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  • Writer's pictureMonica Tudor

Team Monica is doing London Marathon 2024

Updated: Apr 27

Here we go again! 


After my last marathon, I said, like any other marathon runner, that I am done with this nonsense! No more running above 10km! 

And what did I do? I entered the London marathon ballot! In my defence, a very "famous" coach said:


"enter the ballot, no-one ever gets a place!"




This being said, I got my second place through the ballot in 5 years! 


It was July when I received the famous email with " You're in!". 





I started crying, and believe me, these were not happy tears. I knew that I won't turn down my place in the marathon, so immediately I started thinking about the training. 

The marathon itself is the cherry on top, the real hard work and dedication is the actual training. 


After my panic attack calmed down, I closed the email and I pushed the problem for the start of 2024 since the marathon takes part in April.




The start of 2024


January 1st started with a terrible hangover and a very slow parkrun. This is not a good start. 



When I got home, in my emails was waiting for me one from London marathon with a few tips and some examples of training plans. I realised that this is getting real. 


In the following days, I came up with my first draft of a marathon training plan.

Gradually, the training plan evolved from hours of running on Sunday to kilometres because it was easier to plan the route this way. 





The first three runs were from home since they were pretty short (8k, 10k, 12k), so Team Monica had only 2 members - Monica and Bill.  


From week 4, Leigh joined us, so we already had a team of 3!


Week 6, Lisa and Angus joined too, so the team got bigger!


Week 8, we attached Wendy and Scott to our team.


We finished the training strongly with Caroline joning us for the last run.


We had some incredible runs including Virginia Water, The Long Walk, Bushy Park and Hampton Court!


The weather was amazing for all the runs! We barely had a few drops of rain, most of the time the sun was shining and the temperature was perfect for running! 


I finished the training feeling at the peak of my fitness, nothing could had gone any better!







Stats for 16 weeks of training


Runs: 56

Total distance: 408 km

Treadmill: 64 km

Parkruns: 80 km

Brunches: 15

Saunas: 38

Gym sessions: 25 

Parkrun PBs: 3

Toenails lost: 1





Meet the team




Angus


Marathons: 4

Parkrun PB: 20:48


Angus didn't miss any of my long runs! He is training for a 50k Ultra the following week. Good luck!


















Ben


Marathons: ~30 (he lost count!)

Parkrun PB: 16:45


As an elite marathon runner (PB 2:36) and the Guiness World Record holder for "Fastest marathon dressed in a full body dinosaur outfit", Ben gave me good advice regarding fuelling during my training and he came up to London to support me on the day.
















Bill - the coach


Marathons: 1

Parkrun PB: 21:36


Bill made an amazing recovery after a bicycle accident, just in time to train me for my London Marathon! He missed only one run in these 4 months of training due to a little ankle strain.










Caroline


Marathons: 1

Parkrun PB: 23:31


Recovering from a hamstring injury, Caroline was part of many post run brunches and she made it to my last tapering run.












Leigh


Marathons: 0

Parkrun PB: 23:58


Leigh took part into my first shorter runs, after which she raced Richmond Riverside Half to get a new PB!







Lisa 


Marathons: 1 (TBC)

Parkrun PB: 26:13


Lisa took part in most of my training runs and, due to all the hard work during my training, she got two new parkrun PBs!







Monica (me)


Marathons: 3 (and no more!)

Parkrun PB: 28:31
























Nikki


Marathons: 0

Parkrun PB: 21:44


Nicola is always secreatly training for something like a triathon or Ride London or who knows?

She came up to London to support me and gave me a big boost when I saw her jumping up and down shouting my name.
















Scott 


Marathons: 0

Parkrun PB: 22:40


The man, the legend! He rarely missed a run with Team Monica. He did his first ever runs over 20k with us and he told us after, never complained. Amazing running! After all the training, he is considering his first official half marathon race, The Fox (oh dear..)!






Wendy


Marathons: lots (TBC)

Parkrun PB: 22:24


Everyone knows how Wendy likes her hot chocolate, with cream and marshmallows! She took part in most of my long runs and she ran Boston Marathon one week before my marathon!





The Expo


Things were getting real!


I went to Excel in London on Thursday to collect my race number and my t-shirt.

The event is huge, as you can imagine. Every single runner, and I heard that this year were 50,000 runners, had to come here between Wednesday and Saturday afternoon to collect their bibs.


The first part of the expo felt like Primark in the sales. Lots of branded sport clothes everywhere were waiting for people to buy at a reduced price.


I didn't buy anything, my heart wasn't in it.

I was actually very nervous. It was the first time when nerves got to me.

All the dark thoughts kicked in.

Will I be able to finish this marathon?

Am I ready?

Will I get that medal?


