[Warning, this is a long post] My London Marathon weekend started on Friday with an uneventful train journey to Euston. I left Four Oaks at lunchtime and was settled in my London accommodation three hours later. The location was perfect. Less than a two minute walk to Baker Street and near to Marylebone High Street.
I spent most of Saturday relaxing, eating and watching rubbish on TV. Back in 2006 I spent several hours on my feet walking around London. I was tired before I’d even started the marathon. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. On Saturday evening I laid my kit out, took a photo and then spent what felt like ages trying to pin my race number to my charity vest.
I was going to regret some of these kit choices!
I ate the Spaghetti Bolognaise I’d prepared earlier (it tasted terrible), had one last read of the ‘Final Instructions’ leaflet and checked that I’d set my alarm for 6am. I didn’t want to sleep through the start of the marathon. I was in bed by 9pm and fell asleep within minutes. I woke just before my alarm feeling refreshed and ready to go. I had a quick shower, got dressed in my pre-race hanging around at the red start gear, packed my kit bag and had a decent sized breakfast.
The journey to Greenwich was straightforward. I left Baker Street at 7am and arrived at the red start in Greenwich Park 45 minutes later. Looking back I have no idea why I allowed myself to get so stressed out about the journey to Greenwich Park. It was simply a case of follow the crowd of nervous looking runners.
Walking towards the red start. At least it had stopped raining.
In 2006 and 2008 I was a ballot place runner and started on the blue start. The red start seemed much larger, with more baggage lorries and more portaloos. There were loads of portaloos and I managed three pre-race wees. Only one of the portaloos I used was disgusting, so this time I had a positive portaloo experience. In-between the portaloo visits (I’ll stop talking about portaloos now!) I got changed into my race outfit, ate a couple of bananas, drank some water and deposited my kit bag at the relevant baggage lorry.
Half an hour before the race was due to start I entered Pen 9 (right at the back of the field) and spent the next 30 minutes chatting to other runners while trying to keep warm. It was pretty chilly! I remember looking across London and realising just how far away the finish line was. At this point I suddenly realised I was about to attempt to complete the London Marathon. The race started at 10am, I crossed the start line 29 minutes later. At this stage I was virtually the last placed runner in the London Marathon. Slightly surreal! After three miles we joined the main course and merged with runners from the blue and green starts. I had been warned that this part of the course would be really congested. It was deserted! We eventually started to catch up with runners from the blue and green starts at Cutty Sark.
I reached Tower Bridge and then halfway feeling great. My knee wasn’t hurting and my foot felt fine. The course was really congested, making it difficult to run properly, but I was coping with the course congestion. At this stage I was running in a large group with the Runner’s World 5:15 pacer. Although I was enjoying the slightly random run, power walk and run routine, the congestion on the course was to end my enjoyment of the marathon. Soon after the halfway stage I was clipped from behind by another runner. I lost my balance and in avoiding falling over, jarred my right knee. One minute I was loving the London Marathon, the next minute I was unable to run properly. It was 2008 all over again.
I walked for a couple of miles and noticed that I was getting really, really cold. I regretted wearing a running skirt. I tried to run again but couldn’t. My right knee was really painful and I had no strength in my legs. The lack of long training runs was about to come back to haunt me. I hadn’t respected the marathon distance and was about to pay the price.
I remember watching the faster club runners running in the opposite direction. Some of them looked incredibly relaxed. At this stage I seriously considered dropping out of the marathon. I was cold, both of my knees were painful, I felt sick and just wanted to get away from the noise. I’d had enough of being heckled by the crowd, of dodging the water bottles dumped on the floor and of wading though discarded gel wrappers. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many gel wrappers.
One advantage of being so slow. The official race photos keep appearing!
power walked hobbled around the financial district, past Billingsgate Market and past a huge crowd of Samaritans supporters. Sorry! At the 22-mile(ish) point I reached Fetchpoint and stopped for a couple of much needed hugs. It was great to see some friendly faces and those hugs really helped me. Thanks! After leaving Fetchpoint I managed to run for 500m before having to walk again.
I remember hobbling alongside the River Thames and spotting Big Ben in the distance. The support along this section of the course was amazing and I even managed to start running again. I eventually reached Big Ben and knew that the finish line was a mile away. I hobbled along Birdcage Walk, past Buckingham Palace and then turned onto The Mall. At this point I realised that I had approximately 60 seconds to get under 6 hours. I started to run.
5 hours, 59 minutes and 45 seconds after I crossed the start line I’d completed my third (and definitely final) London Marathon.
I collected my medal, posed for an official photo and remembered to collect a goody bag (I forgot in 2008!).
Official medal pose photo. Feeling relieved that it was all over!
I was slightly disappointed that there were only large or extra-large t-shirts left. I’m now the proud owner of three London Marathon tents. I collected my kit bag, took a couple of slightly dodgy selfies and made my way to Piccadilly Circus. Ten minutes later I found myself stood in a queue inside Mc Donald’s on Baker Street. Not ideal recovery food but I’d been fantasising about salty chips for several hours.
Loving my attempt at a post-marathon selfie!
I somehow managed to get my Mc Donald’s, broken kit bag, goody bag and myself down some steps into my accommodation. I sat down and devoured the most enjoyable Mc Donald’s ever. I had a bath, inspected my feet (only a couple of blisters), got changed and had a nap. A few hours later I travelled across to Waterloo to meet my friend. Remarkably my knees and legs felt great. I had a couple of blisters but otherwise didn’t feel too bad. Not actually running the whole 26.2 miles clearly had some advantages.
I spent the majority of Monday walking around Marylebone and eating. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much food in one day. Breakfast was two cheese, ham and tomato toasties, lunch was steak and chips in Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte and dinner was calamari, pasta and ice-cream in my favourite London Italian restaurant, Casa Becci. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of my food (blogger fail).
Since returning home I’ve had plenty of time to think about my marathon experience. What went wrong? What could I have done differently? Will I ever enter another marathon? The first question is easy to answer. I didn’t train sensibly, was under-prepared and didn’t respect the marathon distance. I’m not sure that I could have done much differently as a knee injury prevented me completing several longer runs. Had I been given the option to defer I probably would have done, unfortunately I wasn’t. The final question is harder to answer. I know that I will never run another London Marathon. I’ve done it three times, I’ve had my turn. I might, however, attempt to run the Birmingham International Marathon next year. As a Brummie it would be rude not to!
I also finally looked inside my goody bag…
Minus an apple, bottle of water, bottle of Lucozade Sport and several leaflets.
Beef Jerky?? Slightly random! Men’s deodorant, thanks! I managed to eat the popcorn, skittles and crisps yesterday. I think that I’ll give the Beef Jerky a miss.
Have you ever had a disappointing marathon experience?
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever been given in a goody bag?
Do you have any tips for speeding up the blister healing process?