I had a mentally emotional and physically very painful day yesterday, attempting and eventually completing the Virgin London Marathon.
I have no inclination to go into the physical nature of the run itself and how it pushes you to your absolute limits etc, etc. Others will understand and therefore be able to much better explain the physicalities of what you do to your body when competing in a marathon, plus I don’t even want to remember how the run itself made me feel right now.
But in order for the main part of this post to make much sense, I must briefly explain how my particular marathon went.
It started well. I had done some fundraising for Asthma UK, and I was excited about the run, having done the training. I knew in the back of my head it should be possible to run the thing. And the first half went well – I completed it in about two hours – a time I was very happy with.
But then a hip joint injury that’s been hanging around, but had not been too debilitating until yesterday, kicked in. And shortly after mile 15 I stopped in agony. I walked a bit, hoping the pain would subside enough that I could continue running again, but unfortunately every time I tried there was a searing pain down my leg, and I knew I was doing myself real physical damage by even trying. It was hard to enough to even walk on it.
Anyway, I completed the thing, hobbling the final 11 miles with an immense feeling of frustration.
But the thing I will take forward from the experience is far more positive than the extreme annoyance I feel with my own performance. Instead, I will always remember the deep kindness and generosity of the human spirit displayed yesterday.
The encouragement I received from spectators and countless other marathon runners, all also in their own forms of pain no doubt, as I made my own slow way towards the finish line, was humbling and moving.
The St John’s Ambulance teams were so helpful, somehow mixing incredible professionalism with friendliness and care.
There were thousands and thousands of spectators lining every stretch of the run, yelling nothing but encouragement, speaking kind words to you as you passed them. Many had come out with sweets, or cut up oranges to hand them out to runners. I couldn’t believe the positive energy displayed by all, many of them even staying to cheer as it poured with rain.
And I lost count of the number of other runners who patted me gently on the back as they went past, telling me to keep going and that I was doing well. Many even stopped to see if I was ok, something that must have been incredibly difficult when you are also in the middle of trying to struggle though 26.2 miles, and the last thing you want is to get out of a rhythm.
Others even offered to give me their drink or power gels – things they would have very much needed themselves.
The experience also reminded me of how much I love my friends and family. The miles where I knew I would be seeing one of them up ahead were definitely the shortest miles of the course, no matter how much pain I was in.
There are so many terrible things going on in the world, and we get bombarded every day in the media with the very worst examples of human behaviour. But taking part in the marathon yesterday has reminded me just how good people are. It was a truly touching thing to experience and something I will never, ever forget.
By Sophie Hudson