I decided this is a Sunday problem and went to collect my t-shirt taking some cool photos on the way.


I was relieved to get out of there, too many people under the same roof, just 66 hours before the marathon! Did people already forget about Covid?





Being at Victoria Dock, we transformed into tourists and took the cable car over the river.





On the way back, I took advantage of the very improved diet before the marathon (eat as much as you can) and we had a kebab from one of the street food vans. It was worth it! Bill had one too, even though he won't run on Sunday!





This was it, I was going home where I'd be in bed for the next few hours with my feet up.


Maybe I incorporated a slow walk to the pub on Friday, for good luck!




The marathon



21st of April 2024



In the morning, the sun was shining and the forecast was for 12 degrees. 

For the first time I thought about the spectators which might get a bit chilly. It was just a brief thought, because it's not about them, it's about me!


The weather is perfect for running!


I spent the night in London, next to Saint Paul's. It was the best decision I made in a long time, because I didn't need to rush! I had plenty of time to have breakfast, shower, get dressed and take the DLR to Greenwich. 


For breakfast I had oats and oat milk and one banana, nothing different from what I had during my training. 


Travelling to the start line was no problem at all. I left the hotel at 9 and I was there half an hour later. 










I thought I have lots of time to spare! The reality is that after I queued for an hour to get a very disgusting toilet cubicle, without toilet paper, exactly at the peak of my emotions (don't worry, I had some with me), it was already time to get into my wave.








Wave 13


After dropping my bag at lorry 15 (as mentioned on my running number), I joined a group of people in front of a big gate, all within the same wave as I was. 


I did the normal stuff with looking around and checking out the other runners.

I decided that I'm the slowest and tried to calm myself down because it didn't matter.


I was not there for them! Oh, hold on, I wasn't here for me either, I just got a place through the ballot and now I need to run 42k. Hmm..


A celebrity (no idea who because I don't watch tv) starts getting us all excited with stories about how amazing this experience will be and then he starts counting back from 10.



Being at the start, I knew that all my training went well, I wasn't injured and physically I was fine, but also I knew that for the next 5 and a half hours I'll be running 42.195km. 


Will it break me? 

Will I stick to my plan? 

Will I listen to my body? 


10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!


The run


My legs started going, one foot in front of the other. Ok, this doesn't feel too bad. Jeez, so many people running and spectating!

What's my pace? 5:20 per km. Too fast!

It's fine, I can't really slow down or speed up since I have no space! It will spread out in a bit.


What's my pace? I did 400 metres, so the reality is that it doesn't matter! Only 42km to go!


I am settling into my pace now, just smiling and waving like the Queen. Oh no, we don't have a Queen, we have a King now!


5k


This is feeling really good! I crossed the timing mat in 34 minutes which included 200 metres of walking. Yes, Angus, I'm sticking to my plan.






15K



The crowd is electric! I'm on time, everything is working, the weather is perfect!


I turn a corner on Surrey Quays and I see the girafe which traveled with me yesterday on the train.




It's Bill! OMG! It's him! He didn't see me!

Bill!! Bill!!!


He was probably checking the app to see where I am. When he looked up he couldn't believe, he nearly dropped his phone!


I had no choice, I was so excited to see him, I had to stop and give him a kiss!



But guess what?!


I run another kilometre, when I hear someone almost dying from the effort of shout my name as loud as possible. I try to figure out where is the sound coming from and then everything was clear.

Jumping up and down between a 5 layer deep crowd, I see Nikki, Caroline and Ben waving and screaming my name. I know, I was just 15k into the marathon, but this was such an emotional moment. I knew that my friends were there, living these intensive moments with me. I shouted I LOVE YOU and I kept on running.



Now everything blends a bit into one and I can't remember precisely where, but when I was doing my next 200 metres walk, I hear another voice shouting my name many times. It was Peter and his friends! How lovely seeing so many friends on route!

The problem is that he is an amazing runner and he saw me walking after probably not even 15k. He doesn't know about my strategy with running 5k and walking for 200 metres. He will think that I'm already done. It's fine, he won't judge, everyone runs their own race.


A bit furthur I hear again my name!


I need to mention that I did have my name stitched on my t-shirt, so the way to differenciate between random people shouting my name and actually friends shouting my name was very simple. Random people shout your name once. Friends, shout your name in desperation multiple times.


And there they were! Stu and Hattie shouting and giving big waves to me! This feels good!



18K


Still in Canada Water, running slowly and starting to feel it in my legs, on a big bend to the right, I look ahead and I see all my friends jumping and shounting my name in a perfect harmony.

Of course, I forget about the accumulating pain, and with an excess of energy, I go towards the crowd and hifive everyone in the way shouting THANK YOU! I must admit, my brain was already a bit foggy, so I couldn't think of anything else to say.

