Oh no. I’ve hit it. That damned wall. I don’t know how to describe it. I have just passed the 20 mile marker. The Docklands is a memory, and there is only the long straight along The Embankment to go. But from one step the next, everything that ached before suddenly begins to scream, and worse, the battle with my mind begins.
“I hurt, Nancy, I really, really hurt. My legs feel like they are half a ton each, and the weak Spring sunshine feels like I am heading into a furnace. I have to stop, please.”
Instead of thinking in miles, I begin to think in steps. Just a few more steps. One foot after another. I try and still the voice in my head which is crying to me “stop, please, just for a few moments”. I begin reciting a mantra, at first in my head, then under my breath, then out loud.
“One foot in front of the other, you can do it, come on, you’re nearly there. One foot in front of the other, you can do it, come on, you’re nearly there”
21 goes by, then 22. It becomes difficult to see straight. I grab water, knowing that nothing at this stage will assuage my thirst nor give me a burst of energy. All my energy has been used up. It is now simply will that keeps me going.
23, then I see the tunnel. I know that Bachi is on the other side – he told me where he would be. My emotions have gone all over the place. I want to see him, I want to cry, I just want to stop. I come out of the other side of the tunnel and there he is! I pass him my pack – it is so close to the end I don’t need any gels.
“I’ll see you at the finish!” he cries. It is the boost I need. I don’t stop. I want to stop.
I know people are calling my name. I can’t hear them. There are runners walking. I look at the ground and pass them, all the while repeating my mantra. I know how they feel. I know they have given in to that voice. I won’t give in. I can’t, I am just too close. The cheers and cries are so loud and yet it is like I am in a bubble, the walls of which are muffling the noise. Houses of Parliament, I turn towards Birdcage Walk. Soon the signs begin.
800m to go. I try and up my speed. I can’t. There is nothing left. After what feels like another hour, 600m to go. Come on, Nancy, pick up speed. Miraculously my legs keep pushing and my stride extends. I only have to keep this up for a few more minutes and then I can stop. It is the thought of stopping that propels me forward. 400m to go. I still can’t see the finish line, but I am under 4 hours and it is so close. 200m to go. Can I sprint? Sprint? I can hardly move! I can feel tears chocking me, but I want to laugh out loud as I round the bend and there it is. After nearly four hours, it is almost done.
I cross the line.
I did it.