We finally passed Big Ben, turned the corner, and now I knew we really were heading for the Finish. Every step was an effort but I was still running, 800m to go, 600m to go, had to dodge round one of the crossing points as they changed sides – “it’s the same distance” they say, doesn’t bl**dy feel it – and then we turn the corner and I can see the finish gantry, keep running, keeping running, cross finish! Stop garmin. Cry.
My legs turned to concrete as I staggered forwards to get my medal and then the goody bag. It wasn’t far to the trucks to collect my bag and then I kept hobbling on towards the meet and greet where my family would be at the letter F. I had to stop a couple of times to put the bags down – I had far too much stuff with me in my kit bag, so I took it out of the red bag so I could carry it more comfortably and put my jacket on as I was cooling down fast. On my way to the letter F my husband suddenly appeared out of the crowd, which was lovely so I cried again. And then we got to the letter F and found my mum and sister and my friend, and that was it.
So, what now? I’m really pleased with my time, I took 17 minutes off my previous PB and I’m delighted that I ran the whole thing and didn’t walk a step of it. According to my garmin I ran at an average pace of 9:30 mm for the whole thing, so there’s a small part of me that’s annoyed I didn’t get closer to 4:10. I knew from early on that there was this drift between the distance on my garmin and the mile markers, and I know this is why people say that if you’re really going for a time you need to keep on the mile splits – I just couldn’t have upped my pace enough yesterday to keep where I needed to be for 4:10.
And finally, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of you who’ve posted on here and shared your training and encouragement and support over the last months, and to Angela for her expertise too. I’ve trained better than I ever have before because of you all keeping me going, the extra motivation to train when the evenings were dark and the weather cold was brilliant and it’s been a real joy to share the details of a good interval session or a new PB with you all. I’m really looking forward to hearing how CB69’s marathon goes next month!
Miles 6-12 I was feeling ok, but it wasn’t feeling effortless, so I was a bit concerned that I’d gone out too fast and was going to pay for it later. Seeing the Shard was cool, and then we rounded a corner and Tower Bridge was right in front of us! Running over Tower Bridge was probably my “wow” bit of the race, it was so spectacular and the crowds were just amazing here.
It was great seeing the halfway marker, but I was still a little worried about how my legs were feeling, and afraid I was going to end up walking a lot later on. Though I was trying to keep positive, the negative thoughts did tend to sneak in there: “you’re not good at this, when it gets tough you give up” kind of thing.
I knew my mum and sister would be in the crowds at around 15 miles, so I was frantically scanning the crowds trying to spot them – obviously I never did and they never spotted me either! So many people, even on the “quiet” Isle of Dogs. I had my name on my vest and got lots of shoutouts, which was amazing. I was trying to spot my mum and sister again as we went back past Westferry Circus, which was at least something to distract me from my legs, which were hurting pretty badly by now – nowhere specific, which I was reminding myself was a good thing, but just a general achy/tight feeling.
My plan was to take 5 gels, at 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20 miles, and I kept with this til the 16 mile gel. By 20 miles I was feeling pretty sick so I never had the 5th gel, I just kept sipping on water or Lucozade when I could manage that. I found that squirting water on the back of my neck was a good way of getting my mind off feeling icky, it would perk me up for a minute so I did that a few times.
Miles 20-24 are a bit of a blur for me already! I was still running and passing a lot of people who were walking, which was good. Although the runners were more spread out now, it was here that I really had to dodge people – I’d be going for a space and then it would disappear, or someone would start walking and I’d have to dodge round them. I was just focussing on keeping running, it felt like I’d slowed down a lot but when I looked at my watch my pace was still around 9:30-9:40, so I just kept telling myself that I was doing ok and that I just had to keep running like this. As we came on to the Embankment I was looking for Big Ben – it seemed so far away! But I was determined to just keep running and telling myself how mad I was going to be if walked now, having run all this way.
Getting of the train at Blackheath, I joined the masses of runners all making their way to the start. I was looking out for the bench by the church, where Angela and a few other forum runners had said they would meet. As I approached I could see at least 3 benches and was trying to figure out which was the right one, but then saw Angela so headed for that bench. Was great to finally meet up! And nice to meet Malcs and a few others too. I had a jacket on over my running gear but it was cold, so decided it was time to don my rather attractive black binbag skirt and poncho outfit at this point, and then we headed off to our respective starts, Blue for me. Got into the Blue start area, decided I’d better join a portaloo queue which filled the next 30 minutes or so. Then it was time to hand in my kit bag and get to the start pens. Reluctantly I took off my jacket from under the binbags, squirrelled away all my gels in various pockets, handed in my bag and headed for pen 7. At the back of pen 7 I found myself right by the 4:30 pacer but by going over to the far side of the pen I was able to make my way down the side to the front of the pen, and in fact I cheekily followed a few others forward into the back of pen 6. I was still a way behind the 4:15 pacer but at least I was closer to him than the 4:30!
I was surprised how quickly after the start we got going; very soon we were all walking forwards and then the start line was right there and it was time to start running. In the early miles I was really surprised how much space there was around me as I’d expected it to be more of a crowd. Everyone was running at a good pace and if anything, I had to try to keep my speed down (I wasn’t entirely successful in this…). Once we merged with the other starts it got a lot busier, not to mention more confusing, as when we merged with the green start I found myself behind the 4:45 pacer, though the 4:15 blue pacer was just in front of them. I eased past both pacers to find myself a bit of space and then just concentrated on hitting my pace. I had a 4:10 pace band on my wrist and was checking the mile splits as my garmin gradually got further and further out of sync with the mile markers. Up until mile 4 or 5 I was on target, but then either mile 5 or 6 (I’ve forgotten which), I was 30 seconds down, then a minute by the next mile marker, and I knew that I couldn’t up my pace from what I was doing without really risking blowing up later. From then on I didn’t check the pace band because I didn’t want to see how far behind I was.
Thanks for all your messages. You were all in my thoughts yesterday, and were one of the thoughts that spurred me on when it got tough!
Some figures for you to start off, and then I’ll post my full report – it’s a long one! I’m pleased to say that the figures show I ran a very even race (it certainly didn’t feel that way), reaching halfway in 2:06:13 and the finish at 4:13:22, so the second half was just less than a minute slower than the first. The 5k splits are also pretty consistent: 29:15, 30:13, 30:10, 30:03, 30:01, 29:53, 30:29, 30:17, with the last bit in 13:01.