The London Marathon

Running the London Marathon

I’ve always said I didn’t have a marathon in me – I’m a keen parkrunner, for sure, but there’s a massive difference between running 5km and running 42 of them, all in one go.  But as part of my *cough cough* milestone birthday celebrations, I was somehow persuaded that this would be A Good Idea!

The first hurdle was getting a place.  There is a ballot which takes place every year, but most runners who apply are unsuccessful.  So I decided to go for a charity place instead.  Big events like marathons raise a huge amount for charities, and the absence of races and the like during the pandemic has been a massive blow for many, especially smaller and less well-known charities.  I was able to secure a place for the Smile Train, which provides medical treatment to children born with a cleft.  This can make it difficult for them to eat, drink, or talk, and has a detrimental impact on self-confidence.  I was very moved by the stories and pictures shared, and of just how life changing and enhancing this simple operation can be.  So even a small amount of money makes a very big difference.

Then came the training.  I was following a beginners 16 week training plan, which entailed a couple of running sessions during the week, with a progressively longer one on a Sunday.  Those long runs were vital in identifying what gear was comfortable to wear, most importantly socks and shoes, as well as how I was going to fuel en route.  Trying out jelly-babies versus mint imperials was one of the more enjoyable parts of training!  I also discovered that I got cold very quickly post-run, and that I liked listening to podcasts which distracted me from thinking “how much longer do I have to run?”

The final few weeks flew by, and I really appreciated “tapering” where instead of running for 3 ½ hours my long run was now a “mere” 90 minutes.  I received my kit bag in the post, and carefully packed it with all the things I would need at the finish line – warm clothes, Compeed plasters, and comfy footwear (crocs!) to change into.  Arriving in London, I headed to the Excel centre to drop off the kitbag, which I wouldn’t then see again till the finish line, and pick up my race number.  I double checked that I knew how to get to the starting point in time next day.  There are so many runners taking part that there are actually three different start areas, and within each of those, groups of runners set off in waves at allocated times.  This means quite a lot of hanging around (i.e queueing for the portaloos), and I was glad of the jacket I was wearing to keep me warm.  There are designated bins at the start where discarded clothing is collected and then redistributed to charities and the homeless.

Just after 10.30 my wave was called to enter the holding bay, and the excitement was really building as I chatted with other runners around me, many of them also doing their first marathon.  And then we were off!

Everyone who has run this event will tell you that the atmosphere provided by the crowd and supporters in London is something special.  They are not wrong.  Each side of the road was full of people cheering and calling out our names, with helpful encouragement like “nearly there!” (at mile 1…..).  A pub was playing YMCA as we ran past, and to a woman we all joined in with the actions.  As I passed a bagpiper I did a little bit of Highland dancing.  And the drummers, samba bands, Morris dancers, jazz groups etc all propelled us along on a wave of great spirits.   Many other runners were in fancy dress – I was overtaken by a pair of minions, a few rhinos, the queen, and Freddy Mercury, a telephone and some sort of internal organ.

The route continued past the Cutty Sark, and shortly after that crossed the iconic Tower Bridge, where I took the mandatory selfie.  From there the route weaves out to Canary Wharf, where it started to rain and quite a fierce wind blew up.  I was really struggling by now, and my walk breaks were getting progressively longer and longer.

Once I hit mile 20 I was determined to make it to the finish, and just kept on plonking one big ole foot in front of the other.  I did manage to break into a final jog to cross the line, though I was so emotional at that point that the official photos make me look very sad.  But I wasn’t, I was elated. It had taken me just over 7 hours, but I did it.

Afterwards I had a few blisters to deal with, and going up and down stairs was agony! But I recovered more quickly than I expected, and as is compulsory I now manage to shoehorn a mention of the marathon into every conversation.

It’s still not too late to contribute to my fundraising efforts, at

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LindaHarleyGillespie

or

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/linda-harley6

or contact me for other methods.

Buncrana parkrun

Event #76 (trombones in the Big Parade), parkrun #280, reason for visiting – celebrating the return of parkrun Ireland, and ticking off all those Donegal ones that I haven’t even begun to do!

Access:

Instructions on the website are very clear – cross the river and take a left. There’s plenty of parking around, and loos. The Tip O’Neill memorial, and a fine large sundial, are nearby.

Course:

It’s an out and back route along the shore path. Don’t let that fact fool you into thinking it’s flat – it most certainly is undulating! Cheerful marshals at each point will make sure you don’t get lost.

