Your 2005 Flora London Marathon stories form some of the most uplifing pages we've published. If you haven't dipped into them, you really owe it to youself. Meanwhile, here's a mile by mile guide to the race itself, from some of those 400 wonderful accounts.
Before the race
Most Londoners will be extremely friendly – something that came as a surprise to Northern Monkey: “It started with a lift to the Tube station at 7.30am from a random bloke who'd been running earlier who noticed my kit bag and wanted 'to help save my legs for the race', continued with the Tube driver wishing all the runners all the very best of luck, and continued all day.”
Richard Sanders sums up the pre-race atmosphere at Greenwich: “For those uninitiated in the marathon, the build-up is a little bizarre – thousands of people sitting and standing around, all with one singular target, one goal, one mission... to go to the toilet before the race starts.”
If you’ve qualified as Good For Age, you’ll really appreciate the place you've been given on the Green Start. “It felt like being in the first-class departures lounge!” says Snuffles. Or you can while away the time waiting for the gun Trinity-style: “I arrived at the green start nice and early, and did a bit of celeb spotting,” she says.
Mile 1: Just another 25.2 to go
You might have to wait 15 minutes to cross the line, but don’t panic, just enjoy the moment (after all, your official timing begins when you cross the line). Minks says that the start was “one of the best moments of the race – crossing the start line and feeling that frisson of excitement as all the hopes, fears and dreams of the past few months' training crystallised into reality.”
Snowy389 was equally moved by the calm before the storm: “A memorable feeling for me was just the unspoken mutual respect you all shared for every other runner. I felt particularly emotional when the 'rhinos' lined up at the start and got an unprompted burst of applause from everyone near them and when all the thousands and thousands in Greenwich Park cheered when the race started.”
Unless you start right up at the front, you will find it takes a while for the crowds of runners to thin out sufficiently to allow you to run with your natural rhythm.
“I spent the first miles jockeying for space,” says Puffy, while Richard Sanders, contrary to most recommendations, decided the best strategy was to “jump in and out of the pack, up and down the pavement.”
Julia Williams wasn’t too worried about her pace at this point; she was busy soaking up the atmosphere. “This being Sarf London, children lined the route offering high fives as we went – and there were families partying in their gardens from the looks of things.”
You might have been running for 30 minutes by now, but you could still be settling into the groove. Simonlala was concerned about his heart rate. “I had trained for 30 weeks at 140 beats per minute and yet the first three slow miles were coming in at 153 beats per minute. Looking back, I guess this was a mixture of adrenaline and lack of sleep,” he says.
As the runners converge from their different start points the fun really starts. Bunions says he joined the masses “booing and hissing at Blue runners when we joined them at three miles!”
Some struggle with these early miles, like Graham Legs in Threads, who says: “I was finding it hard to get on the pace, I felt as if I was going backwards down the field. Being passed by a bloke dressed as a bunny girl didn’t help.”
Others, like Jenny G, got rather carried away. “I met up with my friend Jackie at around three miles after chasing at a faster pace than I'd wanted. It meant we'd all but abandoned the walk/run strategy in the elation of just doing the marathon. A BIG mistake…”
This is when you’ll begin to really enjoy yourself. “I was mentally and physically focussed and the first five miles went by in a blur of excitement,” says 3Legs.
Take care to appreciate the on-course entertainment. Bunions says he “enjoyed the Kodo drummers below the underpass at around five miles,” while Jo Phillips reckons the best bit was “seeing everyone doing the YMCA between miles four and five – what a sight!”
Mile 6 at Cutty Sark
Passing the Cutty Sark is an early confidence booster. Pearcehead says: “The Cutty Sark at six miles is fantastic. Although it’s a bit of a bottleneck, the crowds are very noisy and uplifting. It feels at that point as though the next 20 miles will be a cinch.”
...though it’s not necessarily so uplifting for the spectators, as Ace Racer discovered: “My wife, who has had to put up with the long runs, bad moods and injuries, was crying with emotion when she first saw me at Cutty Sark.”
People run the Flora London Marathon for all sorts of reasons, so while you have breath, have a chat to the people around you – you’ll hear some amazing stories.
Paul Craven says: “by far the most humbling experience are those runners you see with photographs of loved ones on their back, especially those of children no longer with us. It puts a lot of "normal" problems into genuine perspective.
You’re almost a third of the way through already, and should be feeling good. Chris Monks says: “I didn't really notice the miles going by at this stage. I was preoccupied with the other runners, the drinks stations and the cheering of the crowds. I was pleasantly surprised to see the eight-mile marker go by and the pain in my knees was still at a reasonable level.”
At a steady 10-minute-mile pace, this is where you’ll be as the winning woman finishes the race. Don’t panic though – they had a 45-minute headstart. If you’ve got friends and family out on the course, returning their waves and cheers will boost your mood for the miles to come. Holly-go-Lightly says that making contact with her dad en route made all the difference to her run. “The sight of my father, aged 60, dressed in yellow, standing on a council bin at mile nine with flags and video camera will stay with me for life. I don’t think supporters realise just what a difference they make,” she says.
