It was 4.40am as I jumped out of bed thinking I was late on marathon morning. I was full of nervous energy. Add to that the 'don't miss the alarm' mindset, which prevented me sleeping through the night, and you get the picture. I was tired and confused! As I re-thought my morning plans I realised I was not late and could go back to bed for another 50 minutes! What bliss! Even so, when I did get up and try to start fuelling up on granola, banana and a bagel it was still only around 5.30am, far too early for a civilised start to the day. The thoughts of 'why' penetrate the confusion in their normal pre-race intrusive way.

Once fuelled and changed into my running gear I picked up Nikki, after almost knocking the door of her neighbour first, and headed for the train station to catch the 6.16am train to Waterloo. A bunch of us from my running club were at the station, as well as many other runners and some supporters. Never had you seen so many scantily clad, flesh revealing people on one station platform! The camaraderie and banter kept the nerves in check, whilst pre-race fluids were sipped and some snacks consumed. Arriving at Waterloo it was coffee time, loo stop, and head for the underground towards the start area at Greenwhich. As the time of the start approached, the platforms, trains and streets got busier and busier and anticipation grew.

The adrenalin started to flow as I entered the runners starting area, and last minute checks were done: gels, chews, where to dump non-running clothes that were going to charity, and final loo stops. Then it was into your particular start pen and you were off. This year was a staggered start as a covid precaution, so blocks of a few hundred went off from four start areas, in intervals. It was great to be running an event again. As soon as you start, the nerves calm and you become occupied with dodging other runners, keeping an eye on your speed, and trying to follow the painted blue line which is the shortest route around the course. Despite the staggered start it was still very busy and you needed to remain alert.

Running around the Cutty Sark at 6 miles is always a highlight; the crowds were immense, tv cameras captured the scene, and runners waved to get noticed; the East end is amazing - so many varieties of music, from African timpani bands to single DJ's with a speaker system, and full of character; at approximately half-way you cross Tower Bridge, a goose bump moment as you run onto the bridge enveloped in noise. My race had been going well. I had felt strong, my legs were rested after tapering during the preceding weeks, but even so I questioned whether I had gone out too fast. I satisfied myself by thinking I wasn't pushing hard but was just going with the flow. I should have thought differently!

I reached half way in 1hour 32min and 30 seconds, a time I would have been pleased with for a half marathon on its own. But I still had over 13 miles to go. At approximately mile 16 I really started to pay for my fast start. Keeping the pace up became harder and harder, and the almost ideal cool starting weather warmed as the sun kept bursting through - not disastrously, but less ideal than the start. The crowds along the embankment on route to Westminster tried to keep you going - their desperate pleas made me smile as I wondered how bad I really looked for them to shout like that - but still the support was amazing. The struggle to fuel on route increased as your stomach protested at anything you put in it. At mile 25 the habitual annual support of Kerry and friends from my running club tried to inject a last bit of energy before I reached my son's supporting spot at Westminster. Steve bellowed across the road, urging me on, whilst trying to motivate me with sight of my post race re-fuelling drink! Turning in front of Buckingham Palace brought the finish line into view, and it was done - 3hrs 23mins 30secs. Considering the collapse from mile 16 I was pleased.

I staggered to retrieve my bag from stewards and to find my son in Horse Guards Parade with a re-fuelling beer. I was done-in every sense of the word. Now it was time to celebrate, enjoy the atmosphere and after-glow, and support others.

The weeks of training, the early Saturday long runs, watching my diet, and finally forcing myself to the finish was all worth it to raise over £2000 for Amigos Worldwide. I may have suffered during the preparation and the run, but this charity helps out those whose suffering leaves me on the start line! Loss of loved ones through brutal war, poverty, homelessness, lack of education - Amigos Worldwide helps children and young people move through and beyond their past trauma to become community transformers. Each year Kira Farm Development Centre, a key aspect of Amigos work, welcomes up to 50 trainees from 6 districts in Uganda. These trainees learn vocational, business, communication and conservation farming skills, as well as conflict resolution. They come broken, dejected and without hope, but after a year they re-enter their communities, becoming respected leaders and changemakers.

Sandra is one example. Above she proudly shows off her beautiful creation, from her new found skill. The training Sandra has received at Kira Farm will open many doors when she returns to her village, giving her the opportunity to break free from the cycle of poverty in which she has been trapped. Amigos support is truly changing lives!

So as I end this blog I do want to thank all of you that have supported me as in some small way we have sought to bolster the incredible work of Amigos World-wide. It was a privilege to run for them! And of course its never too late to give. My fundraising page will be up until the end of November at Thankyou!