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London was my first marathon. I did a half-marathon in 2001, and since then had been trying to get a place in London. It lived up to my every expectation. The promised rain never came, the sun shone to keep the spirits up, but thankfully it never got too hot. It was ideal for me, a first timer, and my supporters. They saw me at the start, then at six, 19, and 25 miles; I found them each time because they were holding red and green balloons on a stick - I even had time to kiss my daughter, Freya, at six miles.
The best thing was finding the Runner's World 10-minute mile pacer. I stuck with her for 20 miles, and this helped me enormously. But then I hit the wall and lost her. However the crowds were amazing, and without them the last six miles would have been more difficult, and my time would not have been so good.
I was chuffed, as my time was the best I could have hoped for. I am still wearing the medal and wonder how long I can do this for before I am guilty of self-indulgence. I am on cloud nine, and have found the whole experience so positive that I shall recommend it to all runners.
This was my second marathon, and I had high hopes of breaking four hours, having done my first, 2002, in 4:20.
I was on a delayed train from Charing Cross, so I didn't get to the red start until bang on 9.45am. I then realised I needed the toilet, so left the start and ran to a Portaloo. I didn't expect to be sitting on a loo at 9.50am!
The heat wrong-footed me; I was constantly aware of not going too quickly, too early, but having arrived late at the start, I was too far back, and felt I spent too much time dodging other runners/walkers. This continued for about 22 miles.
I couldn't work out how much to drink in the heat; I think my brain was well and truly frazzled for most of the run! Having said all that, I'm extremely proud of my achievement and no doubt will be back another time.
The highlight for me was turning the corner towards Tower Bridge. The hairs on my neck stood up as the noise of the crowd suddenly hit me in the face. I felt they were cheering just for me!
The worst moment was probably at about 19-20 miles when I knew I had to run steady nine-minute miles to get under four hours.
If I do it again, the only significant change I'll make is to try to start my prep before Christmas. I had a three-month lay-off from any running between September and December 2004 due to a leg operation, so I think with the extra weeks of effort, I'd crack that time!
My tip for anyone who doesn't already do it is to apply cotton wool with zinc oxide tape over your nipples. It worked a treat. Someone tell footballer Tony Cottee. Ouch!
|Helen O'Rourke, 4:38|
I loved your weekly emails. You do what you are told to do, no thinking involved. Could you extend it to non-running tasks? Monday, put wash on. Tuesday, M.O.T., Wednesday, have cat neutered, etc...
During the marathon my happiness was saved by a fellow runner on Blackheath. He told me not to hang on for the official loos, as they would be mobbed, but to jump into the gorse bushes before the heath ran out. Being an inexperienced, older female runner this did not fill my heart with glee. However, I took his advice and as it turned out to be good (I couldn't go before the race because the horrendous queues meant I would have missed the start). I guess I would have lost at least 10 minutes at the first set of loos as the queues were six or seven deep for each toilet. So a trillion thank yous to that far-sighted stranger.
I went on to have a fab race, although I was definitely penned-in by the volume of runners. But considering all the roadside casualties, perhaps this too was a lucky stroke.
The wait to get into the repatriation area was shocking by the time I got there. It took about half an hour to shuffle 200 yards, then it took about 20 minutes to shuffle back out again. What were the organisers thinking!
BUT the day was fantastic. Golden, in fact.
|Frances Shattock, 4:18|
I thought I knew what to expect, but the sheer number of runners, supporters and the amount of goodwill really did make the difference. I was planning to run on my own, as I thought I would find it difficult to be paced by someone else, but ended up running with a girl I met at mile three right up until mile 17.
We both kept each other going, and because we were talking to each other, the miles just flew by - I have never had such an easy 17 miles! As a result of that I am going out to join a running club - well, just as soon as I can walk again!
Unfortunately, things deteriorated rather after mile 17, and it was only the amazing crowds in Canary Wharf which kept me running up until 20 miles, and sheer will power which got me to the end. The aim was to get to the finish with absolutely nothing left - an aim I managed to achieve, as I was so tired I didn't even lift my head to look at the clock!
The most memorable moment: feeling the lift of the crowds running through Canary Wharf and someone yelling from the crowd 'don't forget that you're all amazing!'
What I will do differently next year: get more miles in. I completely underestimated how hard sub-4 was. I managed 4:18, so am looking to break the four-hour mark next time around. I can't wait...
