My 2005 London Marathon

How was it for you? - Quotes and pictures from London 05


Posted: 23 April 2005

4:00 TO 5:00 (Page 8) Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Mad Moo, 4:14

I was a marathon virgin, a bit old as I am nearly 40. On race day I got up in a mad panic, looked at the alarm clock - past five o'clock and we were late...

...went to the loo, got changed into my cow outfit, attached tail, put on cow ears, you know, the normal thing you do when preparing for a race...

...went to the loo, checked kit bag, put on make-up for the cameras (have to look my best for TV, did not think that I may end up sweaty and looking like a panda around my eyes), went to the loo, checked kit bag, packed everything in suitcase that was not needed for race, went to the loo again then woke my husband because I thought it was 5:30am; breakfast was being served from 5:45am...

...Dressed in my cow costume I stood there shaking my husband: "Get up! We're going to be late."

He looked at his watch: it was only half past 12. No wonder he calls me Mad Moo...

Anyway, the race was brilliant. My knee hurt at 14 miles, but I ran all the way. I did it in 4 hours and 14 mins. I was astonished at the amount of people who came to cheer runners on. I really enjoyed the whole weekend, just needed it to be a little bit cooler (I think cows prefer a bit of light drizzle).

Secret Agent, 4:56

I wondered if it would feel different the day after a marathon. Like you have been through some elaborate rites of passage ceremony. Going from the 'never done one' to the 'yes I have'. And I wondered what that would feel like, if anything at all.

I didn't expect this - well not all of it anyway. I knew I'd be sore, with burning legs that give way with any knee bending. I'm very happy to be able to stand at the urinal thanks very much, and I knew I'd look a fool at work walking backwards down the stairs, and walking with stiff legs almost toppling over with any downhill slope.

I did expect to feel bit drained, but I'm not – if anything, I can't stop talking to people about the race. To start with, it was all the negative stuff, like how crowded it was. I was kicking the shoes in front while someone was clipping my heels, and then someone else was trying to squeeze in from the side. My arms are covered in bruises from people elbowing me in the crush.

I told everyone how sick people were, vomiting, dehydrated, I even saw some poor bloke collapse unconscious. I talked about how much I wanted to disappear and be somewhere else at 20 miles, about how being told it was only 400 metres to go at the end made my muscles ache in anticipation of a another few minutes of tortuous electrifying jerks being sent alternatively through each thigh. And how annoying the loud words of encouragement became after so many miles ("come on you can do it", that's easy for you to say, why don't you try running instead of sitting behind the fence sipping tea)

But after I debriefed I found I was fascinated with the whole world of marathons, like how many people do it. How there were 35,000 runners with a single shared desire, how much of a spectacle the whole thing is, and how glorious it feels to know that I will never attempt anything so daft again in my life (maybe).

I found there is no way of knowing what can come from so much pain and sustained effort, without finishing your own marathon. And knowing that other first timers will go through this fiercest of initiations to be reborn into the realm of the 'yes I have done a marathon'. They will achieve the unknowable, the undoable and the unthinkable. And then they will understand why.

Milk, 4:32

I finished my first marathon in 4:32, and I am still on a high. The time was a disappointment, but the experience more than makes up for it. My journey for this marathon actually started in December 2003, when I started training for London 2004. In March 2004 I was forced out with a knee injury. 'No worries,' I thought, 'I'll do New York instead.' Again I had to withdraw - the physio had failed to diagnose periostial tugging, and my left shin was "one middle distance run from breaking".

So my early winter was spent building up my core stability, testing new shoes and generally not running. January saw training start proper and with caution, I took it easy, running a maximum of three days a week, maybe four if I was feeling brave. The training in general was going well; I avoided illness and kept to my 3:45 schedule. My training was indicating a 3:30 time, and that felt great. But I think it was this goal that ultimately brought about my failure to hit that target on the day.

My biggest lesson learnt is that naivety is a heavy burden. I probably underestimated what it actually takes, mentally, to run a marathon, and all the training in the world does not prepare you for that "Sh*t! it's my first marathon, and where have all the people come from?" experience. I knew it was going to be busy, but I didn't appreciate just how difficult it would be to navigate. In hindsight, I think all my ducking and sniping for space affected what happened later.

My first two miles were at about 10-minute mile pace and I slowly built on that. By mile six, I was about eight-minute miling. I felt really good. I cruised through Tower Bridge in that I knew I was capable of exploiting, and, I knowing that my girlfriend was at mile 16, those next three miles just melted away. I saw her again at mile 18, and I felt good. My God, I felt good. I was just happy to be running, and the crowds and the sun. "This is why we do these things," I thought.

