I could say that’s how it went.We entered the pen and we were ushered to the start line. Our wave was huge. We were in the middle toward the back. I clocked the 7.5 hour pacer and pointed her out to Tim. Our training hadn’t been the best and I knew if I could stick with or around her I was onto a winner. We were told the course is open for 8 hours. What they failed to mention is the course is open for 8 hours from the gun start in which Mo Farah started at 10.10am. We crossed the start line at 10.56am.We ran across the start line and the smile on my face was beaming. My nerves had left me and I was excited for the challenge ahead. That was until we reached mile 1. Yes. 1 mile into my 26.2 and a sweeper coach was on my heels. I looked at Tim and confirmed with him that this is what it was. “Just keep going we’re fine mate”. As we trundelled along I was amazed at how quiet the streets were. Tim again, reassuring me, explaining that these parts were always quiet just wait for the “proper crowds” at cutty Sark and Tower bridge. I couldn’t wait!! Leaving the Red start you complete almost 3 miles and then the red and blue start merge together. There were a few hills on our mile 2 and the coach had gone past us. Overtaken by mile 2 by the sweeper bus. This didn’t feel good. However my watch told me we were making good time. Our pace was good and my first 5k was my fastest to date. Excellent.
Miles 4 and 5 were quiet but we kept our heads down and battled along. Waving to the small crowds lining the streets. Talking to other participants in the same boat as us. We were all on our own journeys but we were very much in this together. 6 miles hit and I knew not far away was the first of our charity cheering points. I couldn’t wait to see my family. I needed a boost as this had already been hard. A cuddle from my mum would make everything ok. As we reached Cutty Sark the crowds got bigger. I could hear cheering. This is more like it I said to myself, this is where it starts to hot up.Kisses and cuddles from the family and I was ready for the next section. Just 6 more miles and I was at tower bridge. The moment I’d been so excited for. “We’ve got this Hewitt, we’re doing good.” Mile 7, 8, 9 and 10 were horrid. I was starting to feel deflated. Empty streets, a very lonely race and I started to question if I could do it. I turned to Tim and thanked him for doing this with me. He confirmed we were in it together and he would have stopped by now if I wasn’t here because it was soul destroying. I needed to carry on. I needed to do it for Tim.As we crossed mile 11 I knew we were almost at tower bridge. I told my friends back at home I would Facebook live my experience and I convinced myself I could hear the crowds screaming. We passed the mile 12 marker and I knew just around the next corner would be tower bridge. The moment I had trained so heavily for. This was my moment.It was empty. A few hundred people at best had stayed to cheer us along. It was the first moment we really had any crowd support since cutty Sark. I stuck to my promise and I went live. I was so embarrassed. I was so upset I had hyped this part of the race up and I got a few cheers at that. Not the moment I was hoping for. No official photographer for my iconic bridge shot. No wall of noise. How disappointing. I knew just after the bridge was one of the hardest parts of the race. The road is split and the runners on the other side of the barrier are running at mile 22 whilst we were approaching 13.One thing I have learnt from the running community is that no matter if you are a 4 minutes a mile runner or a 20 minute a mile runner everyone supports everyone. The amount of people clapping us as they were running in the opposite direction was wonderful. They were still supporting us at the back.A few miles past us by and I started to cry. I was hurting. I was absolutely down and out. I wanted to stop and I’d had enough. If Tim had not been with me, mile 15 would have been the end of my marathon journey. I felt so lonely, so isolated and so insignificant in this race. I had hit the wall and I was in flood of tears.The support Tim gave to me throughout this period was amazing. He was my rock and I owe him a thousand thanks and apologies for having to pull me out of this rut. His reassurance of how proud of me he was and we could do it kept me going. Only 10 miles to go. We could do this. We were hero’s and we would be getting a hero’s welcome at Buckingham palace. We had earnt our places and there was a medal waiting with my name on it in 10 miles. I cried and I cried.Then the worst thing imaginable happened. A van drove past with a sign signalling they were opening the roads and we had to complete the rest of the course on the pavement with the general public. A quick glance at my watch and we had made really good time. We were absolutely smashing it even though we were doing it with little to no crowd support we were well within the time bands. Why were they moving us onto the pavement?? Next a few workmen and their tucks came past and started clearing the blue line off the road with chemicals. Chemicals they would just spray onto the road oblivious to the fact you were walking next to it. The course around us was being dismantled. The showers that we were promised had been disconnected and the water stations had packed up and gone. We were the forgotten ones at the back of the pack. I cried and cried. Actual uncontrollable sobs. The people around me kept telling me I was amazing and we could do this together but I didn’t want to. If they are packing up, how am I ever going to finish? More chemicals sprayed at us and more lorries passing and weaving in and out of us.We were ushered onto the pavements with around 8 miles to go. Meaning my tracker was no longer allowing my friends and family back home to see my progress. I was just another civilian on the pavement of London. I expected to be treated like a celebrity on this day and I was feeling nothing short of worthless. My family were panicking thinking something was wrong. People absolutely oblivious to the fact we were still taking part. Shouting “excuse me” a million times with people ignoring us and just stopping in our tracks. Dogs on leads stopping in front of us and we couldn’t get passed. As I went to cross a road a Marshall told me I would have to stop and wait while they let a convoy of cleaners through. I lost my shit… “If you think I’m fucking stopping so you can let them through you’ve another think coming. I’m in a fucking marathon.” I was fuming. I was absolutely livid. I was finishing this race out of sheer principal of the day I had endured.As we approached embankment and the mall the sight of the marker points being taken down was the final straw.We reached Buckingham palace and I looked like the elephant man. The amount of tears I had produced was enough to sink a small ship. Tim grabbed my hand, “C’mon Downs we are finishing this in style.” We ran down the mall and crossed the finish line together. It was over. One of the worst experiences of my life was over. I hated it. I wanted so much to love it but if only we were given the chance to love it. We crossed the finish line with an official time of 7.29.44 quicker than I ever expected to do it in and well before the 8 hour cut off point. This was a fantastic achievement for us but I didn’t feel proud. TThe smiles hide a 1000 tears. As we approached the Marshall the first comment out of her mouth “Congratulations but I’m afraid we only have XS T-Shirts left. Brilliant. Why did I expect anything more. That summed up the day. My medal was presented and I didn’t feel proud. I wasn’t happy. I was deflated. Everyone talks about the marathon as the best day of your life. Well fuck me if that’s the best day I hate to get a glimpse of my worst. Thank you London. You did disappoint.