London Marathon RR - 10 Years in the Making That Almost Didn't Happen

 On April 21, I finished the London Marathon in a PW by more than an hour. I almost quit a gazillion times due to blisters on my feet that were so painful I had to power walk most of the race. That's the summarized story of this saga that started 10 years ago and that almost didn't happen.

Long AF Version

Training

As you know, I've run quite a number of marathons (53 and counting) in the last 14 years, starting in 2010. My best marathons occurred in 2012-2013 and later in 2015. After 2015, my quest to finish 50 marathons took me on a ride of perfectionism and obsession, DNFs, and later triumph. Then the pandemic happened and for some reason, my drive, paces, endurance, etc. hit an all time low. I managed one marathon since late 2019 and that was in 2022. Perimenopause drove my endurance and will to run another marathon to the lowest level ever while also driving my weight to an all time high. I felt like even running a mile (or even run/walking it) was a huge task. After the Carmel Marathon in 2022, I had no desire to run another marathon and DNSd both Chicago and Monumental in 2023 after suffering several injuries and basically deciding that maybe my marathon days were really over.

Starting in 2023, things started to change. We switch and added some medications, including HRT and a GLP-1 and things started to improve. My weight started to finally respond to my nutrition, I started to feel more like myself, injuries stopped happening. I had a good string of summer races (5Ks mostly) that showed me my speed was coming back. I was on a racing high that hit rock bottom again during a 10K in October where my left ITB tendon by the knee tightened substantially, forcing me to walk the last 1.5 miles to the finish.

Weeks of PT, lower miles and a DNS (again!) at the Monumental Half kept me going. I was running low mileage but between that and PT the leg felt stronger and stronger every day. I had no race plans until Chicago in 2024, so there was no need to hurry with training.

Until...

A friend of mine had commented that there were still some charities that had slots for the London Marathon, a marathon I've been applying to for the last 10 years without success. I wasn't in any marathon shape whatsoever but I said WTH, I'll email the charity and see if they can keep me on their waitlist and hear about later. They had all spots filled and told me they would keep me on the waitlist, which I thought was great since I was barely running 5 miles without pain. Then the next day they emailed me and said welcome to the team! Of course, I couldn't say no.

Training and fundraising went without a hitch. I had a plan to run/walk the race to make sure the leg wouldn't flare so I decided to run/walk the training to train on the goal run/walking intervals as much as possible. Our Fall, Winter, and Spring ended up being very windy, stormy and non-Wintery, so I was cooped on the TM most days to preserve my lungs. My coach gave me very challenging back to back long runs, the longest being 18/14 (Saturday and Sunday) and I kept surprising myself finishing all those runs without major issues. iFIT has the London Marathon course on the TM so I did a lot of those learning the course, the inclines, and the views. I felt like I was ready enough to tackle this race. My main goal was to finish, but part of me wanted to have a better performance than Carmel in 2022 (not necessarily by time but by how it went). Carmel gave us a day with lots of sleeting and a 20-30mph sustained winds day with up to 40mph gusts. Half of the race was towards a headwind and it was very hard for me to finish. I didn't want that to happen in London.

One of the issues I encountered were in the shoe department. After losing 38lbs in the last year and a shit ton of inflammation, all my running shoes were slightly wider and larger than before. The socks too. They didn't impede training overall and by the time I noticed, it was too late to start ordering smaller shoes to break come marathon day. In hindsight, maybe I should've.

Another issue that arose as I trained was that my right leg started dragging on most runs. At the end of training, it started dragging within seconds of my running interval. It didn't hurt or anything, but it was very frustrating. I started seeing a chiropractor two weeks prior to the race but between work and training I had no time to address this issue.

Travel

Everything went almost perfectly, until it was time to check in. We had booked the flights a couple of months prior, going from Indy to Chicago and then to London. When I went to check in for the flight, the Indy to Chicago flight was gone. Completely gone. I called American Airlines and after a 2 hour on hold and talking to customer service on and off, they "fixed" it. Yeah, right, until I saw that the London flight was completely different. Different seats (we paid for premium seats and those were gone), we were seated separate and above all, we were not leaving on Thursday, but rather Friday. I assume someone bumped us off the flights and they were in the process of fucking the reservation further when I called.

