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London Marathon

It was a once in a life time experience which I’m glad I’ve done. Some parts, like running over Tower Bridge were amazing, but I hated much of it.  Never again, although I do now have unfinished business over 26.2 miles.

I have to admit it’s taken me more than a few days to write this blog post.   I’ve been putting it off. I’ve been a bit down in the dumps and disappointed in myself. It didn’t go as I wished, I didn’t enjoy it.

As time goes on I am getting things into perspective. I had a bad day, a bad race. It was probably a combination of any of a number of things. Mistakes in fuelling and hydration, a too sharp taper with a bruised rib, under training, not taking account of the warm weather…. Whatever it was or wasn’t, bad races happen. Normally I shrug and get on with the next one a little wiser and tougher. But it’s harder to swallow when you’ve built up for a big race where the training has taken over for the previous 4 months.

I always said (before my first marathon) I wouldn’t run one until I was very very old because it’s such a long way and old age would give me a valid excuse to stop for a cup of tea (or two, or stronger) along the way. I think I must have meant this one and I should have stuck to my guns because London is probably the right one for tea (beer) stops. Not that I’m criticising it. I found The London Marathon an amazing somewhat overwhelming experience. But not a comfortable run.

It was impeccably organised, I was marshalled onto the right train at Charing Cross, got to the blue start where the loo queue was manageable and I dropped my bag in the right lorry, where they checked I had my timing chip and everything I needed, and walked to the start pen. It was busy but calm and civilised

I lined up with confidence. After my 20 milers I just had to do the same and then hang on and try not to slow too much over the last 6 miles. As long as I kept running then I’d hopefully be ok for about a 4.30 ish finish.

It took me a while to settle and hold a steady pace, not being pulled along with the pack at too fast a pace. At 5K I felt the buzz from feeling that I was part of something really amazing. I enjoyed the atmosphere of running around the Cutty Sark but had my first taste of the effort and concentration needed to hold pace as it became crowded. The support from spectators was amazing but at points they were spilling out onto the route pinching the flow of runners, even obscuring the blue racing line.

My problems started when I felt I needed to stop for a wee. I was reluctant because the queues looked like I could say goodbye to at least 10 minutes race time. I carried on, envious of the men at every opportunity in a line against the wall having a pee. At 10 miles I knew I wasn’t feeling the love, I was not ‘in the zone’, lost in my run and my thoughts. I was having to concentrate way too much on my surroundings and to hold pace with stop-starting in front of me, many distractions from sights, sounds and smells all around and empty water bottles to watch for on the road.

The turn towards Tower Bridge came suddenly and was one of the highlights as we ran up to and over the bridge. The crowds either side of the road were huge and the roar of cheers amazing which literally took my breath away. I’m not usually breathless at that pace, it’s the legs that go first, but the noise, crowds and the heat was quite claustrophobic.

At halfway I began to realise I was in trouble. I’d run a good steady half in 2.11,  well within my usual comfort zone, but had worked harder than I realised to do it. I had sipped water but knew I’d not drunk enough for the heat, holding back because I didn’t want to stop, and although I’d taken gels my legs were tiring and feeling wobbly. I pushed on keeping an eye on loo queues.

At about 15 miles I got a wonderful boost from seeing my brother and getting a big hug from my sister in law. It’s amazing how much pace and mileage you can get from a hug!  I was aware of roughly where friends were going to be on the course but there were so many people. Unless supporters had a banner people were impossible to spot. It was disorientating trying to look up and down both sides of the road for a familiar face and disheartening when I got well past the area they might be. How I managed to see the people who did spot me is a miracle. I was sorry to miss others, a couple of BMF buddies in particular because I was so looking forward to using one significant word to describe how I was finding it. (F***ing hot, F***ing horrible!)

After Westferry I was beginning get stomach cramps so my stop for the loo became necessary. Fortunately  I didn’t have to plod on too long before I found a portaloo with no one waiting. Then I was able to get some water and a gel down and went on to have a good patch between 16 and 18 miles and began to think I could pull things together. It was then I turned my ankle on a water bottle, nothing too bad that a hop and a stamp couldn’t cure but enough to weaken my resolve to keep running and start my first walk break.

It was great to see Alma and Louise around that point. I was so happy to see a friendly face and more than tempted to stop and chat far longer.  Carrying on I was less aware of my surroundings or the sights of London, just pleased that the course had turned and I was heading in the right direction to the finish. I was beginning to feel nauseous and settled into a pattern of taking walk breaks for a couple of minutes each mile.

Around 20 miles. I was overtaken by the 4.30 pace maker. I tucked in behind and tried to stay with them but the nausea and stomach ache returned and forced me to walk and I settled into my long run-walk to the finish. I was raising money for a good cause and I had to get my medal so I stopped feeling sorry for myself, put a grin on my face and turned to plan d. Finish.

Which I did after 4 hours 51 mins.

I was probably both an idiot and a wimp on the day. Now I must stop being cross with myself because I was slower than last time and remember I ran a marathon and in not too bad a time. I will run another marathon, but after I’ve forgotten about the training for this one. Next time if I want to get so competitive with myself I might seek some advice for training, fuelling and hydration and find a slightly less busy one with the odd quiet stretch to allow for a bit of head space.

In the meantime you’ll find me out getting therapy on my bike and at BMF.

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