Event director Hugh Brasher labelled this years event as “Britain’s biggest street party” as London welcomes some 42 000 runners and unquantifiably HUGE number of people lining the streets to cheer, hand out jelly beans, high fives and scream support at total strangers.
Some would say it’s the greatest marathon in the world. And with 414,168 applicants scrabbling for a balloted place it’s easy to see how so many people use their place to raise money for charity. In fact this year the billion pound mark will be reached and surpassed. A huge testament to the tenacity and dedication of every single fundraiser over the years. Which is why this years event has been hashtagged #thanksabillion
On that note this years IWRR fundraisers were first time marathoners Steve Hunt, (running for Daisy Chains IW) and Beverly James (running for The Shaw Trust). Tanya Clifford, Jess Hill, Bianca Johnston & Kim Hulacka, (running for Wessex Cancer Trust) and Glen Jones running London as his flagship race in his 12 in 12 campaign for the NSPCC.
Joining them on the start line were Julie Rasmussen & Lisa Upstell using their deferred places from last year, Julie Dixon, Steve Bennett & Sarah Holmes using their well deserved Good for Age spots, Matt Fletcher & Sarah Sharp having won theirs in the club Christmas draw and Zoe Sherwin the only one to get her Willy Wonka golden ticket through the ballot.
It’s 26 miles and 385 yards, the same as any other marathon, but there is something else that sets this one apart from all the others. Maybe it has something to do with the fact we have all watched it on’t telly every year with its instantly recognisable theme tune, it’s familiar sounding commentators, (although I can’t say it’s quite the same without the dulcet tones of Geordie Brendan Foster.) Maybe it’s because its so record breaking, heart wrenching, full of smiles, tears and every emotion inbetween, a procession of human endurance, of human spirit and of what’s right in the world when so much seems so uncertain. It’s ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing, turning dreams into reality and transforming themselves into warriors with every step in this life changing journey.
Started in 1981 by Olympic champion Chris Brasher, (Hugh’s dad), and John Disley when 6255 runners crossed that startline. Suffice to say it’s changed a bit since then as that starling is now divided into 3 and then subdivided into waves to safely cope with the record numbers year on year.
Thankfully Storm Hannah has abated over night and the gale force winds had virtually disappeared. Overcast and a bit nippy the conditions were looking perfect. The runners were visibly nervous but excited as they made their way to Blackheath for the start, some feeling prepared, some not so much. A few tears were shed as they kissed goodbye to their loved ones and entered the runners only enclosure.
10.10am on the dot came and the began to move off in their waves. Each stepping out on the tarmac on their own personal journey, their own personal battle. None of them not really knowing what would unfold in the next few hours, knowing what an unpredictable beast the marathon can be.
“What an electric atmosphere!” said Lisa “The crowd were amazing”
Never ones to miss a party and certainly not Britain’s biggest street party, the Roadrunners sent up a huge support crew sent up to cheer, scream and make as much noise as possible, and not just at our Roadrunners either. Their first camp was at the 6 mile marker where they patiently waited with their bacon butties and coffees for the spectacle to begin.
It wasn’t long before the elites came past and the flow of runners got thicker and thicker and thicker. They had no trouble picking out their clubmates though.
“I tried to high 5 all the support crew at mile 6” said Matt “I was nearly at mile 7 by the time I finished there was so many of them!”
Past Cutty Sark they went one by one and they wound their way around Surrey Quays before turning onto the iconic Tower Bridge.
“Tower Bridge was something else!” said Kim “I turned the corner and it appeared from nowhere! Wow!”
“The noise was deafening. It was surreal running over it in real life. I’ve watched people do it on the TV every year” said Steve Hunt.
Onward past the halfway mark, the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf.
“Every time I crossed a timing mat I thought of all the people at home tracking us” said Matt
“I knew I was the best prepared I’ve ever been going into a marathon” said Zoe “The further I got through the race the more I believed I could actually do it. I just kept going”
For some, the miles start to take their toll in the second half of the journey. Any niggles and pains of existing injuries started to return. So far behind them, but still so far to go. If the body holds up, it’s the part where the mind can fall apart or worse still the dreaded wall can hit them smack bang in the face.
“The only thing that kept me going was knowing that the IWRR cheer squad was at mile 22 and my family in the Embankment” said Jess “my foot was killing me”
Steve was also finding it tough and he walked for a little bit.
“I knew I had to get going again. I couldn’t let my clubmates see me walking”
And they were exactly where they promised to be… just past the Tower of London. Shouting, screaming and making as much noise as they could.
