By Anja Konter
We did it!!! Wow, what can we say?! We finished the Virgin Money London Marathon, conquering those 26.2 miles/42.195 kilometres. It was exhilarating, fun, rewarding, emotional, tough and let’s be honest, those final 8 miles/12 kilometres were absolutely gruelling. What made us pull through in the end was the thought of the many people rooting for us, either as spectator along the course or remotely, all the shows of support before, during and after the race and of course the cause we are supporting, MicroLoan Foundation.
Thank you all for making this journey with us – your kind words, donations, hugs and cheers have made this a worthwhile experience and has given us an inspirational and lasting memory. If you would like to make a donation, there is still time. Our fundraising page can be found here http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/mark_anja and donating is quick and easy.
Here are some highlights from the day:
It is an early start on Sunday to get to the Red start area in Greenwich Park (there are three areas to manage all 40,000 runners). There is lots of nervous activity until it is time to leave our kit bags at the designated lorry and get into our respective start pens. The sun is unexpectedly showing its face and we realise it is likely going to be a much warmer day than forecast. Great for spectators, less so for us runners. More waiting until the race start signal sounds at 10.00 at which point……nothing happens. The great waiting game continues until our pens finally start to move towards the start line and the race gets underway just before/at 10.30. Bring it on!
We settle in and are finding our pace. The pacers turn out to be going out too fast and there is confusion about them once the runners from all start areas come together – we realise we will need to rely on our Garmin running watch and our ‘inner Garmin’ to run this race. OK, fine, no problemo.
The first landmark at 6.5 miles/10 kilometres, the Cutty Sark tea clipper, is a fabulous sight with a great crowd cheering us on. We are feeling good.
On it goes towards half way point. This is familiar territory for us; the Southwark Parkrun cheering team gives us a ‘power up’, there is a live orchestra playing at the corner of Southwark Park and Jamaica Road is rowdy with spectators very close to the runners. And then we take a turn to the right, taking that gentle slope up to Tower Bridge – lined with spectators it is a magnificent sight. The crowd responds enthusiastically to a call for support. We are feeling great.
We take a right turn onto The Highway, again massive crowds cheering us on and we reach the 13.1 mile/21.1 kilometre mark. Wheyhey, we are now half way! More support is awaiting us towards the 14 mile mark with the MicroLoan support team!
And there it is…that damned ‘wall’. The lights start to go out from mile 18/kilometer 29 on approach to Canary Wharf for Anja, and Mark unfortunately picks up a minor injury around that same point. This is where we had to really dig deep to find ways to cope with the pain and the ever increasing desire to want to stop running – we found this in (finally) turning on that music and having it playing at full blast, zoning out and call out everyone that supported us in this journey (that’s all of you guys!) and of course our great charity, MicroLoan Foundation.
We battle through Canary Wharf and its ‘fun zone’ (sorry to everyone cheering us on there, we really didn’t feel it) and reach the point where a drum band is playing. We have reached the far point and from there we go west again for the final 6 miles / 10 kilometres.
As we make our way back to Tower Hill and continue along Embankment, we slowly zone back out. We see some amazing signs (“pain is just a french word for bread” and “you are still running faster than the government” were among our favourites), children giving high fives, music blaring from stereos and people handing out fruit and sweets. And not to forget the many people that are running in fancy dress – Santa and an Elf (a favourite with the children), a dinosaur, Jesus (barefoot and a cross on his back) and many many more. If they can run the race, surely we can too?!
Giving it a final push, we reach Big Ben and take a turn right. Not far now! The crowd is phenomenal in its support and we reach mile 26 in front of Buckingham Palace. As we take a last turn right we chuck away our water bottle,
pick up speed (or at least that is the intention!) and throw our arms in the air. The grin on our face follows effortlessly.
We have made it!!!
We have taken it easy post run and put our legs up today, and then it will be on to a next challenge…and who knows, perhaps that will be taking on another marathon!