If I can do then ANYONE can!
I don't think I am your normal runner as I still smoke, and I drink a little too much. I had a fantastic time, with several best moments along the way, including stopping off for a cup of tea at the 11-mile mark, where my friends live just 200 yards off the circuit.
People's comments about feeling like a movie star were certainly true of a lot of the course, especially the high fives, and coming out of the cool, quiet shade of the Blackfriars Tunnel to bright sunlight and the screaming crowds calling MY name. And running BEHIND the spectators to get round walkers was an adventure and surprised a few pedestrians.
Other memorable moments include: being hit by a flying (full) water bottle and thinking it was hilarious; remembering that two weeks before, I ran 21.5 miles and thought: 'I can do this'; thinking on the day: 'I'm doing this.'
My training started from a slow seven miles maximum, in December. An old knee injury put me out of action for 10 weeks, until six weeks before the race. But what the heck.
I started at the back of the red start with assorted fairies, rhinoceri and furry things. The whole race was about overtaking and I think I am not alone in wondering how many people were 'economical with the truth' as to their estimated times. I overtook 15-20,000 runners right up to the finish and it is obvious to you now that I am not an athlete, so I am sure that others had to do the same.
I am not complaining, however, as this was the real fun bit of my marathon (am I a masochist?) - weaving in and out of the packed course with hundreds of 'excuse mes' and 'sorrys' as I ran around the edges. Any rhythm was lost, but wow, it was fun, like running down Oxford Street during Christmas shopping.
The organisers must have got the last few mile markers wrong; they got further and further apart. I couldn't stop to walk though, as the crowds demanded more. Good for them.
A final burst was stimulated by the sight of the Cheeky Girls up ahead. I crossed the line with them.
Next time I won't get quite so drunk on the Friday and Saturday night before the race. I will also get in a 3:30 pen and probably manage the time without all that weaving. Maybe I should give up smoking too!
|Nikki Ballinger, 4:00|
I had hoped to finish the marathon in under four hours, but once the race started the time was not important. I completed it in 4:00:58: I know I lost time by not staying close to the blue line and high-fiving all the hands that were out stretched during the day, and trying to say thank you to everyone who shouted my name - but I would not have changed a thing.
People were calling my name within the first mile all the way to the end. The people shouting towards the end 'come on Nikki, only two more miles to go', and everyone who handed out the drinks, including the children, who were so full of encouragement. I will never forget it. I was so close to tears through so much of the race, thanks in large part to all the support from the crowds.
There were times when I know it was the support that got me through the hard parts, and I remember thinking to myself as I was running round, that I wished there was some way of letting all those people know just how important they were to the day.
The only thing that I can think of to moan about was trying to get out of the repatriation area after the race. That took a huge amount of time and at times you could not move forward, but hey, if that was the biggest problem of the day then I think it went okay.
If anyone from the Sofitel hotel ever reads this... a huge thank you for letting me walk into your very posh hotel to use your toilets after the race. You saved me from an uncomfortable journey home.
Finally a big thank you to Runner's World for posting the training guide onto the internet.
|Little Cat, 4:50|
I crossed the London Marathon start line on the afternoon of Saturday April 16.... to mark the finish of seven consecutive days of running from Paris to London, including the Paris Marathon on April 10. That's running between 26 and 32 miles a day – not exactly following the rules for tapering!!
As I started the London marathon on Sunday, I knew that if I could hang in there to the end I would complete the 232-mile Run Paris to London Challenge. I ran steadily and counted down the miles. Fellow runners read the label on my back which said "Paris to London, Cat, 8 marathons in 8 days" and took the time to touch me on the shoulder and wish me luck, chat to me, and generally boost my confidence and self-esteem with comments like "awesome" and "great job".
I had a big smile on my face for the last few miles, especially when I bounced over the final mat and made my way to meet up with my fellow RPTL runners and supporters, and share the bottle of bubbly.
This was one of my slowest marathons but it was also the most memorable. Thanks all you runners out there for all the support I received during the London Marathon. Thanks to Sarah, Gareth, Claire and David, and all my fellow runners on RPTL, for helping me achieve what is for me (a small, over-50 woman runner) an amazing feat (or is that feet? :-) ).