Mile 20 was a different story. I vomited everywhere. All the Lucozade and all the water and the energy bar hit the pavement. A St John's ambulance guy was there in a flash. He wiped my face and I said I was fine.

It was at that point I lost all train of thought in terms of time, what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to be. I don't know how long it took me to start again but when I did my legs wouldn't function. When they eventually sprung into life I was only capable of doing four minutes of running per mile, and that was sapping my energy like nothing before.

The next six miles were filled with conversations with strangers, support from the crowds and a churning stomach: "why do we do these things?" I thought. I continued my four minutes of running per mile, and just did what I could. I ignored my time and just got on with finishing the task. From mile 20 to Big Ben is just a blur. I promised myself I would enjoy it, because 2006 would be a different story, as I would be running through here, on for a sub-4 hour time.

And suddenly there was Big Ben. New energy burst into my legs and I floated through Parliament Square. The Mall was a bit more painful, the last 400 yards were a sprint. I had finished and that was all that mattered. It was my first marathon, I had completed it, I had learnt more in four and half hours than I have in three years of non-competitive running.

2006 will be my year, I can feel it in my shins!

Sprite, 4:13

What a fantastic day; the support was incredible!

I did 4:13:00, just under two minutes outside my PB, but so was Paula.

The down side: I got a good dose of sunburn, a full-on squirt of Lucozade Sport from head to toe courtesy of a runner in front, I lost a gel en route and the batteries ran out near the end, but...

The upside: I ran EVERY step of the way, raised lots of money for Seafarers UK, loved the unbelievable atmosphere, and I can't wait to be back for next year!

Matt52, 4:26

Mid-January, feeling rather bored at work, I phoned and entered an Evening Standard competition, hoping to win a pair of trainers. Not that I am (or was) a runner. It was just a competition to break the boredom of mid-afternoon. And a new pair of trainers sounded nice. A couple of days later, I got a letter through the post from Associated Newspapers announcing that I hadn't just won some trainers, but also a place in the London Marathon.

My first reaction was panic. I don't run. I'm 36. I've never run. Once a week doing weights and occasional sparring sessions were the beginning and end of my fitness routine. I'm not overweight, but I'm not super-fit by any stretch of the imagination.

But I couldn't back out. The fates had clearly spoken. I needed to run the race. Self respect required it. And I had 12 weeks to prepare.

My first stop was the book shop where I bought all the marathon for beginners/dummies books I could manage. Most seemed to be co-written by some bloke claiming to be a Penguin. But whilst owning them was a small comfort, reading them was terrifying - they all seemed to assume that you would work up to a marathon over a period of months; the most ambitious suggested 20+ week programmes, starting some time in early December.

Rather despairingly, I bought the February edition of RW, largely on the basis of a front page that promised training schedules to get you round in only 16 weeks. But I had only 13 to go... In the absence of any alternative, and with time ticking away I started on week 3 of the beginner's schedule. Rather worryingly, the schedule suggested a half-marathon on 13 March. On my first time out running (albeit rather slowly), I barely made it. I pulled up out of breath and with aching calves. The half-marathon, and FLM beyond it, seemed unattainable.

Hours of plodding at what seemed a ridiculously slow snail's pace round the local park and beyond, interspersed with manic Kenyan Hills and threshold sessions followed. Followed by close consultation with p56 of the February edition of RW. Things seemed to be getting easier, but when you're training on your own, its kind of hard to know how well or badly you are doing compared to the rest of the world. And the rain, sleet and snow seemed to only hit on evenings I was trying to run. It was getting harder to keep to the schedule. But (give or take the odd missed recovery run) I stuck to it.

With Mar 13 approaching, I decided to brave the most scary challenge so far in the training schedule and registered to run the Brentwood Half-Marathon. About the same time, I discovered the RW site and starting reading up on what a race is about. About the most useful advice was an article about run/walking – finally, a guaranteed way to get round a race without falling apart. In the excitement, it was about the only advice from the site I remembered as I started in Brentwood, along with sticking to a plan and avoiding getting carried away.

With a run-walk of 9:30ish-minute miles and a minute's walks every mile, I found myself (to my surprise) feeling strong after 10 miles and able to (relatively) sprint the remaining three miles to come home in just under two hours. It looked as if the training was working - for the first, time the FLM was something I just might be able to do.

The next four weeks went by in a bit of a blur of longer and longer runs and mid-week speed sessions (with the odd weekend sparring session by way of cross-training), culminating in a late-March attempt at my longest run - three hours plus, with a rough target of 18 miles. I managed it, and without noticeable ill effects - just a few small blisters.

