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).