Virtual London Virgin Marathon – The 40th Race

I had agreed to run the Virtual London Virgin Marathon for Winston’s Wish just 4 weeks before the big day. I am not great at training for anything but had been running regularly and followed advice from the tapering weeks.

Winston's Wish Running Vest

Kit for the Virtual London Marathon

The big trouble with not training properly for a marathon is that I really did not know what I was doing/what I needed. When I did the last 20 mile race back in March I managed on an energy tablet and some Percy Pigs. I didn’t really manage well however and felt really fatigued before the end. In fact I recall my legs not wanting to work.

This time I had a load of energy gels which I had tried out on long runs – so knew they wouldn’t upset my stomach. I also took real food (malt loaf, flapjack and Nak’d bar with me) as well as a bottle of Coca Cola (which I hadn’t tried before when running but know it helps me).

Virtual Marathon Running Kit
Note I forgot to add my trainers (Black Nike) and had to add a battery pack and Percy Pigs

When packing my kit I had to kick loads of things out (I decided that I didn’t need two packs of Percy Pigs). I had also decided not to pack my bladder and just to take my water bottle which I could refill. I did also take a battery pack because the London Marathon App said I needed one – but it wasn’t used.

My friend Angie had kept saying how her future husband (Tony) was more than happy to Jeff with me and even kept on offering his services to carry all my kit. I kind of took as a given but didn’t actually make any firm agreements with him about what was actually happening, so thought it a bit impolite to bring stuff I expected him to carry.

The Morning of the Marathon

The big day arrived. I had set my alarm for 6am but woke up at 5:30. I had originally planned to start my Virtual Marathon at 7am, but the day before I saw it was still dark until half past. It made sense to leave later rather than need to take a light. I did toy with the idea of still taking a light because Storm Alex was making it rather dull but I didn’t want even more to carry. I was a mix of nervous and excitement. The day before I was so pumped for it I am surprised that I didn’t just start at midnight!

I had two pints of water, a bowl of porridge and a Lemsip Max Strength before leaving.  I still felt rotten and couldn’t breathe properly through my nose.

I like to wake up gently and spent a lot of time on social media. Talking to others who were also about to run and to people who had run a marathon before.

My Jeffing Ratio for the Virtual London Marathon

I had originally decided that I was going to Jeff a 2:1 as that is the ratio that I most use. But then I stopped and thought about it and actually for long runs (especially races) I had used a 3:2 previously. I figured that would also mean less running – which may make it easier on my body for not becoming too fatigued. Also that it would mean that I didn’t go too fast – as I just cannot sustain speed for three minutes!

Running pace graph showing jeffing a 3:2 marathon

I wore my Tikiboo Carebears sports top and shorts, with my Winston’s Wish vest top. It was absolutely pouring of rain so I made the decision that I would take my running waterproof bright pink jacket with me. Besides it made eating the Percy Pigs easier. I also had my pink running bag and my cheap black Nike trainers. I then carried my small pink water bottle.

I made the decision to plait my hair in two – but I can’t do it from the very top. It looks ridiculous, especially after I have put my headphones on. I knew I would look stupid in my photos. But it is also the least annoying way to keep my hair out of my way.

The 40th Race

At 7:23 I sent a message to the group chat to tell them that I was getting my shoes on. I headed to Angie’s house and Tony answered. He said to carry on and he’d catch me up. I was nervous. Everyone else was doing local loops. Even the London Marathon advice was stay close to home so you could get changed. I wasn’t even quite sure of the route (which was vague anyway). Not to mention the fact that there was a hill in it. I suggested that maybe I should stay local. But then I also said how I wanted it to be a real challenge so that I could raise as much money for Winston’s Wish as possible. Tony said to give him 5 minutes then and we would go the planned route.

I think this is the first time it became really apparent that I wasn’t prepared for a marathon. Tony asked how much water I had. I showed him my pink bottle and my intention to buy more from shops/fill up at friends’. He grabbed loads of bottles of water and stuck them in his Bag.

Then he asked about fuelling. He grabbed some small packets of something and stuck them in too. He also explained that he had foil blankets in case we got too cold.

road with rain water in it
The roads when we started out

The Start of the Virtual Marathon

At just before eight am we started. It was a bit of a faff to have to start the app on my phone and the phone away before moving but I wasn’t. It was surprising that we weren’t moving that fast but it felt like we were. I am not sure if that was due to how cold it was, or wet; that I was struggling to breathe or that I hadn’t run for a week.

Tony was really good at letting me dictate the pace and we were just chatting – which was great as I do think I would have tried to go faster as I know I usually could.