So at 2am on Thursday morning, we canceled everything and went to bed assuming we were not going. I couldn't sleep thinking about it. Part of me was relieved at not having to run the race but I really wanted to go after 10 years waiting. The charity was nice and had told me they could defer me if I couldn't make it, but I still was disappointed.

On that morning, my husband looked at flights through Delta and found us a better flight, stop in NY, seats, and even better arrival time at the same price as the other flights. He booked us off and we had to scramble to repack what we hadn't finished as we left 3 hours earlier than planned. In that rush, I apparently forgot my charity tank. I brought everything but a top and arm warmers even though I had packed them 2 weeks prior. I still haven't found the tank.

We arrived in London Friday late morning and head straight to the hotel. Our hotel was around 0.6 miles from the finish line near Buckingham Palace on Westminster. It was a great hotel and if we ever head back to London, we will probably stay there again. Great service, great food at the hotel and nearby, peaceful, and quiet.

We took the Underground to the expo and got my bib pretty quickly. The expo was pretty organized. I wanted to get something from the official gear merchandise but when I saw the New Balance London Comp Elite shoes, I had to have them. After that giant purchase, I didn't get anything else, but it was worth it.

We got back to the hotel and then did a bit of sightseeing nearby but it was raining. I thought we had kept it pretty down low until I saw I had already walked 10 miles that day, including the airport and the underground. Even taking the train, it was like 1/2 mile each way to get in and out, tons of stairs, etc. I didn't think anything of it and felt fine. I hydrated extra through the day to make up for it. 

Saturday came in and our plan was to do a shakeout run in the morning, then head to Big Ben and tour there. We didn't plan to be so exhausted from the American Airlines debacle and the flight into London where we didn't sleep thanks to three crying babies, we woke up at noon on Saturday. We didn't have many places to visit once we had lunch and headed out, so we took it all in stride, took a couple of pictures and got back to Westminster for a carbo loading dinner and hopefully a good night of sleep. I slept poorly but not as poorly as when I am home with a crying 17 year old cat, so there is that. Still, I walked 8 miles on Sunday and my socks were moving all over the Hoka Bondis I brought to walk on and off during the day.

Race

Since I brought clothes to run on Saturday and I never did, I had a short sleeve shirt I could wear for the race. Weather was perfect (40-53F for the race, cloudy, but slightly windy). I woke up a bit earlier than I had planned so I got ready and headed to the Victoria Station to take a train at 8:30ish to the start. After I was there, I realized the corrals didn't really close until 1-2 minutes before the start of said wave/corral, so I could've taken the 9:07am train instead. If I run London again, I'm taking more time at the hotel than at the starting area because the wind was brutal and we were all frozen bits of humans by the time we started.

Miles 1-5

These miles went well, really well. I started with my run/walking plan and performed it to the letter, I felt relaxed, no longer freezing, and it felt easy. I was aware of the pace but was not seeking a specific one nor trying for one. I had my collapsible water bottle filled with Lucozade (the London Marathon hydration drink similar to Orange Gatorade) and I was drinking a couple of sips every mile like I did in training. I had my first gel at 4.5 miles and felt in control through these miles.

Miles 6-10

I was still feeling OK between miles 6-8, but the balls of my feet started bothering me. The sock was moving front and back on and off, so I stopped at some point to tighten the shoes and continued. I did this in two separate miles. The leg dragging became a bit more pronounced but nothing major at this point. It still felt super easy but by Mile 8, the balls of my feet were killing me. Absolutely burning the life out of me. Every step was becoming a PITA. So I walked part of Mile 10 and tried to run again, same pain/burning sensation. When I stopped to check at Mile 9 or 10, I had blisters on several toes. WTF.

