I have delayed writing this report as I wanted it all to sink in and to give a correct blog of my thoughts and experiences of running one of the greatest marathons in the world.
To start of we travelled up to London on the train. I drove to Wool Station as there was engineering works and this saved us sitting on a bus for over an hour. We got to the station and got on the train with no dramas. It was great we were on our way, my wife, my two children and our great friends Jim (who was also running in the marathon and my training partner for a number of years) and his partner Julie.
We arrived at London on time, relaxed and meandered to our hotel to drop the bags of. Well what a great bunch of staff they have at the Tate Modern Premier Inn, through out our whole stay the staff were amazing.
Then a short walk to Southwark Tube to get to the expo. On route we passed a cash point and much to our surprise Jasper decided to get some money out. Jasper is like another resident of London, he normally carries no money, just like the queen.
Then onto the tube and DLR where we got to the expo. I didn’t really know what to expect here, apart from huge queues, and chaos. As we entered and found where to get our numbers from, for some reason our queue was at least 3 times as long as any others. Jim virtually walked straight up and got his number, luck of the draw I suppose. Any how after about 10 minutes I had my number, had spoken to some great people and was getting a tad excited. The rest of the expo was like this, it was filled with great like minded people, great exhibits and we spent a great couple of hours. At the end of the expo it was pretty busy and there was quite long queues for the bits where you can have photos but apart from this is was fine. One stand that caught our eye was selling anti chafe lotions. I left Jim there listening to all the spill and he returned triumphant with a tube of “BUTT SHIELD”. On looking at it I thought he could have the last laugh tomorrow if I end up chaffed to hell and he comes through scott free thanks to the powers of Butt Shield. I purchased the Sports Shield and we can both confirm that both products were superb and neither of us had any chaffing.
We then left the expo, continued to carb load and then headed back into London and back to the hotel. The evening was a quiet affair with more carbs and a few soft drinks, then back to the room sort out my kit and try to get an early night.
I was up and raring to go. We had arranged to have breakfast at 6:30 as there was some talk that it would be very busy with other runners. Well it wasn’t and again this was a chilled affair. Porridge all round, toast, peanut butter and scrambled egg. There was a great atmosphere and about 10 runners in there all eating the same type of things. Then it was back to the room, toilet stop number 2, get the final kit ready and then a goodbye to our loved ones as Jim and I set of to tackle the London Marathon.
Ready to go
A short walk to Waterloo East and then on the train to get us to the start. The excitement was building and as we got seated on the train I thought well there still haven’t been any mad queues, rude people etc. The whole experience to now, had been the opposite and everyone was so friendly and so organised. As we left the station it started to dawn how big an event this was. As we made our way to the blue start the numbers of runners was increasing, the roads were closed just to get us to the start. As I climbed the hill and looked behind it looked like ants swarming from everywhere all heading to the same point as us. We breezed through security, had a pee, dropped the bags off, had another pee and then sauntered of to the starting pens. My god we were surrounded by thousands of other runners but everything was so well organised and easy I don’t think I have ever been so chilled at the start of a race. This is where I had to say goodbye to my running buddy as he was starting in the zone behind. One last photo, taken by yet another really friendly marshal and of we went to our respective starting zone. One thing that I have forgotten to mention was the weather. At one point earlier we were predicted snow, however after the early rain that we had whilst eating breakfast it had now dried up and was overcast but looked like brightening up. I had my running vest on, a disposable poncho, gloves and hat. The plan was to ditch the poncho at the start and the hat and gloves as and when I though necessary.
Last photo with Jim at the start.
As I waited in the starting pen with all the other runners exchanging pleasantries, I still couldn’t believe how relaxed I was. There was a large screen to the side and we all watched Tim Peaks do the countdown and that was it we were off. Well not quite as it took about 3 minutes to get over the start line. As we started to pick up pace slightly I realised how busy this was going to be. For the 1st 3 miles because of the amount of runners I could not get anywhere near the pace that I wanted to run, however I had the 3 hour 45 pace maker behind me and looking at him he didn’t seem concerned and as I was still really chilled nor was I really.
Because of the very slow pace where we were coming to a virtual stop every couple hundred yards I decided to use the 1st roadside urinal. I hadn’t even done half a mile but I thought I just as well have a pee now and then hopefully when it thins out a bit I will not need to go again. This didn’t quite work out as I had 2 more pee stops during the race, probably due to the amount of water stations and the cooler weather meaning that I was not sweating. Peeing in a plastic urinal looking over the top at a bloke doing exactly the same as you whilst being passed by hundreds of runners who are being cheered on by hundreds of supporters was a new experience to me, and just added to the amazing and at times surreal day.
Back to the race I will not go into a mile by mile account. You will be running in a massive pack of runners and I think it was about mile 16 before I felt I could just run and not have to worry about someone crossing my path or someone clipping my heels. A lot of the course could be anywhere in regards to scenery, but the amount of runners and the massive support of the crowds, the noise and the atmosphere I have never experienced anything like it. Virtually from the start to the finish the supporters line the route, continually cheering you on. At certain points of the course the noise from the supporters if unbelievable and I still smile now as I write this as to me it was amazing. The Cutty Sark it the 1st place that you really see the crowds and it doesn’t disappoint, the Tower Bridge which is where I was looking forward to most before hand was amazing. I remember running over the bridge and realising that I was grinning from ear to ear and was in awe of the bridge and the spectators.
