I didn’t manage to write my "last day" blog on the last day, or even yesterday, and as I sit in front of my computer on my first day back at work with a medal hung over my monitor, and my 10in10 trophy on my desk, I wonder if even now I’m going to be able to find the words to do justice to what has been the most painful, challenging, wonderful and rewarding experience of my life.
Everyone told me that Day 10 would be amazing. I didn’t quite believe that and I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. I thought I’d be totally overwhelmed by the crowds and it would make me grouchy…I’m sure everyone would agree I’ve had my fair share of mardiness over the 10 days. But I was wrong, they were right, and it was perfect.
From the moment we walked out of the main house to the applause of the gathered supporters and runners taking part in the main marathon, I loved every minute of it. The speech that Foxy gave as we stood together in a huddle made me cry (and he quoted lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s ”We were born to run” which hasn’t stopped playing in my head since – I love that song) and walking down to the start was really intense. My family were at the bottom of the drive and I went and said hello before lining up. I was still hobbling a bit, as were many of us, and couldn’t imagine how I was going to get round the 26.2 miles that lay ahead but knew in my heart we’d all make it.
Then, all of a sudden, we were off. Huge amounts of applause and cheering got us away to a flying start, until we got around the first corner and remembered how much everything hurt and I slowed down!
The first half of the course went by much as normal albeit with a few extra marshals and cones out on the road but we were pretty much on our own, although when I passed the café in Hawkshead, there were lots of people sat outside having breakfast and everyone cheered me. There was also a line of very excited Brownies a few more meters down the road…I ran past high-fiving them all. As I passed out of the village I was in tears again.
It was still very, very painful though. I was running the slowest I had so far, and although uphill was ok, the downhills were agony. As well as the constant pain, every so often I’d get strange muscle spasms too, making it feel like someone had taken an axe to my shin.
At some point, the police bikes started passing me, and then the lead car…and then I heard a voice call out my name with encouragement. I looked around and Marcus Scotney was absolutely flying along – lead man in the main marathon! I know he’s an incredible elite athlete but to have had him treating me in the physio clinic at the beginning of the 10in10 and then to see him racing, and winning the Windermere Marathon was awesome, and to have him cheer me on too was an enormous boost. From then, the pain started to wane. More of the elite runners started to pass me, each one with a word or two of praise – I was so touched at the support of these amazing athletes, and in awe to see just how fast they were running!
On I went, and knowing the rest of the marathon field was coming up behind me somehow stopped me walking when I usually would. I got to Newby Bridge and although the pain was starting to creep back, I saw family and friends (and my awesome banner) and bigger crowds than there had ever been on the route, and was again encouraged not to limp and just ignore it. It had taken me longer to get to this point that it had on any previous day - 2hrs 20mins - but I knew I had to keep running.
By the time I got to our next water station, I remembered that Aly had left a can of magic healing spray (technical term there) in the box with the water bottles. Not sure what it is but I doused my foot, ankle and both knees in the stuff. I had another pain killer. I was ready to go.
And go I did.
I attacked those hills like I hadn’t before. I ran up everything…although was a little more tentative on the downhills…and was helped along by the kind words from pretty much every single other runner that passed me. I couldn’t believe how well I was doing and how much I was enjoying myself - the pain was a dull ache in the back of my mind.
When I got to ice-cream mountain and saw Stuart and Mac with their snack table, I stood with them for a few minutes having jaffa cakes and jelly babies, watching some of the other runners go past. I felt so incredibly proud to be part of the event – it was wonderful. I saw Paul come through who was running instead of supporting as he had done all week and then Keith – to be honest I could have stood there all day watching the other runners. But I knew I couldn’t…I had to get the job done.
My family turned up in a few more places cheering me on, and by the time I got to Windermere, I saw my friends Steph and Niv again, in front of the pub. Both had pints in their hands. I’m sorry to stay I stole Steph’s and a beer has never tasted so good! :D I was having so much fun!
On I went but by then it was nearly over. I made sure I touched the statue of the otter at the bridge for good luck, I made sure I read the daily sign that had been hung for us just before we got to Brathay, and I made sure I ran up the drive. I felt amazing. When I got to the top, I couldn’t believe the number of people shouting for me…coming down the finish shoot was awesome, and although I’m not sure I really remember it, having watched Martin’s Day 10 video, I know that I was hugely emotional as I crossed that finish line. I had a special Aly hug as I burst into tears.
I forgot to dib in when I finished, but by the time I did, it recorded that I’d finished in 4:37 which was still a brilliant negative split to round off my 262 mile journey.
10 marathons, in 10 days, all under 5 hours. Job done!
The rest of the afternoon was just as good as I watched the remaining 10in10ers finish, I had ice-cream, and a second one, I hugged everyone. Then came the presentation – it was lovely to be stood together as one team on the stage before each of us got presented with our beautiful trophies by Joss Naylor.
Dinner was very special too with speeches and thank-you’s and so much applause, not only for the other 10in10 runners, who really are an incredible group of absolute legends that I am privileged to have shared this with, but also for the phenomenal support team who got us all through it....Aly and Mac, Karen, Paul and Trudi, Chris, Jim, Michelle (and the amazing sweet station), Scott, Shelagh, Paul and his miracle working SparQ physio team, and last but by no means least Martin, who I really hope knows it was never him I didn’t want to talk to, just the camera.
Each and every one of you made this the most incredibly experience– you kept me going when I was struggling, you put up with my moods and you shared my joy and enthusiasm. You all made the 10in10 more than a running event, you made it a life changing one, and I miss you all already.