Miles 11-20

I walked some more and tried the next mile to run, and again, big nope. At this time I realized running would probably hurt more and would kill my feet faster than if I walked so I texted my husband to say my feet are fucked, I'm fully walking and not even halfway so he knew it was going to take a while. I wasn't sure if I could finish. He texted me back, good thing you're way ahead of the last corral and you got this.

So I started my strategy of power walking until my feet give up. I started on Wave 11 and there were around 20 waves. The race has an 8 hour limit from the last wave so I had quite a bit of cushion to work with. What I wasn't sure was whether I could do it. I've never power walked 17 miles before, least of all in pain. But only one way to find out, I guess. 

I got some pretty cool pictures during these miles. Best part was crossing the Tower Bridge:


My running gait is so tiny, you can't even tell the difference between walking and running in these pictures.

My spirits were good and I talked to many people during these 17 miles, saw great costumes and great people putting it all out there. I would walk with some people for 1-2 miles, then let them go and continued my thing. 


I stopped at a medical tent to get my feet wrapped. Sadly, the volunteers put the running tape so quickly it became undone soon thereafter. Fortunately, they had bandaged my right foot and that one stopped hurting as much as the left did. I tried a little joggity jog around Mile 17 but my calf started hurting within 1-2 steps indicating that I was changing my gait due to the blisters and it wasn't a great idea to keep pushing that calf since that's the one I tore a couple of years ago.


Miles 21-26.2

I seriously didn't think I would make it. I was in pain and all this time, I felt like the sweepers were coming behind me if I slowed down anymore. After the medical tent stop I vow not to stop to get the feet wrapped again to not waste any time (that visit cost me around 5-7 minutes). It wasn't until Mile 21 that I walked with a British girl that told me she came from the last wave and on pace to a 6:30 and told me you have at least 1.5 hours behind you so you got this. That gave me such a boost to keep pushing.

Every so often, I would text my husband to get a pep talk because it was hard. Every step hurt and it took what seems like forever to get to Mile 23. It was only then that I knew I would finish.

I kept seeing the different pacers pass me. Around this time the 6:30 pacer passed me and then I saw the 7 hours. I thought I could try for sub-7 but wasn't going to happen unless I developed wings, so I didn't let it stress me. Around Big Ben, I started seeing the Sub-7:30 pacers and I was on par to finish around that time so my goal was to keep with those pacers no matter what.



As I have done the marathon course with iFIT many times (they have the London Marathon from the Fall post pandemic), I knew where the last turns were and how they looked like. I knew I was basically close to the finishing chute after Big Ben and I knew how many turns were left. This is the last turn right before the finish line appeared. London counts down from 800m left, 400, and then 200 when you hit that last turn. I tried to run to the finish but the calf was like not today, so I power walked as fast as I could when I realized sub-7:30 was actually possible.

I barely made it: 7:29:27.

Slowest marathon by an hour if not slightly more. I cried after I finish, not from emotion, but from the pain and that I was finally fucking done, lol. I still had a mile walk to the hotel, though. Wasn't looking forward to that.

As soon as I finished, I took my medal, a bottle of Lucozade and headed to the family area. I got a picture taken around here where you can see I'm in pain.


And headed to find my husband. He got lost so I met with a friend from the Fishers Running Club, then sat on the sidewalk to wait for him. The walk back to the hotel was slow and painful but I had made it.

I didn't have many emotions about this race. I wasn't disappointed at how it went, but a bit frustrated. I was pretty neutral about it, though. Marathons are like that; you never know what's going to happen and how you will react to them. I normally quit and live to fight another day but I wasn't sure if I would ever had the chance to run London again and after 10 years of waiting, I better finished. So pretty proud that I did.

I am still limping a bit. The leg tendon is still sore AF and I didn't realize how sore you could be after walking that much. It feels like I raced this marathon, if that makes sense?

My first reaction was I'm never doing this again. Followed by, oh, well, let me enter the ballot for 2025...






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