I have a love hate relationship with London Marathon. The first time I ran it was 2010 when my 3rd daughter was 10 months old. I was under trained and under prepared. This was in my pre-SJ days and I had done all my long runs on my own, travelled to the start on my own, shivered in the down-pour at the start on my own and had a thoroughly miserable race finding it really hard to pace my run and get in the zone with all the screaming crowds. At the finish I had to fight my way through the crowds to catch the train home from Waterloo. It was such a disappointment I didn’t run for 2 years afterwards. Fast forward to 2013 and I secured a place at London through the ballot but this time had a completely different race experience having found SJs to train with, travel to the start with and travel home on the bus with I had an amazing experience, a fantastic run and really enjoyed the camaraderie of the whole experience including the post-marathon party. In the intervening years I have run many, many more marathons and marshalled at London and was lucky enough to be drawn a place in the marshals ballot for this year’s race.
On race day I got up an hour before I was due to leave home to catch the runners coach to the start. My usual routine is a cup of coffee and porridge before getting my kit on. This year I opted for contact lenses and sunglasses with a good slathering of suntan lotion. The only problem with this is that I have now reached the age where I need glasses to read so with my contact lenses in I am unable to read the digits on my Garmin – not much use if you are aiming for consistent pacing!
I was at the Red start for the first time so was a little disorientated by the layout of the start area but soon hooked up with Claire, Sacha, Sharon and Tina where we found a shady spot under a tree to lay out some foil blankets to sit on to pass the time before the start. As the weather was so warm no-one was reluctant to strip off their outer layers and put their bags onto the baggage trucks. Tina and I were both in pen 8 so we said good bye to the others and went off to find our pen. This year was the first year the start was in waves which meant it took 47 minutes to cross the start line, a quick piece of mental maths told me that this would mean I would not make it back to The Mall to catch the coach home. During our wait we were trying to stay out of the sun as much as possible but this was unavoidable in places and I managed to drink about 500 mls of water even before crossing the start line which led to the inevitable toilet stop.
The first few miles passed pleasantly enough, I was following the 5:15 pacer and finding it quite comfortable but the 500 ml of water was now nagging at me. Each time we came to a block of port-a-loos the queues were massive so I kept ongoing as long as I could. Eventually it was a now or never situation and I lost 12 minutes queueing but the relief was worth is and it was one less thing to worry about. By the time I came out of the loos a couple of hundred runners must have passed me and rather than the nicely paced runners I was with before the group was mainly run/walkers. My legs struggled to get going again and weaving in and out of the walkers added to my distance clocking up 27.5 miles by the time I reached the finish.
The day was heating up and I resigned myself to a slow race but tried to make the most of the atmosphere and the city landmarks which really are the unique thing about London. I ran with the Karaoke man for a while and sang along to ‘Valerie’ at top volume. I savoured running over Tower Bridge, I laughed out loud at the crowds dancing and singing alongside the road including the group playing the theme tune to Benny Hill which was causing all the runners to comically speed up. The charity cheer crowds were amazing and I managed to see three different friends at different points and get some much needed hugs. My absolutely favourite part of the race was an area taken over by Run Dem Crew, they had adorned the pavement with chalk graffiti and were blasting music out over the crowds whilst clanging cow bells and making a tremendous noise which gave me goose bumps and a real lift.
By Mile 21 the group I was with were like a scene from the Walking Dead with plenty of people shuffling painfully along. There were also plenty of casualties receiving support from St Johns Ambulance so I was very glad to be feeling tired but otherwise okay. At mile 24.5 I heard my name called from behind and Tina had caught up with me looking bright and breezy. We trotted along together for a mile or so before turning the corner at Big Ben and coming across a runner leaning precariously to the left. After checking he was ok and didn’t need any assistance, Tina ran on to see her family, who were spectating and then on to a strong finish. I ground out the last half a mile to the finish and into the arms of Richard Boese who was hustling at the finish line. I Rember thinking how nice it was to see a familiar face and if Richard let go, I would probably fall over. I then shuffled through to collect my medal and another hug from Chris Lambourn followed by a hug from another running friend who was giving out goodie bags – there are some very nice benefits of being an SJ!
I would usually have to layer up at the end of a race but it was still so warm that I just took my trainers off, popped my flip flops on and headed off to Waterloo to catch the next train home. Just as I arrive at Waterloo a train heading to Farnborough was ready to leave so I was able to walk straight on and into a much needed seat for the journey home. Just over an hour later I was at home with fish and chips and a glass of wine watching the BBC highlights of another epic London Marathon.