It crosses the stunning Castle Bridge before a sharp right through some trees, currently festooned with motivational sayings. The views across Lough Swilly are just breathtaking, with mountains, sea, a distant ferry crossing, and the waves breaking on little sandy beaches.

Crowd:

There were 70 participants when I attended, including a few far flung tourists such as myself. I met up with fellow 250 T shirt wearing Ronan, and as we have both recently acquired new wheels, we spent of time doing “Well my new car’s got” Top Trumps. It’s popular with those who want to walk rather than run, so if you’re ever holidaying in this part of the world (It’s on the Wild Atlantic Way), and fancy an enjoyable stroll of a Saturday morning, you know where to come.

Gear:

250 top, leggings with a big zippy pocket for holding car keys, and my running belt is just too small to hold my new bigger phone. So much so that in order to take photos I ran the last 1km doing what I hate doing, running with the phone in my hand. Cow cowl, though I didn’t spot any others. Apple watch is still doing brilliantly at recording runs, sweat wristband, and of course my barcode wristband!

Time:

The course record is 16.20.

I’m still training for the marathon, so I haven’t been running this distance much. Plus I did stop to take lots of photos! So I was happy enough with a sub-40 minute result. I’ve no doubt I’ll be back some time, and can try to improve on that.

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle

I do love Bryan Adams and “Run To You”, which is a good pace for running to.

All my parkruns

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

London marathon:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LindaHarleyGillespie

This will be my first (and probably only!) marathon – if you’d like to help me spread some smiles around the world, your donation would be very much appreciated!

Dean Castle Country Park parkrun

Event no 75, (3/4 cowell!) parkrun 289

Occasion – picking up my new wheels!

Getting There:

On the outskirts of Kilmarnock, the rather beautiful country park is well signposted with brown signs. I was there to pick up my new car, which in turn had made its way from Edinburgh, and this was the closest location to the ferry at Cairnryan. (Note for future reference – there are parkuns at Ayr, Girvan, Troon, and Stranraer)

Facilities;

The start and finish are at the same spot, just right by the car park. The car park itself gets pretty busy, especially if there’s football on over the road, so please park considerately. There are clean loos in the visitors centre, which opens at 9. I wasn’t able to hang around afterwards for coffee (did I mention my new car?), but the visitors centre looks worth popping your head round.

Course:

It’s undulating! Feels a bit like a roller coaster at times, and the ups are quite steep – you never gain on the downs what you’ve lost on the ups, but these sharp gradients mean you really have to take care on the descents. The course is a Y-shaped 3 spokes form a central point at a rather picturesque stone bridge, done twice. It is really pretty, passing an animal paddock as well as lovely water features, and I do love running through trees, which are so inspiring. Can get quite muddy underfoot.

Gear:

My blue hokkas were perfect for the terrain, and my apple watch told me how my pace was. I’d asked the UK parkrun Tourists Facebook group’s advice on what top to wear – my apricot ‘parkrundancer’ that was a parkrun forever prize? Or my apricot with my home run, Wallace? My world tourist, or a With Me Now hoping for a “Dolly or Bev” shout-out? My 50 milestone customised with my first 50 events? or my running club T? In the end I went for the first option which was quite fortuitous……

Crowd:

I’d said Hi to the RD on arrival, and during our wee natter he established that I’m involved with the new event at Hillsborough Forest, and said that one of their regulars had run there recently. And he did indeed introduce me later! I approached a couple with someone wearing an apricot T, and they looked t mine to see where i was from. I explained it wasn’t my home location, but that my other main interest is Scottish Country Dancing, and consequently I do be in Scotlandshire fairly frequently. they looked at each other and said “I don’t suppose you know MK?” and I laughed and said, yes i did, she and I did our teacher training final together!

But the real joy was when someone came up to me as I crossed the finish line (doing a Highland dance style skip change step may I say), and I recognised an old face from Jog Lisburn, who I knew had moved to Scotland a few years ago! He’d shouted out “Go Jog Lisburn” as I was rounding the turn cone, but I had headphones on (bone conductors!) and hadn’t heard him. So sorry I didn’t get a photo with him, but it was so good to see running club stablemates in exotic (ish) locations. Here’s George posing with Cracker from a previous occasion. …

Time:

I told the RD I’d expect to run in about 40 mins, so there was no danger of me getting lost! With photo stops I came in at 40-10, which was grand.

