Everybody’s doing it so why can’t I? A London Marathon Story

Sorry Cranberries!

My London Marathon odyssey. 

A lot of meticulous planning went into my first marathon. From training plans, alcohol free months, strict(ish) diets down to what and at which time I would have my pre-London breakfast. The one thing I had neglected though, was how I was going to get there. I assumed (I know, I know) that I could jump on an early train into London and everything would fall into place.

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Which is how I found myself driving into Central London at 6am.

I parked up in a very posh road (Chandos Street) near to Oxford Circus parking my mini between an Aston Martin and a Range Rover Evoque and chucked down my OatsoSimple porridge. Classy.

The journey to Blackheath was pretty good though it was nose to armpit all the way. Once there I got my first taste of the madness to come.

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This was tame in comparison – luckily I never saw the mankini man in the flesh.

 

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As I do, I arrived about an hour earlier than necessary but spent the time hydrating, getting rid of the hydration effects and relaxing.

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Then it was start time. Starting in the blue section you don’t get the sense of scale that you must have with the other starts and I was through to the timing mat within 10 minutes.  And so it starts. I remember at the time being massively frustrated that I had to keep dodging around slower people almost continuously for the first 5km. When I looked at my splits I found that this was my second fasted 5km so in hindsight I’m really grateful all those runners were there. I almost certainly would have set out too quickly and bombed halfway through.

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The first half of the race went pretty easily and I couldn’t wait to get to Tower Bridge. I’d arranged to meet the family there, on the left, but no idea which part. The whole of Tower Bridge was a blur of noise and faces as I tried to find them. Eventually my daughter screamed out my name and I ran over for a quick kiss and cuddle. It was such a relief  to see them and set me up for the rest of the race.

The next mile or so is also where you run back so it was inspiring and demoralising at the same time to see runners who were at least 7 miles ahead of me on their return leg. What was fantastic was to see the 35km marker on the opposite side as I new, once I reached that, I only had one and a half (ish) parkruns left.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Canary Wharf section as I assumed there wouldn’t be too many people out there. However, spectators had turned out in force, bands were playing outside every pub, steel bands on every corner and every underpass had a louder drum group than the previous one.

I was still feeling good at 20 miles and had finally given up trying to find a Runners World pacer to help me with my time. At the start I was pretty well down the back of the queue next to the 4.30 pacer. The idea was to ease past as quickly as possible and find the 3.56 pacer and sit with them. In the first 2 miles I got past the 4.30 and 4.15 but couldn’t find the 3.56. At about 3 miles the red start and the blue start merge so thousands of runners joined us. Then I spotted a pacers flag only to find it was a 4.58, then another further on was 4.30. Totally confused I THEN remembered to take note of the mile marker times and sort myself out.

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Around 21 miles I had a bit of a mental wobble. We were running past Limehouse Town Hall. I think the previous few hundred yards might have been a bit quiet because suddenly there was a wall of cheering, a massive sound system pumping out live music and a fantastic atmosphere. I felt myself welling up, took a deep breath, and a gel, zipped up the man suit a bit tighter and carried on.

Not long afterwards I hit the magical 35km mark and knew I could do it. Unfortunately what I didn’t know was how long the road was until we were back at Tower Bridge. I kept thinking it was just round the corner but it was a good mile away. Happily I somehow completely missed the 22 mile marker and, thinking I must be slowing horrendously, was ecstatic to go through 23 miles. One parkrun left!

I tried visualising my local parkrun, where I would be on the route that I’ve run so many times, but I was tired, and a bit grumpy, so that went out of the window. What also, briefly disappeared was my appreciation for the crowds. At Limehouse my heart went out to all the people, most I suspect who weren’t cheering for anyone in particular just for the joy of encouraging strangers, to the extent that I almost cried with gratitude. 3 miles later I just wanted them all to shut up, stop making such a racket and let me get on with this on my own. Sorry…

It was all a bit straightforward after that, apart from dodging runners who, so close to the finish, were either stretching out their own cramps or being stretched by others or, worse still, looking like they weren’t going to make it.

I hadn’t taken any pictures throughout the run as I had a few other things going on but thought I should do a bit of a selfie at Buckingham Palace. Shouldn’t have bothered.

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And then the final stretch. The wonderful, amazing indescribable feeling of having accomplished something I set out to do almost exactly 8 months previously.

And all for this…

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The ballot opens for next year on Tuesday. I’ll be first in the queue.

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