Michelle's marathon efforts raise thousands for charity
The Rev'd Michelle Woodcock, Team Vicar for Finsthwaite, Haverthwaite and Staveley-in-Cartmel has written this blog after completing the London Marathon, run in memory of her dad, and raising more than £4,500 for the British Heart Foundation.
At 6am on Sunday 24 April my alarm went off. For once I didn't hit "snooze" but instead sprung out of bed and opened the curtains. I had to laugh...it was raining. I knew it was the start of a great day.
The day before the marathon my sponsorship had risen over the £4,000 mark, so, having done all the training I knew that all that was left was to get on with it and have the best long run ever! I tucked into my porridge and said morning prayer all the while feeling surrounded by the love and support of my family, friends, colleagues and parishioners. I had received so many emails, texts and other messages during the weekend, it was very humbling.
My son James, sister, nieces, auntie and uncle had all come to support me but they stayed at the hotel in Watford Junction and we had said our goodbyes on Saturday evening in central London as they went back to the hotel and I went to stay with some kind parents of a parishioner who live in Blackheath. The next time I would see them would be at mile 24 on the Embankment!
At 7.45am I said farewell to my kind hosts and walked along their street and on to the main road. As I walked around the corner a lady passed me and said "Good luck today, you'll smash it" I was suddenly overwhelmed with the emotion of it all and had a little cry! There was a great sense of anticipation in the air as I walked up towards the start lines. So many people, all a bit nervous...it was earily quiet.
Having waited in the holding areas, it was 10.23 before I reached the actual start line and by then I was ready to run. We set off at a gentle pace and as everything warmed up I settled into my well practised steady pace which I hoped would be around the 10 minute mile. I checked after miles 1 & 2 to make sure I wasn't going too fast and then settled into it nicely.
I was passed by a Rhino at mile 3. I was not impressed. Determined not to be passed by any other animals or cartoon characters I pushed on steadily. Some miles were harder than others, but the crowds were amazing and their support only increased along the way. Coming around the corner and seeing the Cutty Sark and the approach to Tower Bridge were both absolutely breathtaking moments and I almost had to pinch myself to believe I was actually there doing it! I finally went past that speedy Rhino at mile 8 and all was well!
From mile 18 onwards my body decided that I had run far enough. My knee was hurting and my hamstrings were tightening up with every step. It was then that I really began to appreciate the humour on little signs some spectators were holding up. Some were a bit rude, but they made me laugh out loud and distracted me from my sore body. One sign said "shut up legs"... I repeated that a few times as I ran along. By mile 22 I was fighting the mental battle that everyone says is 51% of marathon running. My body really couldn't go any further, but all that sponsorship, prayers and love gave me reason enough to give myself a serious talking to and keep going.
As I ran along the Embankment I was scanning the crowds for my family. Suddenly there they were. I ran over and gave them huge hugs, through tears telling them how much I loved them. I didn't dare stop for more than a few seconds, knowing I would never start running again and as I ran away from them I was struggling to breathe. I checked my watch. Almost by accident (or some really solid training) I realised that a 4 hour 30 finish might be in my grasp if I knocked out a couple of fast miles. My competitive nature kicked in. I had lost a friend and parishioner suddenly the Wednesday before and had visited his family on the Friday before heading to London. He had been in my thoughts along with my dad all the way round the course. "OK John and dad," I said. "Just watch this...this is for you."
It felt like I sprinted that last two miles. The crowd were shouting my name as I bounded past the other weary runners. My Fitbit recorded a heart rate of over 184 for that part of the course! I rounded a corner and there it was...the finish line! I crossed it with my head held high and a huge grin on my face. I had done it.
Suddenly I could hardly walk. I needed step by step instructions to get though the process of receiving my medal and collecting my bags. Someone else had to open my foil blanket for me, I was just stood holding it and looking at it in a puzzled way!
I completed the marathon in 4 hours and 28 minutes and have, to date raised over £4,500 for the British Heart Foundation. It feels like that is something to be very proud of. It was an amazing day and I am still overwhelmed by everyone's kindness, support and generosity.
Some people have already asked me if I would do it again...my body is currently broken and stairs are my enemy. I think I might need a few weeks to think about that!