Things were going well. Then - inevitably - it all went wrong. With only weeks to go, the Easter long weekend was ideal for training. But I felt a bit jaded on Easter Sunday, so took the day off and planned my last semi-long run for the Monday - but given that I was starting to taper, maybe I'd do just 10 miles. I pulled up after five miles and an hour with excruciating pain in both knees. I couldn't go on. Frankly, for a good 12 hours I could barely walk. Was it runner's knee? It certainly left me depressed and dejected.

Having surfed the RW site for possible similar sob stories, I discovered I wasn't the only person suffering from late injury and last-minute doubts. I also discovered that quitting wasn't an option anyone was choosing. Emboldened, I decided to keep hoping for the marathon, but to effectively 100 per cent taper from then on. Total rest was the only way I could stand any chance of making it round the FLM. I couldn't risk aggravating any developing injury. So no more training - just wait and pray that the training of the previous couple of months had done its job.

The day before the marathon I risked a short run to check things out. Everything seemed okay. I felt strong, like I was running with a firm hand pushing me forward.

Everything seemed easier and faster than ever before. I started to feel good about the following day. But some doubt remained - was this something I was really able to do?

Come the day, there was no time to harbour doubts. Waking early, I joined the flood of people flowing from home to Waterloo to Waterloo East to Greenwich. An endless stream of running shoes, tracksuits and FLM kitbags. I was babbling to total strangers crushed up close to me in the train.

Following more RW advice, I found a toilet queue, and stayed there - on and off - for the next hour. Probably the best move of the day given the stench coming from the portable toilets on the course...

I started at the back of the Red 9 pen, somewhere close to the Frankenstein Policeman. The sheer mass of people was astounding. And the madness going on all around. South-East London pubs all blaring out music, clog-wearing female morris dancers, Indian drummers, jazz musicians. It seemed like barely minutes later and we were six miles in.

And then my feet started to hurt. Badly. My legs were okay; I was run/walking 9:30-minute miles with a minute's walking every mile, and it was going well. But in my shoes things were messing up.

At eight miles I stopped and looked inside my socks. There were bloody blisters under each big toe, and huge blisters on the inside of each foot - under my Compeeds. But it was too early to pack it in - I pulled my shoes back on and decided to head on despite the pain.

Soon I was crossing Tower Bridge and on towards Canary Wharf - swept on by the great wave of humanity. Still sticking to plan, getting water, hitting the gels every half hour. My feet were hurting, but no more than at six miles. Other than that, I was feeling pretty strong; I was starting to wonder if I could run faster (though - luckily – I was prevented from ever trying by the mass of people around me).

At 17 miles, I started to worry - 18 miles was close to where I was expecting The Wall. But pretty soon I was through 19 and heading for 20 with no noticeable change to how I was feeling.

At about 21 miles I guessed I must have somehow got away with it. I'm not sure how – it was probably by following RW advice on hydration/nutrition in a race. It was almost an anti-climax - I had hoped to triumph over at least a little grim adversity other than my bloody feet. Gaining confidence, I started to speed up and at 22 miles decided to stop taking walk breaks and head for the line. Looking at my watch, 4:30 was well within reach and I was determined to get it. Pushing on down Westferry, the stragglers were still walking up towards Docklands, pursued by the street cleaners, but ahead were more crowds and clearer roads.

And then eventually the finish. 4:26:18. Mission accomplished. There was no wall, no collapse, only throbbing feet to worry about. It had gone better than expected, and almost wholly non-traumatic (apart from my feet).

Are there any morals to draw from this? I'm not sure. But I had harboured some doubts as to whether the training plans in RW were genuine, or just a way of sucking in gullible wannabe runners with front-cover promises of the impossible.

Some posts on the forum seemed to suggest that in some way a 16-week (or in my case 13-week) beginner's plan isn't real training, because it neglects months of "base training" and mixes up all sorts of different and incompatible routines. But Sunday proved them and me wrong. Twelve weeks ago, I wouldn't have made it past the five-mile marker in the race; today I finished fast and strong - perhaps in a relatively slow time, but as it's my first race, so who cares. And 17,419th out of 35,000 isn't bad for a first attempt.

Without the training schedule and advice picked up from the RW site (both articles and in the excellent posts from the many runners who make up the community around the RW forum) I would never have made it. Today, I am a long-distance runner (of sorts). And next year (ballot allowing) I'll be back, properly trained, and with a mission to carve at least 30 minutes off of my time.

I've got the bug, you see. I think you may have turned me into a runner.

CHARLES Y. HO, 4:37

What was the best moment? Overtaking Henry VIII.

And the worst moment? Being overtaken by the camel!

The biggest surprise? People weeing on the street! Oh, and meeting Darth Vader, two wombles, a rhino, fairies, superman, spiderman, five Elvises and people wearing very little except for their thongs!

