Marathon Day, 4.25.10
After months of preparation and doubt within the last week about whether we would even make it here to run, race day was here at last! I met with two of my Team Fox (www.teamfox.org) teammates and our coordinator in the lobby of our hotel at 7:30. My teammates and I hopped on a train at Charing Cross to Blackheath to get to the start, which was out around Greenwich. We had the good fortune to sit next to a celebrity of sorts, blind English marathoner Dave Healey, who shared some wisdom from 9 previous London marathons. Off the train, it was about a mile walk to the red starting area (there were three, blue, green and red) where I went through my usual pre-race routine. We got some rain, but then it fizzled to a shower and died off before the start.
The first few miles were a challenge. Even though I was in pen #1 at the red start, there was a pen of "good for age" marathoners ahead of us, and I could not go out at my planned 6:00 pace. It was more like a fartlek, with short sprints to make my way forward, sudden slow-downs, and hopping up on the curb when possible to try to run my pace unimpeded. I managed a 6:15 for the first mile and a 6:07 for the second, but probably unfortunately expended a little more energy than ideal in order to do so.
Mile 3 was downhill and fast. We merged with the blue and green starters and I continued to make my way through the field. Without too much effort, I splitted 5:48 and 5:45 and was back on pace. The rest of the first half I just tried to expend as little energy as possible. There were some wind gusts. When possible, I ran with groups. That is one of the great things about a large marathon... you are never alone unless you want to be. I was surprised at how few runners were keeping to the tangent line that was nicely painted on the road for us. I don't know about everyone else, but I want to run 26.2 miles, and nothing more!
I came through the half comfortably in 1:19:34, almost identical to my Berlin split. I was in much better shape this time, however. If I could maintain or negative split I could achieve my goal of sub-2:40. That is usually a hard task in a marathon, however. The pain and fatigue creep in between miles 13 and 20, intensified by a sense of isolation and unease at being so far away from the finish. The crowd can help when you're not zoning out. I got a boost from Team Fox supporters between 14 and 15. I took a second gel around 16, which I hoped would stave off some fatigue. Nonetheless, I lost some pace and splitted mostly between 6:10 and 6:25 in this portion of the race.
We looped around some highrise buildings at Canary Wharf before making a turn back towards the finish at mile 20. At 21, we rejoined The Highway. It was nice to be heading back, seeing all of the runners running in the opposite direction hitting the halfway point. I was much happier to have 4-5 miles left in the race as opposed to 13 miles.
Even though I was running a second slower half, the wheels never completely came off. It was a huge mental boost to be passing people rather than to be passed. I concentrated on keeping my form. There was a stretch of road in a tunnel that Dave Healey had mentioned was so quiet you can only hear the patter of footsteps, then you come out on the other side to hit the last several miles along the embankment on the Thames. That is where the crowd is the strongest, and thank goodness! I received numerous yells of "go Team Fox," and, my favorite, one woman who yelled "Go Foxy!" as only a British woman would. Smashing.
At that point I knew I was not going to go sub-2:40, but I had held on pretty well and a personal best was still a possibility. I needed to break 2:41:45, my time from Chicago, to do so. We turned by Westminster along Birdcage walk, and then by Buckingham Palace on Spur Road, before finally making it to the 400m to go spot. I kicked and managed to beat my personal best by no more than 4 seconds. It was a much better effort, though, factoring in age (37 vs 27) and my life responsibilities now vs. then.
So, if you've made it through my marathon blog post, you know that this was a fantastic experience. I will remember it for a long time. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and sponsored me through Team Fox along the way. Talk to you soon!
6:15, 6:07, 5:48, 5:45, 5:57
6:16, 6:04, 6:03, 6:04, 6:03
6:09, 6:05, 6:11, 6:01, 6:01
6:26, 6:13, 6:09, 6:23, 6:11
12:44 (missed split), 6:22, 6:07, 6:28
7:38 (final 1.2)
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