26.2 reasons why you'll love the London Marathon...

Posted on: 17 Apr 2018

Morning all.  This is a traditional blog of mine by now.  It's made more personal this year as I am going to be on the start line myself.

London marathoners, this is for you.  It's written from the heart; like my marathon running, it's light on technical content and very heavy on emotion.  Enjoy!!

  1. Right, Sunday morning arrives.  Take a good long look in the mirror.  Know two things.  Firstly, the person who stares back at you is ready for their big day.  They have done all of the honest miles demanded of them, and more besides.  Secondly, know that you will not have the same face staring back at you again. Because when Monday morning arrives, the person who looks back at you will be a marathon runner.
  2. OK, now how to approach the race.  Break the route down into manageable chunks.  Let’s face it, 26.2 miles is a blimmin’ long way.  So, make it more appealing. There are obvious sections to focus on.  The bit until the starts merge, then to Cutty Sark, then Tower Bridge, through half way, the wall of noise that is Canary Wharf etc.  Every section has its own charm and excitement.  Oh boy, it’s all fab!
  3. Right, a boring practical bit.  Boring, but so important.  Be prepared for a longer run than 26.2 miles. VLM for me was 26.7 miles.  It doesn’t matter, you’ll still do it.  But mentally, be ready for it from the word go.  Don’t be shocked by it later.  If you’ve got a time in mind (and I am not saying that you need to have), then factor in that extra 0.5 or so of a mile.  Don’t let it ruin your preparations.  Control the controllables!
  4. For the first few miles, it will be congested.  Who cares?  Not you.  You’re now part of the biggest street party in the world.  Not only are you a part, you’re a star.  You have earned the right to be here in the same way as Mo and the rest.  So, relax and have fun!  Around now, the starts will merge, and there’ll be lots of good-mannered boo’ing of the other colours.  Fab!
  5. You may be starting to get into your stride.  Check your watch.  Check your speed.  Don’t run too fast – don’t let the occasion get to you.  Many marathons are destroyed in the early miles – hold back.  After the madness of the taper period, you’ll be so chuffed to be running again.  Hold back I say.  As the saying goes, “if you think you’re going too slowly at the start of a marathon, slow down.” Relax and have fun!
  6. Think of all the training you’ve done.  This is your reward.  Through rain and wind, sleet and snow, you’ve trained.  When it’s been dark, and sane people have been sat in front of the home fires, you’ve trained.  On dark and winding roads, you’ve chewed up the tarmac.  When running has been the last thing on your mind, you’ve laced ‘em up and got out there nonetheless.  It’s all been done to get you where you are now.  You’re strong, you’re fit.  You’re ready.  A marathon is hundreds of miles; the finish, your richly deserved lap of honour, is the last 26.2.  Crack on!
  7. Just a look.  Now there’s a whole posting’s worth of stuff that I could write on that.  But know that there will be times on that course when that is all there will be, and all that there needs to be.  A look at someone in the crowd as they shout your name.  A look of pride as you run past the Cutty Sark.  A look heavenward as you cross Tower Bridge.  A look shared with one of the other runners.  A look as a spectator calls your name and exhorts you to kick on.  A look of amazement as you run through the walls of noise in Canary Wharf, and realise that what was noisy just got a whole load noisier.  A look of sheer bloody joy as you see Big Ben, and realise that it’s getting closer. 
  8. Think of who’s helped you on your way.  It’ll be a wife, a husband, boyfriend/girlfriend.  It’ll be parents.  It’ll be your kids.  They are so proud of you.  You enrich their lives as well as your own by your efforts – if you have kids, you’re making them realise what it possible if they have a dream, and they work to achieve it.  Of course, you’ve made so many sacrifices to get to where you are – the nights in, the drinks undrunk.  But so have your support team – they’ve listened to your woes and travails, and they deserve to share in your triumph too.  Run for them.  Run long, run strong.  Run to make them even prouder of you at the end than they already were at the start.
  9. Think of all the times you’ve watched this run on TV.  It is one of the greatest sporting occasions in the world, yep, in the world.  Many times you’ve heard the music, you’ve seen the massed starts.  You’ve thought to yourself during many of those years of watching on TV – “I’d love to do that one day.”  Well, that one day has arrived.  It is this day!  And this is your day, this is the one that you wanted.  It’s here.  Carpe Diem!
  10. You’re possibly running for a charity.  They’re proud of you too.  The money you have raised will make a difference to countless lives.  You’re running in their T shirt, wearing their badge (and that’s a badge that will mean so much to you for whatever reason you’re running for them – I carried an image of my dad round with me in my head, and looked heaven-ward for inspiration) – they’ll see you at their cheering stations, and boy they’ll make you feel special.  It will be as if they have spent all day just waiting for you to run past them.  Truly, truly humbling and tear-jerking.
  11. You’re a celebrity.  Never will you have had your name called out by so many people.  You’re the world’s biggest pop star/fashion icon/A list celeb/Premier league footballer, all rolled up into one bundle of superstardom.  Away from the official water stations etc., you will dine regally on jelly babies, orange and banana segments (I even has some brownie in the Isle of Dogs!), all provided by people you don’t know and who you’ll probably never see again.  The look of joy on a child’s face as you stoop to high (or low) five them is wondrous – you’ve made their day like they are making yours.  Well, enjoy the applause, the encouragement.  As those L’Oreal ads would have you know; you’re worth it!
  12. Right, brace yourself.  Just about now comes the real big one.  Oh boy, Tower Bridge!  I don’t care what speed you’re running at – slow down.  Whether you’re ahead or behind of where you want to be – slow down.  You are truly privileged (and deservedly so) to experience this moment.  You are entering a select group of people now.  Many’s the number who wonders what it’s like to run these sacred yards.  Few are the number who have experienced it.  Savour it for all it’s worth; it may be some time before you experience its like again.  Then, crack on!