What an experience, made particularly sweet because I trained last year and had to withdraw, injured, just before the race.
While I was slightly disappointed by my eventual time (I suffered a bit in the warm weather and am still not getting the drinks and gels quite right), overall I didn't do badly for an old codger for the first time
Best moment? Although parental madness is confirmed for ever, it is more than offset by a significant leap in respect from the teenage offspring. Second best moment? The marathon training produced PBs for 20 mile, half-marathon and 10 mile races during the build-up.
Worst moment? I was stuck for a long time in the crush at the exit funnel after picking up my bag, and trying to get to the agreed meeting place. A tide of runners met a tide of spectators, and that was it. Also it took my family an hour and a half to get from the 22-mile mark to the finish, ie much longer than me.
Also, although the support along the route is legendary, for me, in the last few miles the sheer noise almost tipped over into intimidation.
Biggest surprise? How hard you have to concentrate for four hours to run in a road full of runners, quite a few of whom are stopping, starting, cutting in and out for wees and water etc.
Best moment to come: a long weekend away with my wife as a thank you for support.
|Gareth Steed, 4:25|
I did it! My God, I did it! But that was simply the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life.
After getting a couple of hours sleep after my, now traditional pre-race meal of pizza and red wine, we woke up to a gloriously sunny Sunday morning. This was much to our surprise as the weather forecast had predicted rain so we hadn't planned a trip to Spain for warm weather training and the winter hadn't furnished us with that many hot days. So off came the jumpers, thermals and ponchos, and off Gil and I headed to the train station for one of many queues we were to encounter that day. Eventually we arrived at the start area at 9.15am. The organisation at the start was brilliant, we dropped our bags off with TNT, got vaselined up (always a novel experience in front of 30,000+ people) and got to our start point with the masses.
And then we were underway! At 9.45 we set off at a slow walk till we reached the start line, where we began to run at a nice, steady pace. Instantly we were overtaken by a giant dog and Superman, followed very shortly by Scooby Doo. We didn't panic and just kept our pace up, passed the first mile point dead on 10 minutes and kept that pace going and sure enough, at around the fourth mile, there was that bloody giant dog, going backwards rapidly. My first small victory!
Then, by Cutty Sark, Superman succumbed to the heat (man of steel, my backside!) and we passed him, too. That just left Scooby Doo on my hit list.
We were still feeling good, if a little warm, and were taking on plenty of water, which has its pitfalls. So after another Paula-break and the offers of plenty of sweets and fruit (and the offer of a few beers, which was very tempting) from the crowds who lined the streets we finally reached the second major landmark: Tower Bridge, two hours into the race.
What an awesome sight it is, running under the bridge and trying to avoid Sally Gunnell's microphone. We were rapidly approaching the halfway mark and had maintained a good 10-minute mile pace so far. However both Gil and I were beginning to feel the heat now and were getting a bit tired. The muscles were working fine, the lungs were working well and Scooby Doo was still in my sights - I could tell by the many shouts of "Scooby snacks" and "Scooby Doo, where are you?" Secretly, I was beginning to feel sorry for him having to listen to that all the way round, but I was still going to beat him.
13 miles came and went, and then the halfway point in 2:10. We headed towards the East End at a good 10-minute mile pace, with fantastic crowds and a now very sun-tanned, bald head!
We went passed 14 miles, 15 miles, 16 miles and into Docklands and there was Scooby Doo, just ahead of me. Mine at last. Mwaahaahaa, mwaahaahaa! If it hadn't been for those pesky kids I'd have had him earlier.
The crowds thinned out a bit around Docklands, and we were now beginning to feel the pain. Our legs were very tired, and the lungs were beginning to ache, but we maintained our speed through the Docklands and back out into East London again. Now it was really hurting: mile 20 and Gil and I didn't have the energy to speak any more.
Then it happened! Mile 21 and I hit the wall. I'd never hit it before, and my God did it hurt. My body gave up, my legs were lead and my stomach began feeding on itself. Every ounce of energy I had left was going into propelling myself forward, and we still had five miles to run. By the time we reached Embankment, nothing around me mattered anymore.
My legs had totally seized up - trying to move one foot in front of the other was taking up all of my willpower and I was running on empty. By mile 24 I was at my lowest point. I was seriously wondering if I was going to make it. I was in extreme physical discomfort and I was beginning to have negative thoughts when, out of nowhere comes this hand from the crowd, holding the holy grail - a Kit-Kat!
