Marathon day is right up there with getting married and having children. I made 38,000 friends that day. When you’re surrounded by a sea of runners, all raising funds for a worthy cause or in memory of someone no longer with us, it’s not hard to feel inspired. Add to that, crowds that were better than I dared hope for (they are as much a part of the day as the runners) and it’s easy to see why the biggest running party on earth is a party to which every runner wants to be invited. For me, it wasn’t just a day about achievement – as immense as that is. It was so much more than that. My faith in humanity was completely restored that day.

Running over Tower Bridge was a real highlight. It’s around the halfway point, is such an iconic part of London and is the first time the crowds went completely off the scale with cheering, so I did get a bit choked up. Seeing my husband at mile 10 and the Haven support team at mile 18 provided a much-needed boost too. It was also amazing to run along the Embankment and see all the iconic city sights come into view and to cross the finish line just after passing Buckingham Palace. It doesn’t get much better than that!

The marathon journey

For me, the biggest surprise was the amount of laughing I did on the day – despite the pain. I also couldn’t get over how friendly every single person was and what a very well-organised event it is. If I needed a lift at any point, I just went to the side of the road so the crowds could see my name and shout out encouragement. It worked wonders!

You would laugh too if you had been sprinkled with holy water by a vicar, run alongside a rhinoceros and overtaken a pair of testicles! The people really make the event and it’s great to meet those behind the wacky costumes. Colin Plews, the man behind the Big Pink Dress, was amazing. He tripped over the hem of his long dress and broke two toes quite early on yet somehow still managed to finish in just over six hours. Now that’s what I call an impressive effort.

Of course, I would be lying if I said it was all a laugh a minute. Miles 17-20 were hard. I was tired, the route was less exciting in terms of sights and, drawing on the experience of my one previous marathon, I thought the hardest was yet to come. Interestingly, on this occasion, I picked up considerably at mile 21. So every race is different.

I never thought I wouldn’t make it, but I did have to dig pretty deep on a few occasions in the second half. You’d think mentally it should get easier the closer you get to the finish line, but of course you’re feeling pretty tired by then. I got through by thinking about all the people who had so kindly sponsored me and believed in me, including a couple going through breast cancer treatment themselves. I thought about my own cancer experience 17 years ago and yet today here I am running the marathon myself. And then there’s always somebody around you doing it that little bit harder than you are – the ones dressed in a very heavy and hot costume, or doing it barefoot or juggling or singing the whole way round. The further you run, the more raw your emotions become. By the end, your guard is completely down.

Race to the finish

The best part of the course has to be the end! For those last couple of miles, my ears were ringing with the crowds shouting and cheering and calling out my name. I remember seeing the sign saying 800m to go and thinking ‘Oh no, still so far’, but then suddenly it’s only 600m and then 400m. Finally, you turn a corner to be confronted by a glorious golden statue and, the wonderful sight of the finishing line. I finished in five hours and an ever-so-slightly-irritating three minutes! Until the last five miles or so, I thought was on track for about four hours 45 minutes, but, it hurt and, in the end, I just couldn’t go any faster!

As I crossed the line, I remember thinking I was supposed to raise my arms for that triumphant classic finish photo but I just didn’t have the energy to do so. I remember hugging the lovely marshall trying to give me my medal. And then I cried a bit and hugged another marshall. I hugged another few finishers and then I hugged the person giving me my goody bag. Then I realised I actually wasn’t feeling too good and really needed to find my family. After being reunited, I lay down on the pavement for a bit and cried a bit more. Someone found me a cup of tea and, after that and something to eat, I picked up quickly. It wasn’t long before the euphoria kicked in and that lasted well over a week! Well, if you can’t hug and have a cry on random strangers on London Marathon day, then I don’t know when you can!

While sadly I didn’t make it to the Haven’s post-race reception (we had the long drive back to Cumbria and I simply didn’t have enough energy to walk the 300m in the opposite direction to our car), I would like to express my sincere thanks to the charity for the opportunity to be a part of the best show in town. It’s been an absolute privilege to run on their behalf and raise money and awareness about breast cancer and their fantastic work to support those affected. Sincere thanks to Chelsie and all the lovely Havenettes for their support throughout the last six months. You’ve all been amazing!

Looking back now, I am just so glad I went for it. You do, of course, need to train but the London Marathon is most definitely run with the heart and head. Your legs will follow. In the week or two afterwards, euphoria dulled any aching muscles and I felt so full of energy due to the massive rush of adrenaline. Now that it’s over I have mixed feelings. There is of a huge sense of satisfaction, but part of me will miss not having such an iconic event to work towards as it’s been such a great motivator over the winter. Fundraising-wise, I am still on a high though. I pledged to raise £2500 and I ended up with around £3,300 (around £124.95 per mile) so I’m pretty happy with that.

Ready for the challenge?

If you’re thinking about applying next year, I would say just do it and don’t look back! Everybody should do it once in their life and anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Two years ago, I’d have laughed at the thought of me being able to run a marathon. I never thought I had it in me. If I can do it, then so can anyone.

My advice would be to just enjoy the day, absorb the sights and atmosphere and don’t get too hung up about your time because, unless you are very competitive, in the end it really doesn’t matter. It’s the taking part that counts. Runners are public property during the race and there is no opportunity for private headspace, so just go with the flow and feed off all that energy. Take lots of spare old clothes for waiting around at the start – it gets really cold – and don’t discard them until you have started running. Also, be sure to join the long queue for the portaloo in plenty of time before you start and watch out for discarded drinks bottles on the road – there were a lot about and I saw a few people trip over them. And make sure you research fuelling properly. I wish I had experimented a bit more (and am seriously thinking of trying baby food next time). Finally, have some people you love waiting for you at the end to pick up the pieces.

What’s next for me? I gave myself a week off afterwards, but I do have another big date in the running diary. I’ve only gone and been accepted for the New York marathon in November! Yes, the words glutton and punishment spring to mind, but what a fantastic opportunity and it will take place just two days after my Forty-tenth birthday. So I will be carboloading with birthday cake.

Having two marathons under my belt is extremely satisfying. However, there is always another race and another challenge and, having attained a certain level of fitness, I’m keen to keep the momentum going and not to lose the gains I’ve made. And, despite what I’ve said about time not being important, for my own satisfaction I would rather like to do New York in less than five hours!

Will I be back on the London streets once more? Well, don’t tell my husband, but I’ve actually entered the ballot for London 2016! After that, perhaps, I might have a rest from marathons for a bit and take up knitting or learn the flute or at least do something a bit more sedentary. However, I am completely hooked on running now and I can’t imagine it ever not being a part of my life.

Run for us: if you have been inspired to dust off those trainers, then head to our running page to sign up for an event today