What was the key to your success?If it doesn't hurt... surely there is no point doing it.

Cheers and thanks, (especially for the training tips!) from a marathon first-timer!

Ping Pong Boy, 4:12

Aaaargh - a bit of a nightmare for me on Sunday. I had followed the RW 3:45 training plan training religiously since the New Year. But 14 weeks of training in North Scotland couldn't prepare me for the heat on Sunday. Jelly babies from the RW forum support team gave me a boost and saw me keep running to mile 18 or so, but the painful view of Bill and Ben going past made my spirits drop, and I started walking.

I quite enjoyed the last five miles; I walked most of it, which is quite a pleasant way to see the sights towards the finish. The drawback of having my name on my top though was that lots of people kept shouting my name at me to start running again.

The greatest thing in my training has been the support of the RW forums and particularly the 3:45 thread on FLM link. The folk on the forums have been fantastic as we've had some great ups and downs before reaching that start line.

I don't think I could have done much differently to prepare better. It is just my luck to live somewhere where the sun hides all winter.

Pete Way, 4:49

The best bit of my marathon was when, passing a Scots Pipe Band that had just finished playing, I ran over to the Band Master and asked would he play "Highland Cathedral" which is my favourite piece of pipe music? One of the pipers shouted to me, "you're my f***ing hero mate - not a problem!" I then ran for the next mile with it playing in my ears and with tears in my eyes!

The worst bit was at 13/14 miles when I started to feel really queasy. I ended up projectile vomiting everything that I had eaten and drunk in the last 24 hours, realising that all my training for a realistic sub-4 time was going out the window. I was absolutely gutted, but thankfully all the training that I had done got me home in 4:49.

What would I do differently? Taken an active part in the RW forums, used other people's experiences and not catch a stomach bug!

What did I discover about myself? That with training and camaraderie I can achieve anything.

Will I do it again? Oh yes. I have already entered Abingdon - I have got some serious unfinished business with the Marathon :-)

Ronnie Wibbley, 4:24

At Blackheath station about half a million steaming runners were decanted from the train in time to see several sardines on the platform sniggering about the overcrowding. This however was to be the worst part of the day for me, as everything else went more or less smoothly.

After my training was halted in January with an Achilles problem, I'd been working from the six-week RW emergency schedules, and sure enough, at about halfway I started to feel the lack of miles in my legs. The Isle of Dogs section was the worst part of the course; thank goodness for the RW Support Teams at Mile 17 - the cheering was a real lifesaver that kept me going until the 20-mile mark, when I realised that things weren't going to get any worse and that I'd finish okay. Unfortunately the RW photographer caught me doing a Michael Flatley trying to dodge a load of discarded water bottles, so I'm unlikely to be a RW cover star this year. Never mind...

Best moment: on the Embankment, when an attractive young lady yelled out "Ronnie Wibbley, you've got great legs". I would have been even happier if I'd had any feeling left in said legs at the time.

After miles of karaoke renditions of "Simply the Best" and other mundanely inspirational treats en route, the most bizarre moment was around 15 miles, where a live band headed by a middle-aged singer were doing an enthusiastic version of "Psycho Killer" just as I passed by. An odd choice of song, you may think, but after two and a half hours of tightening hamstrings and sore calves it summed up my mood quite well.

Gail Force, 4:32

Best moment: seeing my family at mile 23 - just that kept me going for the last 3.2 miles.

Worst moment: around miles 12-14 I just wanted to go home, I'd missed my family at mile 12, and missed the 14-mile marker, which really threw me. It was disappointing to miss Team 2 at mile 17, too, as I'd been counting down since mile 12, but I was very grateful for whoever it was shouting "Gail! Jelly Babies!" Sorry I didn't stop to say hello.

The congestion getting into Horseguards' Parade afterwards was a bit of a nightmare too, and I wasn't impressed finding more Jelly Babies in the goodie bag, having eaten nothing else for the previous four and a half hours!

Biggest surprise: that I made it round without too much bother! Okay, so I was really tired, but I didn't seem to hit the wall, which I had been dreading, and I didn't need to stop for blisters or cramp or anything else, which seemed to be afflicting numerous people around the route.

It took me ages to get used to all the random people shouting my name. I remember several people at various points shouting for me like they really meant it, so much so that I was wondering if anyone else I knew had come down to watch!

My goal was to make it round within 4:30, but I wasn't too disappointed to miss it by two minutes, as it was so hot and so crowded. I was just so relieved to make it round relatively unscathed!

What I'd do differently: not taking two months off running for injury rehab would be a good start. Bearing that in mind, there wasn't much I could have done differently really, except maybe wear sunblock.

How I celebrated: by treating myself to a pair of very expensive and runner-unfriendly shoes!

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