I ran the London Marathon last Sunday, 3 October 2021!
In this blog post, I will share with you my reflections, what I’ve learned, how I felt, how I feel now, and some interesting observations on what happened.
My reasons why
The first thing I’d like to share are my reasons why I decided to run the London Marathon. And there were two main reasons: First, it was a great challenge. As I had only run half marathons before, going for the full length felt, and was, quite challenging. And as you know, true inner joy comes from those moments when we achieve something that we thought we couldn’t do before; fulfilment comes when we go beyond what’s familiar and we expand our comfort zone. And for me, self growth and personal development mastery are two of my highest values. So such a feat would certainly fulfil my personal growth and my continuing journey towards self mastery.
The second main reason why I decided to run was because I believe the Marathon as an event is very inspiring to others. An interesting observation to make here is that initially, when I started my personal development journey years ago, I thought that personal development was just for me, like the word said: “personal.” It took a while for me to reach a point when I realised that it’s not really about me; because as I grow and develop, the more I can help and impact and contribute, both with my own ripple effect, and with the ripple effect of the people that will be influenced or inspired by me. And this was the second reason why I did the Marathon: the desire to inspire others to realise that there is a hero inside of us, each of us, who awaits to be awakened. Once you make the decision and take the action, the hero comes alive.
The preparation, commitment, and discipline.
I have been running for four years now, and the longest distance I had ever done was that of a half marathon. As a reminder here, a half marathon is 21.1 km (13.1 miles) and a Marathon is 42.2 km (26.2 miles.)
When I got the news last February that I won the ballot for a spot in the London Marathon, I didn’t think much of it. There was a part of me that wasn’t sure if the event would even take place, because of the covid restrictions at the time, the lockdowns, and so on. Around June, I realised that the time had come to start training; either way, regardless of what would happen.
I committed to follow a specific 16-week training schedule. I believe that “commitment is an act, not a word”, and so I committed to run three times a week for 16 weeks, following the schedule. Over the next 4 months, I was disciplined; I took action and did my practice runs despite whether or not I was feeling like it, or whether it was raining, or that voice in my head telling me “you can run tomorrow instead, you have better things to do with your time”, these kinds of things. I’d say I was disciplined around 95% of the time; and I believe following on my commitment to run three times a week was an extremely important element of my preparation.
One more thing I’d like to make a special mention of is mental rehearsal (visualisation), because it was the first time that I did it as a practice before the race. So, I saw myself running the course, and feeling the feelings and crossing the finish line over and over again and feeling it. It feels like creating results in advance of reality, and I am certain that utilising this technique was one of the factors that helped me.
Saturday, the day before the Marathon, we went to London. In order to get registered and get my runner’s bib, I went to ExCeL centre in London. This place brings back fond memories to me, because it was the place where I visited Tony Robbins’ event “Unleash the Power Within” twice, the first time as a participant (when I had my big lightbulb moment), and the second time as a crew member (when I enhanced the experience even further).
It was a great, familiar place to start my Marathon journey, being there and reminiscing those energies, the amazing environment, the transformations!
Intense emotional rollercoaster
One of the main themes of what happened to me during the Marathon was the intense emotional roller coaster I had the last days, and especially on the day of the race. The morning of the race, I woke up around 4am; I couldn’t sleep.
The feeling I had is is actually an important distinction that I want to share here. I’ve come to realise that this feeling I had that woke me up and kept me up at night, in terms of physical sensation, it could be described maybe as some tightness in my stomach and chest, or some dryness in my throat, or some agitation or fidgeting. And these are descriptions of the actual physical sensations in my body. However, the way I describe these sensations makes a big deal of a difference. And that’s something that I have learned, that I can either call it nervousness, or I can call it excitement. By reframing it and describing it with a specific word, I change the whole experience.
So that morning, I woke up excited, very excited. Really excited!
We took the train to Greenwich, and arriving at the starting point I started feeling that incredible feeling of so many people all together, very vivid, very colourful, very alive, very connected, with big smiles on their faces. And I will add here, without fearing a virus.
On the starting point there was a lot of energy, much commotion, people coming and going, and I was trying to concentrate. And then, when the time came for the wave I was in to start, it actually took me a few minutes of running to actually process what was happening.
Being encouraged and being inspiring simultaneously
It was after maybe 2 or 3 kilometres that we started seeing more and more people, the supporters around. The more I was running, they were bigger crowds, there was music, it felt like a huge party! It was colourful, there was this amazing enthusiasm and energy in the air. And for me, it was great to see the supporters, the people watching the event, both to encourage the runners and also to be inspired by the runners. A marathon is an event that only a minority of people participate in and run it – so it is inspiring on in its own accord.
