I was slightly thrown by the need to collect my race number from the expo event a few days before, but this proved to be an exciting prelude to the race itself. Having trekked across south London, overcoming my general fear of getting on the tube, I arrived at the weird and wonderful Expo.
It proved to be a massive event, full of excited marathon runners, many looking like they were keen to run that afternoon, including being dressed for a run. I wondered around the event for an hour resisting the urge to come away a new Garmin running watch, new trainers, socks, gels, snacks, running tops etc. So much running bling. I also managed not to sign up to a marathon in some exotic location. One marathon at a time I convinced myself.
I went to the Expo on the Thursday, and then has to contain my child like excitement until Sunday of the race. I’ve ran a couple of marathons but London is one of the world great marathons.
Sunday morning couldn’t come quick enough. Due to the wonders of the Northampton train timetable I ended up dragging my wife out at the crack of dawn to drive me to Milton Keynes to catch a 6.30 train. There was a great sense of camaraderie amongst the runners heading to London. This continued all the way to Greenwich. I spoke briefly to a St Johns Ambulance Volunteer on the train, who I desperately looked for at his station mile 24. I guess he was either busy or I couldn’t see him, blinded by sweat and exhaustion.
I made away across London and walking through Greenwich was fantastic, huge buzz of excitement.
After standing around for an hour or so, checking I had everything I needed and putting my bag of kit onto the ‘kit lorries’ I made my way to the ‘pens’ where everyone is sorted into the approximate time they think they will complete the race. As my Garmin watch had finally died a death I decided to get close to the 4 hour Runners world pace runners to ensure I didn’t go off too quick. These guys are great. They run the whole marathon at guaranteed time 4 hours, 3.30, 5.15 whatever with a big flag on their back so people can see where they are! Absolutely incredible people.
The London Marathon has three start points to ease congestion, and we all merge around mile 6. Despite this we still took 11 minutes to shuffle across the start line. This means that every time you hit a digital clock along the way, on the mile markers you have to do mental arithmetic to work out your real time, as your finish time is calculated from when you cross the start and finish line.
London is also great as many of my friends and family where able to track me real time on an app, as your time is registered across various points during the race due to a timing tag attached to your trainers.
The race was the busiest I’ve ever been part of. Due to trying to stick to the pace runners, I was stuck in a huge crowd of people also trying to follow them! This was pretty exhausting as we were all intent on not tripping each other up, not running into the back of each other, or dodging round slower paced runners, rather than seeing the sights and enjoying the race!
Despite this crossing London bridge was a fantastic visual experience and a real highlight. The crowd was fantastic and cheered everyone on, all the way round. Even a group of squatters cheered people on, sitting atop the roof of their squat!
Due to the distance there were several areas the race cuts back on itself. MQ the charity I was running for was at the 21 mile point. This meant that I could see them on the other side of the road at mile 14 as well. I gave a very enthusiastic wave at mile 14 when I spotted them. Mile 21 I gave a weary and weak fist pump to the air, the previous 7 miles taken the shine of some of that enthusiasm!
People say the marathon is run in two parts. Mile 1-20 and mile 20-26.2 (.2 that last .2 is hard), I guess for some of the people flying round the route under 3 hours they don’t feel that, but for us keen amateurs I would say that’s true. It was hot, it was busy, and it was a long way. I was struggling that last few miles and even when the famous Mall finally appeared I didn’t have much more to give.
Having fallen back from the pacers I crossed the line 4 hours and 32 seconds. I hoped to come in under 4 hours but I’ll take that time, I was happy with it as I thought I would miss the 4 hour mark by closer to ten minutes.
The funny thing was as I staggered home and phoned my wife, due to the tracking app, she knew my time before I did! Amazing day and a massive thank you to MQ for securing my place.
Over all I raised a whopping £2’599 pounds for a fantastic cause and I’ve already signed up for the ballot next year.