After almost 900 days, the mass participation version of the London Marathon has returned!
I’ve run this marathon twice before, but it’s never felt so much like running on home turf as this time. From getting to the start, to knowing where all the inclines and dips are, and even seeing family and friends on the supporting crowd… And running right past my house! So I had no excuse to run this race poorly!
The weather was favourable; probably 11c on the morning, which felt cold because of the extra waiting about due to Covid test checks etc. I was sporting my first pair of carbon-plated trainers: Hoka One One Carbon X 2. They were light, and right from the get-go I was feeling sprightly!
It has been less than two weeks since my last race, a physically and mentally grueling 24hr track race (so much so I haven’t yet written about it). Coming out of that I had all sorts of physical maladies that physios were not entirely certain I’d even make it to the start line! One suggested dosing up with painkillers on the day, and hope for the best!
But at the start line, as I said I felt good. I knew what pace I needed to keep to get round in a respectable time… And I completely ignored it! I was running a minute/mile less, and loving every moment of it. I was running comfortably with the sub 3:30 runners, and was starting to think that my previous race and my new physio had given me superpowers!
For anyone reading this who’s not run the London Marathon, I’ll tell you what I was told before I first ran it: it’s not a good marathon to get a PB in. As different waves of runners and different coloured holding pens of runners merged, and every time the road narrowed, it became a melee, and I was inadvertently elbowed and tripped once as other runners ran haphazardly. Six miles in I decided to stick as close a possible to the blue line- the most direct route, and if it means slowing down periodically due to slower runners ahead, so be it. This worked well, and I kept a good pace through to mile 12. In my head I had broken the marathon into two 10 milers and a 10k.
Over Tower Bridge, I was still running far too fast, and I allowed myself then to ease off the gas. The only problem then was that it was hard to speed up again! As I approached the Isle of Dogs, I was trying to force myself to accelerate, but I was in a dark place. Heading back north to Canary Wharf, I spotted my family in the crowd, which was a great little boost. A slight change in the route through the Wharf, a little run through Poplar, and I was onto the final 10k. By this point my quads were taking a beating from the lower volume of cushioning in my shoes, and I had to focus on keeping momentum despite each step hurting.
As we left the Wharf I felt the sun more, and it felt way hotter than the modest 15c that was forecast. The slightest inclines and descents now felt like a rollercoaster ride, and I really wasn’t sure if my legs would hold out even at the slower pace. I kept thinking I’d put too much effort on to throw it all away in the last 6, 5, 4 miles.
By 3 miles to go I was on auto-pilot. 2 miles and I was running whilst on the red zone. One mile to go and everyone picked up the pace. I didn’t see any faces in the throngs of supporters, didn’t hear the chants, just thought about keeping stride length long and cadence as high as I could tolerate. Rounding the corner at Buckingham Palace, 200 metres to go. I’d stopped looking at my pace long ago, and gave it everything I had.The result… a course personal best!
Walked for ages to get my bag with medal, with adductors and quads complaining. Tried to sleep in Horse Guards Parade. Ended up being sick then feeling much better. Hopped on the free tube service by flashing my medal. Celebrated with a burrito, Coke and a beer.
I’ve already entered next year’s ballot, and I’m now in planning for next year’s race season. I was pleased overall with today’s result, but the first half of the race showed me that if I either held back a bit and paced, and/or strengthened my quads more, I could drop several more minutes off my marathon time!
Keep training, keep racing