How my daughter brought me back down to earth after I finished the London Marathon

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Children are very good at bringing you back down to earth with a bump. There you are, wafting along the Mall on cloud nine (or at least a cloud of Compeed blister plasters), ready to be held aloft by your adoring friends and family and congratulated on the fantastic physical feat you have just achieved – did I mention I ran a marathon? – when your four-year-old runs up to you clutching Bob the nursery dog (it was our turn to have him for the weekend) and fixes you with a Paddington Bear hard stare.

“Mummy,” she says, crossly. “Why did it take you so long? Me and Bob was very bored.”

Out of the mouths of babes… what could I say to this? I mean, it had taken me a long time to negotiate the 26.2 miles of the Virgin Money London Marathon.

Five hours 53 minutes and 25 seconds, to be precise. Not exactly a time to trouble the likes of Mary Keitany, but then I didn’t sign up to this to prove that I was an elite athlete.

As people streamed past me, I remembered the advice: don’t go off too fast. Take it slowly. With me, that was never going to be a problemBryony Gordon on running the London Marathon

I signed up to it to raise money for Heads Together (just over £38,000 at the time of going to press – thank you so so much everybody!) and to prove that someone like me could run a marathon. A girl who likes a pint of lager (or four) and a burger from time to time. A girl who, a year and a half ago, couldn’t get out of bed because of the stupid Obsessive Compulsive Disorder she has suffered from since the age of 12.

Long-term readers of my witterings – and I appreciate that most of you deserve a medal for enduring my endless pieces about training for the marathon – will know that I have a name for my OCD. I call it Jareth the Goblin King, after the sinister but ever-so slightly enticing character played by David Bowie in Labyrinth.

For many parts of Sunday’s marathon, I found myself shouting expletives at Jareth so that he would know that I was stronger than him. That I was up and out of bed and moving… and, boy, was I moving. That I had taken all the negativity he had brought to my life, and flipped it on its head in an attempt to create something positive.

Bryony Gordon reaches Tower Bridge during the 2017 London Marathon Credit: Paul Grover for the Telegraph

Jareth, I would realise once I had crossed the finish line and taken it all in, may have caused me and my family much suffering. But he had also given me the opportunity to do this. I have no doubt that the marathon was easy for me – in so much as a marathon can be easy for anyone who couldn’t run for a bus six months ago – because I am used to wrestling with demons.

When things got tough somewhere around mile 21, I simply grabbed a handful of Haribo from a helpful spectator and told myself that I had been through worse.

I arrived at the start line about an hour and half earlier than I needed to. I had a belly full of porridge and bananas and excitement. The last time I had felt that way was probably Christmas Eve 1990.

There was a quick hug from Prince Harry (“That was a little bigger than we’d expected it to be,” he joked of the Telegraph interview he had given to me earlier that week, which dominated the news for days) and a few tears with Sian Williams and Sean Fletcher, two other Heads Together runners who have become good friends over the last six months. (Sian was running her first marathon since recovering from breast cancer, while Sean was running for his 14-year old son, who has OCD.)

I can talk while I’m running. I can joke. Or at least I could until about mile 12, when I started to feel a bit dizzyBryony Gordon

And then we were off. As people streamed past me, I remembered the advice I had been given time and time again: don’t go off too fast. Take it slowly. With me, that was never going to be a problem.

I am not quick. My friend Chevy Rough, who has been training the wonderful stars of the BBC Mind Over Marathon documentary, says I have “party pace” – that’s the ability to run and have a good time at the same time. I can talk while I’m running. I can joke. Or at least I could until about mile 12, when I started to feel a bit dizzy. It was hotter than anticipated.

Also, my time of the month had occurred a little earlier than expected. I had to stop to use the toilets – both a blessing and a curse. A curse because the queues were so long it added another 15 minutes to my time, but a blessing because it gave me a chance to take some deep breaths, stretch out and compose myself.

Bladder empty, I set off again and almost immediately saw my family in the crowd. That was a boost – as was crossing Tower Bridge and overtaking an 81-year old on crutches. But that joy was shortlived. At the halfway mark, he sped ahead of me, and on the other side of the highway I could see the competitors who were already making their way towards mile 23.

“Look at those show-offs!” said one woman running alongside me. “We’re the real heroes, the ones out here for bloody hours!” I had to agree. What’s not to admire about the people still out running while the elites were settling down to a massive plate of pasta and a beer?

People talk about the crowds who line the London Marathon route and, undoubtedly, they are unbelievably awesome. This was the only time of my life I felt like a rock star, with people shouting my name. I loved the banners, one of which read: “If Donald Trump can run America, you can run this”.

I loved the banners, one of which read: 'If Donald Trump can run America, you can run this...'

But it was the other runners who really made it. We were in this together, fighting as hard as we could towards the finish line (I got goosebumps watching the footage of runner David Wyeth being helped down the final stretch by a man he had never met before, Matthew Rees). Every time I saw a Heads Together runner, we embraced.

I kept on bumping into a girl called Lowry, who was running for Cancer Research. We got chatting. At mile 23, we started to hold hands, and we didn’t let go until the end. “We’re doing this,” we kept telling each other. “We are actually going to do this!”

And then Big Ben was looming over us, and it was at this point that I started to cry. Because I’ve run past that landmark so many times in training: at first out of breath, unsure of how I was ever going to get to the marathon, let alone do it.

And here I was, about to finish it, and I had run it all. Me. Thirty-six. Mum-of-one. Former bulimic who once had a cocaine habit. Three stone down on six months ago, but still a curvy girl. And if I can do it…

Bryony Gordon at the finish line of the London Marathon with her daughter, Edie Credit:  Paul Grover for the Telegraph

I’m going to finish on a rather cheesy note – what the hell, I’m feeling emotional in the best possible way. What I want to say is a huge thank you, to every Telegraph reader who has written to me and sponsored me and stopped me in the street to give me a boost.

I want to thank everyone of you has believed in me, even when I have made it hard for you to do so. I’m not going to stop running, or campaigning for better mental health provision.

We may have crossed the marathon finish line, but this conversation has only just begun.

To donate to Bryony Gordon’s sponsorship total, in aid of Heads Together, go to bryonygordon

To subscribe to Bryony's new mental health podcast, Mad World, go to