(Ruth Walters is running 3 Marathons in 3 Months to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UK and chronicling her adventures right here on the blog. If you missed the first post, have aread here to see what it's all about!)
"I suppose what follows is best deemed an experience as opposed to a race report. For those that have done it before, you too will know the London Marathon is about so much more than 26.2 miles.
Up and at 'em early doors allowed for plain sailing to the start line as nervous smiles were exchanged along the tube carriages between Holloway Road and Greenwich. For anyone that's spent race days with me before, you won't be surprised to hear time passed very quickly in the queue for the loo in the starting area - not once, not twice, but three times...
It's 9:45am and we're off. Well, almost. It didn't take as long as I'd feared to cross the start line (20 mins ish). Glorious sunshine with a gentle breeze and a far cry from the torrential April showers that had plagued London just days before meant spirits were high amongst all those around. And who were they? All sorts... The incredible Hulk, a newly married couple doing their first marathon together, handfuls of best friends that had spent months pounding the pavements and Simon, running for a brain tumour charity - in bare feet.
Safe it the knowledge I was wearing a comfortable pair of trainers to carry me through, I slipped into my desired 6:00 km / min pace before long and in no time (200 yeards to be precise) I was doling out my first high five. Mile 2 and I knew it was going to get even better - a Priest spritzed me with water from his posh gold wand-like water pistol and sent me on my way with his blessing. Clearly all's forgiven for a civil ceremony wedding back in December. Phew!
My support crew wasn't kicking in until mile 8 and a bit so there was time to reflect on all the hours of training I'd put it, the amount of sponsorship notched up and just how great a time I was having.
I can tell you few things compare to spotting those you love in the crowd when running a marathon. It's absolutely what keeps you going mile after mile. And there they were at mile 8.75 as promised, Sis and Andy. I stopped to give them both a big squeeze - much to Sis's disappointment (she's ALWAYS been the competitive one) that I was jeopardising my time on the clock. But from that moment I knew what London was going to be about for me. It wasn't about the final result it was about giving something back to all those that turned out to support me and relishing every single yard of the way in case I'm never in a position to do this again.
Unlike the pain of the Paris Marathon last year, the miles actually whizzed by as the route was punctuated by such phenemenal support. The exuberance of strangers so keen to spur me on and best friends from years who's eyes lit up so brightly on spotting me through the crowds. I owe each of you so much.
Going over Tower Bridge was phenomenal. Every charity with runners lined the route, the crowds were huge and the views absolutely spectacular. A definite highlight.
Between about miles 15 and 18 I lost my pace as the route narrowed and the streets of London bulged with the number of people snaking through them but I genuinely didn't care. I felt confident and comfortable and was enjoying every step - until I started to smell hot dogs. Cruel, cruel people. I would have killed for one at that point.
The going got tough around mile 22 and the markers seemed to get that much further away from one another but the support and Lucozade kept me going.
And then it's mile 25. One of so many mixed emotions. The relief in my legs that it's nearly all over for them but a little bit of sadness that the finish line and the end of something so spectacular is in sight.
Arms in the air, big smile on my face and 4h 39m 31s on the clock. That'll do me. Thanks for everything London Marathon 2012.
So how am I feeling now? Surprisingly well. A bit on the dehydrated and knackered (sleepless night) and I'm probably the only person to finish a marathon with the most pain to be felt in my right upper arm (what's all that about?!) but I'm confident for all that's ahead. Legs are in good working order at the moment and there's definitely plenty left in the tank for Edinburgh and Cheltenham.
I'll finish up for now with one great big massive thank you to every single one of you. Every single word of encouragement you sent my way got me over that finish line yesterday. Without each of you this challenge would be near on impossible.
Here's to the next