First can I say thank you to everyone who commented/ wished me luck/ gave me a shout out on their blog. It means so much that I have people cheering me on!
Now, be warned, I expect this is going to be a long one, so get comfy!
So, by Friday morning I was feeling OK- went to work (and felt very tired but I think I was just feeling under pressure to get everything done and be ready to leave at 3.30). We got to Heathrow with plenty of time, drank loads of water, and so on. We got a taxi from Arlanda airport (which is, coincidently 42 km -26 miles-away) to the centre of Stockholm! Normally we would get public transport but we decided we did not want to be extra tired from pulling our cases around train stations etc. Anyway, by the time we checked in, got our stuff ready for the morning it was midnight. But I slept pretty well (just woke up early).
We left loads of time in the morning- shower, porridge (using the travel kettle), suncream, packing our bag with snacks for after. We were going to walk to the stadium (it did not look more than 2km on the map) but got confused and walked for half an hour in the wrong direction before eventually getting a bus (all the buses and trains were free on that day for runners). The expo was brilliantly organised- we got our numbers, a big bag to leave while we ran, an envelope for valuables, plus a bum bag (I saw some people wearing these but I had my water waist pack), sponge, compeed and some ice gel!
The bag says “Stockholm marathon” so a nice souvenir, although I gave mine to my Mum!
Anyway, we put our race numbers on (they even gave you safety pins!), went to the toilets (there were loads so the queue was not too long) and got to our starter pen. I also picked up 2 pacer bands, for 5.00 and 5.15, but then forgot to put on the 5.15 one (left it in the bag). Whoops. I chose those as I thought they were the times I was capable of, although my goals were to finish (in the time allowed) and to run the whole way. Andy and I were in the same starter pen, so we chatted and tried to take our mind off the hours of running ahead. The atmosphere was fab, and we heard the gun for the first lot of people (4 groups started at 11.30, and we started at 11.40 with another group). Then it was time for us to go!
The start was through the city, and it was great because there were people in the streets, cheering (they all shout “hey-ja”), people with cowbells, kids high-fiving the runners. I did nearly cry several times during those first few miles, as I kept thinking about how a few years ago I did not even run (I took it up 3 years ago to run a 5k,and that was a massive challenge for me). I had to tell myself to get it together as I had a long way in front of me before I would actually finish! I was being overtaken by loads of people, but I kept telling myself that I was letting the tide go out (e.g. most people set off fast and so if I stayed steady I would catch up later- this generally does work for me!). I was going to try to keep an eye on the pacer runners, but within a few minutes the 5.00 pacers had gone from my sight. But for the first 12k at least, I was bang on time with the pacer band. At 9K there is a big bridge (I had been warned about it) and although it was long, I found it OK, and the view from the top was amazing. Not sure if I took that too fast, but soon after that my calves started to feel tight, and as I was nowhere near half way I decided to try and slow down a bit. All the way around were live bands, marching bands, samba dancers, stuff like that, so it was good to get a boost from those people as you went around. By 15k I was off target, by a few minutes, but really 5 hours was not the be all and end all, I just wanted to finish one. After about 2 hours I was running along a road, coming up to the stadium (the end of the first loop) and a helicopter swooped low over the road, so I waved up to the camera (as did other runners)- then I saw the pace car zoom past on the other side of the divide. Yes, I was not even half way and the elite athletes were on their way to the finish line!
After that was the hardest part of the race for me. The route looped away from the stadium, into a park. The park was quieter- no crowds here, and there were a few hard hills too. By that point my legs were really sore, but I was not feeling tired really. The half way point had very loud loudspeakers playing music, (and a mat with some people on a crane taking photos, so I did smile and wave at the camera then!)- I reached half way in 2.33, so by then I knew I would not manage 5 hours. Right after half way was a gherkin station, randomly! I did not partake in any of the refreshments except water. There were stations every few km, with energy drink, water, coke (near the end), bananas, some kind of veg stock at one, dextrose energy tablets and energy bars. The roads were so sticky after the energy drink stations, and I was having to peel my feet off the ground after the coke one! I had my clif shots to keep me going until this point, and topped up my bottle (water with a nuun tab in it).
Anyway, back to the race (I did warn you it was a ramble). The park was soooooo hard, and knowing I was only just half way done was difficult as my legs hurt. I was still being overtaken by other people, and also lots of walk/ runners who kept running away, then I would catch them up. I was tempted to walk, but I really wanted to run the whole way and I was being stubborn! I did some mind games (I play ABC games- name a fruit for each letter of the alphabet- then I did it with veg and got stuck on D, then got annoyed and stopped it!), I thought about all the runs I have done before, thought about my parents watching at home on the computer each time I went over one of the timer mats. The time passed, anyway, as it does. I got overtaken by the 5.15 pacer runners, and as I had not put the band on I had no idea how I was doing for that, I just knew I had been running for a long time! Then it was back into the city, and the same loop that was from 3k-16k. I still cannot decide if it was better knowing what was coming. I kept thinking I knew what was coming, and thinking it would be right around the corner, whereas it was another few km away. I also think the km thing was harder, as I am used to miles. By this point I was telling myself “ok you have 16km to go, that is only a 10k and a 5k- they are not far”!. Then I worked out how many miles it was, and wished I hadn’t. I had a nakd bar at this point, as it was a long time since that porridge and I fancied some real food. It also made me think about that instead of my legs. The bridge for the second time, at 33km, was really hard. I was tempted to walk, but I knew that re-starting would be so much harder, so I kept to my plod and counted the railings (over 300 on the way to the middle). Soon after was a stand with bananas on it- the people were peeling them and holding them out, but I decided I wanted one for the end, so I went up to the table and chose a nice looking one, which I then held for the rest of the way. Again that was something for me to think about other than my legs. All the drinks stations were being tidied away (people sweeping up all the rubbish etc)- drinks were still available and I did think that it was a bit disconcerting as I was not right at the back, but really they were being efficient.
