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Best moment: two moments really stand out and it's hard to say which was better. The first was going across Tower Bridge – it was absolutely heaving with spectators, basking in sunshine with great views across the city. I ran over it with a huge grin on my face and loads of people shouting my name - it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! The other was shortly afterwards at 14 miles - 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.
Worst moment: my calf muscle starting to cramp just before the Runner's World cheering point. I was all set to look out for the team 8 supporters when I had to concentrate on kicking the cramp out without stopping. Had to do this intermittently until the finish but thankfully didn't lose too much time.
Biggest surprise: I was expecting a lot of congestion at the start and first few miles, so was somewhat stunned to cross the blue start from pen 3 in 20 seconds and had a clear run all the way round. Another surprise was the weather. I wasn't expecting it to be that hot!
Most memorable moment - loads of them. The huge crowds all round the course (I only recall two underground passages and a short stretch of the Docklands with no support), having my girlfriend and family cheering me on at three points around the course, people screaming encouragement all the way round and the final mile or so with many of London's sights seen from a completely new perspective.
What I would do differently: drink more in the first half. I probably drank about the same as I had in long training runs, but this was much hotter and I was running faster than long run pace - hence the cramping calf. I knew I must have been heavily dehydrated by the end as my face and hair were covered in salt.
Key to my success: I adapted to the problems I was having. My goal was 3:15, but was quite happy to settle for sub 3:20 as this still beat my PB by over 18 minutes. Had I tried to carry on going for 3:15 I would have cramped completely and walked the rest or maybe even worse.
|Dirty Den, 3:27|
This year I trained hard for the London Marathon, missing just three weeks with a bad ankle injury. I'm 57, and I run with Clowne Road Runners and Worksop Harriers.
At 20 miles I was feeling great, enjoying the support and atmosphere, with the bonus of getting a nice tan. I got through 20 miles around 2:26 - plenty of time to get my automatic entry for next year.
At 21 miles I started to feel dizzy; it couldn't have be lack of water as I had been drinking plenty. I managed to get to the finish in 3:27 - I was a bit disappointed, but feeling the way I did I was just glad to get there, over the finish, medal round my neck.
I walked past the St John's Ambulance Tent, then the next thing I remember is waking up on a stretcher with suckers on my chest, drip in my arm. It was a saline solution I think - I would have liked it to be Guinness...
For the next two hours I had doctors and the St John's staff in full attendance, giving me drinks and keeping me warm. Their attention to detail was magnificent. My blood pressure had dropped to 80/60, which they couldn't understand. It was soon climbing back up, and once and only once were they sure my body was functioning as normal would they let me go.
It is only at times like this that you realise what a wonderful contribution to the London Marathon the St John's perform - well done guys, you deserve medals too.
To make my day complete I was able to raise over £500 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, and boy was I glad to get to Trafalgar Square, where sandwiches and a hot drink were laid on for the runners. The best bonus - a free massage for my tired legs.
I had prepared well, even getting everything was laid out ready the night before so that I didn't disturb the family at 6am. When I got to the start I couldn't find my pace notes, so had to resort to mental arithmetic. I really wish I had paid more attention in school, because I just could not multiply 6.52 x 26.2, no matter how hard I tried.
By the time I got to 20 miles I knew that sub 3:00 was out of the question, so I relaxed and enjoyed the run home far more.
Thanks to Mike Gratton and to my new club Severn AC for the amazing eight-minute improvement in my PB. Last year I was exhausted at 3:16, this year I even had reserves at the end.
Thanks also for the delightful rivalry that forum runners have provided - you know who you are.
|Matt Essex, 3:39|
What a fantastic experience the Marathon was. It was my first one and I never thought it would be possible to enjoy something that was so painful! Having set myself a target of four hours I was delighted to come home in 3:39:30 - largely due to a rule-breakingly fast first 20 miles, just hanging on for the next 4.2 miles and then forcing myself to carry on for the last two.
The worst moment: on Birdcage Walk. I was so tired that I was struggling to run any more and was being overtaken by a lot of people. Eventually I put in a half stride to start walking, but took it back out again when sanity suddenly took back over... 600m from the finish and you want to start walking now?
