Virgin London marathon 2019 - Tracy Symes

After taking up running at the rather old age of 35, almost 9 years ago I never thought I’d run 1 marathon well last weekend I ran my 10th.  After 7 years of trying to get a place to run London I was successful in being pulled out first for the club place this year.

Having got over my initial excitement I then thought about training and was keen to find some training buddies to keep me company on my long runs, I must say I wasn’t let down by the ladies who came out and helped through the winter months getting ready for the big day, I’d like to say a big thank you to Hilary, Sarah, Rebecca and especially Caroline who gave up many weekends to help with and to George for picking us up sometimes at unexpected points.  I struggled with my training from time to time due to a hip injury which turned out to be the wrong shoes! Once I took a trip to Bristol (thank you Tina) and bought some new ones the problem was solved.  If only I’d realized it was that easy to fix it.

So, with my up and down training I was a little nervous about race day and also very excited again I must say thank you to Caroline for coming to London with me and supporting me throughout the weekend and keeping me calm.

So last Sunday after not sleeping that well on Saturday I was up at 7am, breakfast done several nervous wees and we were off to Waterloo East to catch the train to Blackheath, Caroline came over with me and left me at the entrance to the security check, she then made her way over to mile 3 to await mine and Joy’s arrival.  I headed inside and found a toilet queue to join and got chatting to a group of ladies who were running their first marathon, I hope I passed on a few words of wisdom!

I then went off to find Joy and we managed to find each other amongst all the runners, it was rather busy and very cold, we had a quick picture and chat and shared some words of encouragement before both heading off to our zone’s ready to start, it felt like ages before it was my zone’s start time and we started walking to the start line.  As they set us of in waves of 10-minute intervals it wasn’t too crowded at the start unfortunately all that waiting around in the cold and as soon as I started to run, I needed a wee!  Thankfully as I approach half a mile there were some empty toilets so I too advantage of them and then got on my way without further need to stop.

The first few miles were spent just trying to get into a rhythm of running and taking in the atmosphere, the thing I remember is the speed humps and the marshals standing either side of the road shouting “hump” it did make me laugh.  I kept plodding and finally reached the 5k mark and new I needed to keep an eye out for Caroline in her red coat, as we joined up with the other starts it was getting busier with runners and there were more spectators around this part of the route, after spotting my cousin in the crowd who was shouting my name rather loudly I rounded the corner and Caroline was on the other side of the road a quick wave and I was on my way as was she to try to navigate the crowds to get to the 11 mile maker her next planned spectating spot.

Having run a couple big city marathons in the past I thought I knew what to expect but the crowds and atmosphere of London doesn’t compare there is so much support with lots of cheering from the crowds and fellow runners with encouraging words along the way.  We reach the 10k point and the Cutty Sark this is where the crowds became much bigger and the route narrowed a bit and it became difficult to keep up the pace, I was doing previously but I kept moving and enjoying myself.

On to the next point and I spotted Caroline again and we managed to exchange a few words and another wave, I pushed onto Tower Bridge having planned to stop and taking lots of photos on the route this was the first time I took my phone out and snapped the bridge and took a selfie as I was crossing it.  Again, I’ve never seen crowds like it.  The half way mark is just after the bridge and its at this point you can see the faster runners coming the other way which is never a great feeling, I tried to take my mind off this by looking to see if I could spot anyone, I knew but unfortunately, I didn’t. 

The next section takes you out into the business area and its much quieter around there with far fewer crowds some due to building works which blocked off the pavements, somewhere before the 19 mile marker we pass under a road/underpass which seemed to go on for a while, I looked at my watch as we climbed up over the next part of road and my watch said I’d almost reached 20 miles, it then buzzed to say I had run 20 miles as I ran past the 19 mile marker, I may have sworn loudly at this point wondering how the hell I’d managed to run a mile further when I’d been doing my best to stick to the blue line as much as possible.

A fellow runner looked at me and we exchanged a few words of frustration as her watch had done the same, I assume I lost GPS signal under the road and that bugger my watch up.  It took a couple miles for my brain to get over this before I then refocused on my running and enjoying my surroundings.  As we turned for home and retraced our steps on the other side of the road from earlier, I started to enjoy the run again and the music from DJ’s and various Bands along the route was a great boost.

We headed to the 24-mile point and there was Caroline again waiting to capture a picture of me and share some words of encouragement, it was great to have someone out on the course at various points to keep me going.  We then headed along the side of the Thames I knew we weren’t far from home then as I’d seen the barriers being put up in the morning before we left the hotel.  A turn past Westminster and we headed down towards the mail.

I think the final mile was the toughest part, as you pass the markers telling you there 800 meters to go, then 600 and so on.  It was at this point I pasted my fifth rhino, thanks to Martin Cook telling me to beat the rhino’s in his good luck comment I decided to count how many I overtook on the course.  Although I must admit Paddington Bear and a man dressed in ice-hockey gear beat me!

We hit the top of the mall by Buckingham Palace and I can see the finish line, so I took a wide turn and sprinted to the line passing several runners on the way, I was rather sad and spent sometime on the Iplayer on Monday evening and found myself crossing the line at 6 hours 37 mins into the tv programme.

I crossed the line and headed to pick up my medal and goodie bag, I reached for my phone and I had a text message telling me my finish time with several other text’s of congratulations, having switched my messages on I found 74 of them to read as the ladies had been chatting whilst following my progress.  My official finish time was 5 hours 50 minutes and 19 seconds.

I spent the next few minutes reading the messages having a cry and calling Dave to tell him I’d finished.  I headed to the meet up point and found Caroline under S with a lovely cold pint of lager.  We headed back to the hotel having to navigate through the crowds and crossing the road whilst runners were still finishing, where I could put my feet up before we heading out for a celebratory drink and steak and chips.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Caroline for supporting me with my training and putting up with me in London over the weekend and thank you to everyone for congratulating me.  I’m enjoying a short rest before starting training all over again ready to tackle the streets of Berlin in September for marathon number 11.


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