April 2023

Race Reports - April 2023

23/04/2023 - The London Marathon


Race Report by Claire Jones

My London Marathon journey began at the Coasties Christmas party. I’d entered the general ballot a few months before and had been rejected as expected but was totally speechless when Julie pulled my name out of the hat in Ramsgate Football Club in December 2022! Once the initial shock had subsided (and the hangover wore off), I set to work on getting to grips with my training plan and was determined I was going to do it! The longest run I’d ever done was 10 miles although I’d wanted to go further. And I’d only ever wanted to run one marathon and that was London. Thanks to the Coasties, I now had the chance.

I followed the London Marathon’s intermediate training plan, which increased my training days from January to four sessions a week. These were a mix of long, short, fast, slow and fartlek runs. I certainly became a lot fitter and really enjoyed going to the club runs on Wednesdays and Sundays (triple sessions!). I also enjoyed incorporating the Canterbury 10 miler and Deal and Lydd Half Marathons into my training plan and they helped me establish a fuelling system for the big day, as well as an anticipated marathon pace. All was going well until Covid struck three weeks before Marathon Day and the week before my first ever 20-mile run. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to do the Marathon at all but a week after I recovered, I ran from Ramsgate to Margate and back (with Sharon who joined on the way out) and found not only could I do it but that I really enjoyed it! After some taper runs and lots of carbs, my training journey was complete.

Then to Marathon Day itself. It’s hard to put into words what an overwhelming and incredible experience it was. Seeing all those supporters along the route and all the fellow runners was so amazing. It felt like I was part of something really special. I watched my dad run the Marathon as a child and had always wanted to follow in his footsteps one day and there I was. I found myself becoming really emotional and had to choke back the tears for at least the first five miles! After all my training, I was really doing it! It was just brilliant running through Greenwich and Bermondsey - the support, the music, the atmosphere, the sweets! – and before I knew it, I was at Tower Bridge at 12 miles! Tower Bridge was something else. The atmosphere was electric. Shortly after, I saw my sister, brother-in-law and niece and started crying again! And then I was off again.

It was around Limehouse that things started to unravel. I’d be warned about the ‘wall’, which is not only a mental wall around the 16-mile point but is actually a physical wall. At this wall, there were lots of runners collapsed, taking off clothes, rubbing and stretching their muscles, it was quite the image. Lots of runners had started walking at this point too making the route increasingly hard to navigate. My legs had also really started to ache and I was in a lot of pain. But I was determined to carry on and to push through it.

After a relatively quiet few miles, we hit Canary Wharf, which can only be described as crazy. There were so many people screaming, shouting and clapping, all of which echoed around the high-rise office blocks, that it gave me the boost I needed to carry on. In my slight delirium, it felt like I was famous and these people were there just for me! It was then another relatively quiet few miles (with the exception of the excellent Run Dem Crew and their sound system at 21 miles – I had a little arm dance with them!) before we hit the Embankment.

Miles 21 onwards was by far the toughest part of the race for me. My legs were now in agony and more people were walking in front of me than ever before. It was like dodgems. But again, I was determined. I took it a quarter of a mile at a time and thought ‘the quickest way to end this pain is to run!’ so that’s what I did. Each huge mile marker on route was like a glowing beacon of hope and I counted them down until I was at 26. Just as I turned the corner at Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, I saw my husband and daughter shouting and waving at me and I was buzzing to get to the end to give them a hug. The ‘600 metres to the end’ sign was the best thing I’d ever seen in my life and like everyone else around me, I mustered all the energy I had left to sprint as fast as I can. I’ll never forget the lovely marshal who looked me in the eye and told to me to use my arms so that’s what I did. As I looked around at the other runners also obviously in agony during that last sprint, I couldn’t help laughing and thinking it was like the Ministry of Funny Walks; one guy was shouting to himself ‘come on, come on!’. And then just like that, we were over the line. What a feeling! I (again) burst into tears as the marshal put the medal around my neck. The sun came out as I met my friends and family and we had a well-deserved beer in the park. A perfect end to an unbelievable, unforgettable day.

I completed the Marathon in just over 5 hours. I had wanted to do it in under 5 hours but I can’t beat myself about my time. I feel so proud that I did my very best, didn’t stop and kept going even when times were extremely tough. I always had the Coasties in the back of my mind, the club and its wonderful people kept me going and I feel so grateful that the club gave me the opportunity to do the only marathon I’ve ever wanted to do. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much! Special thanks must go to Jake, Damien, Darren, Nic, Matt, Ian, Sharon, Daves (C and D), Andy, Roger and all the other Coasties I’ve run with (and talked at) in the last few months. You made my training journey enjoyable and the marathon itself something I started to believe was possible.