So, the big day, the biggest marathon in the UK and I was in the line-up. I had no illusions that I was going to set a fast time, or that the majority of the field would beat me, but I was there!
The atmosphere was wonderful. However I need to back up a bit for the whole experience. So back we go to Saturday. The expo was big, but not as big as the Excel. I nearly went into the wrong ‘hall’! Thankfully I realised before setting foot inside that a hall with banners advertising several home sales websites was probably not where I needed to be. Readjusting I found the right hall. To be honest with the big red banners advertising the marathon, I should have been able to spot it.
I was lucky from the word go with there being no queue for the registration area for my number. Others were not so lucky with queues into double figures. Registration was nice and easy, and I soon had my race number, a lot of drawing pins and a load of other bits and bobs.
The expo itself is mainly a big sales area; I bought a few things, tried a few things, but was struggling to spend more than 90 mins there without feeling that I was wasting time.
On the way to my overnight accommodation there were a number of people from the expo on the train, obvious from the bags that they had. There was however someone who seemed to be a naysayer. Hopefully I misheard the conversation but they seemed upset (to the point of writing to official channels) about the ‘disruption’ that the marathon was going to cause. Never mind, some people can’t be pleased.
So, fast forward onto the day itself. The free transport had a couple of false starts with various London Transport people blissfully unaware of the offer of a free journey for those about to put themselves through the paces. Eventually everything got sorted out. I met Spiderman at this point. Nice chat about the hassles of training this year. I just hoped that he had a suit that undid easily!
Arriving at London Bridge it was clear that the majority of people travelling were marathon connected. Barriers were all open and there was a noticeable presence of steward to help people, though most were just following the crowd. Thankfully the crowd did know where they were going!
Once in the runners enclosure there was a sense of calm anticipation. Many had clearly run a marathon before, but there were also lots of first timers as well. Given how slow I tend to run, I was with a lot of them, but that was fine, I wasn’t the only one.
One of the nice things about marathons is the sense of kinship that everyone has. We all know what is coming! This is something that carries on through the race itself, but I’ll come to that later.
The race starts and everyone slowly makes their way through the park and to the start line. The photos of the masses on TV don’t do it justice. Finally the start line is there, we all have chips on our shoes, but we start our watches. The course is lined all the way, in some places more than 10 deep. There is encouragement at every point, even coming in as late as I ended up finishing, there were still plenty of people there. It is estimated that there were about 700,000 people on the streets supporting, nearly 50% more than there usually are.
For me, the ‘race’ ended about mile 9 with my left calf going. It had caused problems during training, so in some respect I’m not surprised, but one always hopes that these things won’t reoccur during the run itself. I had a go trying to stretch it out for a few miles, but every time I thought I was about to get there, it went again. These things happen and I can still walk and I can walk at a good speed. In fact, from deciding that I needed to run across Tower Bridge, it is clear that walking is going to be quicker. Slowly I join up with others who are walking and in the end spend most of the marathon walking and talking with someone who has been suffering with lateral tendinitis from mile 3. Knowing how much normal tendinitis is personally, I can appreciate how much pain they are in but they are determined to get around, so I keep them company and hopefully take their mind off of some of the pain. We finish in a very slow time, but we finish and get our medals and say our farewells. Such is the kinship though that you quickly end up chatting to others, almost as if you’ve known each other for ages.
Thankfully I have a friend at the end, well needed because I am exhausted both mentally and physically. The last 10 miles I’ve done with bad blisters and getting the weight off my feet is important. In a few hours they will hurt so much that I won’t be able to walk up the stairs as they can’t take the pressure, but for now I can limp from the finish to the train home.
The pain is such that I know I’m going to ache for a while, but the exhilaration from finishing is overcoming it. A week later I find that I have put myself into the ballot for next year. The hope is that training will be easier (less snow and rain) and that I won’t be injured in the same way. For a while though I won’t be running, but I am looking at other runs to keep things going so I’m better prepared for next year if I’m one of the one in three that gets in by ballot!
One thing I do know is that this year I can at least say #ibeatmo Next year might be a different story!