London Marathon 2023: "It's about more than times. It’s about life, love and selflessness"
Standing on the line at the London Marathon 2023 I said to myself, "this race is going to be pivotal to the next stage in my life". Eight weeks prior I had been told I had cancer and would need to complete a month’s chemo. I had no idea I was going to be running at London at this point, I was simply head down focussing on the new unknown world of cancer.
That same week I was offered the prize place at the London Marathon by Up and Running and New Balance. What a rollercoaster of emotions. Obviously, I said “YES PLEASE” with the excitement of a child on Christmas Day, whilst working out how I was going to complete a fast-track marathon block and navigating chemo. But this is, Sallyann, I don’t do anything by halves!
So, there I am standing on that start line, proud of myself and full of gratitude for this opportunity, amongst individuals with places for amazing charities, generated by their personal stories. All with wet feet from the glorious unpredictable British weather, but none of us cared.
The chemo had meant I couldn’t regulate my temperature well, so I made the decision not to look at the pace at all, just heart rate, and be completely governed by that. This race was about not hitting the wall and enjoying every step. Nothing else.
As I crossed the start line, it was game on. Watching people race off in front, I kept to my own agenda. The crowds were out in full force, very loud and humbling to know they chose to embrace the rain to cheer people they didn’t even know. There wasn’t a quiet moment the whole way around the course.
I wore the New Balance Run London running tee (gifted), as being so lightweight, it would help with my ‘all over the place’ body temperature. Paired with NB Run London shorts (purchased myself), because they are light, airy and have enough pockets for all my fuelling needs. Shoe wise, I stuck with my Endorphin Pro 3, because they’re familiar to me and are such a stable carbon shoe for that distance.
As I passed each iconic stage of the race, Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, Big Ben, and The Palace, I allowed myself to soak in all that life was gifting me at that moment. Not thinking about the miles, I simply focussed on the present moment, never wanting to forget this wonderful experience.
The London Marathon is a celebration - a feast of human connection - and everyone is welcome at its table.
Progressing to mile 18, I was aware that this is where often tough times can begin and for a few miles I did focus on the serious side of distance running. Checking running form and fuelling - did it need a tweak? Was I mentally still strong? Noticing stiffness in my neck and shoulders so I adapted my form, but other than that everything was good. No sight of hitting any walls, once again it was game on.
Mile 20 – 22 – 24, wow this is incredible. Wet feet, no soreness and still smiling (for the most part), with no idea how fast or slow I was running. Just focussing on that heart rate.
Turning at Big Ben, I knew I was nearing the end and couldn’t decide if I was pleased or sad. For however many hours I had forgotten about cancer and any other dramas of life. I seemed to be having a 26.2 mile meditation - who would have thought it?
Seeing The Palace was the moment I became emotional, and I allowed myself to feel it. I turned, saw the finish line, held my hands in the air and sprinted. It probably was more like a shuffle but in my head, I was on par with Sir Mo and I was racing towards that line.
Surprisingly, I got a 16-minute PB on my last London marathon time and I wasn’t broken at the end. Yes I was exhausted, aching but not broken. I probably could’ve given more on reflection, but I didn’t want to.
London Marathon is about more than times. It’s about life, love and selflessness. All the charities that gain from this one event, all the people that have never run a mile before who are driven to train specifically for this one marathon. All the crowds that give up their Sunday on a wet April day for us, shouting names on our shirts and not realising the power that brings to someone struggling.
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