April 23rd 2017
Another unsuccessful London Ballot in 2016 meant I could only run London if I secured a charity place. I had already eyed up a few marathons for the month of April and crossed my fingers that my nominated charity pulled my name out of the hat for their ballot. I was very lucky that it did and I received the news in December. This also meant the race was on to raise £1500. Before the marathon even began I already went through months of organising events to raise the amount required to get me to the start line. A big relief when my target was reached before London and I could relax and enjoy the anticipation of running it for a second time. The first time I had run it in 2016 I was so nervous I made myself ill. This year I was just excited.
Thurs-Sat/ The Expo
I travelled down on the Thursday before the race with my friend Sharon. We were going to spend a couple of days in London enjoying expo and the sights. I had felt so rushed last year. We got to Euston at 1pm and headed straight for a Nando’s lunch. Then we crossed London on the underground and DLR and went to our hotel situated only a 10 minute walk from the Excel centre. A quick check in and straight out to the Excel to pick up my number.
The Excel never ceases to amaze me how huge it is. I was relieved that it wasn’t busy. Having got here on the Saturday last year, Thursday afternoon was lovely and quiet. Sharon and I wandered around all the stands. Entering competitions, picking up some bargains including more mile socks and unneeded kit but it’s expo so obviously, it must be bought. I met up with the guys from Aftershokz and Fitness Rewards. I also bumped into Jen, Darren, Carl and Paul from twitter. We picked up plenty of freebies and my goody bag and queued for the obligatory photos and made our way back to the hotel to put our feet up. On the way back I noticed a pub and decided it would make an excellent stop off point for food and it was great. Food was a bargain price and I would recommend. Far better and cheaper than that in expo and only 5 minutes away.
Friday saw us have a few adventures in London sightseeing and being tourists in the day and heading back to the expo briefly to meet up with Jason from twitter in the afternoon. We then headed off back into town for the #womenrunstrong session with @susie_chan @kellykkroberts Devon Yanko and Sophie Walker. This was a 2 mile shake out run followed by a question and answers session at the @RunningWorks with 100 guests. It was a great evening, very inspirational.
Saturday, Sharon was heading home as she had to work and I was changing hotel. I was moving to nearer the finish line so I didn’t have far to walk for my bags, well that was the plan. Myself and Sharon said our goodbyes at lunchtime and I headed to check in to my posh hotel for the evening. They let me check in early to my lavish room and carried my bag up for me. I eagle eyed the nice bath.
I had to head straight out as I had booked an hour using a stranger’s kitchen. Just a random person off the internet. I needed to be able to prep my food for the race. They lived somewhere south of the river and despite using the moovit app I still managed to get on the bus travelling in the wrong direction. Looking like an idiot I jumped off as soon as I had got on, I hurried across the road and had to wait 15 minutes for the next bus. I arrived 10 minutes late to a random person’s house and when I did nobody answered. 5 minutes later a young lady flew out of the house surprised to see me there, ‘I knocked’ I said. The owner is shouted down and I get to use the kitchen although a million questions are asked of me and I already felt like I wanted to leave. I prepped my sushi rice packets in record time and left without it cooling. I stopped at a shop around the corner for ice, wrapped ice around the rice packets and travelled back to the hotel.
I decided I needed a really lovely soak in that tub as I can’t have a bath at home (my boiler doesn’t give me enough hot water). 15 minutes later I am out looking like a lobster and itching for food so I am off on the lookout. I wander to SoHo to find some and find queues a mile long everywhere! Take out it is and a delicious katsu curry to boot. On the way back I stop off at Fortnum and Mason for cakes and a treat of some specialist honeys.
Back at the hotel I ordered a tea and a cost of £5 I decided I wasn’t going to order any more room service. I laid out my kit, prepped my overnight oats and decided to get an early night.
Up bright and early Sunday, I checked out of the hotel. They provided me with a lovely breakfast to go, in a little bag with pastries, a nutrigrain, banana and drink and I headed off for green park. As I walked I ate the mini Danish pastries they gave me, deciding to save my porridge until an hour before the race. I was nervous and excited. I headed through the turnstiles seeing some other runners and their families getting a free pass through too. I was headed down to cannon street to catch to over ground train whilst lots of runners who had boarded the underground stayed on the jubilee line. It didn’t take long to get over to cannon street and straight on board the next train heading out to Greenwich. I chatted to a couple on the train whilst waiting to depart. The friendliness of this race above other is overwhelming. The lady was running her first London and her husband already added me in the tracker and we joked about what a great stalking took it was.
I got off the train at Greenwich with half the train, some runners were staying on to go to Maze Hill and plodded along the route to Greenwich Park. It is a fair old walk to get up to the park especially surrounded by so many people. When you get into the park it’s like a swarm bees, everyone coming from every direction. Incredible. Once at the top of the hill, the marshals were there checking everyone was going through the right start. I went into the red start and tried to locate my baggage truck. Last year it had been right near the start. This year it was right near the end and I seemed to walk forever to get it. I covered my thighs in another good coating of body glide for good luck before passing my bag to the baggage marshals. Lots of good lucks wishes being passed everywhere, then time for the loo queue where I made more loo queue friends. Only in London. We talked about all sorts of things from marathons to ultras to running etiquette and before we knew it we were at the front of the queue. Brilliant. I headed straight over to my pen, pen 7 as I didn’t want to hang around and was near the front of the pen. I bumped into one of my loo queue friends and chatted to some new people in the pen. It wasn’t long before I made a couple of new friends who we decided that we’d definitely run the race together, yes all of us sub 4:30 was the goal. Rachel had run 4:37 last year, 4:34 was my fastest time and Sophie was just happy to be able to run at any time. We chatted for the next hour as the pen filled up and the marshals joked about not to crush them when they removed the tape. We had decided we would stick with the 4:15 pacers for as long as we could and then tail off towards the end of the race. A plan had been hatched. Rachel kept asking far we had to go and I just kept saying it’s a whole yet. As we moved forward we lost the pacers and they were way behind us by the time we had got to the front.
