Setting the scene
London 2014 was the reason I had to start running. My Uncle suffers with Parkinson’s and I wanted to do something for him, and to help others with the same debilitating disease. Having got in on the ballot, first time, I took on the huge challenge of learning how to run – this was not something I could do. I was lucky to raise over £4000 for Cure Parkinson’s Trust, so many kind people donating for my efforts for that one run. I fell in love with running in the process, and decided that 2015 had to be even bigger to try and raise as much money as possible. After much thought, my 6 week challenge was decided – 2 marathons and a 100km Ultra (Brighton, London and London to Brighton).
I surprised myself with how quickly I seemed to recover from Brighton. Within just a couple of days of the race I felt sprightly, and my mini ‘recovery’ and ‘test runs’ were back to normal almost instantly. 2 weeks to recover seemed fine based on how my legs felt and what my heart rate was saying, and my huge challenge suddenly seemed less daunting. I was certain I could do it.
Then, just a week after my Nan’s funeral, and a couple of days after Brighton, we received the concerning news that my other Nan had been taken ill during a routine operation and was in a very bad way indeed. It took a few days to learn the enormity of the situation. An elderly lady taking longer than normal to come to from anaesthetic seemed almost standard given her age. But soon it transpired that what was happening was far more devastating, and sadly we lost my Nan that weekend. A difficult time mourning one grandparent, and worrying about how your parents are coping, developed into another huge and unexpected loss for me and the family. Concerns for my parents were taking over my thoughts, and shock seemed to take over. Is this for real? Two grandparents in little over two weeks, surely not?
London was a week away, and given all that was happening, I gave it very little thought. I did little running, just enough to keep the legs turning, and my mind was not focused on what was round the corner. The expo was great as always. I collected my race pack and chip on the Wednesday, managed to avoid any more unnecessary purchases, and floated around the Excel centre in a little world of my own. How things had changed from the first time I did this. I wrote on the Adidas Boost wall, and went to the booth to have a picture taken with my number. I really thought about the wonderful man who’s amazing spirit has spurred me on to do of all of this. I may have been sad, it may be a difficult time, but the world keeps turning and this was for me, and for him. London Marathon was special to me and thinking about his strength and determination, I was motivated (and stubborn – a Hornigold trait). I was going to love it.
I was not nervous, I had nothing to prove, and just wanted to take it all in. Starting in a pen far closer to the start line than the previous year I knew I would be running soon. The excitement levels around me were escalating, until we were soon moving towards that huge start clock surrounded by cheers from the supporters and runners around me. Before I knew it I was off, I was running London Marathon for the 2nd year in a row. The first few miles ticked away and I felt great, much more in control than the start of Brighton. Seeing the odd person I knew supporting throughout the course made the time go faster than expected. My coach had mentioned we wouldn’t really know the true effects Brighton had had on me until around the 20 mile mark, so I tried my best not to push too hard. At mile 8, heading towards Surrey Quays, I felt my hamstring getting tight. Not too concerned I kept at the same pace and hoped it would ease off. By the time I reached the 10 mile marker my legs were getting tighter and I knew this feeling – I was clearly fatigued. Interestingly my HR was spot on, cardiovascularly I was fine, just my muscles were not too happy! I knew I would have to slow down, but also knew by the 14th mile I would see the Cure Parkinson’s cheer point and my parents who had come to see me. I crossed Tower Bridge to the deafening noise I so clearly remembered from the previous year – I challenge anyone not to crack a smile or feel emotional when you have hundreds of people shouting your name, ringing bells and cheering you on. This is easily the most iconic moment of the race for so many runners, impossible to explain unless you have been there. Feeling inspired, I pushed on towards Wapping, and as soon as I went past the 13 mile marker my eyes were peeled. I was going to see my darling Mum and Dad soon.
I spotted Mum first, could see her desperately trying to find me amongst the constant flow of runners. I shouted as loudly as I could and then locked eyes with her, swiftly followed by my Dad leaning forward to catch a glimpse of me. Their excitement was like nothing I have seen, such pride in their eyes I struggled to keep the tears away. At this point I felt emotional enough. Then I saw what I thought was my Uncle Mark and my Auntie Karen. Then my other Auntie Sue (married to John, my Uncle with Parkinson’s). I couldn’t believe it. They had all come to support me, the tears arrived at this point!
Once I had gone past I knew I had to slow down. Having had knee trouble only a couple of months ago, I was all too aware if I wasn’t careful I could end up having to walk the entire second half of the race. I slowed to a walk and at the next water station stood and stretched as much as possible. My knee completely locked up, so a slow hobble until it released, and back to jogging. I never thought I would have to walk or stop, but it was the sensible thing to do. Through the Isle of Dogs, and the section everyone despises, I was jogging, walking, stretching, jogging again, to try and cause as little damage as possible. I never felt out of my depth though, just guilty for walking and making people wait longer than they expected to see me again.
I pushed on and I knew I would see my family soon. A loud shout from my right, and I spotted my childhood best pal Carly (delayed reaction meant I had to rotate around to see her, but always amazing spotting people you know). Then I was running as fast as I could. Literally sprinting towards the charity point, desperate to get there as soon as possible. As soon as I reached the family I stopped for a kiss and a cuddle with each and every one of them. This was the best feeling, and there was no way I was just running on past. I told them I was being careful despite the pain in my legs.
Then came the classic line that everyone needs to hear at mile 22, “save some for the big one”. Yes, a lovely reminder from Mum that in just 4 weeks I had a 62 mile Ultra to contend with!
After a couple of Jelly babies I ran on, soon entering the ‘disco tunnel’ as I now call it, I felt like I was on the home straight. The shouts go louder and louder and soon I was at the final mile, searching for my darling Bug pals who had come to support. Expecting them earlier I thought I had missed them, so just took in the moment and ran with a huge grin on my face past the growing crowds. Reaching Buckingham palace I was loving every second, then the familiar sound of my darling friends, cheering with prosecco in hand so proud of ‘Lana Legs’ nearly finishing her 4th marathon to date….and somehow it got captured on camera – a wonderful moment
Then the home stretch. As I reached the last few hundred metres I lifted my arms with happiness. Somehow amongst the noise I heard my friend Perrin shout my name, and turned around to see him belting out my name and punching the air with a ‘COME ON’, he looked so happy for me, I just ran with the biggest smile and took in that wonderful moment of finishing my second London Marathon (in a respectable time of 4 hours 1 minute).
I crossed the line feeling ecstatic to have done this second challenge, collected my medal, and in my own little bubble of happiness managed to bump into three runners I know. Two I have only met on twitter, and it was so wonderful to see their grinning faces, so proud of what they had just achieved. The other is a great athlete who had advised me so much in my gradual introduction to running, it was fitting I should see him on completing the event a year on that he had helped me so much with. He had achieved the most incredible time and it was a pleasure to share such joy for a few moments.
Finally I made it to my meet point, and dived into the arms of my Proud Dad. Lots of hugs and kisses with the family, and of course fizz, my Mum then arrived and all the emotions of the last couple of months came out in the longest hug I think we have ever had. What a wonderful day, what a fantastic support, and what a lucky girl I am.
I soon met with my lovely supporters and a couple of other great runners, and we headed for dinner together and reflected on the races we had. All very different, all struggling at different points, but each achieving the same thing – we had completed London Marathon in its 35th year, the year of the amazing Paula Radcliffe’s retirement. A day I shall never ever forget.