Monday, 18 April 2011

Race report - London Marathon 2011

Well, the day didn't start well for me yesterday.  After getting up late, and faffing about for ages doing god knows what, I found myself late for the train and had to run the half a mile to the station.  So much for a relaxed and easy journey in!  I made it though, and with the train nearly into London, I suddenly realised that I'd forgotten to bring my Garmin watch.  You know, that gadget that I need to motivate and pace myself during a race...and which was also the only way that I was going to get my target time.  I felt sick.  Absolutely gutted and couldn't believe how stupid I'd been to have left it charging on the side in the kitchen.  I thought about going back home to pick it up but I was too close to London and wouldn't have made the marathon start in time....

But hey ho, I did make it to the start, with the amazing hot air balloons and the thousands of people.  The excitement and nervousness was palpable amongst the crowd, but this was my first time at the Blue start.  I've been at the Red start before, and definitely think I prefer it there - there just seems to be a bit more of a party atmosphere, and more costumes to admire...oh, and louder music!

Anyway, I decided to find the pacers and to try and run with them to help me achieve my time.  But from my pen (8) I couldn't see one anywhere, so realised I'd have to run without any idea of how fast I was going - and yes, I know that I should be able to tell, but I honestly find that really hard, and during my half marathons I'm constantly surprised when I glance down my watch to see how fast or slow I'm running compared to my intended pace.  So, feeling very dejected about the whole thing, I waited, hoping I would cheer up by the time I started my third London Marathon.

The crowds were absolutely amazing, pretty much all of the way around.  They definitely brought me out of my mood, and for most of the way round I'm sure I was grinning (well, until the last 6 miles at least!) I've never seen (or heard) crowds like it, and was so glad I didn't take my iPod - the noise of the cheering, the music blaring out of pub speakers, and domestic stereos was just amazing.  Even the bloke stood outside his house playing his trumpet and the other one playing his bagpipes really made me smile!

Along the route there were areas where it was hard to run because of the number of other runners in a narrow street or because the crowd were spilling over the pavement into the road, and I can admit to getting a bit annoyed at times, particularly when people would stop in front of me to change direction, or to drink their water.  But every time I felt a bit annoyed, I told myself not to be such a meeny - everyone was doing their best, and I should just try to enjoy the whole thing and not get stressed!

But the worst thing was the heat.  The horrendous blaring sunshine.  I could feel my body overheating and was pouring water over my head like you wouldn't believe.  I had to stop a couple of times in the shade just to wait for my body to cool down - there were lots of people collapsing by the side of the road, and if there was one thing I knew I couldn't do, it was to have a DNF after not listening to my body!  I'd accepted that my goal time was a distant memory after about 16 miles, and so just tried to get round in a PB.

Francis was waiting for me at about mile 20 and it makes such a difference to see someone who is there solely to cheer you on, and to have a quick chat.  For the couple of miles before you know you'll see them it's definitely a boost, which continues after you've seen them too. It was so lovely when I first spotted him in the crowd and raced over to see him, although he didn't see me until I was pretty much in front of him, hence the photos...


I think I started struggling from about mile 22, stopping a few times to stretch, and a couple of times to walk.  I did manage to keep going though, and amazingly even got a bit of a sprint on in the last 200 meters.  It was a really hard run, worse than I'd expected, and I really think I'd forgotten how hard running the marathon is.  I know the heat didn't help, but even if it'd been a chilly day it would still have been a massive challenge.  The crowds really do pull you round though and I know they make the difference for a lot of people between giving up or finishing.  It's amazing that so many people come to support the runners, and do it so very enthusiastically! For that, I am always grateful. I was also very grateful, and so, so relieved, to cross that finish line, even though it was a full 25 minutes slower than I'd be hoping for, at 4hrs 55mins 17secs.  But I did much better than last year (45 minutes better!) and I did still manage a PB of 5 minutes.

So, another medal, another successful run, although it didn't feel as special as my other two marathons.  I don't know if that's because I left the house, and went to the start, on my own whereas before my family came with me, or whether it was because there were many fewer people I knew watching me on the course, or just because my reason for doing the race this year had been to get a time and I failed in that...or maybe it's because racing has just become a part of my life now, so it's not so special.  Whichever it was, it's a bit sad not to feel quite so excited about the whole thing - maybe that feeling will come back running a new marathon route.  Let's hope so, as I've got the Shakespeare Marathon in just three weeks time! 

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