As I crossed the iconic finish line at the London Marathon in 2017 I believe the first words that came out my mouth were “Never Again!”
Despite saying this then (and every moment since), I, along with thousands of runners, still decide to chance my luck with the public ballot assuming the odds will not be in my favour. But like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it, so after being inspired by thousands of runners in April, you throw you name into the mix and see what happens, and simply forget about it for several months. With around 17,500 ballot places against over 400,000 entries for 2019, the chances to get a spot is around 5% – so most walk away disappointed with also a sense of relief.
I assumed and prepared for this result myself.
As my social media feeds started filling up with posts picturing the iconic “commiserations” magazine I was expecting my own copy drop through the letter box.
You can imagine my shock (and horror) to discover that the odds actually were in my favour. As I was “In” and heading to the London Marathon for a second time.
It has taken me a good few days to digest the ballot result. As I shared the news with various people I received messages of congratulations (like I had completed the race already) and from my running club members, who were rather envious.
As the news has sunk in I have begun to realise how privileged I am to receive a ballot place. There were over 400,000 entries and I got a spot. The spaces are like gold dust, with the London Marathon being one of the most sought after races. Who doesn’t want to run in our great city and to be part of the most amazing day in the sporting calendar. And I have the opportunity to run it again. I was chosen!
So as I come to terms with the challenge I now face, I am looking forward to see how the London Marathon will be different for me the second time round.
I know what to expect in 2019. Unlike my attempt in 2017, I will not be be in the dark on race day itself. The course will be familiar, I will remember the sections on route where I found myself struggling and prepare mentally and physically to overcome any issues that may arise. I know that just after the half way point when you see the faster runners coming back towards you I will need to dig deep to push through – as this had a mental impact on my performance in 2017. Knowing what to expect will go a long way to improve on my previous attempt and help me prepare for race day.
There is no pressure to fundraise. Although it was amazing to be offered a charity place in 2017 and raise money for the Willow Foundation, the stress of trying to raise such a huge amount did add to the worries of training. If I was not running and thinking about running, I was constantly thinking about creative ways to raise money – often putting a lot of money into raffles and bake sales myself. And whilst it is a fantastic thing to be able to do for a charity I do question the large targets most set when eager runners sign up for such events. Thats not to say I will not be throwing out a fundraising link – because I will continue fundraising for Mind in memory of my Uncle. It just means that I can relax knowing that all I need to do is get the training in and run on race day.
Back in 2017 I trained alone, with no guidance other than running forums, blogs and advice from friends. In 2019 the shape of my training will be completely different. As I am now a member of Harlow Running Club, I will have set training days which take away the stress of planning routes and motivating myself when I just don’t want to run. I will also have an array of equally crazy people, who are either running a marathon for the first time in Spring 2019 or those who have run multiple events, to train with, to get advice from or simply to encourage me to keep going when I just don’t want to. In addition, training with the club will give me that little extra running ability I just didn’t have from going at it alone.
Finally, to this day I still remember that finish line that so many friends raved about. During training, when they all said “the finish is so rewarding” they were not lying. It was simply one of the most defining moments in my life. The pain and time had no relevance – I had completed the London Marathon and nothing could beat that feeling of euphoria!
So, I look towards 2019 with a sense of pride, excitement and I must admit, a shred of fear as I prepare to tun the greatest race on earth yet again.