Mileage for Week Fifteen
Mon – 3.7 miles
Tue – 0 miles
Wed – 2 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 0 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 26.2 miles
Total – 35 miles
Get comfy, this is a long read.
The week leading into the Virgin Money London Marathon 2017 was a quiet one. In reality the training had ended a few weeks back and it was all about resting and not overdoing it.
Following a couple of runs in the early part of the week I rested until we got to London. We travelled from Wales by train on Friday, arriving in London late morning.
London Marathon Expo
Once we had lunch it was off to the Marathon Expo to collect my number. The process was simple. Take in your form and ID and the race pack is handed over. The Expo itself is very big. IG – Me and my number
I’m glad we went on the Friday, as we were tired from the journey and then adding in all the walking around the Expo. If that had been the Saturday, then it would have affected my legs for the race.
Once you have your number you walk around the corner into the Expo proper and straight into the ADIDAS branded shopping area. There is a lot of stuff on display and I bought myself a blue London Marathon t-shirt which was £30. I saw it at Silverstone Half where it was a bit cheaper but I’d left my cash in the car! IG – Blue London Marathon t-shirt
I liked the look of the marathon jacket but that was £55 and I thought better of it. I’ll check the shop website in a few weeks to see if they are any cheaper… I’m guessing not but I’ll look anyway.
The Expo is filled with exhibitors selling their running related wares, there are also many races represented, from short runs to long ones and even the virtual races that you may have seen on Facebook and other social media sites.
Personally, I ignored the majority, the only medals that took my eye were the Disney ones. They look great and the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon has been on my list since it began a few years ago.
Sarah and I had planned some months ago that we would run a parkrun somewhere near the hotel. The easiest for us to get to was Southwark parkrun, which was 4 tube stops away on the Jubilee line.
The park itself is lovely. A large green space, trees, somewhere for kids to play safely and even a pond with various ducks and other bird life. There are also some very friendly squirrels who are clearly used to being fed by humans.
The course was three laps, which included a couple of tight-ish turns but nothing to major. The attendance on the day was a record of 475. Sarah and I ran around together in 32:23. A nice leg stretch for me. The day was heavily populated by parkrun tourists. I saw runners from all over the country and there were even a few international visitors.
We followed the run with a lovely sausage and bacon sandwich in the little café in the park.
This is of course Millwall FC territory, there was a Millwall FC mirror in the café and Danny Baker lived his early years a stones throw from the southern end of the park. Having visited London many times but only sticking to the tourist bits, you don’t get to hear a proper London accent. Well we did in the café.
Virgin Money London Marathon 2017
I have wanted to run the London Marathon since I was a kid. I remember watching during the 1980’s and seeing Ingrid Kristiansen’s domination of the race all while wearing gloves. That’s an image that has stuck with me.
I first applied for the 2016 race but was unsuccessful in the ballot, undeterred I tried again and was accepted for this years race.
I’ve run plenty of Half Marathon’s and say that at the completion of those I wondered how on earth I would run double that distance. From my one experience I can confidently say that it is all down to the training. You can’t take any short cuts to marathon running. If you put in the time you will get the rewards.
I was in the Blue start and had to make my way to Blackheath station. Our hotel was close to Waterloo East station where the train would go through on the way to Blackheath. That meant I only had a few minutes walk before I was on the platform. The train arrived quickly and I think within 20 minutes I was at Blackheath with a lot of other runners full of nervous energy!
The train travel is free for all runners, which this part of the journey so much easier and stress free.
Once out of the station we were guided by volunteers (big thumbs up to every volunteer!!) around to the left and up the hill towards the park and passed the magnificent looking All Saints’ Church.
I had to show my number to get into the start area proper, easier said than done. I was wearing my running top with number, a long sleeved running top, another long sleeve that I might wear in the pen and a jumper! I lifted all the long sleeves to show that I was allowed in. Walking through there was a photographer who took a photo as I repeated my pulling up of jumpers. Not very flattering.