The crowd really responded to my gesture and all of a sudden I see a wave of people screaming and shouting my name in the same time with my friends. It was just wonderfull. I fed from this moment for at least another 2 kilometres.






HALF WAY POINT


I crossed the 13 miles point in 2 hours 28 minutes. I knew I can slow down by 30 minutes in the second half and still finish in 5h and 30 minutes. Secreatly, I was hoping to beat that. I was still running with the 5 hours pacer.

My fuelling was still good, I had my second gel after 20 km and the water I was just sipping it, so everything was still on target.



25K


I started regretting my life choices. Why am I running a marathon again? Who am I kidding? I am not a runner! I bloody hate running! Everything is so hard. I have to convince my legs to go in front of each other.


Everything started to hurt. I had a few options:

  1. Give up - obviously this was never going to happen

  2. Stay on pace, but probably walk the last 10 kilometres because I am already struggling - yes, this is an option

  3. Slow down the pace, but keep on running until the end - yes, another good option




After all the dark thoughts which went through my mind whilst running through Canary Wharf, I had a moment of salvation: I saw Bill! How amazing! Exactly what I needed!


In just under a second, I imagined sitting down with him on the sofa, having a cup of tea and boring him with all my struggles. Yes, a nice chocolate biscuit to go with the tea too.


When I blinked, I realised that I was still running and the only treat which I'll have now is a salt tablet.


I waved to him, I even made a sign that I am done, but of course, he thought I was just posing, so he took a photo of me.








30K


As you can imagine, I chose option 3, keep on running, but slowing down the pace.


And it worked!


I was still enjoying life, waving to people who were shouting my name and I was starting my third gel - caramel macchiato. In normal conditions, this gel would taste very nice, but after 30 kilometres, without the ability of producing any saliva anymore, I was just trying to force bits of gel down with water from my flask. It took me 3 kilometres to eat it and I decided to make it my last one.

I declare running gels obsolete for my running carrier! I won't buy them any more since I'll never train for a marathon again!


This being said, the gel definitely gave me a bit of a kick getting another two kilometres under 7 minutes per kilometre.


Also, seeing Team Monica around here, gave me a boost too.


I decided to let myself be carried by the crowds.

London Marathon for me wasn't about time anymore. I decided to enjoy it as much as I can, since it's my last one! And what a good thought that was!





To the finish line



The last kilometres were tough, but I kept running and doing short walks. The closer I was getting to the finish line, the more I wanted to stop. I am not sure why this was happening, but I found it very hard to motivate myself.

When I was training, I had my team with me, so it was easy to go into my mind and just let my legs run. I was sticking to the pace because everyone was doing the same thing. In a race, things change, especially during a marathon when towards the end most of the people are walking around you.


Anyway, I wanted to finish strong, and I wanted to film myself running over the finish line. I think this was the only thing which kept me going.


I didn't care about the pain anymore, I already knew I'll get under 5 and a half hours, so I was all set. I was smilling to everyone shouting my name, but probably I was just showing them some scary grimaces.





I saw Bill again with 1K to go and I raised my arm slowly, probably even lower than I remember and tried to wave back.

This was it.

I was heading towards the finish. Nothing could stop me now.


I go past the big banners with:


800 metres to go


600 metres to go


400 metres to go! Hey, my name is being shouted many times again. I tried to focus my eyes and I see Maddie and Alastair who were volunteering at that point. I think they had to catch runners which were about to collapse. But no, not me, I was still running! I got a big shout out from them and kept going!


I turned the corner away from Buckingham Palace, on the famous last stretch of the couse, on to The Mall.

And there it is! The finish line! Go! Run! Get your phone out! This is your moment! I dreamt of this moment! My moment! Film it!



And it's done!



I crossed the line in 5 hours and 16 minutes!





I was so incredibly happy! And proud! And relieved! Done! No more! Never again!

For the first time, I crossed the line and I didn't collapsed. I kept walking. And smilling! And taking photos!

I knew Tamara was giving the medals so I was looking for her. And there she was, jumping up and down to attract my attention in a mass of happy people.


I got my bag back from lorry 15 and I walked slowly towards my friends, who were waiting for me at meeting point M.


The rest is history.


I leave you with my dream video from the finish line which doesn't look as great as I thought in my mind and with the photos from after the finish.







Worth mentioning these 3 items which made my life easier during the race and also during the training: my rehydration vest, the salt tablets and the GU gels.





I'll finish with a big thank you to my team, probably they don't know how much they added to my life by running with me when I just wanted to be in bed and cheering me up on the day when I needed the most!


And like any superstar, I need to thank my parents for believing in me and to everyone who checked if I'm still alive during all these four months of training!


The end!



No, I did not enter the ballot this year!



Signed:

Monica,

The retired marathon runner