The race got off to a good start. It was a lovely sunny day. The event start was well marshalled and I felt good at the start line and through the early miles. I found myself having to hold myself back to try and stay on track for my target time of 4:30. I was using my Garmin to pace myself and that had me bang on 2:15 at the halfway mark although the official half marathon split was 2:16.58. I did start to tire a little around the halfway point and I think may have taken a sneaky little walk break just before Tower Bridge!
Going over Tower Bridge was a high point and I was very much looking forward to seeing my wife Jo who had effectively done all of the training for it but pulled out after doing her longest training run of 20 miles with an injury which the physios think is Piriformis Syndrome (cures on a postcard please!). We had agreed she would spectate around miles 14 and miles 21 which are actually very close to each other on the course.
Well somehow we both managed to miss each other at mile 14 and I was quite upset that I had missed her. The last time I had done a marathon in 2005 she had missed passing me a sports drink at mile 17 because she had gone shopping for shoes and forgot the time! Well this time it was just too many runners going past. She stayed until the 2:45 mark and convinced I couldn't have been this slow (God bless her faith in me!) she moved on to mile 21.
I think my first cramp struck somewhere between mile 15 and 16. I had taken on plenty of fluids - mainly sports drink (if anything I thought I'd taken on too much as I felt a bit sick in my stomach). The cramping started in the top of both calves. Tried running through but it just seemed to get worse and if I ignored it, it went down to my achilles area - and I did not want to snap an achilles at this stage! I slowed to a walk waited for it to clear. Few hundred yards further it hit again and again. I was gutted. I was run-walking now. My 5K times slowed from a little over 31mins to 44mins in the 5K after the halfway point. I lost something like 15 over less than two miles so was basically walking more than I was running. I tried to stop and stretch it out but it did not seem to change things much. Another visit to the St John's Ambulance Station for replacement "raspberry" plasters was also needed around now!
Well I finally caught up with my wife just around the corner from Limehouse DLR station and to say I was pleased to see her was an understatement and vice versa - she thought something really bad had happened to me by now! After the biggest hug from her I found a new lease of life and "sprinted" off at about 9min miles!
Well the next 5Ks were a little better at 44 and 42 minutes so I was improving but still nowhere near where I wanted to be. I saw the first Runner's World Sub-5 pacer slip past me in Canary Wharf I think - I tried to keep up and failed. Then the Run-Walk one came past me at Blackfriars and I managed to stick with him just about through to the finish.
The support on the course was fantastic! Even though I hadn't got my name on my shirt plenty of people still gave me a thumbs up and encouragement. At one stage I thought I heard people shouting come on Fatman a lot and it took me a while to realise they were not shouting at me but at Batman who was running a few yards to my right. Got overtaken by all sorts - gingerbread man, pantomime camel, two guys carrying a surfboard (one of whom who had lost his wife only last year), two spitfires to mention but a few! I managed to pass Stella English on the Embankment and after confirming her identity as the winner of this year's Apprentice gave her a thumbs up! She was raising money for NSPCC and I hope she managed to keep going to the end.
I managed to run past the WRVS support team at Cleopatra's needle and, with befuddled brain at this point, only realising that I was supposed to look out for them there - I could hear "that was Darren" and turned and managed to give them all a wave!
A supporter on the turn into Parliament Square yelled at me I could do it and this led to my final big push. I managed to find 8min mile pace to push me along birdcage walk and felt strong - died a little as I came round the corner onto the mall and staggered over the line at 5:17.38 finishing 26,786 out 34,710 runners without even a blister to show for my efforts!
Next time I will register as a runner for Malta by virtue of my Grandfather - I would have finished fifth for Malta on the day and now be vying for a place on their Olympic team :)
The organisation at the end of the race was the best I had ever seen with baggage handlers spotting your number from many yards away to ensure your bag was ready (BAA please take note). A sit on the kerb and a well-earned recovery drink were the order of the day.
Managed to meet up with Jo on lower Regent St and attend the WRVS reception at the Sofitel St James. Good to see how all of the other runners for WRVS did so well (I think I was last in!). Back to the hotel in Greenwich for shower and something to eat, too stiff and sore for much sleep and then the drive home today. Legs still haven't forgiven me!
Total fundraising to date for WRVS on http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/wrvs is a few pounds short of £6,000 including pledges and gift aid so really pleased with that!