I saw one legged runners and runners who looked in their 80s (or perhaps it was just years of running in the sun that made them look that way) who were incredibly humbling. There were others who had photos of their loved ones, usually toddlers, pinned to their shirt backs, who were running because they had lost them for one reason or another. A wave of deep heat or whatever its called washed over the waiting area at the beginning and everyone talked to everyone in the way they do when you are on a particularly rough flight and you think you're going to die.
Up to 18 miles I had managed to jump over all obstacles and smile Cheshire Cat style at the fabulous spectators who I applaud for getting up and being selfless on a Sunday morning. You are all utterly amazing. I saw sides of London and Londoners I never had before. I only wish we had politicians who deserved us. I kept being reminded of them and the election as I ran seeing images of Cameron and Brown on the hoardings - especially Gordon Brown's mug beaming down on us on those posters every five miles or so. Very off putting negative energy at every five miles. He is such a Spitting Image puppet of a man. If they could only capture the positive energy behind that 26 mile run, when everyone seems to be going in the same direction, running through the pain, for the good. They're not the ones that just say they're going to do something, they're doing it.
At mile 14, we were going in one direction when the elite runners were running toward mile 22. Despite the fact they must all be very fit, they all looked like death, as though they were in a lot of pain, which wasn't as reassuring as I'm sure it should be (if THEY are in pain, what the hell are the amateurs gonna be like at mile 22).
At 18 miles, a red head pushed in front of me and sent me (and her) flying in the air (think Run Fat Boy Run), both of us landing flat on our faces. Thankfully I was wearing knee guards. I got up hoping that the ankles hadn't been twisted but they were fine, it was my nerves that took the most bashing. She was ok, but I've got her number!
At mile 22, I hit what they call 'the wall'. It is not a wall, it is a huge overwhelming slap across the face of common sense when the body tells the mind 'I'm tired, this hurts, this is not fun' and the rest of the organs tell you they don't want to be inside this body any more. There was also an overwhelming feeling that the body isn't meant to do this. Not run this distance. It's not normal, natural. Not for a SW woman any way who hasn't trained enough!
There were LOTS of casualties. I know because I saw the stretchers and ambulances. Lots of very healthy looking runners with painful cramp, and people falling over water bottles that had been dropped on the road by previous runners. I took round some energy gel which has an intriguing consistency with a belt I bought at the Excel Trade Fair, and I looked like a cowgirl ready with her ammunition. I was covered in Vaseline head to toe which kept me both warm (it rained hard while we were waiting to start) and free from getting sore.
I walked for half a mile, perhaps more, when negative thoughts set in, as they do, one after another, and heard all those hateful voices and negatives that are thrown at me every day - and then focused the mind like I had the body. The body gets you round the first twenty miles, the mind does the last six. It really does. I saw men and women literally fold like tissue paper as they were running toward the Mall, as though their bodies and legs were made of jelly. Their bodies just gave up. I just kept very focused, kept thinking of all the positives in my life, of which there are many, and all the inspiring people I know. My son wasn't there to see me at the end - but I was thinking of Tom and his face beaming at me when I crossed the line. I didn't feel elated which I am told some people do when they finish. I felt utter complete relief and really quite tearful. The medal felt heavy. The smiles and 'well dones' very welcome and the jelly sweets in the goody bag at the end eaten with the speed I would have eaten them at five not forty five. Everyone was stretching and too tired to talk, even to the BBC reporters who were trying to get sound bites. I am amazed people have enough energy to say anything, let alone a sound bite. I laughed as I watched others like me attempting to climb the steps at Pall Mall. We all looked very very old. And sitting down was hilarious. Simply couldn't be done. I fell on some steps and slowly bent the legs and talked to a guy called Jamie who was in the same state as me but who wasn't a Virgin Virgin marathoner and had done it four years before. He still found it tough. I beat Branson, Princess Bea and Natalie Um...whatever her name is. And I beat the giraffe but not the ice cream cone.
So I seized the day and the day seized me right back and whacked my thighs hard and kicked my ankles and my body is doing what it said it would do as I ran those last four miles. 'I will get you there Sarah Tucker, but I am going to get you back.' It is doing it today. Sore feet, knees, legs, thighs, back. As for my organs, I am told they are all bruised, but hey, I've had a broken heart before, so a bruised one, will mend and be stronger (which I'm told actually it will!!!)
Will I do it again? No. Yesterday it was an 'absolutely not'. Today it's a 'no'. Perhaps running a marathon is like childbirth. Perhaps it will be a 'may be' in a few days time. Perhaps you eventually forget the pain and like after the low of mile 22, you have to focus and think of all the positives in your life. Only with childbirth you run the marathon every day....