TAXI!!!! TO THE MALL PLEASE!
Now where does my kit bag go?? What’s my number? 12549….. there were dozens of huge lorries with baggage numbers on. So did my final preparations by ensuring that I had my bumbag containing mobile phone, half a dozen energy gels and a huge handful of jelly babies. Then smeared some Vaseline onto my nipples (kinky) and under my arms and gave my kit bag in to the nice lady by the lorry.
Also made sure that I had my timing chip attached securely to my trainer lace! This was an electronic chip which had my running number programmed in, so that when I past the starting line (where there was a special electronic mat) it would register that I had started. There were mats positioned across the road at 10km, 20km, half way (which was 13.1 miles – half marathon distance obviously, or just over 21km if you use kms!) another mat at 30km, one at 40km, and obviously one at the finish, which is just over 42km, or 26.2 miles! Handy, so that everyone but the very elite could see just how much they slowed down in the last half of the marathon!!!
The toilets had enormous queues!! Women were queuing outside gents toilets and nobody even batted an eyelid! The queues were obviously quicker at the gents, as is always the case. I did my last "busy" at a stand up one with both men and women queuing behind me for the cubicles, but nobody seemed to even notice. A guy could get paranoid about himself!!
As I headed for the starting line with just 4 or 5 minutes to go until the 09:45 start, they had already started opening up the barriers which separated the pens.
There were 9 pens, one behind the other. In front of pen 1 were the men’s elite runners, the pen 1 were the sub-2:30 hr runners, pen 2 contained sub-3 hour runners, all the way back to pen 9, which contained the "just be happy to get to the finish" runners and the nutters in costumes!!! Wish I would have had hold of my camera, as some of the costumes were unbelievable!!
Everyone surged forward and filled any space available. At least I didn’t feel any cold or wind, as it was so packed – like the tube in rush hour!
I could see the start line, a mere 50 or 100 meters in the distance! The TV cameras were ready and Jonny Wilkinson was also ready to start it. At 09:45, the hooter went and we were off and running! Well, not exactly running, more of a slow walk really. It was pretty much like that for a while, until people had room to stretch their legs break out into a slow jog!
MILE 1: Was slow. There was still not a lot of daylight between the runners and not a lot of space to get any speed up at all. There seemed to be a lot of very slow runners who had managed to get near the front when it started and were in no real pace-setting mood!
There were even a few frustrated cries from faster runners behind, telling everyone to "get a fu@king move on!!" The first mile was despatched in a very slow 10 minutes.
MILE 2: Spaces started appearing and could start to pace myself. People were coming past at quicker pace too. We (the Blue start clan numbering around 8000-10000) merged with the runners from the Green start gang (numbering around 5000 or so) so we out-numbered them 2 to 1.We could have taken them out, especially as we had some charging rhinos and galloping camels in our clan, but there was no barging whatsoever!
Everyone merged efficiently, like a German motorway!!
MILE 3: Not a lot happening. The crowds were starting to get heavy, lining the streets and sitting on balconies, outside pubs, cheering everyone on enthusiastically! Great atmosphere all round. All of us runners were full of running at this point, bouncing along happily, not really thinking about how far we had to go before we finished!
MILE 4: HEAVY traffic now as we merged with the 20000+ runners from the main Red start posse! Us, blue and green start clan, now renamed the Braveheart clan, were now outnumbered but we soldiered on courageously and generously let the Red posse into our gang!
MILE 5: Still keeping the pace up to try to make up for the slow first mile, so that I can keep to 8 minute miles!
(For all the French people out there)
10KM: (Or 6.2 miles) Went over the electronic mat in 49 minutes and 43 seconds.
Happy with that as it means that I have made up some time.
MILE 7: Here comes that boat thingy! The Mary Rose? No, the Marie Celeste? No, that’s it! The Cutty Sark!! My God, how many people are here!!
The cheers were quite deafening but that was cool! I thought it had been crowded before the 6 mile mark, but the crowds were 10 deep on both sides, with people hanging off every bit of barrier and step!!
Spotted some toilets coming up and as I was running up, I saw that there was no queue and someone was just coming out of one of the cubicles. Darted into there almost before the guy had got out! Found it surprising quiet and tranquil in there – the complete opposite of what was taking place just a couple of feet outside the toilet!
MILES 8-12: The rain was heavy in places (charming!!) but the crowds kept cheering! Children holding out their little hands meant that it was good fun to run to one side of the road and high-5 them as you went past. Had to be careful not to do it too hard, but I bet there were still a lot of kids with sore hands from the hundreds of runners they had high-5’ed throughout the day!
The pace was very comfortable and I felt as if I could keep it up all day! Hmmmm, that thought was soon going to disappear!!!
MILE 13: (20KM) Another mat and hit that at 1 Hour 39 Minutes and 28 second.
That means that the second 10km has gone in 49 minutes and 45 seconds. Only 2 seconds slower than the first 10km! That would soon change too!!
Crossing Tower Bridge now and the rain is heavy. But still the crowds are cheering everyone. Simon is running almost by my side now. I know that because everyone is screamin, "Come on Simon", and "Go on Simon". Is he a celebrity?? No! As I turn to my side to look, I see that he is a CAVEMAN!! Or at least he is dressed as a caveman, complete with club in hand! He was obviously in the Braveheart clan!! He also had SIMON written across his chest, which would explain how everyone seems to know his name!! I look up at the sky and the rain is bad but we all plough on and the crowd keep cheering!
HALF WAY POINT: Or 13.1 miles, 21KM.