As we passed through the start line it was 10.15 so 15 minutes behind the starting gun. I was running 9:15 pace, weaving around the myriads of people and Rachel was looking behind her for the pacers. The next minute she was gone. Well a solo marathon it was.
It was super congested, people running in huge blocks with hardly any gaps to get past. I ended up running on the pavements or up and over the centre of the road. Any way of getting around people to maintain my pace. I knew I was going a little fast but going off too slow can hinder me in the race too. 2.5 miles in I hear a shout from behind and Rachel has caught up to me. She says she is quite relieved that the crowds have started letting up a little bit and I tell her not to be too enthusiastic as it’s just about to get busy again. At 3 miles, the blue and red routes join together. We ran together for a little while and I told her to be careful about not going off too fast as she will struggle in the later part in the race.
By 5 miles I decided I need to slow my pace as I knew I couldn’t maintain my pace, and tried and drop to around 9:30 miling. I managed this for the next 3 miles but this pace started to slip away and I started to do 9:45 pacing. It was quite obvious my legs haven’t recovered from the 50km 4 weeks ago and trying to get a PB here was going to be really tough. There was a constant volume of people around me, the water bottles on the floor were becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, as was the rising temperature. I was getting very hot. The weather forecast had indicated that it was going to be cloudy and not full sunshine. I was hot and my bag was chaffing me. Mind over matter on this was getting me through and the thought of the feeling of tower bridge and seeing ukrunchat near 13 miles was getting me through. At around 6 miles, The cutty sark usually a great place for cheering was full of people this year but all waiting for friends and family, there were no shouts or claps for the runners. A couple of runners tried to get people to cheer but this just made people clap (less than enthusiastically).
Tower bridge is a shining moment in the marathon. The noise is like nothing else. It felt amazing to be running over tower bridge again. Looking up and at the people shouting my name. I recorded a little snippet of video so I could remember it forever. As I turned the corner passed the bridge I kept looking for the cheer point, just one smiley face would help and Carl shouted my name and just that brief moment was lovely. There’s nothing like thousands of people chanting your name but it’s wonderful having somebody there who knows you to smile and wish you well.
I knew from previous experience that it’s a slog and a mental battle from 13 and my legs did not disappoint. They had already dropped to a tiring 10 minute mile at mile 13 and felt like I was starting to drag weights. Unfortunately, they hadn’t banked on the fact that my head was getting me through marathon., It didn’t matter how many people were going to stop in front of me. It didn’t matter how many people ran into the road, jumped out to high five me and threw me off balance. It didn’t matter how many times I got kicked in the shins, elbowed in the tit, tripped, punched in the back (seriously it sounds like that film we aren’t allowed to talk about, shall I call it marathon club?). It didn’t matter what this marathon threw at me, my head was getting me to the finish. I had been here before, I wasn’t going to let my legs stop. No sir.
Look It's me on the telly!
Going toward the isle of dogs, mile 16 my legs decided they were indeed made of lead and pacing dropped further but I knew that if I kept going I could still PB. Just keep going. Canary wharf was coming up and both mile 18 and mile 21 were hell – both almost 11 minute miles and I never stopped running. My head never gave up yet every bit of my body was ready to. I was so tired. Every ounce of me wanted that London PB. Although I had given up on that 4:15 some time ago in the race, I knew I could still get a sub 4:30. So I dug deep and from mile 21 I got slightly faster each mile, I was heading to the finish. I could feel it. At mile 22 I passed Rachel and tried to encourage her ‘you can still make sub 4:30’ I told her.
Just past mile 24 I saw Jen who called my name, I looked slightly deliriously at her as it took me a moment to realise who it was. It was great to see a familiar face. I waved briefly as I had passed and this spurred me on to Big Ben, mile 25 and almost there. Honestly you are almost there. I could taste that PB in my mouth. It felt great running down Birdcage Walk seeing 800m, 400m and turning the corner into the mall. I was ready to finally get my sub 4:30. I had been dreaming of this since I ran my first marathon 2 years ago. I raised my arms and almost cried through the finish line, in relief, in happiness. It had been one of the toughest races I have done. Trying to get a PB, the amount of people, the heat, tired legs. Many reasons but tough all the same. A quick photo of me and taking a few photos for others and then off for a goody bag and t-shirt.
A very organised collection of my bag from the luggage trucks and then I bumped into a fellow ASSERT runner Gavin Smith. Running for the same charity as myself. We had a lovely chat and wandered to the meet and greet area together.
Here I was supposed to meet someone from my charity but I could not find them so ended up walking to a pub where some people were meeting. They weren’t there either. Time to refuel and the only place open was McDonalds so I queued for ages and sat outside with a chicken burger. I walked the mile back to the hotel afterwards. A shame I had booked the hotel close to the finish line when I hadn’t stayed near the finish line and deviated so far away.
Upon collecting my luggage I chilled out in Green Park for an hour before my train home. I managed to get an earlier train back and a free upgrade thanks to the football match on too. Result.