As I made my way forward there was another photographer (there were many walking around) as he got into position to take the photo, I put my hand up and asked him to wait. I then took every top off bar my running top to at least get one photo that proves I was there.
It was a chilly day, so all the jumpers went straight back on. What I hadn’t taken to London were trousers, big mistake. There was at least 90 minutes before the race would start and I was getting cold. Plus I didn’t want to walk around for too long. I sat on the grass and removed a long sleeve and draped that over my legs.
During this time the big screen was showing various bits of marathon related news, and before long the wheelchairs, para-athletes and the elite women were setting off at their allotted times.
I’d used the urinals once and was now wandering around to get my legs moving. I found a spot where I could still see the big screen and was in amongst a small group where it was warmer than sitting alone on the grass. I spotted a woman called Sophie who I thought I recognised from Instagram but I had weak signal and couldn’t check my feed. Later I was able to confirm that Sophie was indeed on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/runningonfullblog) and has since written about her day here (http://runningonfullblog.com/).
After another trip to the urinals (nervous and cold is not a good combination) I wandered down the length of the start area to see what was around. There was a changing room tent, somewhere to get a hot drink and at the bottom was the championship area where the fast runners were.
To my delight there were more urinals! One last stop before deciding when to put my bag on the truck. As it was chilly I was going to keep one long sleeve on and then ditch it once I got going. As I stood in front of the trucks there were only a few runners covered up, so I decided to go for it and only wear my t-shirt. A good decision as the sun broke through the clouds minutes after, it was forecast to be a chilly day but the weather gods had other ideas.
Bag handed in, sunglasses on and I was stood in Blue start Zone 9. The last zone!
My watch was playing up, it would keep restarting itself, not something I needed on this day of all days! Instead of having the time showing, I put the watch into run mode. The downside to that is I didn’t know what the time was and I didn’t want to keep getting my ‘phone out.
Maybe it was sentient? I had planned a while back that my watch, which I have been using since just after I started running, would be replaced with a newer model after the marathon. Sarah said that I should have bought the new watch before the marathon but even though I’m rarely sentimental, I wanted to stick with the watch that has seen me go from jogging down the canal towpath, to parkruns, to 10ks, to half marathons, to training for and completing a marathon.
We started to drift forward little by little. I thought we were just being bunched up ready for the start. I quickly checked the time and it was already 10:06, the leaders would have already run over a mile.
As always happens when I’m at an organised event, I needed a wee! I knew there were toilets about 600m after the start and then periodically along the course. However as we all moved forward there was a gap in the barriers and lots of men and women were dashing for the nearest urinal or loo. I dashed off too, better to go before the clock starts running.
Something I didn’t like as we all moved forward was the throwing of bin bags or tops or whatever a person was wearing to stay warm. I was in the middle of the throng so was safe, but if you were left or right you were in danger of being hit in the head. I saw too many selfish people throwing stuff and hitting people. It’s not rocket science. Move over and dispose of it safely or ask the person next to you to pass it on.
Wow 1600 words and I haven’t crossed the start line yet. As I sit here and type, I don’t think the next bit (the marathon) will take that long as it was just running, so keep with me.
I approached the start line and actually got a bit emotional. A lump in my throat if you will. I was starting the London Marathon! I quickly put those thoughts out of my mind and concentrated on what was to come. I crossed the line at 10:15.
The three Royals who started the race were apparently waving at the runners, I know this because I saw it on TV, on the day I didn’t even see them. As I went over the start line, they would have been standing on my left, in fact I could have probably reached out and touched them, but I was looking to the right and the stand where all the noise was coming from. That’s where I thought they would be.
At this time Sarah and Lesley were just about in position in Bermondsey somewhere between 11 and 12 miles.
Sarah text me at 10:16 “At post. Your Left. Where the crowd thins out.”
I replied “Ok, just started, 4 mins run!”
