21st April 2013 – London marathon. It’s a date and a race I remember for quite some time but already I have black spots in my memory of actual parts of the race. This was a race like no other I have competed in before.
Mandy and I travelled down to London from Edinburgh on the Friday morning, taking the train down as it’s a but more civilised and by the time you check in at the airport, wait for the plane because it’s late or delayed, get to London to find your luggage is now in Paris, it’s not something I enjoy. Travelling by train however is a small thing that I really do enjoy. The simple things make all the difference and I am typing this blog while travelling back towards Scotland on the train with a nice glass of beer washing down my lunch. Bliss.
We arrived on time in London and headed to our accommodation, checked in and then made our way to the marathon Expo. Wow, it’s bigger than I had expected but the organisation was spot on. Walked straight up to the desk where I collected my race number and chip and to be greeted by a man who remarked – “oh, you’re one of those fast runners”. That made me smile, we had a short chat about what time I was hoping for and he wished me the best of luck with the race on Sunday.
Mandy and I then made our way in to the stalls and signed the Adidas wall. This was simply a wall where people could write a message pre-race. Some people were writing good luck messages to friends and family, others were just wishing their club mates a good race, it was something we had to do.
We also got our photo taken at the Virgin Media desk which printed out a polaroid picture which you could pin to another wall. Something again that we had to do.
After walking round the expo, eating freebies, chatting with people on the stalls and buying some VLM2013 merchandise we eventually made our way back to our accommodation.
Saturday we didn’t do much, some sightseeing, drinking plenty fluids, arranging some finer details about where we would meet after the race and just generally keeping off my feet as much as possible. I felt nice and relaxed and was really positive about Sunday’s race. Went to bed nice and early and woke up at 6:30am on Sunday morning to be greeted by Mr Sunshine already beating down on the tarmac.
Weetabix consumed with a spoonful of honey, washed down with a very nice coffee I was all set for the 45 minute travel across London to get to Blackheath start line. I had arranged to meet up with a fellow club runner at the station as we both had guaranteed our entry in to London by getting a good for age place.
On arrival to the start area it because very clear how big London marathon is. 3 massive start areas all capable of holding thousands of runners and yet it was all very relaxed. We walked in to the ‘Good for age’ starting area, went to the loo, dropped our bags in to the lorries which would take them to the finish for us to collect later and then that was it. We moved in to the starting pen with about 15 mins to go and I think this is when it hit me. Usually I would be maybe 2 or 3 rows back from the start line but here I was, with 15 mins to go about 30 or 40 rows back from the gates. Everyone here had earned their place by running sub 3 hours 10 minutes or somewhere around that pace depending on their age category, they weren’t slow runners, they weren’t even cheeky people who wanted to get near the start and should really have been further back in pen 2 or 3, this was going to be interesting!
A couple of minutes before the race started there was a 30 second silence to remember those killed and injured at Boston Marathon the week before. It was so quiet that I could hear the clock which was hanging from the start gate tick away the seconds. Thousands of people, silent. Absolutely amazing and it really did feel like as runners, no matter the pace we were all running or what our aims were, we were all thinking about Boston and wished them well.
A minute or two later the horn went and the race had started, it took about 30 seconds to cross the start line and I was instantly hit by the cheers from the supporters. The noise was incredible.
Miles 1 to 10 were tough, I had thought that after a couple of miles the numbers of runners would ease or we would all get a bit of space to run our own race. I was wrong, very wrong. I lost count how many times I said sorry for bumping in to someone or someone would nudge me. Trying to cut across the road to get to the water stations was like running across the M8 at rush hour, actually, that might have been easier!
I wasn’t stressed but I wasn’t enjoying the experience very much either, the crowds hadn’t stopped cheering and running around the Cutty Sark was deafening – I had expected maybe a couple of quite areas around the course but I was very mistaken. I enjoy running within my head but I couldn’t think, couldn’t find my own pace due to the mass number of runners around me and I actually felt tired before even hitting 13 miles at a much slower pace than planned. Running over Tower bridge was amazing and the crowds there did give me a bit of a boost. Mandy had planned to be around the half way point and indeed she was there but due to the mass numbers of people I missed her and a couple of other people who were out supporting Pitreavie AAC runners.
I was still taking on water at almost every water station and the sun was still beating down on the course. Ideal conditions for spectators but not for a runner who has done most of his training in rain, snow, hail and gales. From miles 14 – 19 things were starting to hurt and I had passed my friend at mile 16 who had to pull up due to cramp.
Mile 20 I had a boost when my Cousin’s husband spotted me and gave me a shout of encouragement – totally didn’t expect to see him but he had a prime spot near the rails and was looking out for his Dad.
From here on in is where the race gets very foggy in my head and I don’t remember much, my legs were burning from the lactic build up and lots of people around me were slowing and walking. I got to mile 21 but after that the rest of the distance was completed with some walking and some running.
Mile 22 I heard Mandy shouting and no matter what I was getting over to her, I needed to just touch her hand or something, I was in a very low place and afterwards Mandy said to me she knew I wasn’t in a happy place as I would never normally deviate off the racing line, I would just nod, wave or do something to acknowledge her but I just needed to see her.
It gave me a boost but by mile 24 I was back to walk/running, taking on water and lucozade to try and get me back on the road, the crowds were now making a difference, if I stopped they would shout at me to get running again which I did but it would only be for another quarter mile before having to stop. The final mile is a complete blank to me, I don’t remember seeing the London eye, I don’t remember running past Big Ben and I don’t even remember seeing Buckingham Palace! I do remember seeing the sign that said 600 metres to go which gave me something to focus on, then I saw the 400 metres to go sign which in my mind registered as once around a track. I picked up the pace in the home straight, focussed on the big clocks on the gateway and ran.
I finished in 3 hours 11 minutes and 4 seconds, my target was 2:50:00. I finished 2279th / 34173.
I will finish this blog now but I have already looked in to what went wrong, what I would change and how I will come back stronger at my next marathon and I will bore you all that that soon!