I did it, Bournemouth marathon, the big 26.2 miles! 

The morning of Sunday the 4th October 2015 soon arrived and so it was with much trepidation I forced myself to get up and get dressed into my running kit which, I had prepared the evening before. I had decided to wear a running top which had my name printed on, in anticipation of needing to hear my name called out by spectators in those last few miles.

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We had arranged to meet Suzanne at her house at 7am for the trip to Bournemouth, which was going to take a while due to road works on the main road in to Bournemouth! We set off in goods spirits and made it to Bournemouth by 7.45am, just in time to see the half marathon start at 8am. We spotted the legendary Aurelio Bello, running the half with Lisa and Kelly. We managed to give him a big hug just as he was setting off!

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With just two hours to go before the start of the marathon, the nerves were really starting to kick in, and I decided that I’d better have some breakfast, not having been  able to face food earlier on. Breakfast ended up being a flapjack with fruit, two bananas and a handful of ‘oatie’ biscuits. This felt fine as the day before I had really loaded up on the carbs and I wasn’t really feeling very hungry!

After a couple of toilet stops we were soon called to our starting pens, this is where me and Suzanne wished each other good luck and separated company. I was soon greeted by the familiar smile of Ali Solomon in the green pen and we even managed a start line selfie, despite the nerves (mainly on my part, Ali was as relaxed and as positive as she always is)!

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And we were off, setting out it felt like any other race, lots of spectators cheering, smiling, clapping, in my mind I was thinking this wasn’t going to be so bad after all, it’s only 26.2 miles! 26.2 miles, 6.2 miles further than I had ever run before…

The first few miles led out towards the coast near Hengistbury head, before heading towards Boscombe. It was a beautiful sunny day but not too hot, although I was very thankful that I had replaced my running sunglasses the day before (Dolly my whippet had chewed my old pair about a week before!).

The course was fairly winding and we were soon doubling back on ourselves, this gave me lots of opportunity to spot my running buddies and exchange encouragement with Suzanne. Somewhere between 5 or 6 miles I got chatting to a couple of ladies also running their first marathon, they were local to Bournemouth and I ended up running with them for about another 3 or 4 miles.

At 12 miles I saw a familiar face on a bike, it was my Twitter buddy Richard or @pirata_rosa, who had decided to come along and soak up the marathon atmosphere as part of one of his cycle rides. He took a great photo of me, and it’s fair to say at this point I was still in good spirits. Unfortunately it wasn’t long after this that I started feeling pain in my left knee – oh dear!

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From about the half marathon point onwards my knee felt to gradually get worse, and it was at this point that I also noticed the course was hillier than I expected it to be… I was going to have to dig deep and find real mental strength to complete the second half. Luckily I spotted my friend Kathy and her partner Trevor in the crowd at this point, I stopped for a hug and Kathy gave me some words of encouragement- thank you Kathy.

The next five miles passed, which included running along both Boscombe and Bournemouth pier, and I was to go through the finish line at 18 miles, knowing that I still had 8 miles to go. I hit this point at just under 3 hours, and there were some runners who were just finishing their marathons, this was a low point for me, as its very hard to go through the finish knowing you still had 8 miles. Just after this point I saw my lovely friend Lucy and her daughter Emma cheering me on, I needed this to get through this low point, thank you Lucy, you picked a great spot to cheer from. Next up was THAT hill, the legendary 18 mile hill! As if by magic, Richard (@pirata_rosa) reappeared at this point on his cycle, I think he clocked that I was struggling both mentally physically and encouraged me all the way up the hill, yes I walked, it was hard, I was feeling very low and my knee was still sore. It’s at times like this that you discover just how strong you can be. I could so easily of pulled out here, and yes my mind was trying to tell me to do so.

Richard accompanied me for the next 5 miles on his bike, encouraging and supporting me along, thank you so much for all your help, you probably don’t realise how much it really meant to me, and I’m truly grateful for your friendship.

I had finally made it to 23 miles, only 3.2 miles to go, just over a park run, I could do this! My hopes of a 4:30 marathon were out of the window, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to finish. Those last 3 miles, felt like the worst 3 miles of my life, I maintained a walk/jog pace and gazed out to sea to try to distract myself from the task at hand…just keep moving, just keep moving!

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At mile 25 I heard my name being called, it was my amazing friend Jill, and two of her daughters. Although she is 34 weeks pregnant, Jill ran alongside me for a while, and then her two youngest daughters, ran with me all the way to the finish funnel, thank you so much to you and your girls Jill, I couldn’t ask for better friends.

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This was it, the finish line was back in sight, there was no big sprint finish, no big smiles, just a feeling of tremendous relief and achievement to have reached the most important place in the whole run. Jane Gould managed to capture me on camera at this point, although I was oblivious to her shouts, thank you Jane.

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I shuffled through the finish area, collecting my marathon medal and goody bag, before returning back down some steps (yes really!!!) to meet up again with Steve, Suzanne, Lucy and Emma. The tears started flowing and Lucy soon joined in, bless her. I was crying tears of relief, joy, pain and frustration. I finished in 4:56:52, much slower than I had expected, but to be honest, I couldn’t of predicted just how hard the marathon distance was going to be. Anyone that can complete the 26.2 miles of a marathon, from the fastest runner at the front to the last person finishing just in front of the sweep bus are all achieving the most amazing accomplishment and should be extremely proud of themselves.

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My final thoughts are that one day I will run another marathon, probably not until 2017 though! Next year I will concentrate on the half marathon distance and try to improve on my 1:45 current PB. I took on the marathon to help conquer my demons, I certainly managed that, and learnt so much about my own mental strength in the process. I can now say I’m in the proud 1% club of the population that have completed a marathon – go me! I know my mum would of been proud of me, and I dedicate this run to her memory x

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Here is a link to my garmin statistics from the day: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/919167998/share/0?lang=en

There is still time to sponsor me in aid of mind, the mental health charity:https://www.justgiving.com/Bex-Cleeves/?utm_id=13

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