Friday, April 26, 2013

Spectating the London Marathon

Actual date of this event: 21 April

On Sunday morning, Jill woke up bright and early leaving around 7am to go to Greenwich where she would begin her 26.2 mile run (click here to read about her experience as a marathon runner). Meanwhile, Luke, Kristin and I kept sleeping. Around 10:30am, the three lazy ones - actually Kristin isn’t lazy because she ran in the Paris marathon two weeks before and has a stress fracture, so it’s just Luke and me who are the lazy ones, anyway… - we left for the city to go find Jill along the route. Let me tell y’all, spectating is A LOT of work!

We knew Jill’s timing and we were also checking online to see her updates. A chip attached to her shoe updated her location and time every 5km. We had the marathon route map which gave us those 5 km marks, so it was fairly easy to know her approximate location. Okay, I am making this seem way easier than it was.

When we arrived in the city, it was absolutely beautiful outside! Amazingly beautiful with not a single cloud in the sky! Let me clarify though, beautiful for a spectator. For the runners, it was way too hot! We headed straight for the Tower Bridge which was close to the halfway mark – 13.1 miles. It was our first time being around the crowds and along the route, so we had not become pros at this spectating thing. We wanted to go further down the route, maybe a quarter of a mile, so we could have better views, but we needed to go around a building to do so. By the time we figured out Jill’s timing, we realized that we would miss her if we did that, so we went back to where we just were. As we were walking up, I saw her but there was no way I could yell her name or take any pics. Darn! We missed her by like a minute! Ugh! Off she went! And now we needed to figure out where to go next.
We jumped on tube and headed to Westferry Station. When we got there, we were in between two parts of the route. If we had figured it out sooner, we could have seen Jill on one side around 15.5 miles, but since we didn’t, we were going to have to wait another 50 minutes or so before we saw her again at 20.5 miles. While trying to post up along the route, I got a phone call from Jill. Girl, why you callin’ me? Focus! Focus!!! Oh. She is dying of heat and wants us to take her backpack. I told her where we were, and she said she would look for us. Meanwhile, Luke is like, “I have to pee. I have to find a place to pee. Debbie, don’t leave here. I’m going to find a place to pee.” My focus is Jill, not Luke’s bladder. I was not okay with letting her go another 5 miles with the backpack, so I left the group to go find her.
Here I was running through the crowds, sweating, and man that was painful! Just kidding, just kidding!!! Anyway, I was looking at my phone and looking at the route map trying to figure out where to go. The area where I was had some waterways that made it difficult to get to any area of the route. I had to go over and under the route a few times because I kept getting stuck on one side of the route. Finally, I found a spot at mile 18.5 and was just praying that Jill hadn’t passed yet. The crowds were 2-3 people deep all along the route, so I had to inch my way toward the front… but I was still in the second row. For future spectating knowledge: It is really difficult trying to find a runner on the course. If you look away for even a second, you will miss them. I had a few people texting me while I was trying to find her, and I felt bad that I was ignoring them, but I was so worried I would miss her going by. Eventually, as I stood on my tip toes, I saw her face around a giant man’s head, who was holding those clapper things you see at basketball games behind the free throw line. I started yelling her name as loud as possible repeatedly, “Jill! Jill! Jill! Jill!” I think everyone around me thought I was a maniac. Truthfully, I was because my goal was to relieve my friend of her backpack! Jill handed me her backpack, and off she went!!! And off I went back to mile 20.5 where small-bladder-man and Kristin were waiting.
When I got back, I was worried I took too long, and she had passed already. Luckily, she hadn’t, so we all waited for her to come. Shortly after, we saw her coming and started cheering her on! We saw her beautiful smile and hopefully we motivated her for a few more miles. So off she went! Which means, we quickly needed to hop on the tube and go toward the finish line.
After a bit of confusion with the tube routes and the loads of people, we made our way to Westminster Station at 25.5 miles. We elbowed our way through the crowds as if no one else was in a hurry. Poor Kristin and her stress fracture. That leg will never be the same after following Luke and me all day. When we came back above ground, we saw runners right in front of us. The three of us are all like “Yeah! Front row seats!!!” Then we figured out that it was trap. Seriously, we got trapped in this area which was the spectators crossing point. Route marshals moved the crowd into the area, and then moved the runners to one side of the area so the crowd could cross the road. We totally got suckered into that!
After we were ushered out of our perfect front row seats, we had to stand 3 deep to look for Jill. I was so focused on finding her that I did not even notice that Westminster Abbey was to the right of me, and Big Ben was right in front of me. Like I said, if you look away for one second, you will miss them! Turns out that I still missed Jill pass by. Kristin saw her and got a few pics and cheered her on. So off she went! And then we needed to make our way to the “meet and greet” area where she would be waiting for us after she finished. We got ushered into another spectators crossing point where we had front row seats again for a few minutes. While in there, we saw a few runners that looked in total pain… cramps, limping, one guy fell and other runners picked him up to carry him to the finish. Seriously, these folks are an inspiration! We also had a helicopter hovering over us in the sky as a precaution after the Boston marathon.
The last mile circled around St. James’ Park and also crossed by Buckingham Palace. According to Jill, she didn’t even notice any of these famous sights while running because she just wanted to finish. Too bad they didn’t start the race by the famous sights so they could enjoy the scenery more. We easily found Jill with a big smile on her face and a shiny medal around her neck! Wooohooooo, Goooooo Jill!!!
For the afternoon, we took it as easy as possible. Unfortunately, we had to go down some stairs to get to the tube, and we had to do some walking to go anywhere. Jill (and Kristin) was not a fan of this, but she also didn’t want to sit or else she would tighten up. She was such a trooper for the rest of the afternoon! Every runner she saw, she made sure to tell them congratulations… she was always the first to do so, but she still did it for everyone! We had some tapas for an afternoon snack and got some gelato before saying our goodbyes to Kristin, who was heading back to Aberdeen, and then we went back to Wimbledon. Jill enjoyed a bath, we watched Friends, and ate a quick dinner from home. 
So proud of Jill – she did awesome!

Jill passed 1,135 runners in the last 7km. Of the 34,188 runners than finished, 36% were women and 64% were men.



  1. Debbie, I love reading your blog and this one was extra special! Thanks for being such a great friend to Jill and opening up your home for her to stay. You, Kristen, and Luke were a great cheering squad! I know she is going to miss you but know you will love living in London! I hope to meet you one day! Jill's mom, Donna

    1. Hi Donna! Thanks for reading! Jill is such a great person all-around and she is so easy to love. I'm sure she gets it from you! Maybe we can meet in August??? :) Have a great weekend!

  2. I think you guys deserve a medal too! Seriously, spectating a marathon is hard work because you're running in a frenzy just see the runner for like a second! So glad I had you guys there though! You are awesome!!! xoxo


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