After 27 minutes my husband started to get concerned that the app hadn’t shown me moving. He rang me and text. I am useless and don’t know how to use my headphones to answer the call so had to keep getting my phone out of my bag pocket (which is quite tight as my phone is big). I wasn’t concerned as the app was talking to me (I should have turned the audio off I found it really annoying). Also you can submit your watch stats if it doesn’t record okay, so I text him telling him not to worry.

London Virtual Marathon App Not working

By 09:04 we had been splashing through many puddles. There was just no point even trying to avoid them – we were going to get super wet. We may as well have some fun!

The Hill

At 09:39 we reached the bottom of the big hill. I stopped to take a photo to share on my Facebook so that at least people could see whereabouts we had got to if the app still wasn’t working. Naturally my husband doesn’t really check social media so he still didn’t know.

runner selfie at the bottom of a hill

I intended to walk up the hill and run down but Tony suggested that I should do what my watch said. Sure enough right at the bottom of the hill it switched from walk to run. Tony advised that I kept looking down so that I wasn’t put off by how steep and never-ending looking the hill was. Throughout he was great at keeping the pace – usually by going behind me saying it was my marathon. But there were also times, such as this, where he gently just helped me push it. On the hill he just came to the side of me, encouraging me, telling me it wasn’t far. I have to admit when I got to the end of the 3 minutes I walked. We were almost at the top and Tony told me I could have made it.

No Plan Virtual Marathon Route

By the time we had got back down the other side of the hill we were around 10 miles in. I had some loose plan about stopping for snacks and going to the toilet when I reached here. I also couldn’t believe I would manage it so had no future route. Tony suggested one that sounded good which took us back a different way but would still get me where I needed to be for the last stages of the marathon. I completely forgot about the toilet etc.

Cheltenham Paint Festival painted house

I know at 10:12 I explained about the paint festival and stopped to take a photo of one of the painted houses.

Fuelling Problems during the Virtual Marathon

In fact apart from the fact that my nose kept running and I had to be a mouth breather it felt like it was all going really easily. We were just talking and moving forward. The miles just went by so quickly. The problem was that I had completely messed up any fuelling. I was meant to have Percy Pigs every mile and even more dangerously hadn’t kept a better eye on when I should be having gels. Tony did start asking but I know I was too late with starting them. My hands had gotten so cold by now (they actually really swelled up and my husband was quite concerned). I couldn’t even actually open anything! I am really lucky Tony was with me to help me.

Percy Pigs original and Halloween packets

By the time we got to a half marathon distance (after 2 1/2 hours) I finished off the water in my pink bottle. Tony then refilled it and it was around about here I definitely felt a difference. I ate a Nak’d bar as well as a gel. I knew things weren’t good as I mixed up when I was meant to walk and when run for a little bit.

This was the first time I felt the, “ugh I am not going to be able to do this”. I thought I was going to pass out or something. I can’t remember what happened here really. I think it’s where Tony just kept telling me I could and just to keep moving forward. Sure enough we kept going and soon we were back near home.

Back to Local Routes

At 10:54 I messaged Rachael to let her know that I was about 4.6 miles away. She had asked for me to give her at least half an hour’s warning. I had arranged to use her toilet.

11:11 messaged my husband to let him know that I was back near home. I also popped a photo on my Facebook – again to let people know I was close by. I then messaged my husband again at 11:34 to let him know I was coming up to Rachael’s. We had agreed that he would meet me there and do the last 4 miles together.

wet runner selfie

The Jolly Jeffers

At 11:41 I got to Rachael’s. It was a bit of a shock when I went inside as there were people waiting for me. I hadn’t done the 22 miles I was expecting to have by the time I reached there so was only up to 20 miles. I felt odd that I still didn’t actually need the toilet but went just in case. Rachael was amazing asking me if there was anything I needed and I had a couple of slices of orange. We had some socially distanced photos taken outside before trying to sync everyone up with my run/walk alerts. You see I had decided not to pause anything because I wanted my time to be the actual time rather than the active one.

The Jolly Jeffers supporting a marathon

The Wall during the Virtual Marthon

It was probably when my husband found me that I hit the wall. Although it turned out my husband didn’t see my message straight away so was slightly delayed in joining us. Again I didn’t have any actual route for this part of the Virtual Marathon. When it was suggested to go a certain direction I just went the opposite. Everyone was quite confused. I still had 10K to go and my husband isn’t used to running these days so it was quite a distance for him. He managed to catch up despite our head start and we hugged (and again for photos lol) and carried on.