By this point, the mind games were starting again. “Only 7k to go, that’s only a little more than a 5k. Now only 6k to go, that’s only a little more than a 5k. Only 5k to go (at last)- that is not too far. Then I got overtaken by the 5.30 pacer group, and I started to worry a little (as the 6 hour limit was strict)- I had been running for over 4 and a half hours I think, so I am not sure if the pacer group decided to pick up speed (it was a small group) but they must have finished before their time. I had a little bag of jelly tots, which got me through the last few miles (past the sticky coke station!). There were a few bands playing, and the last 3 km are a bit of a blur in my mind now (I stopped looking at my watch by this point).
Suddenly I could see the entrance to the stadium, and thought for a second that the inflatable arch was the finish line. No such luck- I had to run under that, into the stadium, over the 42km mat and then around the stadium. That was an amazing feeling. During parts of the race I was really worried that I would not finish, so to see the end in sight and know that I would make it was just fantastic. By that point my legs did not feel like my own- my brain was having a hard time moving them naturally. The stadium had loads of people sat in the stands cheering, and there were photographers all around (I was crying by that point and tried so hard to make myself smile for the cameras)-I was trying to take it all in as I ran around the track- then it was across the finish line- relief, happiness, amazement, pride- so many emotions were flooding through me. Just thinking about that now is making me feel so emotional. The lady that gave me my medal gave me a very sympathetic look (as I was properly crying by that point!) and said “well done”.
Then I had my banana while I walked from the stadium to the expo. I was handed some water on the way, and at some point remembered to stop my Nike+. Then we had to walk down stars (what a killer) to get to the expo. They had these clever ramps which you walked up, and some lovely people cut the timer chips off, then I was handed my finishers t- shirt(which is a real technical t shirt) and a bag with raisins, nuts, another banana, chocolate bar, coke and protein milkshake.
Andy was waiting for me, enjoying his free beer. He had found it tough too-(he did it in 4.36 which I think is pretty respectable for a first marathon- I would love to run that fast anyway)- his legs were sore too, so we are not sure if it was the flight maybe. But anyway, we finished. “If it was easy, everyone would do it” he said to me when I was saying how much harder I had found it. I did think it would be hard, but because I had managed the long training runs ok, I was only expecting the last bit to be hard. But it felt like more of an achievement as I did find it so hard from early on.
Here is a close up of the medals! They are about the size of a coaster- pretty hefty.
It was a shame the medals did not have ribbons, as you could not wear them, but I put on my t-shirt right away!
This is about 5 minutes after I finished! So happy! 🙂
We hung around for a bit (well, basically Andy finished his beer while I had some more water and went to the toilet), and then we decided to make our way back to the hotel. We were going to get the bus, but the roads were still closed and we had no idea where the bus would go from (and we were not 100% sure where our hotel was!) so we walked. Very slowly! I had some of the milk drink but it was so sweet that I only managed about half. It was weird as I did not feel hungry at all by that point. We passed the very last people running- they had a van driving behind them and people were collecting up the barriers and the rubbish bags so behind them the roads were re-opening. We walked back along some of the marathon route, and you would not have known that it was there as there was no sign of it at all.
Once back to the hotel (it took us maybe half an hour which we decided would be good to help our legs cool down) we showered, I had the nuts, and covered my legs in the ice gel.
Then we went for dinner (there was a Hard Rock cafe at the end of the road, and as they do veggie burgers it meant no worries about finding a veggie place to eat)- I still did not feel hungry so had the veggie burger and side salad (not fries) but when it came I ate it so fast! I must have been starving! Maybe I should have had the fries!
Anyway, I think I have written enough to be getting on with! I will do a post later about the rest of our time in Stockholm.
I looked on the website, and I got a rather detailed list of the time splits, although not all the sections are 5k sections so it is hard to compare- I will do the speed in brackets for those of you that like the numbers;
35.22 (7.05 per km),
8.26 (up to half way-7.42),
30.54 (this was more like a 4k section- 7.42),
30.54 (7.55- again not 5k),
40.38 (8.08- that dreaded bridge on the second way around)
17.24 (just over 2K-7.56).
Average pace 7.38 min per km.
Total time- 5 hours 21-59. So, I finished, and I ran the whole way! Goals accomplished.
I basically got gradually slower until the end was in sight!
Weirdly, although I felt like I was being overtaken the whole time, I went from 3406, to 3350, so I must have overtaken more people than went past me. Right before the end I was number 3345, so 5 people must have put on a proper sprint finish, but I had nowt left in the tank for that! I don’t know how the placings work as there were meant to be 20,000 people running. It says I was 1789 for my age, but my placing can’t be out of the whole amount of people running.
I will leave you with the route map- not sure if it will come out but it has a rather humorous km by km countdown (eg 27- Wow -that guy looks worse than me!), and finishes with 42- Eternal pride at the great Olympic stadium! Which is what I feel when I think about it. The pain was worth it.
I am so proud that I managed to complete it. And I know I said it before, but thanks for all the advice, encouragement, support and so on that you have all shown me. 🙂
And well done for getting right to the end- virtual tea and cookies are coming your way!