I had known that I would be running the London Marathon since September, but an injury riddled 2012 combined with a low mileage asthma riddled winter, 3 weeks in Vietnam and a post travel bug meant that after the Glen Ogle 33 in November the sum total of my training for London was 3 weeks on treadmill in Vietnam, 2 weeks on trails back in Scotland, and then a week trying to remember what it felt like to run on tarmac, and in road shoes. This combination of factors along with the start of my ultra season just 4 weeks after London meant that I had to be realistic in what I hoped to achieve, and I settled on aiming for 4:30 rather than the hour quicker that I feel I am capable of if I can stay injury free.
The marathon weekend is all a bit manic, and London itself is a bit of a shock to the system living in rural Scotland. We had travelled down on the Friday evening too late to get from Gatwick to our hotel in Hounslow courtesy of runway repairs, and landing on the wrong runway, so stayed in the Premier Inn at Gatwick which was fine. The following morning we had to get up and straight across to Hounslow to drop our bags before heading on this great voyage across London on the underground, much of which was overground, and then on the bankers line out to the excel arena to register for the race. Cue a couple of hours later, several hundred pounds lighter courtesy of the Adidas store, offset by several pounds of pasta, we had everything that we needed and headed back across to Hounslow for a curry with friends.
Vickie escorted me as far as the train station at London Bridge on the Sunday morning from where I simply followed all of the people carrying red race bags. I didn’t have a drop bag, as I decided to run with my new Camelback ultra sack, which was awesome. I do hope that nobody followed my red bag, as that went straight to Surrey Quays with Vickie to where she was hoping to first see me. After a short free train ride I arrived at Blackheath common, and was surprised to find myself in a far faster pen than I had any chance of running, so positioned myself at the back of the pen.
Before the race commenced the mens elite field were announced, and there was a big cheer for Mo Farrah who was not actually going to run the race, and then a pristinely observed silence in memory of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings just 6 days prior.
Then the race got underway. I was moving far too quickly at the outset, pulling out a good 20 minutes on 4:30 pace, before slowing this down at around the 10 mile stage. I missed Vickie at Surrey Quays as I was on the other side of the road and the field was still very dense at this point. The sky was blue and still, and as early as 8 or 9 miles in some competitors were starting to fall by the wayside. I had opted to wear the nestle pure water, rather than drink it, which kept me nice and cool, but did result, unusually for me, in pretty bad blistering. As I went through the two way section (miles 13 and 22 perhaps) I saw a cosmic hill-basher coming the other way, as well as a few Tipton Harriers who I had not realised previously wear green and white hooped vests. I did get quite emotional courtesy of a couple of pipers along the way, and enjoyed confusing the Welsh spectators by shouting at them incymraeg possessed courtesy of a mis-spent youth at the University of Swansea (Prifysgol Abertawe).
I was still sailing along quite nicely at about mile 19 when I did see Vickie stood outside the tube station at Canada Wharf, and it was not until about mile 20 that I started to suffer. The next 4 – 5 miles were a run-walk affair, which was probably harder than just running given the blistering that I had, but the mile times were not horrendous and I just carried on plugging away. The palace of Westminster looks immense as you run up to it, and I was able to run for the last mile and a half or so. I was overtaken by somebody on the approach to the finish line which served as a bit of a cue for a sprint finish, after which I collected this little baby… as well as my finishers T-shirt.
I was happy with 4:2500, it would have been much quicker had I not slowed the pace down after 10, and but for the blistering. That said it was pretty much bang on target, and for the first time I started to gain some confidence that the Cateran 55 is possible, and that I can do it, it may just take me longer than I would like!
I enjoyed the run, but I doubt that I’ll run London again for a number of reasons. Mainly that there are just too many competitors on the course which results in a lot of aggressive overtaking elbow moves, slips and trips which simply do not happen in the ultras that I have run in. This is replaced later on with runners simply stopping and walking in the middle of the road towards the end forcing the person behind to do the same, and the meet and greet area was full of zombies of all ages stumbling across my path in random directions making it very difficult just to walk over to where Vickie was waiting for me under her hello kitty balloon. I was not a big fan of the noise and banter either, the coos and sheep don’t really say much when I run past them up here. I recall being told at about 24 miles, in my grumpy spell, by a spectator to run, and as those who know me will expect I responded with ….you effing run then!
I must have enjoyed it though, despite my inherent grumpy nature, as I didn’t take my finishers shirt off for a week, and as of today (1st May) I’m still wearing my pace band around my wrist!