Seeing Donna and the family at mile 13
At mile 13 I got me first glimpse of Donna my wife, Chloe, Jasper and Jims partner Julie. This again was a massive uplifting moment. Just pass here I had a shout out from the Weldmar Trust team that I was running for in the other side of the road. From here as it started to get a bit harder in effort so did the mind games. Since about 6 miles I kept getting stomach pains and now think it was due to the amount of Lucozade sport on tap as when I stopped picking that up at the drink stations and stuck to water my stomach settled. I thought I was only having a few sips of the lucozade each time but I was probably drinking a quarter of a bottle each time and there was a lot of water stations on route. I hit the wall about 19 miles, feeling really ill, however as I turned the next bend there was music being played and again the support had reached fever pitch. At 21 miles I passed the MNDA cheering point and that was amazing. The next thing I knew was my pace had upped and I was going pass loads of people.
Now pacing was a bit of an issue as due to nearly loosing my Garmin watch at mile 6. Due to the amount of high 5’s that I was delivering in the early stages of the race I nearly lost my Garmin. Luckily I realised just in the nick of time as I went to do my thousand high 5, that the pin had come out of my wrist watch and I was able to grab it as it was hanging on my wrist by just the very last bit of the pin and wedge it in my fanny pouch. I was already ahead of the blue pen 3 hour 45 pacer at this point and could see the green pen pacer ahead, so I caught up with him and then slowly pulled ahead.
Anyhow back to mile 22, I was running back into London which felt good. I think it was about mile 18 that I got a glimpse of the O2 and it dawned on me still how far I was from the finish. I passed the Weldmar cheering point and Kate gave me a pack of Jelly Babies. After wrestling with the wrapper I chucked a couple in my mouth. Wholly shit these were the chewiest Jelly Babies I had ever had. After about an minute of chewing I decided that I was using more energy chewing than running and had to spit them out and chucked the other Jelly babies to the side of the road. I was so busy trying to chew my way through the Jelly babies that I missed Donna as I was as they said in the zone.
23 mile and as I passed it I felt good and strong. I laughed to myself as I had read an article that said you were most likely to have heart failure between 21 and 23 miles and thought, well survive the next mile and you are home and dry. Little did I realise what I was about to see. Suddenly after being able to run freely for the last few miles everyone bunched in front of me, as I went round people in the road I looked across to see someone having CPR on the floor. Sadly this runner never made it and my thoughts are with his family and loved ones.
For the next mile or so I was slightly shell shocked and didn’t really know what happened. Then the green 3 hour 45 pacer come up on my side. I then picked up the pace and carried on. The final few miles were tough, I was fed up of hearing my name by now ( it was written on the front and back of my vest) even though it was the support that was so up lifting. As we ran down Birdcage walk I remember 3 guys in combat fatigues cheering me on and saying only a little way to go. I realised that I was nearly there, under a mile to go and although I was beat I knew I just had to keep plodding on. The green start pace marker was just starting to get ahead. I tried to kick and pick up the pace but I was spent. Rounding the bend past Buckingham palace and then on the Mall were amazing. people were passing me, I tried to sprint finish but no I decided that was not a good idea and just savoured the moment as I plodded over the finish.
As soon as I finished I seized up. As I crossed the line another runner was being helped over the line, well he was draped between two others. As they crossed the line they called for medics. As I hobbled a medic came to me but I said I should be OK and waddled on. I was smiling although in some pain as I had made it and in a PB.
Picked up bags and made my way to the MNDA reception in Trafalgar Square. Had a massage and some food and met even more amazing people. Then met up with family and friends and went for a pint or 2.
We had done it
To sum it up it was amazing. Everyone was so friendly and enthusiastic. The organisation was second to none. The atmosphere from getting up in the morning to going to bed that night was brilliant. I smile now as I think about it. It was a day that I will never forget and is right up there in my top 10 experiences.
The only slight hiccup was that according to the VLM web site I never started the race. My timing chip never worked. Added to this when my watch nearly fell off and I rammed it in my fanny pouch it buzzed, on retrieving it it was saying workout complete. I hit the start button again and luckily it has recorded my run, but it does read 0.1 mile short. On looking on the computer I loose signal where I go through the tunnel and I assume this is where the short fall is although the time does not stop my pace disappears for a short period. I am taking this time as I told Donna that I crossing the line just over 3 hours and 47 when I called her as soon as I finished. I can’t really remember this but I did have an emotional wobble on completing. Bearing in mind my Garmin says I started at 10:03 the time of 3:44:32 seems about right. I have emailed VLM about a time but I am still waiting for a reply. Donna was slightly concerned as she was tracking me and a few others though the app and it appeared that I had not started. She was as happy to see me at the 13 mile point as I was her. Apart from this slight failure of technology everything else was out of this world, even the guy starting the race.
Duff Timing Chip
Now I am thinking will this be my last marathon, probably yes as its good to finish on a high, but then never say never.