One of the best words to describe my experience is the word fun. There was tremendous energy from the runners and from the spectators; there was a festive feeling, a colourful, a huge party of people – and I was really grateful to see the connectedness. That’s how I felt, that there was this running together, this connectedness, as a symbol for hope and inspiration for humanity; for a humanity that’s united and runs forward, all together in the same direction, celebrating each other, cheering each other.
I believe that the encouragement from the people cheering us was one of the biggest factors that kept me going. With the training I had done, I knew that I could comfortably run until around 30 km (18.5 miles). But then there would still be the last 12 km (7.5 miles) to finish, which was for me uncharted territory.
Tears of gratitude
There were quite a few times during the run when I was having tears of gratitude for experiencing this. There’s this phrase, “the runner’s high”, and I was indeed feeling it. During most of the race I was running with a big smile on my face, cheering back at the people who were cheering and enjoying and having fun.
And there were other times that I my eyes would fill with tears of joy and gratitude for being able to witness this outstanding experience; as I already mentioned, it was a rollercoaster of emotions.
The run and the runner
Running in central London is beautiful any day – imagine on Marathon day! I remember in particular the sensation running on Tower Bridge, which was one of the most popular parts of the course, around the 20k mark (almost halfway.)
At the 30k mark, in Canary Wharf, I realised that everything from then onwards would be the longest I had ever run. I was entering uncharted territory, and fearful thoughts of hitting the dreaded “wall” (a term familiar amongst distance runners) started creeping in. But there was a part deep inside me that that allowed me to know that I would be alright; I had this feeling, this understanding – my body was telling me “I got this.”
I actually went to almost 35k without having to stop running at all. Then, during the last 7-8 km (5 miles), some very interesting things happened!
Between the 35k and 38k, I started feeling so tired, that I needed to frequently stop running and walk for short periods of time, maybe half a minute, before starting to (slowly) run again. Negative thoughts of fear started appearing: thoughts that I would be exhausted and that I would have to finish the race walking and not running.
Deus ex machina
And then the strangest thing happened! Throughout the whole day we had a beautiful weather with sunny spells; perfect temperature, an amazing weather for running. At around 37km all of a sudden, in a matter of a few short minutes, the skies went dark and a heavy rain fell, which lasted about 10 minutes. Needless to say, it was enough to make everyone (and me) soaking wet.
This had the most peculiar effect on me. When the rain stopped, I was close to the last 3 km (2 miles). And then I had the most amazing thing happened, that I have to say I was completely unprepared for!
Suddenly, my legs just started moving ahead. There was no aching anymore, there was no tiredness anymore. Like I had become the running – it was such an extraordinary sensation. I started asking myself, “what is happening? why am I not feeling tired anymore? what’s going on?”
And my mind could not give me any answers. I realised that I was “in the zone”, and it was an incredible feeling: I was completely focused, there was no no fear, there was only running; a connection between my body and my mind.
The Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong once said that there is something magical about running, because after a certain distance it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. And a bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.
The flow state that I went in the last three kilometres of the race felt exactly like this. My body was transcended, because I couldn’t feel the aches or tiredness anymore. The mind was transcended, because I didn’t have the usual negative inner dialogue – it had subsided. What was there was the soul; and it was one of the most incredible, beautiful feelings and unique experiences I’ve ever had.
A great reflective question to ponder on while contemplating, is why was the experience meaningful for me. And there are two reasons that immediately come to mind. The first one is because of the tremendous sense of achievement. The second reason is the roller coaster of emotional changes that I experienced before the race, during the race, and after the race. I went from the exhilaration and excitement to fearful thoughts; from cheering and laughing with the crowds, to crying tears of gratitude.
When I finally crossed the finish line, my first emotional reaction was to shout, yes, I’ve done it! And just one minute afterwards, when I was given the foil blanket and I started getting warm and realised what I had just achieved, made me burst into tears. An amazing spectrum of alternating emotions, all in a few short hours!
I completed the Marathon in 4:59:26, and I was extremely happy with myself about it!
As a conclusion, I will share the three things from the London Marathon that made the biggest impression on me, and I will remember them as long as I live.
The first one was the unbelievable emotional roller coaster which I’ve already mentioned a few times.
The second were the feelings of hope and inspiration; humanity running together, being together, being connected, celebrating each other, without being afraid of a virus.
And the third one, which was the most impactful for me personally, was experiencing the flow state that I went into.
I felt like I was meant to (or called to) do this race, and my own growth and progress allowed the expansion of the whole ‘field’; I was blessed to be able to do that. And in many ways I felt that the whole experience happened through me, allowing me to experience it, rather than me doing it.
The London Marathon is going to remain vividly in my memory forever.