My London Marathon 2011 (3:48)

My memories of yesterday

Posted: 18 April 2011
by running elmo

This was my first marathon and I can only descibe it as the most INCREDIBLE but also the most AWFUL experience! I will never forget the mix of highs and lows... and the sheer strength of both emotions.

I run a lot of mileage and was expecting to find things relatively OK yesterday until the last 6 miles (when I had my 'emergency' mix all set on my iPod!)

Oh dear. Mile 15 and it felt like mile 20!  I'm not sure if it was the heat (it felt like we were running in 50 degree sun!) or the sheer number of runners on the road (I started in Pen 4 but still really struggled with the congestion, and not just at the start - all the way round), but I realised as I came into Canary Wharf that this was going to be MUCH harder than I had ever anticipated.

I don't know how I got from Canary Wharf to mile 20, I have no memory of it at all. I had already used my emergency iPod mix and was now listening to 'Zhombie' on repeat (which had never been a favoured song before but somehow had the right mix of angst and uplift yesterday). From mile 20 onwards all I was thinking was 'just get to the next mile marker and then I will walk'... and then kept on running thinking the same thing.... 

This worked until mile 24... until... with the mile 25 marker coming up... I SAW... IT WAS THE 40K MARKER INSTEAD! It sounds ridiculous looking back (given that the mile 25 marker was only about another 200 metres on!) but I was SO upset and angry... swearing at the organisers under my breath for doing something so stupid and thoughtless as putting a 'km' marker there! I walked from the 40K to the 25 mile marker and then started to run again. I think someone must have doubled the length of the Mall though... Surely those 800m and 600m To Go signs were at least a mile apart?!

So, in summary i found it VERY tough, but was still managing to run reasonable splits right until that last mile. It is funny looking back to the thoughts going through my head at the time.

Now on to the good parts, and why I would advise anyone to run VLM. The crowds were simply INCREDIBLE. It's hard to get into words how overwhelming it got at times. For example, the first few miles both sides of the street lined with layers of people, kids high-fiving, bands playing, loudspeakers from every pub. Add to the mix that you are surrounded by people running for charities and it's quite an amazing mix. There were a few times when i actually could have cried (in a good way, not from pain!). I'll never forget Canary Wharf.  Crowds ten people deep all screaming like a wall of noise. AMAZING!

Memories i'll never forget:

- the crowds and noise of the first three miles

- the priest outside his church blessing us all with holy water

- the booing and hissing as the two starts joined! ("who are ya!")

- all the pubs with outside parties and loud music/people shouting. There was one big grey pub throwing streamers.

- the steel band under the roundabout/subway bit (dont remember where but early enough for me to still be enjoying things). You couldnt hear yourself think, it was incredible!

- Canary Wharf - oh my god. The hugest crowds you ever saw all the way around. The WALL of noise from both sides.

- the 'tunnel of doom' towards the end... silence and ppl just collapsing on the sides of the tunnel

- Other runners: Backwards running man. The blind man being led through (he was quick!). Fellow Oxfam runner who made a new world record as the fastest man in a sumo suit. Man who ran in a gas mask(!).  Overtaking a man who was on his SECOND loop of the course. Another older man who was doing his 100th marathon. The two people dressed as beer bottles (who i never managed to pass!). Being passed by Fred Flintstone. The army guy carrying a HUGE weight on his back with drill seargent next to him screaming 'YOU CAN DO THIS' over and over again. The two rhinos I passed (amazing).

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Discuss this article

This made me laugh out loud - yes, the km marker appeared before an earlier difficult mile marker, and I cursed VLM and its theatre of cruelty. Who measures a 26.2 mile race in kms?! Heat was bad. Had the same experience as you from miles 15-25. I did, however, love the tunnel of doom. It had portaloos and was a rare oasis of shade! I'm glad I missed the priest. I'm not sure at that point I'd've seen the funny side.
Posted: 20/04/2011 at 12:00

I ran my first London Marathon since 2008 mainly due to a knee injury that's taken 2 years to heal and settle down. I was not that confident at the start with only 110 training miles since January 1st with a calf injury disrupting my training in mid Feb/March. I was fine really at halfway going through in 2:15 thinking sub 4:30 was possible. But, after about 16 miles I hit the wall and basically struggled the last 10 miles coming in a disappointing 5:12. But looking back that wasn't bad considering such low training mileage. I checked my training diary from the 2006 FLM and I did 255 training miles finishing in 4:24 in perfect cool drizzly conditions. That's my point, I put it down to the heat after a fairly cool cloudy start - after about 75 minutes from the start the clouds broke up and the sun came fully out. I did the FLM 2007 and that was worse with temperatures around 25C. The heat makes a huge difference even though I drank enough water and Lucozade Sport.

The crowds were simply amazing and deafening at times especially at Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, The Embankment and Birdcage. I've never seen that sort of numbers which obviously the weather played a part. I found the last 4/5 miles really diffcult and was absolutely done-in at the finish line. I said never again in the race at the tough part, but here I am now intending to run the 2012 VLM - it just gets you hooked the VLM!! I know I can run a PB with more training miles and better preparation - I'll be there next April at Greenwich!

Posted: 20/04/2011 at 12:31

haha - the km thing still makes me laugh looking back but I'll never forget how disheartened that extra 200metres made me!  Good point re tunnel of doom and the shade - you saying that does make me remember how notably cooler it was!  so - you going to go again?!
Posted: 22/04/2011 at 10:30

LHBH - who measures a 26.2 mile race in km?

Perhaps the question should really be who still measures a marathon as 26.2 miles?!!
Posted: 22/04/2011 at 21:55

Who measures a 26.2 mile race in Km?  Everyone on the continent of course!
Posted: 22/04/2011 at 22:38

@Running Elmo, hell to the yes.

2011 was my first one, and I ran the same time as Lance. Due to injuries in both feet I'd had to stop all training 6-7 weeks before, so really it was a fool's game running a whole marathon on only fractionally over half marathon fitness. I might have dropped out, but felt I had an obligation to try and run as I'd already raised so much money and was in on a charity place.

For the first half I ran with RW pacers on 11-minute miles. But once that heat kicked in at 15, it really was one mile at a time. I stopped just after every mile marker from 16 onwards. Felt irregular heartbeat, woozy round the edges, basically early warning signs of heatstroke, so I figured snail's pace and regular stop and stretch breaks were the only way to go. But although I stopped many times, like Haruki Murakami, I never walked.

There was an elderly woman called Doris hovering near me for most of those last tough miles, and every time I ran on after stopping at a marker, ruddy dynamo Doris caught me up again! She really did function as a continual inspiration/humiliation to just keep picking my feet up and plough on.

I wasn't in good shape afterwards due to totalled feet, heavy head cold and bad reaction to gels, but it's amazing how Terminator-like the human body is in hastily smelting itself back together. Within hours I was weighing up the possibility of another on the train home. Main thoughts could be summarised thus: <Likelihood of doing another in short order?  Unappealing. Likelihood of not doing another *fairly* soon? Highly implausible.>

I think what kicks in here is a quote I like about yoga - I'm no yogi but it was something along the lines of 'Yoga is a way of getting your body to do extreme things, and then working you whether you can achieve those extreme things more naturally and easily'. The final miles were horrendous, but the experience was still grimly fascinating. The thought begins to hover...How can you do it a second time, and make that extremity go easier?

Posted: 24/04/2011 at 17:57

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