Now I was into unknown territory beyond my longest training run. Still I was feeling quite confident, but the pain was definitely increasing and it felt like I was slowing down. Now I was almost 8 minutes behind the ten minute per miles pace but I knew I could possibly sneak under 4hrs 30mins if I could increase the pace. Macmillan cheers were gratefully received at mile 22 and I passed Tower of London at 23 without noticing it at all! Somewhere was a tunnel and this was where I decided to try a bit of walking to conserve some energy. This was actually very difficult as my legs seemed to want to go faster by themselves! So I ended up walking very fast for half a minute and decided to just run again!
With mile 24 passed I was clocking 4hrs 10 minutes, so I had to do the last 2.2 miles in under 20 minutes! The sight of Big Ben as well as knowing the wife was at the Macmillan 25 mile point gave me the added boost I needed to up the pace despite the numbing pains. Even my arms were aching now! I caught sight of the OH just in time and this was all I needed – 2kms left, time 4:18 – under 6 mins per km would normally be no problem, but after 25 miles? I somehow found the extra strength and energy and started overtaking the many stragglers and casualties stretching on the pavements. It felt like I was sailing past (I think runners slowing down gave that illusion!) and felt like dodgems. Now I was fully concentrated on that time goal and Parliament, Birdcage walk, even Buckingham Palace went by in a blur as I “sprinted” past the countdown markers – 800m, 600m, - then the finishing straight –what a glorious sight and one I would never have guessed I would ever see in my wildest dreams a few years ago. I made sure there were no rhino costumes or panto horses nearby and raised my hands up high crossing the finishing line in…4:29.31 !!! Medal proudly worn! Dream goal achieved first time. I wouldn’t have to re-run it again! I’ve done it, the biggest challenge of my life, 4 months of gruelling training in pelting rain, wind, snow, sore nipples and blisters, all in the past!
First 7 miles - this flew along, the two separate red and blue starts converged after 2 miles – this is when you realise how huge this event really is as the road started getting quite congested and you have to avoid those who suddenly stop to walk. One or two who had tripped were being treated on the road in some distress. One thing you soon notice is all the bottles strewn across the road at the water stations which you have to keep an eye on to avoid twisting an ankle! The first of six Macmillan cheer points was met with loud enthusiastic supporters, then the recently restored Cutty Sark came into view, the first of many famous landmarks on the route where an even larger crowd had gathered, some perched precariously from window ledges!
Next 6 miles took us through the Surrey docks and Rotherhithe, the streets still lined with cheering supporters offering all sorts of snacks, music pumping out from pubs and bands along the way making it such a carnival atmosphere. The sight of the tip of the Shard was welcome as we knew Tower Bridge – and the halfway point - was not far. Mile 12 passed and my watch said 124 mins which was a few minutes behind schedule. Then you turn the corner and catch sight of Tower Bridge. What a glorious sight to behold on a sunny day! The crowds here were even thicker and willing everyone on. This was the best part of the course so far and only London could provide such a magnificent, historic setting! The half-way point came and was a mixed blessing – yes you had less than half to finish, but you also saw the faster runners coming back the other way at their mile 22 point, 9 miles ahead of you! Here, there was more support from the team at the second Macmillan point. Another welcome boost for the legs which were tiring, and I could feel a blister hot spot on the right foot arch, and painful toe nails on the left foot! I dreaded to see my feet at the end of the race.
Miles 14 to 20 took us onwards to Canary Wharf where I had told my family to join the mile 15/18 Macmillan cheer points. This thought drove me on until I saw them there at the front waving and I had to stop for a minute to honour their patient support for me. Apparently I was still looking quite fresh at both stops and was still only a few minutes behind 4:30 schedule. The roads were getting very cramped in this section and I had to dodge many walkers here, surprisingly still feeling quite good myself – I think the early conservative pace had helped. My second gel was taken after mile 14. Now I was looking forward to mile 17 and the Runners’ World support group 3 where I was to pick up my last gel. As the yellow and blue balloons came up I looked hard but couldn’t see my group, and almost ran past until I heard a cry of Louie from a familiar face! It was another boost to see a recognisable face in the crowd, albeit from a forum picture! At mile 18 I saw the family again waving madly but did not stop this time and headed towards the Skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. At this stage you had to concentrate a lot more to maintain your pace as the tiredness and pain was slowly kicking in. I didn’t realise I was next to 1 Canada Square until I looked up!
Sorry if it rambles on a bit – it’s for my own keepsake!
Well, the day started with great excitement and anticipation for my first ever marathon. Got out of bed 5.30am after a sleepless night and followed my detailed day of race plan of porridge breakfast, crumpets & plenty of hydration and anti blister plaster on my troublesome right foot. Greased whole body and feet with vaseline, all important plaster on nipples to avoid the dreaded chafing and did last minute checks and long toilet stop! Then it was time to leave.
It was amusing seeing all the red kit bags in the train carriage growing larger with each stop until London Bridge. On the train to Blackheath we were all packed in like sardines before finally being let out in relief! I was trying to absorb in all the experience – sights, sounds, smells - and the crisp, sunny morning just made it all the better.
Then you enter the runners’ only Blue Start zone and that’s when it hits that you are actually part of the biggest fundraising event in the world! It was hard concentrating on what you had to do with the time ticking by – drinking fluids, queuing for the toilets, kit bag on the lorry, back to the toilet queue!
All the while, the big screen was showing the start of the women’s race, wheelchair race, and then it was time to line up in your pen. Mine was meant to be pen 9, the slowest one, but I merged into the back of the next one since the barriers were removed and I wanted to get nearer the Runners World 10 minute per mile pacer which I never succeeded as he was too far ahead at the start!
Then the race started… Everyone cheered and we all shuffled forwards about one metre then nothing happened! Now was the wait for the thousands and thousands of runners to cross the start line. There was even time to follow the other guys and run off to the urinals for the last minute emptying – I managed to run the whole course without a single toilet break! - and rejoin the starting line up again. We were all nervously chatting away and wishing good luck and before long it was time to start my Garmin stopwatch as I crossed the starting line, and waving to the TV cameras along the whole route of course!
My dream goal plan for the race was to keep to around 10 minutes a mile pace if possible which would see me in under 4:30 mins if all went well, but I didn’t know whether the later miles would hit me hard as the dreaded WALL! The longest I had ever run before was a 20 miler in training on the “3 days a week, 16 week get you round training plan” provided in the Official Marathon magazine. As they say, the race only starts from the last 6 miles! I would still be happy with a 5 hour finish time, but the temptation to go for a quicker time was overwhelming.
The supporters were fantastic and noisy all along the route and it was definitely a great idea to have your name on the vest. Hearing people cheering your name really gives a boost, especially for the last few painful miles. My first Lucozade energy gel was taken at mile 5 and my stomach felt a bit tender for a while despite drinking water with it.
Many thanks group 3 to all your hard supporting work on the day! Especially Caz for spotting me and shouting my name - I was looking out hard but it was surprisingly difficult to spot you!
Thanks also for the speedy gel giving - it was a big boost to see you guys cheering us on and knowing you were all there waiting at mile 17.. In summary, I achieved my "dream" goal of getting under 4:30 at my first attempt! Now I dont have to do it all again !?
I'll try and get a race report up as soon as I can get out of bed - I'm aching everywhere at the moment!