My weekend in London for the Marathon was immensely enjoyable. I met up with some old friends, enjoyed some sightseeing in the warm sunshine and had an absolute ball running the race itself (well, most of it)
Late Friday afternoon I visited the expo to collect my number and timing chip. I didn't spend very long there as there was nothing I particularly wanted to buy or look at. I was considering buying some more sunglasses as the ones I use to run in are very comfortable indeed. I didn't get any but really wish I had because somewhere on Sunday afternoon I lost mine so now I have none!
In the evening I met up with an old pal Gary and his (taller)mate Ben who, being real ale connoisseurs, were holed up at an ancient pub in the city.
Saturday morning I slept late and then went straight out for a short run in the park at Russell Square. I was back in my hotel eating breakfast less than 30 minutes after leaving - my shortest run of the year - including 6 short efforts/sprints. The rest of Saturday I spent mainly sitting on an open topped bus doing the tourist option.
By about 6pm I called into my favourite Japanese restaurant (It's actually the only Japanese restaurantI know and I always go to it for my pre-London marathon meal as I know the curry is a) delicious b) enormous, and c)not going to upset my system.) My hotel was only a short walk from the restaurant but on the way I called into a supermarket for some more supplies - a small trifle for pudding, some chocolate covered Brazil nuts, a couple of smoothies and two bananas for breakfast in case the hotel didn't supply fruit. I also bought (and ate) a bag of crisps. As a rule I don't eat crisps unless I am on holiday and I was sort of on holiday.
Being so warm on the Friday and Saturday, and with the same predicted for Sunday I was struggling not to think of the race in negative terms, as I never run well in hot sunny conditions. Early Sunday morning arrived cool and overcast - a good start. As I walked to the train in Charing Cross station I spotted Wes just ahead of me. I hadn't seen him for a while and we spent the cramped journey chatting about marathons, Ultras and ice baths. Arriving at Blackheath where the race starts, we soon located Milly, his dad Keith and the other Carlisle contingent who had travelled down to run/watch. The weather remained cool but with some tiny spots of rain also falling intermittently. Then about 45 mins before we were due to run the heavens opened and it rained very hard indeed. This also reduced the temp some more and it became pretty damn cold for anyone wearing shorts and a vest (about 30,000 + people on this particular morning). Entering the starting pen with Milly, he was actually shaking with the cold. Luckily it soon faired up and being so tightly packed into a small space with hundreds of other runners we were soon warm enough again.
Milly and Wes on Blackheath
The final few minutes were spent wishing each other a good run and also confirming the plan that we would each forget the other was also racing and just to run our own race. Then we were off. Despite starting where I thought was pretty near the front, I had to duck and dive to make my way past hundreds of people in the first mile. This wasn't due to me starting out too fast (as usual), my time at mile 1 was a pedestrian 6:37. Mile 2 came by a little quicker, about 6:20 ish and by mile 3 I was settled into a good pace, still overtaking people by the dozen but not struggling to find a way past now. Theres a fast (downhill) mile at 4 and I was sub 6 for it but then immediately settled back to the steady pace of 6:15s-6:20s.
I knew Keith was going to be at Cutty Sark but I didn't spot him in the crowd until I had just passed when I heard him yell my name. I turned and spotted him but was too late to wave. The miles clicked by and by about 8 I had a vague feeling of getting a stitch. By mile 10 I could tell I wasn't going to run anywhere near 2:40. At this stage of a marathon I would expect to be feeling still very fresh and ready to strike out after halfway. This wasn't how I was feeling this time though and I thought I had better up the input effort before I began to naturally slow down. I knew this might result in paying for my efforts sooner than normal but I had to give it a try. My splits show I ran very evenly from 11 miles until 19 miles and was heading for a finish of 2:43. By mile 20 though I was spent and knew I would no longer keep up that pace. The question was - how much would I slow down? I didn't really want it but at 21 I ate a gel because I thought I should. This brought on the stitch properly and I really struggled to maintain any decent form or pace to the end. I was never in any doubt that I would finish, and I was still passing people, but a few were passing me too.
With less than half a mile to go I looked out for team Millican who always stand at the same spot. I saw them in plenty of time to wave and they took plenty of photos.
Milly also played the crowd at the same point.
I crossed the finish line 2 hours 47 minutes 13 seconds after I crossed the start line. Not a great result really, 11 minutes slower than my PB and several minutes slower than I expected to run. But on the positive - I was 366th which is more or less the top 1% of finishers of a major international event. (That is what I tell people who ask how I did).
After I crossed the line, been given a finishers medal and had my chip removed I took off my shoes to enjoy the cold wet tarmac while I waited for Milly to come in. It was a tense time. Not to beat 3 hours would be enormously disappointing for him and not to finish at all (as last year) would have taken a lot to come back from. I had wondered if, during my appalling last few miles if he might catch and pass me. After what seemed like much more than 10 minutes I saw him climb up onto the platform to have his chip removed. It wasn't yet 12:45pm so I knew he had beaten 3hrs. I rushed over to congratulate him, ignoring the officials who were trying to keep people moving toward the baggage lorries. We had photographs taken (cant put it up here yet as I will need to buy it from VLM) and slowly walked out to collect our bags and get changed. Briefly we discussed why we had both been so slow compared to training runs and all predictions. Milly hadn't had a particularly bad day - he just hadn't felt great and found the whole race a bit of a struggle.
My hotel was nearby and as I walked through Trafalgar Square I remembered what Wes had said about ice baths. I climbed onto the ledge at the side of the fountain and put my feet and legs in up to the knees. The water was unbearable cold but I persisted as long as I could then went again after a spell in the sun. Back at my hotel I got in the shower and put it from hot to cold many times (although only up as far as my thighs). The next hour or so commuting to Euston I deliberately climbed stairs rather than stand on escalators and walked quickly in a bid to keep muscles from seizing up. I think this worked for me because although I was a bit sore on Monday, by Tuesday I felt completely normal.
By Monday evening I was looking for the next marathon. To complete the 5 World Marathon Majors I still need to complete Berlin and Chicago. Both are full! They weren't full when I last checked and I am really annoyed not to have entered Berlin a few weeks ago. I have entered Loch Ness Marathon on 3rd October. The course is reported to be reasonably fast I believe, with a 700ft drop overall but a decent hill to climb at 22miles.
By Wednesday I felt like going running. Keen to avoid doing too much I took the dogs for a jog down the river. I probably covered 4 miles but with lots of stops and at a very easy pace. On Saturday I went to Gelt where I ran a very easy lap. On Sunday I ran with the dogs again and today I ran 'properly' for the first time, completing my 7mile circuit at a very easy pace.
I shall spend next week still taking it very easy with nothing specifically planned, just see what each day brings.