My London Marathon Experience by Rebecca Southall

My road to London started on 21st November 2018 when I was lucky enough to win a place in the club ballot.  After 3 years of disappointment with the general entry ballot I was beginning to think I’d never get a chance to fulfil a childhood dream.  I couldn’t believe it when my name was pulled out the hat and I was buzzing with excitement for days afterwards.

2018 was a terrible year as I lost my wonderful dad to brain cancer, I couldn’t find the emotional or physical strength to run for several months.  My dad was a runner, and a fabulous cyclist, and he understood why I trained.  Without him I lost all motivation.  Winning the marathon place was the boost I needed.

I didn’t follow a training plan, but in January I started increasing my long run by 2 miles a week and did 2 or 3 shorter runs in between.  I’ve previously suffered with tight IT bands that make running very uncomfortable.  I was determined not to suffer again, so stretched after every run and every night before bed.  This proved a good strategy and I was pain free through all the training.

The next 4 months passed in no time and before I knew it London weekend had arrived.  Nerves were jangling and I mentally ticked off each part of the journey.  Train journey to London DONE, check in at hotel DONE. Now time for the Expo.  I followed advice from Caroline and Matt Davies and hit the Expo on Friday afternoon.  There were no queues, lots of great photo opportunities with your newly acquired VLM race number and plenty of shopping.

I was able to spend Saturday relaxing while Rob took the boys to Oxford Street and to check out the meet and greet area for after the race.  I was getting increasingly nervous and forcing myself to eat regularly.  We enjoyed a lovely meal and I forced everyone to have an early night.

Wake up alarm at 06.30 on race day. Oh my goodness, today I’m running the London Marathon!

Breakfast was a bread roll with peanut butter and banana.  One to eat at the hotel and one for the Blue Zone.  Dressed in tried and tested race kit plus generous lashings of Vaseline, I was ready.  Rob decided this was a good time to distract me from my nerves and proposed, after a few tears I said YES!  I then set off with my fiancé to London Bridge station.  The organisation at the station was brilliant and runners are sent up escalators depending on your starting colour.  At the escalator I kissed Rob goodbye and squashed onto a train to Blackheath.

Again at Blackheath the organisation was brilliant, thousands of runners heading to blue zone, all looking slightly bewildered.  I headed straight to the toilet queue and we were kept entertained by a big screen showing the start of each race.  It was then time to hand in my bag and queue for the toilet again.  Wrapped in my foil blanket I headed to zone 4 and it was time for the final wait.

I went over the start line at 10.24 and it felt amazing. There wasn’t a section of road without somebody cheering.  I tried really hard to keep my pace steady, the atmosphere made it so easy to get carried away.  I bumped into a Trentham lady and we ran together for a while, mostly laughing that we were running far too quickly! I was surprised to arrive at Cutty Sark at roughly 10k, I don’t know London so every turn in the road was a new experience.  I kept to my planned pace and hydration strategy, taking water after a gel at 5 mile intervals. I knew a bat support team was getting close, so I was keeping a constant watch for the big balloons. The team were amazing and full of energy, they helped distract me from worrying about the distance ahead.

I was super excited about the Tower Bridge section, and it didn’t disappoint.  I have never known anything like it, and I couldn’t hold back the tears.  The noise, the enthusiasm of the crowd, the charity flags and the splendour of the bridge was magical.  I knew my family were at mile 13 so I pulled myself together and started hunting for them in the crowd.  They must be very distinctive as I found them easily and started frantically waving.  Rob has captured my over excitement in several photos.


The miles seemed to pass quickly until roughly mile 17.  So much distance still left to run and the canary wharf scenery wasn’t very interesting.  Crowds still lined the route, which helped enormously.  I was still keeping pace and looking forward to seeing the boys again at mile 22.  Yet again Rob captured my enthusiastic waving.

I was getting tired and the runners around me were slowing down, plenty were stopping to stretch and it would have been easy to slow my pace.  I stopped noticing the scenery and just concentrated on getting to the end.  When the distance signs start counting down in metres you know the hard work is nearly over.  Suddenly there was Buckingham Palace and the famous finishing straight.  I’d done it, and it felt surreal.  I hugged the lady that put a medal round my neck and headed to retrieve my bag.  Everyone around me was quiet and we all seemed rather stunned by what we’d achieved.

My boys were at our pre arranged meeting place and it was cuddles all round.  They even seemed proud of their old mom/step mom.  I checked my texts and my official finish time was 4hrs and 43 seconds. So close but so far from going sub 4. We headed to Chandos to meet the other Bats, it was mega busy so I only stopped for a quick hello, and to share congratulations with marvellous team mates.  We found a quieter pub and I enjoyed a celebratory pint.

Ten days later and I’m still floating in a VLM bubble.

London marathon is a wonderful experience and I’m determined to do it again.  Best start training for GFA!

Thank you so much SMM for one of the best days of my life, and thank you Rob for all your support, I couldn’t do it without you.