Riv, whose birthday coincided with Marathon day, got extra support from the family: “the high point was seeing my family and friends around the course, especially when my daughter got herself up on a scaffold tower with a fireman's microphone to wish me happy birthday.”
It’s good to get into double figures – you should still feel fresh, and happy to let people overtake you as you tell yourself to stick to your schedule. “The first 10 miles were ok(ish). I ran/walked slowing at every mile marker to sip drinks, says Lennonesque. “All manner of life, flora and fauna, accelerated past me. Camels, wookies, caterpillars – I saw them all zoom by.”
Racing through the showers at mile 17
This is a crucial time to be on the lookout for dehydration. Keep drinking water and Lucozade Sport, but watch where you step as make a grab for that bottle. Crash Hamster says: “Mrs CH went down in a heap after treading on a discarded water bottle. By the time I had turned round and jogged back to her side, she had been helped to her feet by two other runners, who melted back into the throng. Heartfelt thanks, guys...”
Bunions found the drinks stations were, literally, a sticking point: “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.”
Crossing Tower Bridge is acknowledged as one of the best bits of the race, and Daily Llama knows why: “Running across Tower Bridge, the realisation dawned on me that I was running in the London Marathon, an experience I'll never forget.”
Old Woman says: “running over Tower Bridge (and even a short walk, I confess) was the highlight. The crowds cheered even louder on the bridge.”
Matthew Deller was amazed at just how many people were there: “reaching the crowds at Tower Bridge – what a lift; in places the supporters were eight people deep,” he says.
Once you’re over the bridge, you’re all but halfway. Depending on how fast you are going, you may get to glimpse the leading women coming in the other direction.
Kiwi Chica was overawed by the sight of them: “Off I ran over Tower Bridge and headed along the Highway to see the elite women heading back the other way. Everyone cheered like mad and I looked on in awe at how people can run that fast, then felt a bit ill that they'd done Canary Wharf and I still had it all ahead of me... and I'm sure it seemed hillier running it in the opposite direction this year...”
Not far behind are the elite men. Seeing the fastest runners going the other way was an inspiring sight for Dynamokev. “As I went up the Highway the lead group of elite men came past on the other side having done 22 miles. They got a huge round of applause from the runners alongside me and it reminded me that I was taking part in the same event as them. Fantastic.”
As you near the heart of the Docklands (no longer the quiet part of the course, as it used to be), the skyscrapers can play havoc with your gadgets, as Peter Freeman found. “I didn’t know where I was as the course was reversed from previous years, and my Garmin told me I was running 13-minute miles, then sulked behind the tall buildings…”
As you begin the final 10 miles of the race you may be forced to think solely of yourself, not your running companions. Rachel says: “My worst moment was having to say goodbye at mile 16 to my new running partner Julie from Blackpool, whom I met on the start line.”
Canary Wharf at mile 18
It’s that magical moment when the forum support team comes into view, with jelly babies and hugs galore. And it’s just when you need them, according to Little (not so) Fat Welshman. “The highlight was meeting the Runner's World Support Team at mile 17 – Meer, JJ, Littlesteph et al were just the tonic at the point in the race when things start to get tough,” he says.
But if you’re suffering, it’s not quite enough… Pompey Jon was beyond help: “my legs were really heavy, and no amount of water, bananas, energy gels or jelly babies were waking them up,” he says.
This is where things can sometimes begin to get really tough, as Burner found: “My worst moment was when I hit the wall at mile 18. I was running on my own, and it felt like the world and his wife were streaming past me.”
Fortunately, the crowd know how to lift your spirits. Charles Howard says: “At 18 miles, the engine stopped and I was forced to walk into the realisation of what running is really about. A wall of noise came from my left hand side: 40 to 50 people screaming my name, telling me to get moving, not to give up. I could not look at them because I would have cried.”
As the ache in your legs becomes impossible to ignore, you reach the twistiest bit of the course, making it hard to stick to your rhythm. As Wixey says: “the twists and turns felt as though they'd never end!”
One or two narrow sections at this point can also make life very hard, especially as by now some runners have run out of energy and may be walking, as Alison Salmond discovered. “The worst bit was being shoved into a one-lane road in the East End. It was hard to maintain a pace and very hard to bear: I couldn't stretch my legs out. I started to feel very stiff and aching in my hips and knees because of this.”
This was a low point for Minks, too: “why do the organisers insist on cordoning off half the road to contain the crowds when there are virtually no crowds in this area?” she asks. “It made trying to keep to target pace quite difficult and it was almost impossible to avoid abandoned water bottles and other obstacles. I trod on a water bottle and nearly sprained my ankle – by some miracle the pain was temporary and I was able to carry on, but if it had ruined my race I would have been devastated.”
For most runners, passing the 20-mile point breaks a major psychological barrier, and if things are going well – as they were for Sodahead – it’s a great moment. He says his best moment of the race this year was “getting to the 20-mile marker and knowing that I could have a "mare" last 10K and still get an AAA Championship Place for 2006.”
Not that it’s easy to gauge how you’re doing after so long on your feet – “there was no chance of me doing any calculations after 20 miles!” says K2, “I had to run without having any idea of overall pace.”