At this point it was really a case of moving forward and doing as I was told. Jeffing really helped though as I changed my Garmin screen to tell me how long of the run (or walk) I had left. This meant I had no idea how far I had left to go or what speed I was going. I didn’t feel mentally a failure as I was just using the technique I had all the way through. I could just count down thinking I only had X amount of time before I could walk again.

husband and wife embrace during a virtual marathon

Tony passed me different bottles and told me to drink (or stopped me drinking too much). Also just generally checking I was ok. It was quite different from our just chatting to running as a group with people in front of me.

At one point (23 miles I believe) I even cried (cue another hug). Rachael had told me to breathe through my nose – but I couldn’t. So she told me to steady my breathing.

I don’t think I was really fully consciously there for a lot of this part. I recall Tony discovering all the “crap” in my bag and taking it out saying that I didn’t need to carry all that. With some comment about how I thought I was going on a picnic.

Winston’s Wish Virtual Marathon Finish

We had to get to Sharron’s house for Winston’s Wish to take some photos. But somehow I had managed to confuse people with where we were going. Also when we were close to her house I stupidly took my jacket off and gave it to my husband. This was so that it didn’t hide the vest in the photos. But it was still really cold (remember my hands were swollen).

elevation graph

At 12:15 I messaged Sharron to warn her I was almost at hers. She told me that they had a finishing flag set up for me. We knew that I wouldn’t be up to 26.2 miles by the time we got there so we added on a bit more route so that I would.

I think this was also around mile 25 and you remember I said I didn’t know my pace – well I could feel it vary. One part I felt strong and ran. Other times I had to move from the pavement onto grass and it suddenly knocked my rhythm. I was so tired and not with it I was just running – I had no idea. Apparently it was about here that I was running at an 8 ½ minute mile pace. You also remember my husband was with us and not as used to it as he used to be! (He stayed with us though, I admire him so much).

Through the Flood Water

As we came to make a decision on which way to go, going left meant that we would still have too much further to go. We went straight on and the rain had flooded the road. In fact one of the drain covers had come off and was sticking up in the road! We ran through it (well I did as long as I could that was definitely high knees and hard work!). Then someone suggested we take an exit and went back on ourselves. Note at the same time idiots in vans and cars were trying to drive down there when really it was a stupid thing to do.

group running through flood water

Afterwards something had gone into my shoes and I could feel it rubbing and it was going to cause me a blister. I was told to just ignore it and carry on. I wish I hadn’t as that blister really annoyed me following the marathon. In reality it was good advice because that water was disgusting!

Virtual London Marathon Finish

Finally we came to Sharron’s and saw the Winston’s Wish banner and flag. We ran around and around the road around her green trying to get up to the desired distance. When I had 0.02 to go I turned and sprinted to the flag (managing a best pace time of 4.37min/mile. I heard the app say I had finished but slowly carried on a bit more before pausing my watch.

Winston's Wish Virtual Marathon Finish

Virtual London Marathon App

But when I checked the London Marathon App it said I had only done 26.1 miles. I then realised that I had actually given hubby my bag as well as my jacket – so didn’t actually have my phone on me! Tony had run with it so it was okay but we kept moving with it unsure of whether the app had thought I had finished or not. I had also un-paused and re-paused my Garmin because I didn’t want there to be any doubt about the distance.

My official time was 5 hours 10 minutes and 6 seconds.

With Many Thanks

I seriously could not have done it without Tony he was amazing.

Thank you to all my support including my husband (who also enables me to go for runs, especially Sunday long ones). Mia, Angie, Charlie and Rachel for the long Sunday runs. The Jolly Jeffers – for the support on the day and for my love of Jeffing. And to everyone who has sponsored me. And to inspirational runners such as Natalie and Sarah. Not forgetting Winston’s Wish who gave me a charity place.

9 thoughts on “Virtual London Virgin Marathon – The 40th Race”

  1. Joy, you were inspirational and it was a pleasure to support you for the last bit. Your write up is funny and emotional and a perfect reflection of the event! I sobbed when you crossed the line… The first Jolly Jeffer to complete a marathon.

  2. That’s amazing, well done! It must be really tough doing a marathon without the crowd support and the drinks / fuel stations. It sounds like your running buddy was a great help. So impressive that you did it with so little time left to train as well. You should be very proud of yourself.

  3. Wow, very well done! It sounds like you had a real roller coaster of a morning. How brilliant of Tony to support you like that all the way round and how lovely of your husband and the others to join you for the last few miles. That floodwater looks horrible to run through!


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