I wasn’t running the London Marathon this year but I went down to the ‘big smoke’ to attend an event and cheer on a very special runner. I had an unforgettable weekend which was too good not to share!
My crazy weekend began at 4.30am on marathon Saturday when I had to get up to catch the early train to London. After nearly missing it because I was standing on the wrong platform (doh!), it whizzed me and my eldest son to London in time to get to the Adidas Women’s Studios on Brick Lane. Adidas were holding an event for their #adidaswomen who run twice a week from the studios. They had invited Kathrine Switzer to inspire their runners, with a question and answer session and a group run. They had kindly extended the invitation to our 261 Fearless coaches, knowing that we were in town to support our founder.
What a motivating and inspiring morning we had. We listened to Kathrine tell her story from the Boston Marathon back in 1967, where the race official tried to throw her off the course. She then narrated her running journey through becoming an elite athlete and a campaigner and advocate for women in running, right through to the present day with her mission to empower women through the global running network 261 Fearless and her pride in finally standing on the start line of the London Marathon.
What a wonderful group of women the adidas runners were. They welcomed us with outstretched arms. We ran along to Tower Bridge with them and posed for photos. They fed us delicious smoothies and energy balls on our return and made us promise to keep in touch and bring our running communities together again in the future.
Saturday afternoon was ‘Mum and Son’ time – an all too rare occurrence. Joseph is really interested in architecture … and heights (!) so we took a trip up the Shard for the ultimate view and he had a go at the virtual reality experience where the building falls away and you are left walking across a plank on the construction site! We followed this with a wander around the city, a meal on the South Bank and then a short train ride to stay overnight with friends.
Marathon Sunday began with a fairly last minute decision to go to the start line in Blackheath. By a complete stroke of luck, just as we were passing the grandstand area they were opening a small standing section below the main grandstand seats and we were ushered in. We were as close to the start line as it was possible to be, the atmosphere was great, the tunes were pumping out and it wasn’t long before I started getting tweets and texts to tell me that I’d been spotted dancing on TV. It was such a privilege to be metres away from the elite men, see Mo Farah jumping up and down in preparation for setting off like a rocket and to be there to see the masses as they began their marathon journey.
We’d planned to be on the course to cheer on Kathrine at several points. We were so proud that she was in London and grateful for all that she has done to enable women to take their place on marathon start lines. To be honest, moving a group of eleven people to five different spots on the marathon, in a jam-packed and very hot London was an endurance event in itself! However hard we found it though, we knew the runners were feeling it more. It was brutal out there.
We saw Kathrine at the start and then at mile 8, 15, 18 and 25. At 8, 15 and 18 she stopped to thank us, to eat a banana and to get some encouragement. At 25 she was so clearly ‘in the zone’ that she didn’t see us despite our shouting and waving. She was a woman on a mission, we could see that was focused and breathing through pursed lips. She is utterly incredible at age 71. We hoped our support was helping her. She has since emailed to say it was invaluable.
I have never spectated at a marathon before, only run. It was a very humbling experience. I shouted out names on peoples’ vests and tried to find new words of encouragement for everyone, until my voice was hoarse. I was in awe of how runners kept going in that heat, boy it must have been so tough.
It was very special to be part of a cheer squad of women who had come from all around England to support Kathrine. Each wanted to say thank you in their own way for what she has done for them and for women every where.
I have since watched back the marathon coverage, seen Kathrine’s interview with Gabby Logan (and my ‘mum dancing!’) and read countless media pieces sharing her story. I couldn’t be prouder of her, honoured to call her my friend and I couldn’t be more excited to be taking the baton from her to help women find their fearlessness though running here in the UK and around the world, united by the number 261. How fantastic that the London Marathon organisers gave Kathrine the bib number 261 to wear in the race.
I headed north again, exhausted, overwhelmed, fulfilled, drained and very grateful. My legs and voice were weak but my resolve to help more women experience the joy of an active life couldn’t be stronger.
As an extra to this blog I would like to pay tribute to Matt Campbell who tragically collapsed and died on the marathon, 3.7 miles from the end. Can I encourage you to walk or run the 3.7 miles and #FinishForMatt and donate to his charity the Brathay Trust who do incredible work not far from where I live, to help young people make positive changes in their lives. I’ve finished for him and I urge you to do some #milesformatt too. RIP Matt.