The Smiles and Trials in 26.2 Miles.

Great Summary from EP Coach Alex, have a read and if you feel inspired to get training for a race, any distance 5km to Marathon, Triathlon to Adventure Race just let us know! But for now, massive well done to Alex, from Head Coach Kim and the Team….

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As I sat on my Energised Performance jacket leaning against the bag drop off sign within the red start area I saw from a distance Mickey Mouse walking towards me.  The sun shone off the morning dew and Mickey’s big ears as to I think the surprise of most of the runners it was not only dry but becoming warm. Mickey weaved around numerous people who like me had arrived early and set up camp on the floor, using various jackets and a sea of red Virgin London marathon kit bags as seats.

As Mickey came close to me he stopped with a man whom had been ushering him along and removed his large foam head. Having a somewhat childish sense of humour my initial thought as the two began to talk was “bloody brilliant.” Another  man who had been sat next to me instantly engaged me in conversation and I think put me at ease, he spoke  with a calming resonance and we exchanged advice. This male then stood up and approached Mickey.  To start I only half listened in to their conversation as I sipped on the first of what would be a world record breaking number of Lucozade sport bottles until I suddenly  heard Mickey  say “ My wife died and this is for her.” This if I’m honest knocked me for six and I remembered back to what I had said in a previous blog that this was not just a race, it’s much more than that!

As I looked around I could see thousands of people engaged in similar conversations with complete strangers, supporting each other, laughing and all I’m sure exchanging stories  as to why they were competing. As I remained sat on my coat this was a truly magnificent scene of inspiration panning out before me.

A great moment was yet to come as a race photographer approached Mickey and the two men and asked for a photo. He then asked “who does the head belong to?” Imagine two completely normally dressed runners and a male with oversized Mickey mouse limbs and attire stood together. Again I smiled as did they. This was the last I saw of Mickey, I hope he had the best race!!

Before long it was time to place my kit bag onto the kit coaches and head to my starting pen. I took my selection of pre race tested carb gels and a phone filled with, in most people’s opinion,  59 of the worst songs known to man under the playlist VLM and headed off down. The atmosphere as we lined up I could only fittingly describe as ENERGISED, the anticipation and excitement that was flowing between everyone was immeasurable.

Before I knew it we were crossing the start line, I was adamant I was going to follow Kim’s (the boss’) advice and really pace myself at the start. I quickly settled into a comfortable pace with as it turned out a man dressed as a dinosaur. What really stood out from the start was what I can only describe as the insane (!!) level of support along the course. From the first to last stride the line of support was unbroken. I’m sure this is a huge reason why the world over, this is one of the greatest running events you can ever wish to participate in.

As we approached the first water stop I moved to the side of the road and grabbed my first water bottle and took a quick sip before placing it onto what would become a familiar sight of mass roadside plastic bottle stock piles. I hadn’t planned on drinking for another mile but on what turned out to be quiet a hot day to run the importance of extra hydration was obvious. This seemed a fitting time to leave my dinosaur friend who I think was already feeling the effects of his extra thick exoskeleton and press on.

As I approached mile 9 I knew that my better half (or so I’m told) would be nearby and as I glanced a sight of some familiar faces I definitely felt an extra boost to keep going.  Just before I reached mile 10 I felt a tap on my shoulder which to my surprise was my brother! Seeing as he had caught me up, I resounded myself to losing the most unnecessarily long brotherly race and kept to my pace and plan as he went on slightly faster. Having provided him with some pre race NLP (Mental Strength Training ) in our hotel room after breakfast it appeared this had done the trick for him!

As the race passed the half way point I was privileged to see the tail end of the elite athletes running on the opposite side of the road and heading into the final few miles of the race, it would be some time before I was to grace that stretch of the course! These men and women are phenomenal athletes and have my upper most respect finishing in unreal times.

I guess my next point of note was at about mile 20 when I could feel my pace dropping off and I guess heading towards the famous phenomena of “hitting the wall.” By this time a number of people including Elvis (!) were either walking for brief sections had stopped to try and stretch off cramps or sadly in some cases were receiving medical attention. For me this was when the race with myself began as I had run up to 21 miles in training I knew that was in the bank but I was now headed into the unknown.

I’m sure everyone on the course had their own motivations when they reached this point in their own race and for me I began to focus on my own personal reasons for running. At energised we talk a lot about mental strength and in the last 5 miles  I certainly tested mine out J My own technique was to go mile by mile and focus on getting to 25 knowing that I would then find the last 1.2 from somewhere! Over these last few miles the crowd that I alluded to earlier really came into play and I cannot thank enough all those people that shouted for seemingly every runner that passed them it was incredible.  I’m fairly sure I also had the  voice of  “the boss”  saying “ you can do it” playing though my head a few times!

As I approached the final mile I passed a man who was sat with a paramedic crying, his race seemingly over at such a late stage. As I ran passed him it caused me to reflect upon how lucky I was to be able to run this race and to have made it to the end without injury. Sadly with such a gruelling event not everyone can finish or finish in the time that they had hoped for due to injury or tiredness, this though is part of what makes the London marathon the event that it is, a huge physical and mental challenge.

As I entered the home straight I was met with an 800m sign, easily the longest 800 metres of my life! Again I focused on my personal thoughts for motivation as by the now the engine warning light was on J  As I crossed the finish line I was met with a wave of exhaustion, achievement and happiness, the final smile of the race! All that was left was to collect my medal and wrap up in the EP coat again and find my family and friends.

I can only describe the day as the most physically and mentally challenging event that I have endured to date yet also one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Perhaps like some readers now a few years ago I watched the marathon on television and thought to myself I could never do that! The thing is…. YES YOU CAN…. and we at EP are here to help you get there.

I end on a note of respect as earlier this morning I found out that a lady of not dissimilar age to me died in the last mile of the race. I have so much admiration for every single person that took part in the marathon and such pride for the amount of money that will have been raised for so many amazing charities. I hope that a great good can be sparked from this truly sad loss.

I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has sponsored me for this race I am extremely thankful and I cannot say how grateful I am.  If you still wish to Sponsor e there is still time..:-) http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AlexCOSGROVE

To all the important people who have put up with me, my absence whilst out on the road , advised and motivated me you know who you all are and a big big thank you!!