Elizabeth’s “dream come true” – taking on the London Marathon for Walk the Walk

One final push, and I was proudly power walking down The Mall in a sparkly bra, with a big grin on my face

The London Marathon....such an iconic event! I remember watching it on the television in the early days back in the eighties and marvelled at people running 26.2 miles. I dreamt of doing it and crossing the finishing line, but knew I wasn’t the athletic type. I thought it wasn’t for me.

Fast forward 41 years and I powerwalked my first full MoonWalk. I realised I could do a ‘proper’ marathon and maybe my dream of doing the London Marathon wasn’t so stupid. I completed the 2012 MoonWalk London in 07:48:42, I knew the London Marathon had a limit of eight hours, so I felt positive I could do it. Since then, I applied for a ballot place at the London Marathon, but every year I received the ‘Sorry’ email.

To my delight, Walk the Walk had a charity place for the 2022 London Marathon. I had no hesitation in applying, this was my chance. The final line of my application was ‘the thought of proudly powerwalking down The Mall in a sparkly bra just brings a big grin to my face’.

On  February 18th 2022, I received a phone call from Sam at Walk the Walk, I had been successful and finally had my place for the London Marathon!  After whooping with delight and being in disbelief for the rest of the day, I thought about the task ahead. I broke it down into three elements

  • Training
  • Decorating the bra
  • Fundraising

As I had a charity place, I needed to raise £2,000. A ballot place would have just meant raising as much as I could. Fundraising was not easy, but I did achieve my target by having lots of small fundraising events. Read more here!

Training was just doing what I’ve always done, but quicker. I always stick to the Walk the Walk plan. Life sometimes gets in the way, but at the very minimum I make sure I do the long training walk each week.  I then try and reach the weekly target, by doing walks which fit into my life. If I can, I do some extra so I can afford to have a week off, if necessary, due to illness, holidays etc. I also add some extra miles to the last couple of long walks. Instead of doing 16,16 and 20, I did 16,20 and 24. It just gives a bit more stamina in the closing miles. I aimed to train at 15 minutes per mile, but if I didn’t meet that target, occasionally, then it wasn’t a disaster. Time on the feet is as important as miles achieved.

I had a slight set-back a few days before the marathon, as I came down with a full-on cold. It was so bad that I thought I wouldn’t be able to compete, but I knew I couldn’t defer. I decided to make it to the start and see how it went. At this point, I felt I couldn’t walk a mile let alone 26.2.

I wasn’t confident travelling to London on the morning of the marathon, so my husband and I stayed at the Premier Inn at Swanley, only 6 miles south of the start. If you book early, it’s reasonably priced. On the Sunday morning, I was very calm and it was a 20-minute drive to the start at Blackheath. My husband dropped me off about a mile from the start, so I had a leisurely warm-up.

I got to the start and met-up with another walker. Jo had a ballot place and had decided to support Walk the Walk. It was good to have someone else to talk to in the hour before the start. It helped calm my nerves.

By now, I was fully dosed up with medicine, I wasn’t feeling brilliant, but I felt I could start and hopefully complete within the eight-hour limit, much longer than my original aim of 6 hours 30 minutes, but I had a chance of finishing.

After initially setting off, it’s tempting to try and keep up with the runners, but I just kept telling myself to slow-down and keep some energy for the end. Despite that, I still did the first mile in 13:51, far too quick. My cold was forgotten and I just kept on walking, trying to keep an even pace. I knew I was walking at a quicker pace than my revised 8-hour target, but it felt good. I think all the training had helped and muscle memory kicked in. The miles went by and I appeared to be walking at just under 15-minute mile pace.

Walking in a decorated bra is the trademark of Walk the Walk and I have always enjoyed the sewing. I knew I wanted something special for the London Marathon, but not over-the-top, so I went for a classic pink and black combo with a footprint, breast cancer ribbon and fringing. It is not always easy to wear a bra in public (and daylight), I’m a mature, fuller figure lady with a midriff, that’s why I like sewing fringing on a bra, it covers a multitude of sins. If you aren’t comfortable wearing the decorated bra then the pink bra t-shirt is great, but the decorated bra takes the level of support (no pun intended) to a new level!

