by Drew Wilson
I had the best day out running through the streets of London with Sam Graystone in what was her first (and last) marathon.
Unfortunately, we started the race in different zones. Sam had an uphill start at Greenwich, while I had an easier downhill section. The routes merged after three miles, so we’d arranged to meet at mile four when the initial crowded start would have petered out a bit.
My start was fabulous. I had set out to soak it all in and wasn’t bothered about time – my only concern was to make sure Sam got to the finish in one piece and I was slightly concerned we wouldn’t find each other among the other thousands of runners. Right from the off all I could hear was the shouts of encouragement from the crowds of spectators.
“Come on, Drew!” “You’ve got this, Drew!” “You’re loving this aren’t you, Drew? Go on!” Two ladies running with me were convinced I was famous. “I am today” I chuckled. Poor Callum running behind never got a look in. “It’s all about Drew,” he said. “Not heard anyone shout Callum yet.” And so it continued for the next 26 miles – it really was like I was famous for a day.
At three miles we merged with the other runners, and, after being spotted by Sam’s husband and told she wasn’t far away on his tracker app, she suddenly appeared, had a quick chat with her crew and off we went together – almost perfect timing. We made steady progress. Neither of us had a target finish time so it was a nice, relaxed pace. We still ticked the miles off as we passed the Cutty Sark and various other landmarks.
One of the highlights was turning a corner to be faced with Tower Bridge, and the noise while crossing it was unbelievable.
I was surprised to see Abbie Morgan cheering us on at that point. It had been a great effort to get to that spot.
Not long after the bridge was the halfway point. Sam and I were still in good spirits taking in the different bands, and other entertainment along the route. I recall a brass band playing, “I’m tired and I want to go home,” which made us chuckle. About mile 14 Sam had had enough of me rabbiting on and politely asked if I would stop talking as she need to concentrate. Sam’s longest training run had been 15 miles, so to get to 26.2 would be a mammoth task.
At a few points after this, there were often lulls in the crowd as they too had been cheering and encouraging runners for several hours – it’s hard work for them too. However, with a raise of my arms, the calls of “go on, Drew” soon continued. This was fab I was actually playing the crowds now.
The children were especially good. It’s such a long day for them, but it was high fives all the way from them and the odd sweet/jelly baby. Sam is never eating a jelly baby again.
I’d been encouraging Sam by getting the first 10 miles out of the way, then starting again for the next 10 and ticking the miles off, and to be fair we soon got through them. We were a bit worse for wear but had got to 20 miles without any real hardship. Just a 10k left then, easy peasy, just a Thursday night club run to go. Trouble was, Sam had never been this far before and I don’t do Thursday club runs. We were both starting to struggle. We’d have quick walking breaks while drinking Lucozade from paper cups – they were quick, too. Sam can walk blooming fast – I was jogging alongside her a few times.
Mile 21 to 22, Reach for the Stars was blasting out from somebody’s loudspeakers – a song we’d both heard just a few days earlier at our running buddy Jackie’s funeral. Sam and I just looked at each other teary-eyed and smiling. We didn’t need to speak; Jax was with us. You start getting emotional about this point on a marathon as your body is depleted, and it definitely gave us a boost having Jackie in our hearts.
At mile 23 Sam was finding it hard just to coordinate her legs, and my knee was really painful. My quads were shot too but that’s just usual. I’ve not had knee trouble before. We were both digging deep and Sam’s new husband Marc and her family would be around mile 25 near Big Ben. Somehow we plodded on and Sam managed to hear Marc’s calls among the crowds.
She had a swig of someone’s lager (I think) and I ended up with what was left of a can of Guinness. There was some chuckling among the crowds with me running past Parliament, swigging Guinness. I couldn’t believe there was only a mile and a bit to go.
Earlier on in the race I’d mentioned to Sam that a marathon is 42k-ish, but we’ll call it 40k, and we won’t worry about the last two. Well, now, here we were, on the last 2k, and I was worried, my knee was throbbing, quads killing and I knew Sam was in a bad way too. At that point we passed the MS Society support crew who were making more noise than I had heard at any point before – it was a great boost.
The straight run down to the palace seemed endless as we weaved through tired runners/ walkers, but when we finally got to that last bend it was such a great feeling. I was doing the aeroplane move down the Mall followed by a mighty jump and fist pump just before we crossed the line together.
“Is that it?” said Sam. “Was that the finish line?”
It sure was. We’d done it. And it was fabulous.