After the disappointment I felt for not finishing the full Isle of Wight Challenge I decided I needed to find a way to redeem myself, to prove that I had the ability should I put my mind to it and to get back on track with training.
The perfect opportunity arose with the London Hike. A shorter distance than that I faced in the Isle of Wight, with a route seeing a marathon distance through the streets of London, along the Thames path all the way to Hampton Court. With just 26.2 miles to cover it was a great way for me to focus on my own pace, to focus on me.
It was a perfect walking day. It was warm, yet slightly overcast with a gentle breeze. The polar opposite from the weather experienced on the Isle of Wight. I felt good, I had been back training on Sunday mornings, regularly clocking up an easy 9-10 miles without any issues. The training, combined with the good walking weather, made me feel ready.
Around 250 people set off from Southwark Park at 8:30am; with a split of participants walking a half marathon and full marathon distance. I was one of the full marathon walkers.
I wanted to get a good time, I wanted to push myself. So I put myself right at the front of the starting line. I wanted to have as few people to over take as possible – thinking that having to overtake others would just cause time delays.
So I headed off, at a fast pace – the pace I was used to during training. As the distance was shorter than the Isle of Wight I could afford to push myself from the beginning.
And I did just that.
The kilometres started to tick down, with very few people over taking. Those who did overtake were the lone walkers – just like me.
The first check point passed in a breeze, after following the route over many iconic London bridges – including Tower Bridge. I did not pause at the check point, I simply just kept going. I was in the zone and there were no other walkers around me.
Just before the half way check point, I caught up with another participant who had a fear of bridges. He simply could not cross them, and therefore had to take alternative routes. He managed to cross one whilst talking to me, before branching off again as we approached the Fulham area.
Half way check point was reached in good time. I did not feel the need for much fuel at this point – I had regularly taken snacks during the first half – so I did not pick up much food, against the advice of others. I did, however, take a sugary drink and took some time to change my socks and footwear before setting off for the second half.
I quickly picked up speed as we headed towards the Thames path, through Barnes, Kew, Richmond and Kingston.
The path here was extremely dull, though offering complete shade (something that was lacking on the Isle of Wight challenge). Although I was covering the distance at a great pace, I was missing the company of my training buddies. Long distance walking can become incredibly boring on your own, especially if there is nothing to look at to take your mind off the distance.
Along the river path there were a couple of participants who over took me, which only spurred me on. I did not manage to keep up with them, but I was determined that no one else would over take me from then out.
And no one did. As I reached the 20 mile marker, then the started to count down the last six miles, it became more and more exhausting. I wanted to stop, but knew if I did then I would not get going again.
The final stretch saw us walk through the stunning Bushy Park, with wild roaming deer, before passing Hampton Court Palace and picking up the river path again to the finish. Every step at this point was forced, I was ticking down the steps to the finish line, which was further than expected. Whilst the 26 mile marker passed, the finish did not actually come until 28.8 miles – slightly over the marathon distance, for which I felt every step.
However, pushing myself means that I was rewarded. Coming over the finish line in 9th place and the 4th female to finish.
It was an achievement I was ever so proud of. Though it was not the distance I signed up for at the Isle of Wight, It was still something to be celebrated.
Finishing in the position I had made me realise I am perfectly capable of achieving anything I set out to do.
So no matter how bad a race goes, you have to pick yourself back up, get back into training and try again.
Congratulations Gemma! You are amazing!