Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Virgin London Marathon 2013 - the "awesome" one!

Right, here it is in all it's glory.  26.2 miles of running, sweating and knitting!  But first, I must show this sweet card from Heather.  I often get 'good luck' cards and a neighbour sent me this lovely postcard of the ubiquitous granny square -

Marathon day always begins at silly o'clock.  It's a well-oiled routine; running kit, yarn and needles prepared the night before, animals tended first thing then porridge and coffee next.  Put on running clothes then jeans and a sweatshirt on top.  Check my bag to make sure I've got everything.

Mike then does a checklist with me to check I've got everything.

I actually moved the large 'deramores' patch to the back of my vest as it would have been obscured by my race number

The taxi arrives and I rummage in my bag again to check I've got everything.  After a mile or 2 we discover that there is something missing after all - so far it hasn't been anything major such as my running shoes, this time it was my sunglasses and suncream.  This wasn't a huge problem as I always wear a baseball cap which keeps the sun off my face but I do like to hide behind my sunglasses in case I get a bit teary and I do burn easily but I didn't worry about that too much as the weather forecast wasn't for much sun - pah, how wrong was that!

As usual we arrived in Blackheath around 6:30am and all was quiet and still.  The calm before the storm.  The taxi driver, Alan, drops us off outside the station and we amble down to a little Greek cafe.  I have a black coffee and a chocolate croissant, Mike has a latte and a bacon butty.  Sometimes we get a paper but not this time.

At 7am we went for a walk round to see what had changed since last year.

There are lots of little cafes but we noted that one was closed for refurbishment and several new shops.

The usual line of balloons
A trickle of runners heading for their start pens 
After our little walk we settled into a new cafe, sitting in the window so we could watch the people start to stream up the hill towards the start when the first train of the day arrived at around 7:30am.

This time we both had a pot of tea each - green for me, china for Mike.  We were soon joined by a nice lady named Jackie Ducker, a very speedy lady running for Winchester who had a 'good for age' place but wasn't pushing herself this time due to a lack of training (I checked her results and she finished in 4:02:33, wow!)  There was another couple sitting nearby too and we had a good old natter about the marathon, the crowds etc.  During the conversation Mike mentioned that I was going to be doing my knitting and they absolutely loved it and their reaction made what I was about to do worthwhile - doing something that is both very silly yet very challenging to draw attention to Alzheimer's Research UK.  They took my photo, which would not be the first time that day.

As we watched the crowds streaming past the cafe I started to get nervous. There was a sudden realisation that I had a massive responsibility to do well.  Not only had the lovely people at deramores provided my yarn, they had promoted my antics on their web-page and newsletters and as a result many more people would be watching.  Then there were all the people who had sponsored me so generously, some because they had a loved one who suffered from dementia, others because they are keen knitters and some fellow runners who sponsored me just because they understood what a massive challenge it was.  I'd also had publicity on TV, the KnitNow website, radio and newspapers.  Oh my!

Mike told me to just relax and enjoy the day and it didn't matter if I didn't break my record.  But it did and I really wanted to do it as a thank you to all my supporters.

Then all of a sudden it was time to head off to the Green start to register with the Guinness World Records Team before 8:30am.  I dashed in, got a hug from Damien then headed back to see Mike and get loaded up with my yarn.  Deramores very generously gave me lots of yarn because part of what I do is about the showmanship so I like to have lots of yarn across my back as well as what I'm knitting as the last time I did it I ran out!

Front view showing my trusty apron stuffed with 2 balls of yarn, 2 sets of knitting needles (more on that later!), small scissors (with their points stuck in a cork) and a hankie.  On the front is my official GWR sticker and the smaller 'deramores' sticker and a black ribbon in memory of those who suffered in the Boston marathon.

The rear view - does my bum look big in this?  The larger 'deramores'  sticker is obscured there but when I started running I shifted the yarn further down and it was in full view.
Mike tied all the balls of yarn around my waist and I did a short jog to check that they weren't bouncing around too much.  OMG they felt heavy, which of course they were!!!  No matter, I just had to get on with it.  I knew exactly what to expect as I'd done it before.  I just hoped that my neck and shoulders would be OK as last time in 2011 I was in agony as I was still suffering from whiplash from when an HGV ploughed into the back of our car and wrote it off (even though that was 2 years after the event I still had problems knitting and crocheting as it had weakened my neck).

Then I had to head back into the start area for a group shot of the GWR hopefuls.

