Animal Friends Blog
“Come on Sharky”, “Go Paul Shark”, “Baby Shark, do-do-do-do-do”. Literally within seconds of crossing the start line, it starts. And it doesn’t stop for four and a half hours. It’s an experience like nothing else. It’s like being carried along on a wave of energy and it’s something I’ll never forget.
When I got the letter, a ballot place in the London Marathon, I was, to put it mildly, a bit anxious about the prospect of running 26.2 miles…in one go. I’ve always wanted to do a Marathon but now, suddenly it was happening. It was time to get serious. So, I got a training plan and I got running, adding a few miles each week, building up. As the miles built up, so did my confidence. I started to believe. I can do this.
“Will I do it in a shark costume?”
And then, just as I was starting to get my head around it all, our friends at Animal Friends threw in an extra complication. Will I do it in a shark costume? With a healthy donation to our cause on the table, what could I do? I had to take up the challenge. But I’m not going to lie, it didn’t help the nerves. Now, not only have I got to run 26.2 miles, in one go, but I have to do it in fancy dress.
I carried on the training and we got hold of a costume. No expense spared, I found it on eBay for £12.99! The parcel came four weeks before the run and there it sat, in the corner of my office, staring at me, daring me to try it on or wear it out on a training run. I didn’t. I just let it sit there worrying me!
Baby shark, do-do-do-do-do
So, who’d have thought that, on the day, far from making it harder, the shark gave me wings. The support and the banter gave the whole day an extra boost, turning it from a potentially difficult individual run to a great communal experience. It’s surreal to make your way through the streets of South London, the streets lined with people, sound systems blasting out and kids holding out their hands for a high five. It’s amazing to be running with a grin on your face. It’s totally different from all those painful, rainy, lonely training runs. And yes, I have never enjoyed hearing people sing “Baby Shark” as much as I did on that day.
Tower Bridge comes just after you pass 12 miles. It’s amazing. Like a wall of noise as you approach and go up onto that famous bridge. For that short distance as we approached the Tower of London, my legs felt nothing, they just moved effortlessly. And all I could hear was “Go Shark”.
As the run goes on, as you pass halfway and the two voices inside battle it out between “half way already” and “only half way”, the crowd becomes ever more a part of the run. Those shouts of encouragement power you on – as do the endless supply of jelly babies that people thrust out into your path. At some point you pass the 20-mile mark. That’s the furthest you’ve run in all your training. And yet there’s still 6.2 miles left to run. That’s an hour more. Dig deep.
That last hour was long and, yes, it was painful. I’m pretty sure human legs aren’t supposed to run that far without rest. You just have to get into a plod and think of the end. And then you can see Parliament Square. And then you’re through Parliament Square. And then it says 1km to go, then 800m, 600m, 400m. Turn the corner and the finish is just ahead. I actually hesitated momentarily. A little part of me didn’t want it to end. But the rest of me REALLY wanted it to end so me and my shark head headed to the line, collected our medal and went in search of food.
Now all I have is aching legs, a medal and a head full of memories. And the knowledge that my effort has raised so much for the cause that I love. I’m left feeling grateful: for the experience; for my health, for my family and friends that supported me. And for the challenge from Animal Friends that made it such a special day.
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