Strangely Appropriate Tune On Shuffle:

Not while I was running, but while we were waiting to board the ferry (delayed because of ramp problems in Belfast) R was trying to pair my phone with the new car, and found the latest playlist i’d created, which was for a Scottish Dance class I gave over Zoom. The warm-up dance I’d used was “Prince of Orange”, and of course that made us laugh out loud and agree that the car’s name is Prince!

And the rest:

I always love little trips to Scotland, and this was no exception. We stayed in the Park Hotel right by the football ground, but unfortunately the ramp delays meant we arrived too late for dinner. But the very helpful staff had lots of menus from local takeaways, and i carb-loaded with some very tasty dirty fries. Hotel, parkrun and car place were all in about a 3 mile radius, so the driving was pretty straightforward. I’ll definitely take an opportunity to revisit, and try those famous pies!

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

And since you’re here…..

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LindaHarleyGillespie

This will be my first marathon and I’m absolutely terrified! Any donation you can make will be so much appreciated, plus you’ll be helping to put a smile on many little faces. Thank you!

Knockbracken Reservoir parkrun

My 287th run at my 73rd different location, in order to reclaim legionnaire status. Also Toby’s first barkrun!

Getting There

At around 8 miles from my house, this was a pretty close NENDY. It takes place at the Go Hydro activity centre south of Belfast, near Carryduff. (What Three Words admits.lung.target)

Facilities

There’s plenty of parking, several loo blocks and also a number of catering trucks and spots. If that’s your thing there’s also a McDonalds and a KFC just before the entrance to the site.

Course

It’s 3 and a bit laps round the reservoir, and is flat apart from one Hill of Doom. Slower runners will be overtaken by the faster ones on lap 2, so keep aware of who’s behind you, but they will have the 3rd lap to themselves. There is some traffic and golf buggies around, so again, keep your eyes and ears open.

There are lovely views over Belfast, and lots of wee (and some not so wee) flappy winged things by the water. I saw but failed to capture a teensy blue butterfly.

Crowd

I was there at event number 6, when there were 137, about average turnout. This still being The Great Pause, there were a number of familiar faces travelling from the south, and a good turnout from local club Lough Mossketeers. It was Toby’s first outing to a parkrun, and he behaved himself impeccably, allowing himself to be patted and fussed over without barking, and he didn’t pee up a marshall’s leg or similar. There were a couple of other dogs running as well, and a pram or 2.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle

I was actually a bit nervous at the start line, I haven’t run a parkrun in well over a year. I even had that bad dream last night where I was at a parkrun but had forgotten my barcode. But the Hamilton soundtrack told me to Summon all the courage I require, and to Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.

Time

Toby may have behaved sociably, but he hasn’t got Minnie’s ability to pull me along – in fact sometimes it was the other way round! And I did stop now and then to take photos so 38 minutes it was.

Full list

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

And while you’re here…..https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LindaHarleyGillespie

The One With The Travelling 60th Tee – part 1

Well, this started with my cousin’s 60th birthday. Which happened to be in March 2021. The UK was still in the throes of Coronavirus restrictions, so his party was held over Zoom. I thought it would be amusing to get him a special T shirt to wear, and I duly found and ordered one off t’internet.

Except it didn’t arrive in time for the actual do 😦 So what to do? Keep it give it to someone else? Give it to D anyway as a souvenir? As I ran the options passed him we came up with a more brilliant idea – I would pass it to him, he would pass it on to someone else having their 60th in the near future, who in turn would pass it on…..you get the picture. Bit like those bottle bags which continually get passed from giver to recipient, or the theory about there only being one box of After Eights. All being well it might arrive back with me for my 60th in October. When hopefully we won’t be in lockdown or quarantine any more and I can have a proper party. Yay!

The rules – such as they are- take a photo wearing the T, send it to me, and I’ll do a blog entry on who’s wearing it, where, and what shenanigans it got up to. And who’s next. We did consider awarding bonus points for Most Interesting Stain, but that just sounds like asking for trouble with a capital T. hashtag60Tee

I got some takeaway coffees and we did a doorstep handover. Good luck, lil Tee shirt, travel safe!

While you’re here, if you’d like to make a donation to my marathon fundraising please click the link below. And let’s get everyone smiling.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Linda-Harley6?utm_source=Sharethis&utm_medium=fundraising&utm_content=Linda-Harley6&utm_campaign=pfp-email&utm_term=6712ef4f37c8474abddc1546696e9878.