A year ago, I entered the London Marathon ballot, didn't tell anyone, and crossed my fingers. It worked, and a minor miracle occurred - I got a place on my first attempt. Fast forward to a year later, and there I was, on the start line, waiting to go. It all felt quite surreal. When I entered the ballot the most I had ever run was about 4 or 5 miles. My training had gone well up until about 5 weeks before the big day, where during my 20 miler I had stupidly managed to slip off the pavement, injuring my foot and then my hip. The last couple of weeks I hardly ran at all, to try and prevent it getting worse, as even walking was quite painful at times. But it felt a lot better in the last few days of last week, so I was hopeful it would get me round.
I spent quite a bit of time in those couple of weeks worrying if I would manage to do it. Then a few days before I woke up one morning with the realisation that this might be the one and only time I got to do the London Marathon, so whatever it took I would finish it and I would blooming well enjoy it too.
And I had the extra incentive to keep me going, knowing that I was running as part of Team Ambitious, raising money and awareness for Ambitious about Autism. No further motivation was needed.
My hip behaved itself until about mile 8, and then started to get painful. I had to stop a couple of times around miles 14 and 16 to try and stretch it out. And from mile 20 I had to walk quite a few times. But, I loved every single second of it. My hope of finishing around the 4 and a half hour mark went out of the window, but the crowds kept me going every single step of the way. It's quite hard to put into words exactly how amazing they were. I had people cheering me on, telling me to keep going and I could do it, calling out what an amazing cause I was running for, giving me a massive cheer every time I started to run again after walking. It was the most amazing thing. Not only that, but having family, friends, and the Ambitious about Autism cheering points around the course really made a difference. I first saw my family just before mile 9, then again for a much needed hug just after mile 18. By that time it was hurting quite a lot, and I was thinking of the race in terms of "just to the next cheer point". I knew that the UKRunChat team would be at mile 19 and it was great to get a smile and cheer from them, then Ambitious about Autism were at mile 21.5 for a big cheer, a wave, and a huge smile. I was spurred on to mile 23 knowing that Ambitious about Autism had a samba band there. They were amazing, not to mention the supporter who spotted me coming, and ran over so that she could give me a much needed high five as I went through. I ran the whole of the last mile with one of the Runner's World Pacers. I had been near him for most of the second half so thanked him for keeping me going. We agreed that we would run the rest of the way, and it was possibly the best mile of them all. As we came up to Buckingham Palace he was whipping the crowd up to cheer extra loudly, telling me "they're cheering for you" and we crossed the line together with hands aloft, celebrating. It was something I shall never forget.
It was an absolute joy to run for Ambitious about Autism, and my fundraising total currently stands at just over £1700, more than I could have hoped for. I am particularly touched by the generosity of people who I have never even met, it's been incredible, and thank you to every single person who donated.
Being part of Team Ambitious has also meant that I got to meet the lovely Kate. Turns out we live near each, both started running for similar reasons, and have got quite a bit in common for one reason or another. Also turns out I love running with her. And turns out she's ace. So we met up with each other at the start, soaked up the atmosphere together, had a lot of fun, and ran the first 12 miles together before my hip decided I had to slow down. I couldn't think of anyone I would rather have done all that with, and I'm hoping we might get to do it all again another time too.
It's not too late to sponsor if you would like to, donations can be made to my Virgin Money giving page here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SusanSpence2014 or you can text SSLM77 £1 to 70070 to sponsor me £1.
So, (and here's something I would never have thought possible a year ago) job done - I'm a marathon runner!