The best moments: taking that stride back out; crossing the start line; the crowds; the noise; going past the landmarks you've seen on telly and thinking 'I'm actually doing this'; the other runners; the bizarre conversations you find yourself having along the way; the sense of fulfillment; the whole thing, from start to finish.
Biggest surprise: I had two, the first being that I finished so far in advance of my target (although my training had made me think I would get round in 3:50); the second that I actually enjoyed it. I had convinced myself it would be hard and that I wouldn't be able to have fun, but even when I was really struggling I was still smiling, or is that grimacing?
I can't wait to give it another go. Under 3:30 next time!
|Burned Out Boy, 3:39|
It was my intention to draft behind the Kenyans (honest!) but I ended up watching Gordon Ramsay regurgitating the contents of his stomach at mile 22 (hopefully not from his own cuisine!) Well done Gordon, you are mortal after all.
|Tony P, 3:43|
This was my first marathon. I was looking towards it with much excitement and I must admit that I was not let down! Crossing the start line felt good and the crowd support was excellent all the way. Putting my name on my vest helped as many were shouting encouragement. The atmosphere was indescribable.
The best moment was seeing 11 members of my family cheering me on. I managed to see them at three different spots which was something to look forward to. A big thank you to them and all the crowd for the support.
The worst moment was at about mile 23, when the balls of my feet started to hurt and I was getting a couple of small cramps. It made the last three miles uncomfortable, but I was determined not to stop.
Crossing the finishing line gave me a great sense of achievement, and my first though after that was that I want to do it again next year! Mad? No, very happy, and still on cloud nine!
|John Diffey, 3:05|
I had trained hard for months: my wife and kids supported me on the day, which was nice. I ran well, doing a PB of 3.05. It was a great race and I had a lump in my throat at the end!
Afterwards, I walked slowly to meeting point 'D' to repatriate myself with my loved ones, bag of goodies and medal in hand. My children saw me, ran towards me, my arms open for embrace... they ran past me, and both dived into my goody bag. "Dad, Dad, can we have the Jelly Babies?"
Well, I suppose it might mean more to them when they know what 26.2 miles actually is!
An awesome day, culminating in my first sub-3:15 run - I have been close several times, but breaking the barrier still feels brilliant five days later.
The worst moment was mile 10, where I was only just inside even pace, and doubts flooded the mind with memories from London 2004 when I started too quick, and slowed a lot after mile 16. I gave myself a good talking to, and recalled the Rome Marathon five weeks previously, where my training partner and I had a magnificent and very relaxed run, finishing in 3:17.
That day I had acted as pacer to help him break 3:30 for the first time - so in London I mentally reversed roles, and imagined him giving me the advice I had been offering as encouragement. But at least I managed to not tell myself the terrible joke I had saved until mile 20 in Rome: "why don't skeletons run marathons? Because they have no guts!" That would have done me in!
These mental tricks and a mile-by-mile approach gave the best moment - reaching mile 24 with 18 minutes to complete the last 2.2 miles, with strength still in my legs. Finally, the dream seemed possible.
And then came the second worst moment: calf cramp after speeding up in that 24th mile! Of course, this was the point where my good wife chose to support, so my claim to have been "overtaking people from start to finish" suffered a reality check. Luckily I was able to jog out the cramp, and then get back to sub-eight-minute mile pace for the last mile by concentrating on a relaxed running style.
Running the second half only 1:13 slower than the first was a real achievement for me, and required a lot of focus. My heart rate was a steady 153 bpm for the first 10 miles, but then rose slowly but surely, reaching 171 in the last mile as I concentrated on the split times.
Having faith in the training to push into a new zone of endurance, and the power of positive thinking were both key.
The biggest surprise: the crowds, they were simply incredible. The din was and encouragement was unbelievable. Thank you!
What I would do differently: not run a marathon five weeks beforehand, especially at almost target pace.
The key to my success:, quality miles with a group of friends, including most long runs on hilly forest trails which built strength and endurance, and tempo runs most weeks. I only have time to do 40-45 miles a week and travel continuously, so I have to adapt my training from time to time - but it is always possible to build in the right mix of training with ingenuity and bloody-mindedness.
