From a young age it has always been a dream of mine to run the London Marathon. Don’t get me wrong I am by no means a long distance runner, but I do love a challenge - particularly a fitness challenge and this was right up my street.
Before I knew it life was passing me by – work, getting married, building a house, having kids and I still hadn’t got around to even entering. I had taken part in many 10k running events, mud runs, and a few half marathons but that was as far as I had gone.
Then one sunny afternoon on Wednesday 7th May 2014 I received some devastating news
that would turn my world upside down. My dad had died very suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 65. It was way too early for him to go. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I was due to visit him at his home in Poole that coming weekend and now I would never see him again. It was almost impossible for me to take it in and I think I was in shock for several months after. It was incredibly sudden and overwhelmingly unfair.
In 2015 as we were approaching the first year anniversary of my Father’s death I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to run the London Marathon in his memory and I wanted to run for the British Heart Foundation. An amazingly popular charity with only a certain amount of Marathon spaces to allocate I knew my chances were limited. When I received the golden email telling me that I had been given a place in the Heart Runners team I cried! I was excited, scared and sad all rolled into one.
I began training very gently in October in 2015 and managed to complete the Walton Half
Marathon in 1h 54mins. Not bad! I picked up the training in the January and entered the Hampton Court Half in February gaining a new PB of 1h 52mins. I ran 4-5 times a week mixing speed training with the long distance runs and blended this with the incredibly physical job I already have and being a mum to a 5 and 3 year old. It was exhausting but I was seeing the results and it gave me a buzz to know that I was actually doing this and getting quite good at it too!
Just as things seemed to be ticking along quite nicely, I caught the flu and that meant no running for at least two weeks. I was dying to get back into it but my body wouldn’t work. It was so frustrating to be doing so much then have to do absolutely nothing and it felt like my fitness was disappearing in front of my eyes. After 10 days of rest I couldn’t stand it anymore so I went out to do a 13 mile run. Worst thing I could have done. My body wasn’t well enough to run and I dived straight back in where I had left off rather than starting back easy. I got to 9 miles and my knee went. The pain was excruciating and I couldn’t even walk on it. I had to phone my husband to come and get me!
I was diagnosed as having Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). Pain on the outside of the knee which is caused by a lack of strength or flexibility in the ITB band. This muscle was rubbing against my kneecap as I was running and causing it to become inflamed and irritated. I was told it was likely to have occurred due to a misalignment down the left side of my body due to a spinal operation that I had back in 2010. I saw various Physiotherapists but all they could say was stretch and rest and basically wait till the big day and just hope for the best. I had only run as far as 13 miles. In my training schedule I should have been hitting 15, even 18 miles by now. I felt like I was letting everyone down. All the lovely people that had sponsored me (my JustGivng page was hitting £2,000) my family who were supporting my strict training plan and above all I felt like I was letting my dad down. I was devastated!
Then one day I met a real live Angel. Her name is Alice Monger-Godfrey and she is the best Osteopath on the planet. A friend passed me on her details and insisted I call her. I am so glad I did. Alice was friendly, sympathetic, experienced and above all very encouraging. She was very optimistic that we would get me back on track very quickly if I did everything she asked. And do you know what she was right! After several treatments of acupuncture my knee felt so much better. I have never had acupuncture before and now I swear by it! The Physio had told me no more running and definitely not to run the Lidl Breakfast run on Sunday 3rd April. This was my last ‘big’ run in preparation for D Day on Sunday 24th April. Alice said to do it but take it with 2 mile chunks every step of the way and see how it goes. I put on my Dad’s ring that morning and I knew he would be with me no matter what lie ahead. I completed that 20.1 mile race and I ran it in 3hr 3mins! I was over the moon!
You would think the story would end there wouldn’t you? But no! To my sheer frustration
I was then hit by another stroke of bad luck. Just 10 days before Marathon Day I started getting some bad stomach pains which then became so excruciating I started to worry. I felt like I was going into labour and this had all occurred over just 5 hours. I managed to get an emergency appointment with my GP and he confirmed that I had a Gall Bladder Infection. Really!?! Take at least a week of complete rest and NO you are not running the Marathon.
My sponsorship was hitting £2,500 and the pressure I felt was ridiculous. I kept getting so close and then another hurdle seemed to arise! Why was this happening to me? All I could think of was my dad and that I was letting him down. I cleared all my work for the next five days and went to see my GP again just 4 days before race day. I was thrilled when he gave me the all clear to run, but I was under strict instructions to pull out of the race if I felt any pain or discomfort.
Finally the day came. The London Marathon on Sunday 24th April. I was feeling surprisingly good and I was ready to do this! My ardous journey getting to this day had been an experience but I knew the day ahead had even more fun in store! My running top had BOD written across the front. This was my nickname that my dad used to call me. On the back of my shirt was written ‘In memory of my dad Stephen Kirby’. I put on Dad’s ring and I knew he was right there beside me. This was it!
The London Marathon was one of the most amazing days I have ever- experienced. The over whelming feeling of enthusiasm and camaraderie is hard to put into words. Everybody there, whether running or supporting was amazing - friendly, supportive, vibrant and full of determination. I felt like I was plugged into the biggest TV show in the world! The powerful energy that the London Marathon creates is just something from another planet. To witness so many people completing their own Marathon journeys, running for their own reasons and in memory of their loved ones. It is an incredibly humbling experience.
I completed the London Marathon in 4hours 15mins. It was blimmin tough but I think the journey getting to the actual day had in fact been even tougher! When I was flagging, various crowd supporters would shout ‘Come on Bod!’ It was like hearing the words straight from my Dad and it gave me the push I needed to keep going. My knee was all strapped up but didn’t give me any problems at all and I had no stomach pains. I kept chipping off the miles and before I knew it I only had 7 miles to go.
My husband, my two little girls, my mum and my step-dad all came to watch me. I will never ever forget seeing them all at Mile 19 in Canary Wharf where I could have just collapsed on the floor. My two beautiful girls shoved a handful of red and purple jelly beans into my hand and said ‘Go on Mummy you can do it! We picked out your favourite jelly beans so they will give you super powers!’ Just seeing them and hearing those words when I was ready to give up gave me the all the super powers I needed to finish!
As the Finish Line came into view I started to cry. I couldn’t believe I was nearly there! All that training, all that sacrifice, all the obstacles along the way and above all I missed my Dad. I threw my hands in the air with the little energy that I had left as I crossed the line and I screamed ‘We did it Dad! We really did it!’