When you don’t feel how you are ‘supposed’ to feel post-marathon

The London Marathon & Me

by Ann Lawson-Jones

It has been a few days since I ran the London Marathon and time for a reflection as things have been on my mind.

My journey to London was a long drawn out one. I entered the ballot in 2018, I deferred my 2019 place in hopes hubby would get in with me, then Covid took it, and then a broken ankle and rehab paused things. 

2021 was my race. I worked hard for it, I trained diligently while keeping up my physio exercises. I was ready for it. The build up was exciting, but also anxious as more and more pupils in my son’s year group were going down with covid. 

Everything was in place, bag packed and off we went. Saturday ran smoothly, the journey down was ‘great’, in the way only long car journeys can be. The hotel was lovely and within walking distance to the ExCel to drop off my bag and collect my bib.

I’d arranged to meet Rosie before hand as she was staying close by and we made our way on the DLR to the start together.  At the top of the hill, we had to go our separate ways as were in different colour start areas. A big hug, and then I was on my own. I diligently queued for the loos and then headed to my wave start area. I was a little cold so glad of my jumper. I text hubby as well as AJ & Gruby. While I was waiting Rachel approached me – she spotted my SRC skirt that Gruby and her husband had made for me, we chatted while we waited for our start time.

Once we were off, we parted ways, and my marathon had begun. 

Here’s where it got weird. I had the thoughts ‘I’m doing it! I’m actually running the London Marathon’ but I didn’t feel it. I can’t explain it. I’d been told to ‘enjoy every moment, soak in the atmosphere’ so I tried that. I had a little smile, thinking ooh I’ll see something familiar in a minute, or, when we converge with the other colours I may be able to spot other SRC members. Neither happened, I was running on strange, unfamiliar roads with thousands of strangers alongside me. 

I felt out of my depth, I decided the only thing to do would be to focus on the miles I had offered to run in memory of. So, each mile became a quick selfie and a post to social media, naming the mile and person it was for. That’s how I got though the 26.2 miles. I didn’t have 26 people I’d been asked to run for but I had my own grateful list that easily topped it up, they were all on a piece of paper in the back of my phone case for quick reference. At one point the cycling paramedics were alongside and I almost asked if I could just run with them as that is how I had done most of my long runs with hubby on his bike with me. 

There had been advice to chat to other runners, but I find that so hard, I just couldn’t do it. There was this overwhelming sense of being totally on my own. In this huge city full of thousands of spectators and runners, I was on my own. I knew there was lots of support out there for me, I knew family, friends and SRC were following my progress but running and following your social media is nigh on impossible, how I managed those mile updates and keep running I’ll never know. Knowing the support was there was a big comfort, but at the end of the day I wanted my running buddies actually running with me! 

There were a few moments of relief – seeing Beth and Zoe three times; the first time they screamed so hard! By the time I realised I was the Ann being screamed at I couldn’t carry on running so I turned back and got the most amazing hug! Saw hubby twice – the first time my overactive, delighted to see him hug set off the incident detection on my Garmin and it stopped my run, so it was in two parts on my watch. 

There was also a boat, a bridge and a palace along the way. To be fair the supporters were amazing, the live music and the cheering especially when the heavens opened, but it got too much for me towards the end, the wall of sound took over all my senses and I felt a little claustrophobic. 

I was relieved to see the finish line, but I was confused – there were two arches. I ran through the first and knew I’d run over the timing chip but I kept going until a marshal told me it was Ok to stop! I was handed a foil blanket but struggled to open it, another volunteer took it from me and wrapped the one she had opened around my shoulders.

In a daze I wondered more than half The Mall to find the crate number that had my bag in and then tried to find hubby. It all felt a little bit too easy? As if I’d forgotten a big bit, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what’s missing. 

That post run euphoria, that feeling of ‘OMG I’ve just run a marathon’ that was missing. I didn’t have that insane grin on my face that you see in so many finishers’ photographs. I’ve spent the last few days still hoping that moment will come, but it hasn’t yet. 

Hubby was able to join the two run files when we got back home on Monday, so I now do have a recorded marathon time as well as my official text. But the feeling of disappointment remains. 

All of this has not put me off though. I want to run another marathon but quite differently; I want to run in familiar places with my running tribe joining for all or parts of it. I want it to be a celebration of the community I feel such a part of, in thanks for the support and wonderful message I was sent in the days up to, of and after London. I’ll make us all medals and we’ll have a big party on the Rec at the end. That will, for me, trump any world major running event!

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