Wow! What a day! That was just the best, thank you London. Anyone thinking of running a marathon then you just have to do this one, I loved every step of it. In fact I ran slowly to make it last longer so that I could savour every second.
I have never felt so relaxed running a marathon and cannot believe what an experience London provided, so different to my previous attempt in 2011, it was well worth the wait.
I stuck to my plan the day before (going to have to admit it no longer guarantees a sub 4) and I knew that the relaxed approach was working. I had a pint of lager, a plateful of noodles washed down with a couple of glasses of red. This was the plan being executed to perfection. There were no nerves affecting my sleep. I went to bed just before 10pm and slept solidly until the alarm went off at 5am. Previously I have found it hard to sleep, frequently waking up thinking I had overslept and panicking.
Not this time though. Up at 5am for a cup of tea, then a bowl of Ready Brek, easier to get down than porridge that early in the morning, was glad that someone gave that tip a few months back.
The coach journey to the start was full of chatter and excited runners waiting to get going. We were there really early though so a lot of waiting around. A nice cup of tea went down well and it was possible to pass the time queueing for the loo frequently.
Still no sign of nerves, no feeling in the stomach, this was so different. What was making it different though?
I guess that I just wasn’t feeling any pressure. Would I get a sub 4 time? Maybe it was possible although having just recovered from a virus, not having run that far for four years and a five week taper meant it was unlikely. The relaxed me thought ‘what will be will be’. I was thinking more of making sure I saw as many familiar faces as possible amongst the crowd. How my first point of support would be around 9 miles where a posse of St Albans Striders would be waiting and then the next milestone, just past that speed camera, you know the one!
The realbuzz team would be ready and waiting, poised to provide the biggest lift possible.
I was in a start pen that was some way down the starting order and it took a while to get over the start line, but the runners had been held for a while to let the course ahead clear a bit. This worked as I set off at a comfortable pace and for the first three miles found room to run and was on a sub 4 pace. However being that far down the field meant that once the starts had converged and sometimes the course narrowed I was stuck in traffic. The choice was weaving around to try and find space or just sit tight and go with the flow. The weaving option would have made it harder, especially as the effort required would surely catch up with me later on. The sub 4 idea was dropped, I decided that I was going to be steady the whole way and take in the sights and sounds.
This was by far my best decision. There are supporters out there even in the early stages before Greenwich, I could take it in, wave, say thank you when they shouted support. There were pubs with music, churches too.
Somewhere around Deptford I think (not too good with SE London geography, can provide directions in NW all day long though) my favourite band of the day were on a pub roof. They were playing the Dambusters theme, I could happily have listened to that for the rest of the run it was so inspiring, uplifting and perhaps emotional, in a good way.
Next up was Canada Water and the first Striders cheering point, it was great to feel the support and see familiar faces. Then onto Tower Bridge and coming off the other side I ran to the left as I knew what was looming. There was that speed camera and then just beyond the greatest team that ever supported marathon runners. I shouted “I love you all, see you soon” and I couldn’t wait to see them again. Now I was approaching the point where it all went wrong for me in 2011, I dropped my pace a little, I was taking a cautious approach this time. It passed and I was in Canary Wharf ,still plenty of roadside crowds to keep the motivation going. I was feeling surprisingly good compared to my last time here and once back into Limehouse I knew that I had got this nailed. I wasn’t going to do anything silly, I remembered the bit by the bridge where I was struck by cramp last time and resisted the urge to go faster.
Heading back to the realbuzz support crew I also spotted other friends as they bellowed my name.
Then it was time to stop and see everyone, this was just the best feeling knowing that you were all there. I actually can’t find the words to describe the exact feeling but you all know I think.
Then it was on through the City and into the underpasses, coming up the incline out of Blackfriars on the right was the St Albans Striders banner and more fantastic support to see me home.
On Birdcage Walk I did wonder if 4:15 might be on the cards, I have to admit I don’t really know how to use my watch and didn’t dare fiddle with it in case I messed it up, so didn’t know what time I was doing. Stopping it at the finish line I saw that it wouldn’t have been possible and it didn’t matter anyway. Today was not about the time, it was about the experience of the London Marathon and that I had consumed by the bucketload.
Once I had sorted myself out I headed to the Sherlock Holmes pub to try and find Liz. Can I just say that it’s not the place for men after just having run a marathon? The gents toilets are down the steepest, twistiest and narrow staircase. It hurt so much going down them. Sadly I didn’t meet Liz but there’ll be another time.
I went to Blackfriars to get the train home, met a load of the Striders support crew and one who had also finished the race and the usual post marathon chat followed, which was great as I was so happy with the whole day and wanted to share my tales and hear the others stories.
What’s next in the diary? Not a lot. Maybe the Westminster Mile, most likely the HU5k. Most likely? Pah! Of course I am entering that again!
Before I finish can I just add again just how much I loved the London Marathon?!!!
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