I knew that by the time I got to them, where the crowd thins out would be full of people! Sarah had made a sign for me and they also had balloons for me to look out for but that was nearly 2 hours ahead.
1 – 10:10
2 – 9:58
3 – 9:20
4 – 9:12
5 – 9:34
6 – 9:19
7 – 9:27
When I run I don’t really take particular notice of what’s going on around me. I notice the other runners and if they are about to get in my way but not the stuff that’s around me. What I’m getting at, is that this bit is going to be pretty bland!
Going into the race I knew there were landmarks: Cutty Sark at 6 and a bit, Tower Bridge at about halfway, Canary Warf at 18, Big Ben with a mile to go. Other than that I wasn’t really looking out for anything, I was just running!
Early on I passed a lady runner wearing a helicopter, later I would see a chap also wearing a helicopter.
I was prepared for the early miles to be slower than my target pace of 9:00 min/mile, what I wasn’t prepared for was for all the miles to be slower than my target pace! Not once did I get up to speed.
This was due to the amount of people running. I would speed up and the be confronted by a wall of runners and nowhere to go.
One of the highlights of this run for me is the Cutty Sark. I’ve seen it so many times over the years and have visited it as a tourist but this was clearly the first time I’ve run around it. To commemorate that I took a little bit of very shaky runner cam footage as I went around.
From there I kept going knowing that I would see Sarah in about an hours time.
8 – 9:15
9 – 9:37
10 – 9:22
11 – 9:26
12 – 9:34
13 – 9:19
14 – 9:20
As you can see the splits remained pretty much constant. Again it was due to the volume of people running and there being no space. The miles were falling away though, I was feeling good despite the pace annoyance. It was getting much warmer and I was taking on my Cliff Bloks and water as scheduled. We had planned in advance that Sarah and Lesley would have a full bottle ready for me. I always carry a water belt with me, I like having a drink and knowing I can have one, not wait for a water station.
I just about finished my drink as I ran into Bermondsey. I’d looked on YouTube and Google Streetview to see what the area looked like, to make sure I would recognise it. I must say here that even though I’ve watched the marathon for years, it all looks different when you are running.
I passed the tube station and started scanning the crowds on my left. It seemed here, as in other sections of the course, that there were no barriers and the crowds had spilled onto the road, leaving a much more constricted space for runners. Crowds are great but stay on the paths please.
I couldn’t see Sarah or Lesley but kept on looking when I heard a shout of “Gary” I don’t know who it was but I looked and saw them both. I just about dived across to them, nearly taking out a runner in the process.
Sarah got some quick photos, I said my goal of 4 hours was probably not going to happen and Lesley said it didn’t matter, finishing was the goal. Which is quite correct. Even though we had planned to swap bottles, I was about to run off without it, despite Lesley saying several times to swap the bottle! A runners daze is what I’m putting it down to. Bottle finally swapped, a quick good bye and I was off again.
The next landmark was of course Tower Bridge. Which I forgot all about. I was still trying to find gaps in order to make up some time when we turned left. I remember thinking “what’s next” and there was Tower Bridge.
I’ve walked over the bridge previously and done tour where you can go up and across the thing at the top (forgotten it’s name) but running over it was great fun. The crowds had been loud so far but they were outdone the crowds here. Both sides were shouting and encouraging every runner.
There was a TV camera at the end which I waved at but having watched all the live coverage, I didn’t see myself.
Halfway and we were all headed to the Isle of Dogs. There is a section between Tower Bridge and Isle of Dogs where you can see the runners coming back from Canary Wharf on the other side of the road.
We are at 14 or so miles, they are around 22 miles. Some of them were flying passed. I saw James Cracknell (finish time 2:43:12) here and knew it would be some time before I too was on that side of the road.