I did wonder whether I would receive unwanted comments but everything was fine. ‘Boobylicious’, ‘Sexy Lady’, ‘One Hot Momma’, ‘Best Outfit Yet’ were just some of the comments. My favourite, the girl on the megaphone just before a water station ‘OMG, I want that bra, no I don’t, I want those boobs’!

I also had my name on my leggings, it really makes a difference to the level of support you receive on the course. Elizabeth is a bit long, so I use Lizylou (a childhood nickname because I’m Elizabeth Louise). I ordered a transfer online and ironed it to my leggings. The crowds love to shout your name, so many shouts of ‘Lizylou’ or ‘Go MoonWalker go’ really gave a lift. At the very least, have your name on your t-shirt with a black sharpie.

Supporters are invaluable and I was so lucky to have so many. Walk the Walk provided an official support crew, Polla and Rachael, who gave fantastic encouragement at miles 11, 18 and 25. A quick hug always gives a boost. I also had my own cheering squad of Emma, Kim, Juliette and Anne. I saw them at miles 9, 11, 15, 20 and 25. They had planned well and seeing them at multiple points was fantastic. My husband and daughter were at miles 13 and 23. I had some unexpected supporters - Suzie at mile 6 (just after the Cutty Sark) and at mile 25 (by Big Ben) and Rachel and Jane, separately, on Bird Cage Walk (just coming up to 26 miles). Having supporters really makes a difference, especially if they are waiting for you at the places you know you will be getting tired.

The course is like no other. The start is at Blackheath and the first 6 miles is mainly residential. Families had set up picnic tables at the end of their gardens and were cheering every runner/walker. It’s fairly flat until about three miles, where there is a nice downhill stretch, then it’s onto the Cutty Sark just after Mile 6. Such a memorable feature of the marathon and breathtaking to be powerwalking past a magnificent landmark. There is a 6-mile stretch between the Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge. This is a good place to have the first of your supporters.

Then you’re onto Tower Bridge, the biggest incline on the route. The noise is deafening. Even being one of the later competitors, there are still crowds. There are also a lot of official support groups for charities. They recognised I was supporting Walk the Walk; the encouragement from Breast Cancer Now was amazing - different charity, but the same cause. I slowed down slightly on this mile, because I wanted to take in this once-in-a lifetime experience.

After Tower Bridge, you are onto Canary Wharf. This is my personal dig-deep moment. I know miles 16 – 20 of a marathon are mentally difficult. You are beginning to tire after 16 miles, but you have another 10 to go. Nutrition become important; for me, Flapjack at Mile 8, Chocolate at Mile 15 and a paracetamol to keep my cold at bay. You need to work out what is best for you during your training walks and keep drinking. I started with a 500ml water bottle and topped up at the many water stations en route.

Coming out of Canary Wharf at Mile 20 felt a relief, only two parkruns to go. As an aside, parkruns are very good for speed training. It’s always good to be able to accelerate and push yourself when necessary.

Tower of London, Mile 23 and a quick hug from hubby gave me a special boost. Only one parkrun to go. I had slowed down a bit in Canary Wharf but, miraculously, I was still averaging less than 15-minute miles. Could I achieve my original target of six and a half hours despite a cold?

The next couple of miles flew by and I was approaching Big Ben. My supporters had joined together for one great fantastic cheer as I marched past. Onto Birdcage Walk, my legs started to feel like lead, some more supporters, not far to go. Turning the corner, past Buckingham Palace, The Mall was in sight. One final push, and I was there proudly power walking down The Mall in a sparkly bra with a big grin on my face. My time 6:30:31, a PB by over three minutes and much quicker than I had dared to hope for earlier in the week.

As I collected my medal, met up with family and made the long journey back home, my cold returned with a vengeance. I was a bit rough for a couple of days, but it showed that a positive mental attitude can overcome anything. A mere cold is nothing compared to helping eradicate the horrible disease of breast cancer. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Thank you for sharing your story Elizabeth!  Have you got a ballot place in the TCS London Marathon 2023? We would love you to fundraise for Walk the Walk! More details here.


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