On the way to the meeting point I was snapped by an official photographer
I cast on my stitches and had them checked by the GWR official together with the size of my needles
I check and recheck my stitches constantly to ensure I have the correct number - can you imagine knitting all the way round and finding that halfway through you'd dropped a stitch and your attempt would therefore be negated?  It doesn't bear thinking about!  To my left you can see Jerome Timbrell in his fetching red romper suit - he'll be inside 'Lofty' the fire mascot.  He has an amazing story as his weight ballooned when he suffered post traumatic stress disorder, after he was taken hostage abroad,  but he had a gastric band fitted and has lost an massive 12 stones and has now run loads of marathons.  He made me an offer for the completed scarf which was generous enough for me not to need to auction it.  Good man!

Then it was time for Mike to go before the trains got too horrendously overcrowded.  I always, always, get teary when I say goodbye to him at the start of a marathon.  He is my rock and gives me the best support I could wish for.  he said he'd stay if I wanted him too but I tried to be brave and told him to get off and miss some of the crowds.  He spent the day visiting art galleries and must have walked his own version of a marathon by the end of the day.

He walked along the outside edge of the pen and I walked along the inside. The pen looks a lot busier now.  The white tent in the background is where the 'celebrity' runners gather.  There are always interviews with TV crews going on just outside there so a large crowd of runners gathers along the edge to catch a glimpse of their favourite.

I look as if I've got a rather low-slung baby bump with the yarn stuffed in my pocket!
The final wave and then Mike disappeared into the throng
I went and chatted to a few runners and met up with Lucy in her shoe.  We were spotted and interviewed together by Radio 5 Live.  I met several people I know which was nice and calmed my nerves a bit then suddenly it was time to get ready to run so I positioned myself near the back of the queue.  I can't start knitting until I cross the start line so as I got near to it I pressed the start button on my GPS watch so my hands were free and as I'd crossed the line I started knitting.

As Mike left me he had to wait for about 10 minutes as the elite race was starting so he got a couple of shots of the runners speeding past.

It's quite surreal starting from the Green start there aren't many people there and so for about .5 mile I pottered along with my knitting smiling and waving at the few supporters along the route.  I had a few shouts of "saw you on the telly" and "Go, knitting lady" and then all of a sudden we joined the heaving mass from either the Red start or the Blue start, I'm never sure which it is.

That's when they started, the "awesome" comments.  I have always had a fantastic response to my running and knitting at the London marathon, from both supporters and runners alike, but this time it really felt as if everyone was routing for me, urging me on, willing me to do well.  Almost every runner who went past either said "fantastic effort", "well done", "amazing!" or "that's awesome!" and I had the biggest smile ever on my face all the way round.  I heard small children in the crowd shouting "mummy look, that lady's knitting" which really made me chuckle - catch 'em young, that's what I say!  Runners and supporters took photos of me or filmed me.  I was overwhelmed by the tremendous support from everyone.

Several people went past and said they liked deramores too, which was nice.  One runner said that her friend Claire had asked her to say hello if she spotted me.  Thanks Claire, I hope you read this as it was the collective goodwill that I felt which sustained me throughout the race.  People in the crowd kept shouting their support and I felt as if I was I was being carried along on a cloud of kindness.  It was wonderful.

There was, however, one dodgy moment which involved a very inconsiderate female runner.  We were running around the Cutty Sark, which I think is around 7 miles or thereabouts.  The field was still packed tightly at that stage and so there was little room to spare.  There were runners close to my immediate left and right as well as to the front and behind.  As we rounded the tight bend a woman from behind literally thrust herself between the man on my left and me, causing him to fall over to his left onto the barrier (thankfully he wasn't hurt) and me to stumble to my right into the next runner.  In the farrago that ensued I dropped the ball of yarn I was using  causing great consternation to anyone who was running close by and had to swerve to avoid me as I attempted to pick it up.  The woman who caused the pile-up had disappeared into the masses and was completely unaware of the problems her selfishness had caused.  She gets a great big raspberry from me!

Remember the weather forecast?  Well it was completely wrong - it was jolly hot right from the start and got hotter an hotter throughout the day.

Remember the spare knitting needles?  That's why I brought a spare set.  I've done this with both wooden needles and plastic needles.  Plastic ones are lighter but are not as comfy.  The wooden ones are comfy but aren't easy to work with my hands get sweaty.  So, when they started to get all sticky and difficult I just swapped them for the nice dry ones.  See, there's method in my madness.

The other thing is that there are showers en-route and you can run through them to help cool down.  There are also well-meaning people at the side of the road with hosepipes and they spray you with water as you go past.  So again, whenever I got caught in their spray I just changed my needles.

I settled into my pace nicely and just got on the my knitting but I was too hot and it did take its toll on me.  When we crossed Tower Bridge I was cheered by the sight of the Fetcheveryone support teams on the other side of the road and they waved and cheered.  Then the next thing I remember was approaching Narrow Street, at about mile 14, and I knew I had to look out for the supporters from ARUK.  I was looking for a sea of purple and spotted one on my left by it was a different charity.  then I spotted them and I saw Tim with his camera but he was looking the other way so I screamed "Tim" as loud as I could he swung round and captured these shots:

Big smile!