Never have I been so happy to see a chocolate bar in my life. "You want this, mate?" came the voice, sounding like an angel from above, or at least as much of an angel as a 6-foot, chubby, cockney bloke can sound!
I would have hugged him if I'd had the energy to stop! It was enough sugar to give me the energy boost I needed to get another mile, and then it was only be 1.2 miles to go. By this time people were dropping like flies around me, I was still running - or a feeble excuse of trying to look like I was running - and just concentrating on keeping my feet going.
Finally I got to the 26-mile marker, though instead of marking 26 miles, it said 800 metres to go. Five or six more minutes running and I'd be there. It was the longest 800 metres of my life. All I could think about was not falling over. And finally I came round the corner onto the Mall and there it was, the finish line!
As soon as I saw the finish line I burst into tears - relief, emotional release, joy, pain, everything came flooding out. 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! I'd completed the London Marathon without walking, and I had my medal!
Things got kind of messy after that. I managed to keep most of my innards where they belonged, though most people around me seemed to be having trouble. I had to hang onto a barrier for a few minutes to stop myself from falling over, which worried one of the medal givers who came rushing over to make sure I was okay. I blubbed at him, sobbed a bit and I think he got the message that I was fine.
So what do you do when you've just run 26.2 miles and feel like death? Yup, that pint tasted good though the second wasn't such a good idea! However, walking into a pub in Notting Hill, being applauded and then having loads of attractive ladies coming to chat to you about the marathon was a bonus! I must go back to that pub again some time!
Thank you all of you who sponsored me and helped me raise over £800 for the Roald Dahl Foundation. You are all stars, and I couldn't have done it without your support.
The final word on the matter and the question everyone has asked: Will I do it again? No! Never! Well, until next time maybe.
|Mark Smith, 4:43|
You know you're in for a long day when you need a drink and a lie down through exhaustion at the start line of a marathon. Likewise you know you've had a hell of a day when you wake up the following morning in agony as much through sunburn as muscle strains.
Ordinarily, I'd be extremely disappointed with 4:38 for a marathon, when all projections indicated I could do inside four hours. Given the circumstances above though, I was quite chuffed with it.
I spent much of the opening few miles reflecting on the terrible trains at the start. I and thousands of other arrived at 8am in good time at London Bridge station for the nine-minute journey to the start. An hour later, what was only the third train came by and the first with room to take passengers.
At 9.30am we left Maze Hill Station and had a near two-mile run, all uphill with a bag of clothes, just to arrive at Greenwich Park for the start 30 seconds before the gun went. Deciding upon a quick start over stretching and using the loo, the majority of runners - myself included - set off with little if any preparation.
Having reached 15 miles three times in recent training, and on each occasion feeling completely fresh, it was disappointing to resort to walking by this point in the biggest one of all, but after having walked a total of four or five of the last 11 miles, it's satisfying to have knocked 25 minutes off last year's time.
At around 16 miles, I had only two remaining muscles in working order, and barely muttered to someone on the phone: "this is it - I'm not coming back next year to put myself through this again." As I received my medal and bag 90 minutes later at the finish, the lady said, "see you back next year?" I replied, "you bet you will - can't wait."
If some of the initial 24 miles had failed to live up to expectation, the last two along the Embankment and the Mall were every bit as good as last year. You cannot buy that feeling, but it seems need to go through absolute hell to experience it.
If ever there was a marathon of every emotion it was this. I laughed, I cried, went through agony and ecstasy. I've had some strange emotions since the race, too. The general consensus is that the medal says London Warathon instead of Marathon. I've also pondered how the free Pepperoni in the goody bag can contain 108% pork and also enquired to the missus if she fancies a trip down to Orpington to the naked fun run that was advertised in the free running magazine.
But, all in all, I'm left feeling a little like Tony McCoy in the National, or Jimmy White in the snooker. I do really well in the half marathons and the smaller events but can't get the big one right.
It may need a marathon without 'the masses' to break the four-hour mark, but that'll need finding one in October or November. Because one day the weather, the trains and the start will all fall nicely in my favour, but that'll have to wait for another year. A year and five days in fact, until April 23rd 2006. Maybe I'll nail it then.
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