HOW do I start describing how it felt to run this year’s Virgin London Marathon? I start with the finish.

And the finish for me will always mean apples.

It wasn’t until I received my goodie bag at the end of the gruelling (and it really is gruelling) 26.2mile route around one of my favourite cities in the world that I discovered how much I really wanted an apple.

I spotted it as I stopped off to use the toilet before walking round to meet my family at Horse Guards Parade. It was lying there peeking out through the opening of the bag. I came out of the immaculate toilet cubicle (that stays in my mind due to the state of some of them at mile 17) and delved into the bag. Eating that apple as I walked down the rest of the Mall watching loved ones literally catch their running heroes in their arms as the hugged and greeted them back to normality I savoured every bite and moment of that apple. It was the most scrumptious, juicy and tastiest apple ever. And as I finished the apple I reached my family where I was then whisked into a whirlwind of hugs, cheers and smiles. That apple bought be back from the brink of existence I had found myself as I crossed the finishing line.

The marathon was tough. It hurt. It hurt a lot. But I did it and even through the tough times there was no question of me not doing it, It was the most exhilarating and mixed-emotions day I have had since the birth of my daughter.

Starting out at Greenwich Park was itself an event I will cherish and have with me forever. My husband, Ross, and I boarded the train at 7.03am. Just the two us. No children with us, no stress of time as we were getting an early train to be ahead of time. No stress. We sat and talked, we got a coffee, we walked together and we laughed together. For those who don’t have time to do this with your partner in life very often you will appreciate just how special that time can be. He walked with me all the way to the entrance of the gathering place at the start of my zone. Literally holding my hand like he has done virtually through all of this.

When we parted, it was quite emotional. I was about to take on this challenge that had engulfed our lives for the best part of a year. Because training for a marathon is a huge commitment. Not just for the runner, but for the entire family.

There are early morning runs, late night runs, long weekend runs and amongst all that there is a family to leave behind.

With about 40 minutes until the marathon started I joined the queue for the toilet which gave me time to take stock of what I was doing. For a people watching exercise this was incredible. There were people of all shapes and sizes, all sorts of fitness levels and all sorts of reasons for putting themselves through what was about to take place.

Here is where I talk about toilets again as no sooner as I had used the facilities I then spotted the Female Urinals!!!! I didn’t even need the toilet, but I just had to have a go. Ladies – this is revolutionary and so hilarious. If you ever have the chance to have a go and use one of those Shewee type things – you must. It’s hilarious.

With all that done I made my way to my pen. It was half an hour later I crossed the start line having spoken to so many others about our nerves, our fears, our joys and our sheer disbelief that we were actually about to do this.

And you know what? I loved it. I hated it, but I loved it.

The crowds were everything you really do hear people say they are. Their cheers, their efforts to make you feel special and incredible for doing this are breathe-taking.

I tried to hi-five as many little kids as I could. I got carried away with all the crowds I hardly noticed I had already made it to the four mile mark. I was astounded.

I had so many friends and family out that day and I managed to spot them all. They made it. Their belief in me and their devotion on the day is one of the most memorable things from this. And a hug at all those markers meant so much.

London Bridge was also something else. I had heard before about the crowds lifting you and always wondered what that meant. It meant literally that. The cheers, the music, the support, the smiles and the sounds carried me over the bridge with a huge grin on my face. If you wonder why you put yourself through something like a marathon, it’s for that feeling alone.

Of course there were tough times and moments where every part of my body including my internal organs all seemed to be screaming at me to stop. But how could I stop? I hadn’t gone through those months of miserable, winter runs, the turmoil of seeing my children’s faces downcast as I was off again for a few hours training and the worry of meeting my fundraising target for nothing. I owed this to myself, to my family and to the RFU Injured Players Foundation who I had raised so much money for and all the people who sponsored me to finish this.

At mile 15 I had to re-think each mile. It’s two miles from my house to Datchet village centre and so that is how I ran the final 11 miles. I just need to get to Datchet, then I just need to get home, then I just need to get to Datchet...and so on. I could visualise that run and knew it was easy.

I enjoyed it because I knew I would never be doing this again. It has been a once in the lifetime experience for me and that is what it will remain.

As I write I am in pain. My legs hurt and I could fall asleep at any moment. But it was worth it.

When my son walked proudly into his nursery with the medal around his neck I realised this wasn’t just a journey for me. It was a journey for us all. Something I had to do for us all to achieve. It really was a team effort – my team of family, sponsors, trainers, friends and supporters. As they say – there is no I in team!