  13. As the good doctor Seuss says, “you have brains in your head and you have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.  You’re on your own and you know what you know.  You are the one who’ll decide where you’ll go.”  Well, go forward, go forward.  On to glory!
  14.  “We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 metres. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.” So said Emile Zatopek.  And they’re wise words.  Anyone can run 100 metres.  You?  You’re special, as you are on your way to experiencing the run of your life.  So many people are sat on their sofas watching you now, thinking “I could never do that.”  Maybe you thought that once.  Well, it’s different now!  You are doing it, and you will finish what you started.  Let nothing stand in your way.  Come on!
  15. From Emile to Will (Shakespeare himself).  “Wise and slow.  They stumble that run fast.”  Take it steady, there’s still the feeling that your legs don’t hurt.  Wise and slow, wise and slow, there’s a distance to go yet!
  16. Don’t know who said this one, but it’s oh so apt.  “There will be days when you don’t think you can run a marathon.  There’s a lifetime of knowing you have.”  Everything you need to know about yourself, you will find out in a marathon.  Like an onion as the layers get peeled away, you will go into the very depths of your soul – and there you will find reserves of energy, of determination, of sheer bloody-mindedness if you need to.  This means that the person who finishes the marathon is different to the person who starts it.  You will then always, always, have more confidence.  If you can do this, you can do anything.  Whatever barriers life may put in your way, you can overcome them.  Because you’re going to finish a marathon.  Come on!
  17. As the good Dr.Johnson, that marathon runner of the 1700s (probably…) said, “when a man is tired of (the) London (marathon), he is tired of life.”  This will be my third time running those most wonderful of streets.  Any year I am not running, I will be there, cheering myself hoarse at my heroes and heroines of the day.  It was my first marathon ever back in 2010, and you know what they say about first loves. Like the first swallow of summer, maybe you’ll always return too, to give something back to the city that is giving you one of the days of your life.
  18. Oh, one of my favourite bits.  Canary Wharf.  Yes, the spectators have been amazing all the way round, and will continue to be.  But here, the noise reaches new levels, as the cheers and good wishes reverberate off the buildings and urge you on to even greater efforts.  You’ll have cheering stations from charities, and so much goodwill towards you, you’ll think you can run for ever.
  19. As you run, look around you.  Around you, there will be every colour, every creed, every race and religion.  If London is the melting pot of life, then its marathon is proof eternal of that – every single one of you has one goal, and that shared purpose will spur you on again.  Soak up the atmosphere, savour every second; believe me, in years to come, your eyes will mist over as you recall these memories of a lifetime.
  20. You may have loved ones in the spectators.  Know that you may not see them, but that they will see you.  If you can, arrange a point where they’ll stand, get a text from them to let you know they’re there; how much power can pass through a hug, or even just a look?  My wife saw me twice (she moved, by the way – I didn’t enjoy it so much that I ran the whole circuit a second time!).  Their feelings of pride will take you on, keeping you going through the mental strains ahead.
  21. Like me in 2010, you’re probably now in uncharted territory, further than you have perhaps run before.  This is when the run starts.  Many say it’s where the second half marathon begins, and there’s some truth in that for sure.  You will need to find reserves of energy.  You’ll find them.  You may need to swear at yourself – turn the air blue.  Look at faces in the crowd – they’ll cheer you like madmen, like they’ve known you all your life.  They’ll spur you on.  You have got this far – let nothing stand in your way now!
  22. The Embankment.  You’ll head through an underpass. They may have celebrities there, handing out drinks – there have been British Lions before.  Well, know this – no-one is a bigger celebrity today than you.  That’s one of the tremendous things about marathon running – sure, there will be celebs running alongside you, and they may have their own start and their own pampered toilets with quilted rolls and cushioned seats.  But, when they cross start line, they’re just the same as you.  It’s the best of democracies.  As you leave the tunnel, brace yourself - the wall of noise that hits you as you leave?  Humbling!  It’s as if everyone there, 3 or 4 deep, has been waiting for you.  Well, it’s all for you – you deserve it.
  23. They may well have a traditional banner up around this point.  “In three miles, you’re part of history” it reads.  Oh yes.  You are.  Part of history.  Come on!! 
  24. You’re nearly there.  Big Ben beckons, calling you on with its majesty.  This is London.  This is the best city in the world on marathon day, and you’re one of its stars.  You are experiencing all that puts the Great into Britain.  You are the pride of Britain, in its wonderful capital, on marathon day.  On a yard.
  25. Oh, the last bit.  Come on.  The hundreds of miles of training have all come to this, your running world in a microcosm of yards.  There will be countdown markers; 600, 400, 200 yards.  You doff your cap to Her Majesty as you turn past Buckingham Palace.  And there it is, your holy grail through all that you’ve gone through.  The Mall!!  There may be tears now – sob away.  I did.  Bloody well done!!
  26. As you cross the finishing line, look up.  Up for the cameras, up for relatives watching from the heavens on high.  Up for glory.  Don’t look at your watch, you can worry about that in a few seconds.  Then, if you’re anything like me, hug everyone around you, cheer, back slap, congratulate.  Collect that medal from one of the amazing team of volunteers who have helped you get to where you now are; thank them heartily!  Take some time to let it sink in; I sat down on the grass and just smiled, a teary-eyed smile.  I say again, bloody well done! 


26.2  I shall end with this.  It’s what I got in my 2010 finisher’s pack.  Oh, the emotion!


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