One of our Fitness Hackers, Sarah Withers, was incredible on the weekend and ran the London Marathon. Below she has detailed her experience for all. Thank you Sarah!

Almost 40,000 people ran the 2016 London Marathon, which started in Greenwich Park in south-east London and ended 26.2 miles later in Pall Mall.  Tim Peake, a British astronaut, took part in the London marathon by strapping himself to a treadmill in the International Space Station, and broke the record for the fastest marathon in orbit at 3hr 35min 21sec. Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya won the men’s elite race and clocked the second fastest marathon time in history, 2hr 3min 5 sec. Only eight seconds outside the world record.



The races “fun” runners included a dinosaur, Disney princesses and 5 firemen in a cardboard fire truck. Not forgetting the lucky runner who will have become the millionth finisher since the race begin in 1981; who’s name will be revealed in May when they enter the record books.

My Marathon experience

I was running with my friend and colleague Sophie, who was raising money for The Royal Marsden Hospice (Sponsor here). We woke up nervous the morning of the Marathon after an evening of carb loading, we vaseline-d our feet, pinned our names to our chest and ate numerous protein bars. As nerves set in, Paula Radcliffe’s famous call of nature crossed both our minds, and we attempted to normalise and sympathise with her experience as it dawned on us, ‘today, it could be me’; causing us to adopt the new running motto ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’.

Handing in our bags, and stuffed into area 9, we waited to be released onto the 26.2 stretch all the way to the finishing line. Shuffling over the starting line it took us a good 25 minutes to reach Sophie’s parents who cheered us on at 0.5 miles in! We’d see them another two times throughout the course, each time they were as excited, and we were grateful for their cheers of support. We spotted the man dressed as a rhino for the charity ‘Save the Rhinos’, Sophie looked at me straight in the eye, ‘we have to beat the rhino’…. We didn’t beat the rhino.



Our high level of enthusiasm meant that we crossed the mile one mark quickly; it was marked by a bridge of balloons, as was every mile after that. I attributed our fast time to the fact that our journey was filled with people blaring out music and screaming your name! I spotted a girl who had written ‘run your own race’ on her fore arm in big capitals, reminding me to not let the excitement get to me and burn out half way through.

Me and Sophie spent the next few miles foraging for jelly babies at the barriers, listening to the steel bands play at the roadside, high fiving small children and pressing ‘power buttons’ which were red circles drawn onto to cardboard; pressing it meant you were guaranteed a crowd cheer. The crowd shouted out your name, telling you you’re doing and looking great and suggesting a sprint finish, but with 19 miles left it felt a bit ambitious.

Crossing Tower Bridge at mile 12 was a highlight, not only overwhelmingly beautiful but we knew we were close to the halfway mark! After that it felt depressing as on the side of the road were the runners at mile 22, they were 10 miles ahead and not looking great. The crowds diminished at this point, which massively affected my motivation and enjoyment.

Mile 17-18 felt like the hardest, Sophie developed butt cramp, which was managed by her stretching it out as I punched her in the left cheek to attempt to relax the muscle. This was the only time we were ignored by the crowd, who tried not to look in our direction. This was characterised by a mini race between me and Sophie against two men dressed as red Indians joined together by a canoe, I think we managed to overtake them for good when they stopped at a water stop.



There was something about passing the 20-mile mark that felt pleasing; probably a sense of hope that we were going to have successfully achieved something, something that we can dine out on for years to come, and that it will be over soon. At mile 21 I spotted my friend Lauren, and received a much needed hug, filled with emotion and feeling physically drained I cried for the next couple of minutes, as me and Sophie told each other. ‘If we can do 21, we can do the next five’.

The next four miles were physically painful; I had sharp tearing sensations in my left hip muscles. I felt a strong desire to stop and walk, but there was nowhere to hide from the crowd, that consistently lined the route until the finishing line. The cheers really do encourage you to keep going, and pinning my name to my chest in big bold letters was the best decision I made that day.

The last mile was marked, as 1km, 600 meters, 200 meters and Finish. Sophie wanted the sprint finish, but I was burnt out, I had nothing left but a 13 minute per mile pace. So she grabbed my hand, dragging me along for the next 200. We cried at the finishing line, maybe because we were so tired, or out of relief that it was over and could finally stop running, or even because of the overwhelming sense of self-indulgent pride we felt in ourselves that we had finished the London marathon in under 5 hours.

Throughout the course, the side-lines were full of smug beer drinkers sitting outside pubs waving pints at you as you plod past. Sooo… Next stop the pub!  So we waddled off to the closest pub, all I wanted was sugar, even after 4 bottles of orange Lucozade. So I had a pint of Pepsi.

Running the London marathon was one of my best experiences. I truly believe that everyone should take on the challenge. Although the possibility of wearing flip flops in the near future is now over, as I’m now the proud owner of 3 black toenails.

Fitness Hack: Don’t take yourself too seriously, you’ll enjoy it more. Just like the men in the canoe. And bring a friend… together we are all stronger.

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