15 – 9:03
16 – 10:05
17 – 9:17
18 – 9:17
19 – 9:47
20 – 9:24
21 – 9:37
I distinctly remember looking at my watch and it being 15.5 miles and thinking that this was okay. I wasn’t in any trouble. The legs were great, the chest was great and I was just running. It didn’t feel hard. That’s the training.
I remember somewhere here (it was in the 16th mile, I just checked Google maps) that we could see the river Thames. Yes I know we’ve run alongside it and gone over it but I think this was the first time I’d seen it. Usually there were people or buildings in the way.
We went through some tunnels around here too. I think two? Maybe three, I can’t remember. I know why watch lost GPS and the Strava map is bit squiggly in this area.
I don’t know why mile 16 is slower than the others, I’ve looked at the route and can’t remember anything specific.
I still was feeling good. I was warm and getting tired but overall I was okay. Had there been an opportunity to speed up on any other day I would have taken it at this point. On this day though I was content to stay at the pace I was running and not risk hurting myself.
There were many people along the route being cared for by volunteers, officials and St John’s Ambulance. Some looked in a bad way, thankfully there have been no reports of fatalities.
I certainly didn’t want to join them, the pace I was doing was frustrating but I would run the marathon.
22 – 9:41
23 – 9:52
24 – 10:02
25 – 9:50
26 – 9:49
0.5 – 9:29 – My watch was ahead all the way along.
The last 5 and a bit miles were tough. A battle of mind over legs!
As I went through mile 22 and 23, where I had seen James Cracknell earlier, there were still runners, walkers and rhino’s still coming through on the other side of the road. I must admit feeling a little sorry for them, as I was in the last section and they had nearly a half marathon still to do.
It was somewhere between 23 and 24 mile that I walked for about 30 seconds. I was feeling the distance a little by that stage, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be under 4 hours and I just wanted to compose my self. I think it might have been at the top of a slight incline? I can’t really remember. I finished off my water bottle, got my head sorted and a volunteer at the side looked me dead in the eye and said “c’mon Gary, you’ve got this, you’re nearly finished” that gave me that little shove I needed to push on.
Several times during Friday and Saturday, Sarah, Lesley and I had crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridge, which looks down onto the Embankment and the 25 mile marker.
That turned out to be a mental disadvantage. Going through 24 miles to that marker seemed to take an age! I could see the bridge coming but it never seemed to get any closer. The split time tells us that it took me 9:50 to get there, if it had said 15:00 I couldn’t have disagreed.
Once passed that marker, and boy was I glad to get passed it, I could see Big Ben, oh ok, the Elizabeth Tower and the clock face said it was 14:20 and I knew I had about a mile to go.
By this time I was very salty on my face. I get that on really long runs, the white salt streaks. I grabbed a water bottle, took a sip and then poured some on my face and tried to rub off all the salt. Yes, at this point I was thinking of looking presentable for the finish line picture!! As Sarah can confirm, I didn’t do a very good job of cleaning myself up and was still all streaky at the end.
Turning right at Big Ben and it was a final plod down Birdcage Walk before that now iconic double right hander onto the Mall. It was pretty cool rounding that last bend and seeing the finish in front of me.
I saw there were photographers on the sides getting pictures, so I made sure to go left and leave a gap between me and the runner in front, in order to get a photo on the Mall. Which I did, there are a few with Buckingham Palace in the background.
As I rounded the final bend the big screen was showing the Royals handing out medals, the announcer said he wasn’t going to say which part of the finish they were standing at. If you aren’t aware, London has a finish gantry spanning the road, with three points you can run through. I headed for the middle one.
As I went through and did my double fist pump, I could see the Royals on my left. Their queue was massive. I wasn’t in any mood for hanging about, I wanted the medal and some water.
So I kept moving and was given my medal and congratulated by a volunteer (I’m saying volunteer all the time, I expect they all are). From that it was the souvenir photo. I look very dazed in mine.