Evil Pixie was another runner who was arithmetically challenged: “calculating times and even location despite just passing a mile marker made me cry as I couldn't work it out!!”
You’ve come a long way, but it might not seem like it. “Around the 21-mile point you turn back towards the river and you can see the Millennium Dome. All I could think was that I had run for hours but had probably only done three miles as the crow flies...” says Little Nemo.
Now it’s time to repeat your mantra, which in Pompey Jon’s case was “Under 10K Jon, under 10K...”
However bad you’re feeling now, you still have to keep your wits about you, as the Treadmill Trainer found to his cost: “At about 22 miles I was following someone else who was moving at a similar speed to me along the middle of the road. He suddenly, and without any warning, decided to stop and walk. I crashed into the back of him, and in trying to avoid the collision I ended up in the crash barriers used to keep the crowds off the road. By the time I'd checked myself out, regained my composure, and got back to my original speed, I reckon I'd lost about a minute, which, in the end denied me what would have been a negative split for the race.”
Running down Embankment at mile 23
Three miles from the finish you’ll have ever-increasing crowd support to help you find new reserves of strength. Hellybell says: “I have to say that the crowds lifted me and virtually carried me the last few miles – I didn't know so many people knew my name (it was on the front of my shirt!).”
If you’re feeling okay, seeing others in trouble can be distressing. Hopper says: “my worst moment was seeing so many runners starting to fail after about 23 miles.”
For Dazza B, mile 23 was something of a revelation: “after 23 miles when I discovered it hurt my knees more to walk than to run. The pain was bad, but by plodding along I managed to complete the course without stopping – one of the goals I set myself at the outset.”
This is the moment when the realisation that you are about to complete the marathon dawns, and the crowds along the Embankment have to be heard to be believed.
“From 24 miles onwards felt very emotional and I'm sure I had tears running down my face as I started to realise that I was going to achieve my goal,” says Coventry Cat. “My legs were still with me and with the crowds were deafening me – I WAS going to just keep on running...”
“I was aware that for the last two miles the crowds were huge and everyone was shouting my name, but I was in the zone and just had to finish,” says Ace-Racer. Nick Miller relished the moment: “towards the finish, the crowds along the Embankment were astonishing and it felt like I was winning the race just because of the sheer support,” he says.
If you have the strength to do it, responding to the spectators will fire their enthusiasm, as Mark Irvine found. “One of the best moments for me was the last three miles, where I got the crowd going by putting both my hands to my ears as if to say “I can't hear you... when they responded it was a sensational feeling.”
Big Ben has never looked as good as it does just past the 25-mile point of the London Marathon. If there is anything left in your legs, you’ll feel fantastic, as Acer did: “Seeing that I had to get from Big Ben to the finish in eight minutes to get under 3:45, I promptly put in a 7:50 mile. Where that came from I really don’t know.”
Or, like Sodahead, you might be overcome with relief that you’ve nearly finished. “The worst moment was mile 25, the feeling of running as hard as I physically could but knowing that I was slowing down and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.”
Unbelievable as it might sound with 30,000 people running, you might even see a familiar face. It happened to Philip Bosworth: “At the start a fella tapped me on the shoulder pointing out that we were running for the same charity – his name was also Phil, also from Liverpool, also his first marathon. The low point for me was when we got separated at eight miles. The high point was when I saw the back of his head again at 25 miles and we ran the last mile together.”
Suddenly, the agony evaporates. You pass Buckingham Palace (wondering if the Queen is watching from her window) and run towards the finish.
Jason Campbell says: “The best moment was the support of the crowds in the last mile and a bit, as they could see I was in pain, but were continuing to lift my spirits by calling out my name and giving me the energy to reach the finish line.”
Now even the most exhausted of runners rediscover their competitive spirit, as Charlotte Maddison recalls: “Getting overtaken by a Womble in the last mile provided the final surge to pick things up. I thought ‘if he can do this in that suit, in this heat then so can I’. I managed to overtake him... I’m not usually that competitive, but it made me feel better.”
Don’t forget to savour the moment. “As soon as I saw the finish line I burst into tears – relief, emotional release, joy, pain, everything came flooding out,” says Gareth Steed. “I must have looked like a right loony, hobbling up the Mall, sobbing like a child, but I didn't care. There was nobody else around me, no spectators, no crowds, no noise, nothing – just me heading towards the finishing line. I crossed the line in 4:25 but I didn't care about the time. I'd done it!”
You've done it!
You’ve done it! Make sure that your supporters have a clean hankie for you at the finish – you might well need it. Cheeko says: “I couldn't stop crying after I got my medal and all the way through to the repatriation area to meet up with my husband, who was worried something terrible had happened because of my emotional state!”
Higo was in much the same state: “the tears came – I'd done it, after all the hard work, focus and determination, I'd actually run 26.2 miles. I proved impossible is nothing, pride is everything.”
Milk says that for him, completing FLM was a life-changing experience: “it was my first marathon, I had completed it, and I had learnt more in four and half hours than I have in three years of non-competitive running.”