London Marathon

They gave a stat out during the BBCs coverage of this years marathon, that around 250 or so blogs would be written about the race (I suspect its probably more than that), but here’s my take on the day.

The London Marathon is one of the most popular marathons in the world; this year over 250,000 applied for a place in the public ballot.  After being unsuccessful for many years, I was fortunate and extremely grateful to be one of the 40,000 runners lining up on the start line on Sunday 23rd April.

I’d been given a hotel stay for the night before as a Christmas present; staying in the Park Plaza County Hall near Westminster Bridge, which helped with the morning travel.  Still I was up and out early, leaving the hotel around 7am for the short walk to the tube station, then joining the masses of runners at Cannon Street station as we headed to the Red Start in Greenwich.  A chilly but fairly bright morning as the crowds of runners made the walk to the staging area within Greenwich park:

Arriving just after 8am, meant I had plenty of time to get my bearings, drop my bag off, take on fluid, chat to other runners and generally soak up the atmosphere.  After one last loo visit I took up position in my starting pen around 9.30am and tried to calm the nerves.  The klaxon sounded exactly at 10am and, after allowing the faster runners to go, we shuffled forward to the line.  Being in Pen 2 (of 9) meant I had little wait, crossing the line at 10.03am.

Its easy to set off to fast at the start, and its something I’ve been guilty of in the past, so I was very conscious to watch my early pace.  I’d decided before hand that a sub-3:15 was beyond my reach, but had my mind on a trying for a PB (currently at 3:19).  The plan was to stick at 3:20 pace in the early stages and see how things panned out.  The first few miles passed by without incident as I tried to take in my surroundings, the crowds were pretty impressive even at this early stage.  Roughly 5k in the 3 starts (Red, Green and Blue) merge and things become a bit more congested, but I still managed to find room to run my race.

The first major boost comes as you reach Cutty Sark at the 10k mark, the support and noise here is something else.  This was quickly followed up by my first supporters being situated at mile 9, then Ruth and the kids at mile 11:

Things were still feeling ok, and I was pretty much on the 7:38 mile pace which would bring me in at 3:20.  The second main landmark along the route (and perhaps the most iconic) is Tower Bridge at the half way line.  There’s a slight incline as you go over the bridge, but the noise from the crowd carries you.  Its then a turn toward Canary Wharf and the Docklands area.  My sister had planned to be around the 14 mile mark, but the heavy crowds here, meant that I’d thought I’d missed her (in fact they’d be unable to find space an instead had gone onto Mile 19), but I knew Ruth was planning to be just after the 17 mile mark.  By this stage my quad muscles had begun aching and my pace was slipping slightly.  As the mile markers passed, I was roughly 2 mins over the 3:20 mark.

Cheers from the crowd and my support crew pushed me through the 20 mile mark, as the course turned back toward the embankment.  I knew my parents were planning to be around the 25 mile mark, but there was still work to be done.  As the miles ticked off, so did the realisation that the PB was slipping away.  I was still roughly holding 7:40 min/mile pace but knew I was unlikely to have enough in the tank to find the extra effort.

Psychology the marathon needs to be broken down into smaller chunks.  My favourite of these is when you pass the 23 mile marker – just a Parkrun to go!  A quick check of the watch confirmed that the PB had gone, as I would have need my first sub-20 5k in order to stand any chance (not likely to happen at the end of a marathon).  It was now just a case of making sure I remained sub 3:30 and enjoying the occasion.  The crowds were thick along the Embankment, but just as I thought I’d missed them, I heard a shout as I passed by my Mum and Dad.

One last shout from my sister as I turned at Westminster Bridge and it was on towards Buckingham Palace.  The noise and crowds along here are something else, cheering and shouting for everyone as they pass.  Passing the 1k, then 800m left signs, I tied to pick up the pace, but there was nothing there.  It wasn’t until the final turn onto the Mall, as I could see the iconic finish, that I managed a last energy burst.  The final time, 3:24:59 – a very important 1 sec under 3:25, the last sprint had been worth it!

These days with GPS tracking and foot chips, the amount of data available to runners is amazing.  Mine for the marathon are not too shabby; finishing in the Top 14%; passing 4,013 runners in the first 35k (462 passed me); and passing 535 runners in the last 7.2k (just 28 passing me).  Evidence that I’d managed to pretty much keep a constant pace throughout.

The London Marathon is iconic as a race, and its easy to see why.  Not only is the route stunning, the organisation superb but the support all along the 26.2miles is outstanding and unlike any race I’ve experienced, it drives you you on to the finish. I can see why the race is on so many people’s bucket list, and rightly so.  My name will certainly be in the ballot again next week … now where’s that four leaved clover…


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