LONDON Marathon 22nd April 2018
by Rachael Honeywood
This was my 2nd overseas marathon, and it was always going to be very special! Growing up watching the annual event meant it was one of those bucket list runs I wanted to do, but to also be running at the same event, as my Mum was even more special.
Prep for the race had gone pretty well, and other than having a battle in the final month with my hamstring I was ready to run the race.
Arriving in London for the expo was where the excitement began. Walking into the hall and hearing the ‘London Marathon’ BBC music brought tears to my eyes. Having had 2 days on my own in London before race day I had had time to acclimatise. I also had time to realise that the weather was particularly hot for London in April. This wasn’t what I had hoped for and it certainly made me revaluate my expectations of the race.
After a good nights sleep I was up at 5am and wished that I could get out running then, rather than having to wait until the10am start. I meet my family in Greenwich and walked through Greenwich Park on our way to the start. Having lived in London for 6 years this was the first time I had been to Greenwich and I couldn’t believe the size of the park (and also the hill we needed to climb to get to the different start areas). Mum and I made our way into the designated green zone. The vibe was very different to Boston; people were far more relaxed and very chatty. Having Mum there was also great as it meant that the usual prerace nerves didn’t really kick in. I said goodbye to Mum, wishing her well and got very emotional, just before the start time and headed to my wave.
I was lucky in the fact that I was in the green group (people who were ‘good for age runners’) and so there were only 4000 runners in this area that meant that my zone crossed the start line 2 min after the gun.
I didn’t really know much about the run course, although my brother did talk me through some of it (he completed the race himself a few years ago, so was the pro in the family!) so I decided to just break it up into 5km, 10km, ½ and then the finish.
In the first 1km I was conscious that I was sweating and knew it was going to be a hot run. Running through neighbourhoods I had never heard of, there were already so many people out cheering on the course. Once again I had my name on my top, which meant that people calling my name began straight away. A smile, little wave or thumbs up became the salute I gave as thanks.
Ben and my Dad were due to be watching at the 3mile marker and I saw them before they clocked me. As I ran past I was feeling good and full of smiles.
The next 5km started to feel a little more effortful than I was expecting. The cheers from the crowds of “go Rachael” were literally every 10m and helped spur me along. But by 10km I was aware that holding onto PB pace was not going to happen. Instead I decided to aim for plan B and try and finish around 3.30.
I was amazed at the ridiculous number of people out supporting on the street. They were so loud and I honestly could never have believed that they would be more encouraging than Boston, but they were! Running past the Cutty Sark was unbelievable. It was the first of the iconic marathon landmarks I would encounter on the run. At 20km the roar crossing Tower Bridge was so immense and tears came to my eyes. Once again I thought back to my childhood and watching the Marathon on the TV and I realised that being in the race was such an amazing experience which the TV just can’t capture. As I came off Tower Bridge just before the ½ marker the 3.30 pacer past me and I knew that a 3.30 finish was unlikely.
Shortly after the leading 2 runners ran past on the other side of the road (they were at 35km I was at 22km), Sir Mo passed by on my left, he was flying and yet it looked like he was waving to the runners on the other side as we all cheered him along!
I had been told to look out for ‘team Honeywood’ dressed in Purple shirts at the 14-mile marker. However with so many people cheering, I could not see them on the right side (which was where they had said). I later found out that they were on the left hand side as the right had a band playing! They had seen me though and apparently I looked in a world of pain!
I am not sure if it was not being able to spot Tom and the kids in the crowd, the heat or the noise from the cheering but as I headed down Narrow Street towards Canary Wharf I started to shut down. I was desperate for shade (and there was none), I wanted the noise and crowds to go away and to stop in a dark tunnel. However, in what felt like the longest Km my best mate Sallie spotted me at 15mile and seeing her gave me the kick I needed. I realised that it really didn’t matter on my time. I was here running the London marathon to enjoy the race and knowing that I had friends and family out on the course was more important than the clock. This also was enough of a kick in the butt to prevent me from walking. I have no idea about the sites from 15-20 miles I literally gave up looking at my watch and just tried to soak up the atmosphere and be appreciative for being able to run. I was also aware of many of my fellow ‘Rejoovers’ back at home tracking me on the ap. Their support over the last few months also helped keep the legs turning over. As JMac had messaged me the night before “the race is the celebration of all of the hard work”.
As the 20mile approached I knew that this was another point ‘Team Honeywood” was going to be. I rounded a corner where the 14/20 mile cross over and heard an almightily “Rachael” being yelled out. The purple gang were there, I literally cut up 5 runners to make my way across to stop and thank them for coming to cheer me along, Giving both Alys and Jack a kiss really was special and if a PB had been on the cards, I’m not sure I would have stopped. I made my way back into the crowd and apologised to a couple of runners, one man told me that the sight of me kissing my children would be one he would take from the race!
The final 6 miles were really hard and the sun beating down meant that more and more people were dropping down around me. I was so conscious that I was struggling and I live in temperatures much hotter than the poor Brits who had trained in the coldest winter and endured much of it in snow. Yet I knew as I reached the 25-mile marker that the end was near. The Thames was on my left and the road was literally lined 6 deep with the different charity’s being represented out on the course. Nearing parliament I spotted the WCRF, the charity that Mum and I were raising money for. They gave me a huge cheer as I waved and passed them by on my way into the final part of the run. As I made my way down Birdcage walk I spotted a good friend George in the crowd, the smile and cheer from her and seeing the 600m to go I knew I would make the end! There was nothing left for a sprint finish and I literally had given my all as I made my way across the finish line, at the same time as a guy dressed up as Yoda (full face mask and all)!
It honestly was the hardest race I have ever run, I have no idea why I struggled so much with the sun although I did take some relief from talking to other Australians who had been out on the course who also said it was ‘brutal’. However the crowd, which lined the entire course, was AMAZING and the warmer weather certainly helped to bring people on to the streets to support us.
Having my family and friends all out cheering, as well as Mum running herself was just so special. So my mantra when things got tough was ‘this one is for them’- thank you so much to the Rejoov panthers for being wonderful running mates during the months of summer training, Greta for being a top coach, to my dear UK friends and family for being out on the course cheering me on and of course my amazing Mum…. I’m so proud of you, you really are incredible and deserve all of the praise that you have received!
Seeing my Mum run down birdcage walk (600m from the end) was wonderful! She spotted me in the crowd already wearing my medal, waved and said “Don’t worry, I am going to finish this” and my god she did… we both did!