It was much warmer than expected - I did the 2003 London marathon in torrential rain and cold, so was expecting similar! The weather forecast was to be damp, cool and overcast so, despite start conditions of bright sunshine and very little breeze, I started off in a long sleeved (bright pink) Helly Hansen and white vest. My race plan was to take on water every three to four miles and aim for 3:30.
By two miles realised that I was overdressed and badly overheating, but couldn't ditch the vest (since had number and sponsors logo) nor wanted to bin pink top (expensive, hard to find and essential for winter runs and ski holidays).
I decided to soldier on, since I was hoping to see my family supporting at around halfway. I past the Holy-water-sprinkling-priest (a bit confusing for Asian runners, I think), booed and hissed at Blue runners when we joined them at three miles, enjoyed the Kodo drummers below the underpass at around five miles, swung around Cutty Sark and on towards Tower Bridge.
I was feeling very hot and sweaty but taking on water – I stumbled past the Lucozade stations where the road is like fly-paper. I'm sure the back runners lose lots of time unsticking their trainers from the ground. I actually felt okay, but realised I was going too fast so tried to tell myself to slow up... this isn't really possible when you're going over Tower Bridge and everyone is shouting your name and saying "keep going, you're doing well, only a little bit further!" I will try not to listen next time!
Then it was along the Highway - past half-way, past 14 miles, getting hotter and hotter - I knew my family were ahead somewhere, so stripped off my vest and pink Helly Hansen - I ran topless for a while, and got whistled at. I managed to struggle back into vest on its own - not easy when you're pelting along at eight miles an hour and when the vest in question is soaked with sweat.
Around 15 miles I finally saw my family and chucked them a dripping, pink Helly Hansen (nobody wanted to catch it) – I asked afterwards why they were so far along the course but the explanation was soon obvious: they were sitting in sunshine outside a pub with cold beers, chilled wine, etc, etc - hugely unfair.
Feeling refreshed I kept going and had first of my planned energy gels at 17 miles. The Docklands loop felt different going the other way round but I still felt okay past 20 miles and heading into Poplar High St. I managed to see my family again, as they had cleverly sneaked from 15 miles to 21 miles under the DLR at Limehouse. They said I looked okay, but I think I knew differently by then...
Past 22 miles and by now I was taking on water at each opportunity, pouring half over my head but still feeling hot. The showers along the course were great, but more would have been nice (especially one at the end - organisers please note).
I had planned to take another energy gel but by now was feeling pretty nauseous and although I swallowed two Jelly Babies (thank you to someone in the crowd for handing them to me) it was like chewing sawdust and the thought of consuming anything other than water would have had me in the gutter.
My speed was decreasing past 23 miles, and I felt both hamstrings starting to complain – I burst one last year so I was very cautious and decided to run-walk for a bit. My speed was now 11 minutes a mile, but that was the best I could manage.
I kept jogging/walking for the rest of the way - it was very tricky, especially along Birdcage Walk since huge crown shouting your name - "Not Far Now... Keep Running... You Can Do It..." and I'm thinking, "I know it's not far, otherwise I wouldn't be doing this!" Every time I tried to walk, I was bamboozled into jogging again.
Turning into the Mall, it was a massive relief to see finish line (as if I didn't know it'd be there) and I jogged home. I saw lots of others, then and on TV later, who obviously wanted a sprint finish but pulled up with torn or ripped hamstrings and calves, and seemed nailed to the ground with less than 100 yards to go.
It was a great feeling to cross the line - in 3:43 – I was a bit off target but really pleased nonetheless. Raising about £1000 for MEDICS was another big bonus.
I stumbled through the "paddock"; chip removed (thanks); got my medal (felt really heavy around my neck); took a goody bag; tried to drink water but almost lacked the strength to open the bottle; collected kit-bag and sat down. I only just managed to open the wrapper on the breakfast bar – it also tasted like sawdust and it took a long time to eat/drink something. I tried to stretch a bit, but my knees threatened to snap, so I thought better not this time.
I had arranged to meet my family for celebratory lunch in Covent Garden. It was only about half a mile away from finish area but a very long, slow walk for me. I began to feel better after several handfuls of sweets and a couple of cold beers.
Same again next year? Maybe, as long as you can promise it'll be cold and wet!