This morning, over 45,000 people will run the London Marathon.
Some will be running their very first marathon, some will be running their umpteenth marathon.
Every single one of them will be creating memories that will last a lifetime.
25 years ago, that was me.
Little did I know at the time, running 26.2 miles through the streets of London would ultimately change my life and lead me on the most amazing adventure to help others achieve amazing things too.
Today, I want to share with you my memories from amazing experience.
The Ultimate Goal
Like most people, I used to love watching the London Marathon on tv when I was growing up. I always felt inspired by it but never really considered running it myself. It always looked to be for people way fitter than me.
That all changed when in the summer of 1997, my back went into spasm. I was in a lot of pain, afraid to move as the ‘wrong’ move would send shooting pains up and down my back.
My GP prescribed me strong painkillers and signed me off work for 4 weeks.
While I was off, I happened to read a magazine article about entries opening for the 1998 London Marathon. I saw it as the ultimate goal to improve my fitness so I wouldn’t go through life affected by back pain.
To enter, you had to collect a magazine from a sports shop. Thinking about it now, going in to Campus Sports in Perth and asking Frank, the owner, for a copy was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life! Inside the magazine was a form you had to fill in, tear out, fold up, stick your cheque in, seal like an envelope and pop it in the post.
And hope for the best!
Something that seemed impossible a few months earlier now made perfect sense. Perhaps the effect of the painkillers?
A Journey Into The Unknown
The biggest shock was one day in December 1997 when a magazine popped through the letterbox that said something like “You’re in!” on the front of it. I remember phoning my Mum to tell her that I would be on tv and when I told her I would be running the marathon, her reply was “yer aff yer heid!” (you’re off your head).
My reaction to getting the magazine was largely thinking “oh crap, I’m going to have to start running!”
I wasn’t fit or a regular runner and so this was really a journey into the unknown.
My only race experience until that point was the Fair City Fun Run (later to become the Perth 10k race, for which I am the organiser of) when I was 12!
I only had a couple of weeks to really think about it before training started at the beginning of 1998. Runners World magazine published training plans so I just started following one of them.
It seemed perfect that I could enjoy the New Years celebrations and eat the last of the Christmas chocolates before training started on the first Monday in January.
An Experience Like No Other
Throughout the 16 weeks of training and getting to the the start line, it never once occurred to me that I couldn’t do it. For someone who doubted their ability to do anything prior to this, this was a new feeling for me.
I suppose when you have nothing to compare this kind of thing to, how can you know if you can do it or not?
The journey to London, meeting a couple of friends from Perth who were also running, going to registration, collecting my number etc were all on a rollercoaster of nerves and excitement.
Walking into registration and the expo, with the famous theme tune of the marathon being played on loop, added to the excitement and impossible not to feel incredibly emotional about.
What seemed so far away was now about to happen.
Thousands Of Friends You Haven’t Yet Met
The atmosphere of the event on tv always looks amazing but it’s so much more being part of it. It’s like being among thousands of friends you haven’t yet met! You can’t help but feel inspired when you’re among people of all ages and abilities.
You can wonder if you’re completely out of your depth when you’re on your way to the start but when you’re running, you feel right at home. Every single one of your fellow runners willing you on.
The early miles seemed to whizz by but from mile 17 onwards, it became more challenging. Even though my legs were feeling sore and I was beginning to wonder why I thought this was a good idea, I never doubted finishing the race.
Perhaps it was the Scottish in me and the knowledge that I’d paid for the medal so I’m not going home without it, kept me going?
Anything IS Possible
Crossing the finish line blew me away.
I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment I’d never felt before. That was the first moment I realised that anything IS possible.
I followed the process of collecting my medal, foil blanket, goody bag then the realisation of what I’d just done hit me.
The best way I can describe it is every emotion hitting you in the space of 30 seconds. I’ve since discovered that this happens after every marathon.
I now recommend to people to take a few moments to themselves after they finish to process this before they meet their family or friends waiting for them.
As I walked back to my hotel (very slowly), I felt like I had discovered a secret and wanted to share it with everyone. I had an overwhelming desire to help others achieve things they thought were impossible for them and feel the same way I did.
After all, if I can do it, anyone can!
A year later, I ran the London Marathon again, strengthened my desire, quit my job as a Pizza Chef and began a training course to become a Personal Trainer.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In my next post, I will tell you the learnings I’ve taken from running marathons that have become a huge part of who I am and how I help people.