Cancer sufferer Fran Venter completes Virgin London Marathon

Fran bravely finishes London Marathon

I awoke at 03h00 on Sunday morning feeling really nervous. By 6h30 I was heading for Earl’s Court Underground as I wasn’t sure how to get to the start. There were hundreds of red bags around so I assumed it would be safe to follow them and fortunately for me, it was.

The start in Greenwich was divided in red, green and blue areas to allow participants a relatively easy start, with the Green group being the smallest with 3,100 starters. To put this into perspective for you, the Red group is the biggest with over 30,000 starters.

The organization of the race was amazing, they thought of everything. It felt very strange to start a race at 9h45 when you are used to 6h00 starts. The weather was perfect for the race, cool and overcast in the morning but it got relatively warm during the day.

And then we were off!

At some point on the route, it’s reported that over 39,000 participants will be running. You will never run alone in this race. It is an amazing feeling. There are thousands of spectators everywhere along the route of the race, and live bands next to the road. There is never a quiet moment.

Every two kilometres along the route, bottles of water were handed out at the stations which were quite tricky to navigate past as a few empty bottles land up on the road. The loving spectators were also handing out jelly beans as we ran past to give us that extra boost.

I felt really proud to be a South African. The expats all come out in their droves to support you. There was a huge number of South African’s running the race and I felt quite homesick when I saw the colours of our national flag. It was also amazing to see how many people dedicated the race to charities they represented or running in the memory of a loved one. I cannot think of a better way to show someone you care and you did not forget them.

As usual I ignored my virtual partner and did a personal best on the 21.1 kilometre and 30 kilometre marks. Then the wheels came off.

The last 12 kilometres were really testing and difficult to finish. I finished in five hours and 16 minutes.

The best part of the race for me was running over London Bridge and down The Mall to the finish with the Palace behind you.

The London Marathon was the most amazing experience made possible by Virgin Active South Africa, Virgin Unite and very special friends. As I ran, I revisited the road that I walked to get here and thank those that walked it with me. From the day I asked for ideas around fundraising, my friends, Kerry and Jody, jumped in boots and all and arranged a great fun event, The Navchallenge (www.navchallenge.co.za) through race interface. Thanks to Debbie, Hannelie, Karen, Jo, Verna, and Cath – they were there every step of the way. And to Virgin Active and MaAfrika Tikkun, all I can say is ‘Thank you’.

For now, I cannot wait to get back to South Africa on Wednesday. However, today (Monday) I’m going to hobble through London

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