My friend indeed during this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon – my PW year – was Siggy.
Both of us were sorely undertrained because of long-term injury when we lined up together on 22 April. We had made a vow to see the race through together, and we did, every single stride of the way. It was the best time I’ve ever had while running 26.2 miles.
The heat was an extra challenge, but it made it easier for us to run without the pressure, and just bask in the sun-warmed high spirits of the rowdy, euphoric crowd.
I first met Siggy when she and her husband were helping to set up our local parkrun (Hillyfields, in Lewisham) and we hit it off immediately. She was born on the same date as me (one year later) and we quickly settled into friendly rivalry over parkrun PBs. When I turned 50, I crowed over my status as first V50, until Siggy hit her half century and we sparred over who was going to wear the V50 parkrun tiara (an imaginary tiara) every Saturday.
When injury struck, and volunteering was all we could do (Siggy’s, more serious, skiing accident saw her toiling up to Hillyfields on crutches every Saturday, so I tended to pipe down about my Achilles problems in the light of such heroism), we moaned, commiserated, made plans for future glory and fretted about losing Good For Age status.
And we lost it in style. Finishing 27 minutes after the Good For Age time (for women in their 50s) of four hours meant that we both kissed goodbye to our hard-won GFA status together on 22 April this year, and we had an absolute ball while doing so.
Setting off sedately, and never really speeding up, we stuck together and looked out for each other, matching each other stride for stride, chatting until we became too fatigued to talk and just repeated, dazedly, the mantra we’d settled on (having tried out several for size – a recommended diversionary tactic).
‘we’re small but strong….we’re small but strong’
By mile 23 I was feeling heavy but weak, and could scarcely shuffle. I felt so sick I thought I was going to pass out. Siggy had far more strength and energy than me, but stuck with me, gently checking I wasn’t losing consciousness by pointing out people in the crowd, or among the runners…anything to keep me from walking (or indeed keeling over onto the hot tarmac). My abiding memory, as we rounded the corner by the gilded statue of Queen Victoria presiding over Buckingham Palace, was being overtaken by a woman who looked to be in her 70s:
‘That,’ I slurred bitterly to Siggy, ‘is the real Marathon Gran.’
Hand in hand we jogged in granny’s wake, and hand in hand we crossed the finish line, Siggy practically holding me up as I threatened to hit the deck once that medal was safely round my neck.
Thank you Siggy.
We were small, but strong, we learned how to get along, and we survived.
I could not have done it without you.