Another mat and look at watch – 1hour 44 minutes and 56 seconds.
Not too bad for a half marathon time, but will I be able to keep it up and dip under 3 hours 30 minutes? Urmmm, NO! But I would have a good try anyway!
MILE 14-18: Run past Canary Wharf, lots of Quays, and into the heart of the Docklands!
The crowds are less than Cutty Sark, but not by a lot. There are even people outside their offices, dressed in their suits and obviously working. I start to think, "poor bast@rds", but then realise that maybe they could be thinking the exact same thing!!
Still clocking 8 minute miles so almost on target to do 3:30 or thereabouts and feeling comfortable,
MILE 19: (And 30KM mark) Hit the 30km mark in 2 hours 32 minutes and 30 seconds.
That was a slower 10km at 53 minutes and 02 seconds. Got to keep the pace up but start to realise that it is getting very hard work! Keep on going but feel as if I have slowed a little now!
MILE 20: Heading back up, past the Docklands Light Railway, where spectators are fighting to get on and make it past their Dad, or Mum, brother, sister, or friend, who they have just cheered on to keep going! Mind you, the crowds are cheering on everyone, whether they know them or not! And it really does help us to carry on running!
MILE 21: Out of the Docklands now and heading for the Rotherhithe tunnel. As you go through, the cheering is amplified! The noise is quite deafening and it is a nice rest-bite from the rain!!! Am jogging slowly now due to extreme lack of energy!
MILE 22: Can see the runners running down the other side of the dual carriageway in the other direction at their 13-14 mile mark. Started feeling sorry for them, but then realised that I could barely run, so tried not to think about it.
At the next water stop, I had to walk for quite a while. Made sure that I walked quite fast so that my legs wouldn’t seize up completely. After a few minutes I force legs into a very fast walk and start jogging slowly, then gain a little speed as my legs loosen up a little.
MILE 23: Walk and jog past Tower Bridge again, but heading in the right direction this time – towards the finish!! Still can’t pull on any energy reserves. So this is what it feels like to hit the wall! It would have been better not to hit it quite so early, but I was bound to start feeling it sooner or later!
MILE 24: As per every single mile now, it is a mix of walking, and slow jogging whenever I can muster up enough energy! The crowd are still cheering everyone on as enthusiastically as ever! And they are still at least 2 or 3 deep in every direction.
The children are now handing out jelly babies, fruit pastels, wine gums, or sunburst sweets, rather than high-5’s, which is starting to make more sense at this stage!
MILE 25: Walking and jogging along the Embankment, any thoughts of sub-3:30 or even 3:45 are now a distant dream! I will be lucky to get sub 4 hours at this moment! Even finishing will take all my resolve! But I am in no mood to stop and give up. Have come too far to even think about not finishing now, although it is getting even harder to break out into a jog now!
40KM MARK: Hit the 40km in a knackered 3 hours 38 minutes and 40 seconds. The last 10km therefore took me 66 minutes and 10 seconds. It seemed even slower than that but I am far too tired to work out any statistics in my head. When you get this low on energy, you can’t even begin to do simple arithmetic! Found myself walking most of the time with the odd spontaneous outburst of a jog!
MILE 26: The last complete mile now. Heading towards Westminster and Birdcage Walk! I thought that last mile might start to feel easier knowing that the finish is getting near, but it feels as hard, if not harder that ever! That last mile took around 12 minutes or so. I could have walking it in that time! Actually, I think I did walk it, or nearly all of it!!
THE FINAL 0.2 MILE: THE MALL AT LAST!!!Was walking and trying to jog too! Was pleased that I hadn’t totally seized up yet. Came round the corner and could spot the finish. Oh joy!
I walked faster, bit by bit, before breaking out into a desperate sprint! Well, it wasn’t actually a sprint, but it was the most I could muster in the circumstances!!
Held my hands up in the air as we were told to do on the finishing line, so that the camera could take a nice photo!
The relief was far beyond anything I had ever really felt before!! It was a mixture pure joy at completing my first ever marathon, and the relief that after 6 or 7 miles of hitting the wall, I had fought my way to the finishing line!
Official Finishing time was 3 hrs 53 mins 52 secs.
So I was also very relieved and pleased that I had still done sub-4 hours!
I can tell you that it had felt more like 6 or 7 hours!
The marshals were brilliant! They made sure everyone was ok. They made sure that everyone had another photo taken and then handed out goody bags with food, drinks, t-shirt and one of those foil things!
The rain had finally stopped at last. Either that, or I had ran the final 6 or 7 miles so slowly that the clouds had long since got bored of raining on me, and moved on!!
I changed out of a soaking vest and into my super "I did the marathon" t-shirt, which was nice and dry! I was hobbling along like a 90 year old, but was quiet pleased to see that a lot of the other finishers had the same walking style as me. So either they were sore and stiff too, or they were cruelly copying my unfortunate style of walking!!
Collected my medal and kit bag too, and hobbled off to get a much needed massage and meet up with the family!!
I would also advise that you do more than one 20 mile run during your training. I did just one that length (due to having a bad knee at the time) and I am sure that it was because of the lack of really long runs, that my body wasn’t used to running beyond 20 miles.
But even so the last 6 miles were pretty painful and as tough as anything I have ever done, it was still one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, and it is something that everyone should attempt to do at least once in their life! The pure atmosphere, amazing support from the starting line, all the way to the finishing line and beyond, was just beyond belief!
As for me, 2005 London Marathon, HERE I COME!!
If anyone cares to join me, training starts once I have the feeling back in my legs!!