It was much warmer than expected - I did the 2003 London marathon in torrential rain and cold, so was expecting similar! The weather forecast was to be damp, cool and overcast so, despite start conditions of bright sunshine and very little breeze, I started off in a long sleeved (bright pink) Helly Hansen and white vest. My race plan was to take on water every three to four miles and aim for 3:30.
By two miles realised that I was overdressed and badly overheating, but couldn't ditch the vest (since had number and sponsors logo) nor wanted to bin pink top (expensive, hard to find and essential for winter runs and ski holidays).
I decided to soldier on, since I was hoping to see my family supporting at around halfway. I past the Holy-water-sprinkling-priest (a bit confusing for Asian runners, I think), booed and hissed at Blue runners when we joined them at three miles, enjoyed the Kodo drummers below the underpass at around five miles, swung around Cutty Sark and on towards Tower Bridge.
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. I actually felt okay, but realised I was going too fast so tried to tell myself to slow up... this isn't really possible when you're going over Tower Bridge and everyone is shouting your name and saying "keep going, you're doing well, only a little bit further!" I will try not to listen next time!
Then it was along the Highway - past half-way, past 14 miles, getting hotter and hotter - I knew my family were ahead somewhere, so stripped off my vest and pink Helly Hansen - I ran topless for a while, and got whistled at. I managed to struggle back into vest on its own - not easy when you're pelting along at eight miles an hour and when the vest in question is soaked with sweat.
Around 15 miles I finally saw my family and chucked them a dripping, pink Helly Hansen (nobody wanted to catch it) – I asked afterwards why they were so far along the course but the explanation was soon obvious: they were sitting in sunshine outside a pub with cold beers, chilled wine, etc, etc - hugely unfair.
Feeling refreshed I kept going and had first of my planned energy gels at 17 miles. The Docklands loop felt different going the other way round but I still felt okay past 20 miles and heading into Poplar High St. I managed to see my family again, as they had cleverly sneaked from 15 miles to 21 miles under the DLR at Limehouse. They said I looked okay, but I think I knew differently by then...
Past 22 miles and by now I was taking on water at each opportunity, pouring half over my head but still feeling hot. The showers along the course were great, but more would have been nice (especially one at the end - organisers please note).
I had planned to take another energy gel but by now was feeling pretty nauseous and although I swallowed two Jelly Babies (thank you to someone in the crowd for handing them to me) it was like chewing sawdust and the thought of consuming anything other than water would have had me in the gutter.
My speed was decreasing past 23 miles, and I felt both hamstrings starting to complain – I burst one last year so I was very cautious and decided to run-walk for a bit. My speed was now 11 minutes a mile, but that was the best I could manage.
I kept jogging/walking for the rest of the way - it was very tricky, especially along Birdcage Walk since huge crown shouting your name - "Not Far Now... Keep Running... You Can Do It..." and I'm thinking, "I know it's not far, otherwise I wouldn't be doing this!" Every time I tried to walk, I was bamboozled into jogging again.
Turning into the Mall, it was a massive relief to see finish line (as if I didn't know it'd be there) and I jogged home. I saw lots of others, then and on TV later, who obviously wanted a sprint finish but pulled up with torn or ripped hamstrings and calves, and seemed nailed to the ground with less than 100 yards to go.
It was a great feeling to cross the line - in 3:43 – I was a bit off target but really pleased nonetheless. Raising about £1000 for MEDICS was another big bonus.
I stumbled through the "paddock"; chip removed (thanks); got my medal (felt really heavy around my neck); took a goody bag; tried to drink water but almost lacked the strength to open the bottle; collected kit-bag and sat down. I only just managed to open the wrapper on the breakfast bar – it also tasted like sawdust and it took a long time to eat/drink something. I tried to stretch a bit, but my knees threatened to snap, so I thought better not this time.
I had arranged to meet my family for celebratory lunch in Covent Garden. It was only about half a mile away from finish area but a very long, slow walk for me. I began to feel better after several handfuls of sweets and a couple of cold beers.
Same again next year? Maybe, as long as you can promise it'll be cold and wet!
|Mark Aitken, 3:35|
What a fantastic day: great weather, great support and a PB to cap it all off!
Well done London, consistently the best marathon in the world.
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