The process just keeps you moving along. Next up was the heavy goody bag, I checked my t-shirt was the size and as I shuffled onwards there was a results board which I grabbed a photo of as a reminder. More shuffling and a chap quite obviously used to dealing with tired runners said to me “Gary, go to your right for you bag” and I just replied “okay” and kept up my shuffle towards my bag.
The bag retrieval process is much like the Silverstone Half which I have written about before. As I shuffled along the path, a spotter called out my number and without breaking stride the bag was placed in my hand. Awesome.
Still shuffling! I made my way to Horseguards, eating what I could find in the bag and drinking water.
We had prearranged to meet at the letter G on Horseguards so I headed towards it, thankfully it was on the left of the parade square so I didn’t have to walk too far.
Sarah spotted me and came bounding over to give me a hug, I think my first word were “don’t squeeze to hard”. I look absolutely shattered in the photos.
Some of the other words out of my mouth immediately upon finishing were “I’m never doing that again” “I’ve done it now, I don’t need to do it again” “I was going to do an ultra, but I’m not”
We three made our way to the hotel, on the way Lesley bought me a McDonalds. Not something I eat very often, in fact it’s only when I’m at running events with Andrew that I eat McDonalds. I just needed something easy to eat and that fit the bill.
We once again got to the Golden Jubilee bridge and saw runners still making their way towards the last mile and a bit. I took some photos and a video, as I’ve run there now.
Back in the hotel room and after a delightful refreshing shower, I checked the progress made by those I was tracking on the London Marathon app and saw that most had finished in times they were expecting, so that’s really good.
I’m typing this on the 28th, so I’ve had many days to reflect on the run.
This was the largest attended run and the longest distance run I’ve been part of.
The organisation is excellent right from the beginning with updates, social media, emails, the magazine when you get in is very useful, the information provided is clear and concise. The Expo was brilliant, the train travel, the guides to the starting area, the baggage trucks and all the volunteers were wonderful.
Along the route there were very few places without spectators. They did a brilliant job of encouraging everyone along the route. Stick your name on your front and you are guaranteed to hear it a lot!! I’m at a loss as to why some runners were wearing headphones, you don’t need headphones at these large events, the crowd are great at motivating you to keep moving.
There was one point, I don’t know where it was but we went under a flyover and there were drummers on the right hand side and screaming spectators on the left. The cacophony of noise and bass from the drums couldn’t fail to inspire you to do your best.
The medal is fantastic, the best medal I’ve had so far. The t-shirt puzzled me initially, as it looks like an ice-cream until It was pointed out that the ice-cream part is actually 26.2 with the river Thames being the sauce and runner shaped sprinkles.
Everyone I’ve shown the medal too has been impressed by it.
Personally I think the race is too big. If like me you think you can run it under 4 hours, you might struggle depending on which zone you are placed in. It was clear from the outset that I wasn’t getting under 4 and I eventually accepted that.
I’m not sure what London can do though. Staggered starts is an option but unlikely due to the times that are run in London. The cut off is 18:15, so maybe those expecting times of 6-8 hours could be set off later. 11am perhaps? Thereby making it possible to waves to be sent off every 10 minutes perhaps? That would spread the runners out across the course. Boston does waves but would it work in London?
Despite that negativity, I ran the London Marathon. I’m extremely pleased to have crossed the famous finish line. I’m not putting myself in the ballot again for next year. I may in the future as I’ll go into it with the experience of being there before.
You remember I said “I’m never doing that again”? Well that was my thought until I woke up on Tuesday morning and thought to myself, I know I can go under 4 hours, I’m confident of that. I was researching marathons later that morning and found the Chester Marathon, held in October with around 10,000 runners, a lot less than the 40,000 at London. I’ve not committed myself just yet though.
Before that I have the following lined up:
May & June – Brecon Athletic Club – Llanfrynach 3-4-5 mile series
June 25th – Swansea Half
August 6th – Brecon 10
August 27th – Severn Bridge Half
September 24th – Swansea 10K