The pack mule

I love the one of my back, especially as it shows off the deramores sticker so well.

I can't remember each mile but I remember that after Narrow Street it was my least favourite section largely because of the uneven road surface.  This meant I had to concentrate extra hard on keeping my footing whilst avoiding and lumpy bits in the road which counting my stitches to make sure I didn't drop any.  Sometimes I'd lose count when I chatted to people and I had to concentrate extra hard on the next row!

Although I was too hot I realised that my shoulders and neck felt fine, my arms weren't aching but most of all my legs felt good.  I'd been a bit worried about how they'd hold up having pushed so hard the week before at the Brighton marathon.  I felt good, I was enjoying the race and the whole atmosphere was indeed AWESOME!

I'm not sure where I was when someone shouted at me and asked me if I was from Norfolk, which confused me somewhat and I wondered if she was calling me a turkey (Bernard Matthews is famous for his Norfolk turkeys) so I just shook my head and said no.  I later found out that it was the daughter of Matsmum  from Runner's World who genuinely thought I was from Norfolk same as them.  Sorry!

When people went past and said kind things to me I always thanked them because it really means a lot to me.  There was one lady in particular who ran past wearing a vest for a cancer charity.  She touched me gently on my arm and said that it had made her day seeing me and that she thought I was amazing.  I replied that she was amazing too as anyone running a marathon is equally amazing.  She just shook her head and said, "No, YOU are amazing" and it really touched me and I got all teary in my heightened emotional state.

Then all of a sudden, or so it seemed, I was running along the embankment which meant I was nearly home.  The scarf by then was enormous and at that stage was wrapped around my waist and tucked into my apron and then there was still a great big bit dangling.  People in the crowd kept shouting "she's knitting all the way round!"  Others would hear that and they would join in.  The support was absolutely staggering and I'm getting quite emotional just typing this.

As I approached Buckingham Palace (is that Birdcage Walk?  I always get confused) one of the photographers, who was clicking away in the middle of the road, took his cap off as I went past and said "that's awesome!" and I thanked him and the smile on my face just got bigger and bigger.  

As I approached the final bend at the 200 metre mark I glanced up at the big screen and just caught sight of my vest and arms behind another runner.  Then the camera swung back, fixed on me and zoomed in and I filled the whole screen.  I waved and smiled and I heard the commentator saying who I was, what I was doing and that I was doing for Alzheimer's Research UK it in memory of my mum.  As I ran and knitted along that last stretch my smile just got bigger and bigger and the crowd cheered and the marshalls clapped.  It was truly amazing.

Just before I crossed the line I put my hand to my heart and bowed my head in memory of those in Boston and then I trotted over the finish line to be greeted by a camera crew from the BBC and 2 representatives from the GWR team who had to measure my scarf.

The interviewer said they'd been trying to catch me for a couple of years and they were determined to speak to me this time.  How lovely!

So after a short interview my scarf was revealed in all its enormity.

I had no idea how big it was 'cos it had been just wrapped around me; it looked huge.  My stitches were checked; same number start, finish and throughout - phew.  Then it was time to measure it.  Now it isn't like at home when you finish a scarf and block it to the correct measurements.  Oh no, it just got laid out roughly on the tarmac and was measured at the shortest point.  

2.05 metres of very heavy scarf.  

Record smashed.  

Happy runner!

Then it was off for some official photos for Guinness World Records, phone Mike who was very excited by the news, back down to the media area for a quick interview with BBC Radio London and then off to collect my baggage and get my hug from Mike.

I love this photo 'cos it captures the feel of what it's like at the finish.  Look at the guy on the left sitting on the pavement with his shoes and socks off.  Perfect!

Oooh, what a big one missus!
After the hugging it was time for our own special photos.  Whilst Mike was snapping away a lady came over and said that her daughter was a keen knitter and had asked her to keep a look out for me and could she please have her photo taken with me.  How sweet and of course I obliged.

I wore the scarf all the way home and it was so heavy that it had stretched to 2.35 metres when I measured it the next day!

What an amazing day from start to finish.  I'm sure there were even more people than usual out there supporting and the atmosphere amongst the runners was just brilliant.

To everyone who has supported me during my training, sponsored me, shouted for me, clapped me as I ran past, said kind things to me, read my blog, all I can say is thank you, you are truly awesome.

Of course the reality of having completed VLM is that it was actually the start of my 111 day running streak so the next day I had to go out and run 5.5 miles and the next day and the next day...................As I type this I have just completed day 4 of my streak and so far I have run a total of 43.50 miles and today my legs felt really good, which is fantastic.  Let's see how they feel at the end of the streak!

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