Monday, 18 April 2011

London Marathon 2011

Nipped down with some of the family to Richmond on Friday to stay with friends. We avoided the M1 Bridge debacle. After a convivial night, we made our way over on the tube and train in the mid-day heat to Excel to register for the London Marathon. Plenty of stalls but not many freebies. Having checked out the forecast, I bought a new sleek black cap to wear just in case it got hot. The rest of the guys had travelled down earlier.

Weighted down with bags slung over our shoulders we made our way to Covent Garden where the hotel was. I thought I'd better start the pre race saturation so bought a large bottle of water (at great expense). Dumped the bags, freshened up then wandered around Leicester Square looking for grub in the early evening heat. Not the best preparation before running 26 miles.

Up early on Sunday Morning I had a grapefruit, 2 croissants and coffee, caught the free train and found myself (and club mates) at Blackheath before 8:30am on race day. We got the team photo taken and then sat around for an hour on the grass in the ‘good for age' pen. I saw a few familiar faces including David Daniels, Brian Cruickshank and Steve Marshall. Pinned the gels in the shorts, made sure ipod was working and that the Vaseline was spread liberally into those little crevices. I chucked my bag into the baggage bus and jogged about abit unconvincingly (knowing that I was in a select pen with most guys who were probably faster and more experienced than me). The call went up and we lined up. I then realised I had forgotten my new cap which I'd carefully taken out of my bag and subsequently then placed back into my bag. Nothing to be done. Klaxon sounded and we were off.

I was well back and started easily without the ipod, instead soaking up the atmosphere and cheering crowds. By 2 miles I realised it would be a hot one and began to survey the road as I ran to see if I could find any suitable discarded headgear. I ran across some sunglasses and missed a white cap but soon another green cap was there lying on the road at my feet and I scuffed my knuckles picking it up (without losing any time! -they should try teaching that technique at marathon training camp). I rinsed it on the move at the drinks station and spent the rest of the race wearing it (sometimes you've just got to improvise to survive, especially if you’re bald with the sun high over the yard arm in foreign fields).

I initially ran behind a couple of Colombian runners then pulled ahead. I was having to work a little from 5 miles and spent as much time dodging the bottles scattered around the bottle stops every mile or so. Some runners were launching half full bottles across the sky and I thought 'marathon school' should teach them to slide them along the floor to the kerb like the bikies do.

I was never in a group. It was completely fluid albeit that we were all hemmed in like running bulls at the festival. Herd Culture.

I had the camera phone and took some snaps as I ran. I had garmin trouble early on when ‘gel fever’ meant I kept stopping and starting the buttons rather than just pressing the 'lap time', so gave up early watching my time and pace. The little printed pace 3:10 pace wristband that I thought would be my saviour became a joke. It was too small and too precise and I grew to treat it with contempt for the 26 miles we were together. We parted soon after.

I thought there were loads of Carnethys but a second look suggested they were the Serpentine Club and the same went for a clutch of Dunbar runners who turned out to be from Bracknell - similar vests. By 16 miles my toe was sore and I thought it was a blister so stopped on the kerb to remove my shoe and adjust my sock---any excuse for a breather!

I passed a walking Border Harrier in mid-race and then a few other walkers as things really began to warm up. It was a hot, stuffy sort of heat, probably because of the lack of wind. At 20 miles in need of different stimulation I plugged in the Ipod, and went with a few oldies. It was AC/DC who got the party started. I was tiring now and whatever the plans were, keeping moving and being focused means everything else is abandoned. You become oblivious. At the Embankment where crowds were 3 and 4 deep I came to a crawling runner in the middle of the road and helped him to the side. After chucking the borrowed green cap to the’ grateful’ audience with 400yds to go, I got entangled with another collapsing runner before marshals took over, helping him to the side. The runner whose legs had gone still mouthed the words that he ‘had to finish’ even as he crumpled, such was the spirit of his determination.

I finished in 3:01:30, pretty done in but pleased managing 8 or 10 minutes ahead of where I thought I’d be.

Meeting up with the Wolfpack in the Silver Cross pub on Whitehall, led to the usual race post mortem. Everyone agreed it had been a 'big day out'.

Huge crowds, big scenery and an international festival atmosphere make this a 'must-do' event. Tried to find someone at the end to swap vests with but didn't manage.

Still high on participation. Tremendous.

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