“What a boost it was to see them there” said Steve Bennett
“Getting to that point was such a challenge” said Tanya “I had a good chat with Julie Ray and some of the others. I couldn’t have done it without them”
“I nearly missed them!” said Sarah Sharp “I saw them right at the last second. I desperately needed a hug but I daren’t stop. I continued on in tears”
5k left …. keep going…. one foot in front of the other …. breathe…….
The crowds get thicker and the noise levels go up a notch or 2 as the made their way along the Embankment, the landmarks coming thick and fast now. Cleopatras Needle, The London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abby and onward to leafy Birdcage Walk before they saw that oasis in the distance…. the 385 yards to go sign!
One final turn right and they were in front of Buckingham Palace. One final burst down The Mall, giving it whatever their legs had left whist trying not to get overwhelmed by the emotion.
They’d done it!! They’d finished! they’d run the London Marathon!
First to finish was Steve Bennett, smashing his target of 3 and a half hours giving himself a well deserved 2 minute PB and finishing in the top 15% overall and 9% in his age category (70th)
“I felt strong until about 24 miles. I really had to dig in and hang on. I’m so chuffed”
Next to make his way down The Mall was the ever smiling Matt Fletcher having run a quicker second half of the race to power home happy. Zoe Sherwin shattered her target of a Good For Age time by whacking 17 mins off her previous PB to gain one with 12 minutes to spare.
“There were happy tears at the finish. I’m still pinching myself”
Personal trainer Julie Dixon finished strongly next. Having struggled around with an injury last year she too was emotional after realising she’d sneaked a PB. Mr. 12 in 12 Glen Jones was home next in yet another sub 4 hour time.
“That was much more enjoyable than last years heat! Maybe my hot weather curse is finally broken!”
Hmmm not sure about that Glen… let’s see what the weather’s like next weekend for Southampton shall we? haha!
Sarah Holmes collected her medal quarter of an hour later after picking up the pace massively in the last 5k
“That was amazing! I loved every single second! My cheeks hurt from smiling so much all the way round!”
Life long friends Kim and Jess were the next to finish, having run strong all the way round. Julie “Razzer” bounced past Buckingham Palace next having enjoyed every step
“That was 2 years in the making and it was all I hoped it would be and more. The party atmosphere really kept me going when everything started to hurt”
Bianca knocked it right out the park as she finished with a phenomenal 48 minute PB!
“That was so emotional! You can see just how much it means to everyone out there”
Sarah Sharp was not far behind, more grateful to see the finishline than most
“I felt weird in the last couple of miles. I saw Big Ben and before I knew it I was on the ground! The crowd were amazing chanting for me to get up, but I couldn’t! My calves cramped up every time I moved”
With a little help she managed grit her teeth and hobble off, much to the delight of the crowd.
“Turning the corner at Buckingham Palace was life changing. I was exhausted, hurting and emotional but so, so proud”
Debutant Steve was next to grace the red victory arch.
“I was really choked up in the last few miles. I saw my family at mile 25 and they handed me the IOW flag, I held it above my head as I crossed the line. I started running when my mum died, I know she’d be so proud of me”
Tanya and Lisa somehow happened to find each other on the way down The Mall despite there being 42000 other runners. Both had suffered their own battles on this journey. Lisa having battled over a year of injuries, doubting if she’d ever make that startline, only to be let down by her tummy on the day. Tanya’s inspirational fight with cancer over the past 12 months has been a rollercoaster. Due to have her final op just 48 hours after the race, London has been the focus she needed to keep positive through some dark times. They had the privilege of crossing the line together, sharing their special moment of joy and of victory over their demons.
Completing the bidding for team IWRR was Beverley. Having not been sure that she could even run a mile she smashed it and made her way triumphantly to the finishing line and collected that well earnt medal.
What a day!! Even the support crew were worn out!
Same time next year??? On go on then….. see you there!
Steve Bennett- 3.27.56 PB
Matt Fletcher – 3.36.33
Zoe Sherwin – 3.38.22 PB
Julie Dixon – 3.41.02 PB
Glen Jones – 3.59.20
Sarah Holmes – 4.16.25
Kim Hulacka – 4.25.41
Jessica Hill – 4.27.45
Julie Rasmussen- 4.43.19
Bianca Johnston – 4.51.17 PB
Sarah Sharp – 4.56.19
Steve Hunt – 5.10.42
Lisa Upstell – 5.20.59
Tanya Clifford – 5.27.39
Beverly James – 6.01.22