The London Marathon has a certain aura about it. Since I started running in the early 21st century, its reverence in running circles has been huge. Back then, in the south east there weren’t many marathons organised, so the key focus in the running year was London. Even twelve years ago, the chances of you getting a place in the ballot was one in four. Roll forward to now, and it’s one in six, despite another 9000 places being available.
This was to be my second London marathon. My first marathon was in 2006, where I finished a creditable sub 4. Just!
This year was much the same as 2006. Having got a hallowed place through club, I was determined to make the most of the occasion: raise some money for a charity, give a good account of myself for the club and get a PB!
One thing to mention before going on to the day itself. Tapering. If anyone hasn’t told you about tapering, it’s physically easy, but mentally awful. For weeks you’ve been working hard to improve your fitness working to your goal, getting regular doses of endorphins. Then three weeks before you start reducing the work. As the endorphins go down, so does your mood. It affects people in different ways. With me, it’s anxiousness and paranoia. Weird thoughts went into my head in the week up to it, so I was so looking forward to running on Sunday!
Rather than go into a full description of the day, I will reduce it down to a few questions, bullet points, observations, thanks, and recommendations.
Is it the best marathon to run?
Having run only two road marathon courses, all I can say is the atmosphere is tremendous. Its iconic status and elusive place through the ballot makes it a special one to run in. You could argue its route isn’t special, but then it’s difficult to see very much except spectators. But then, running over Tower Bridge is something special, as is running down the mall. No other race can claim that…
How did this year compare to ten years ago?
More crowded! From memory, I don’t remember it being so bunched up for so long ten years ago. I remember having space to move about the bunch, adjust pace as I saw fit ten years ago, as soon as we’d passed the Cutty Sark.This year the field didn’t really spread out until past Tower Bridge.
- Getting the train up with my club the Burgess Hill Runners. They kept me relaxed until ready to race.
- Seeing my first Eltham sign (Sarf Landan born and bred, me!).
- The joining of the red and blue starters, and the jovial booing between the two streams.
- Running past Floyd Road turning to the Valley – home of CAFC.
- Running over Tower Bridge at a fast pace to shake off a bit of muscle fatigue (yes, running faster works!)
- All of the bands. They were simply awesome whatever they played, and whatever size they were, but especially the steel drum band. Lovely!
- hitting the Samaritans supporters area at mile 19, and feeling a wave euphoria as a result.
- running up the ramp at Limehouse and passing a number of runners. The relief of a hill was exquisite!
- Hearing and seeing Neil Dawson at mile 24 amidst a thousand other voices. Amazing how those moments of clarity drown out all else but the important stuff.
- hitting the Samaritan supporters area at mile 25 – such a push and a buzz!
- Turning the corner onto the Mall and pushing that much harder to get to the end.
- Crossing the line realising I’d achieved a PB!
- Blubbing with relief and euphoria after getting my (huge!) medal (same as 10 years ago).
- Looking through the goody bag and realising how much they’d stuffed in it.
- knowing after about 8 miles that my right shoe wasn’t on tight enough, and knowing I’d have to deal with blisters later.
- Miles 7-12 still crowded.
- Having to resort to mind games to get me to the end.
- Lucozade gels. Bluurrrgh!
- Seeing a runner on the side of the road receiving CPR at about mile 24. The runner later died. R.I.P. Captain David Seath. A reminder that there but for the grace of God we go.
Would you do it again?
Hmm – bit too early to say. But then, the ability to get a place will dictate when I will run it again!
Would you recommend it?
in a heartbeat. if you get the chance do it, do it, DO IT! 🙂
How about afterward?
I must say, if you ever get the chance to run London, even if you get in through the ballot, raise money for a charity as well. you will get looked after at the end, which is when you need it. Within ten minutes of finishing, I was in a dressing room in the Playhouse theatre having a shower, before being given a massage. Raising the money is important to them, and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. Plus, they’ll be just as grateful if you have your own place as they won’t have paid for it!
To this end I’d like to thank the fundraisers at the Samaritans who looked after me after the race, and who helped during the build up to the event with emailed tips for training and fundraising.
I had five Plans. Plan A: 3:30 result. Plan B: 3:30 something finish. Plan C: Beat my PB. Plan D to finish. Plan E. DNF. According to official results, I achieved plan C, however, according to my Strava feed I ran 26.61 miles. A marathon is 26.21875 miles. I reached 26.21875 miles in less than 03 hrs 40, so plan B was achieved! sort of…
I think that covers the main points. The day is quite special, emotional, tough, exciting,tiring,humbling, but left me feeling so very exhilarated, even through the pain and exhaustion. If you feel so inclined, you can still donate to the Samaritans on the link below.
I’d also like to thanks Jan Lavis for giving me help and a few pointers on my training plan. Without her help, I doubt I would have achieved what I did.
Many thanks, and happy running!