Wednesday 13th April
After reading a few race reports from both the Paris and Brighton Marathons, I made the decision to alter my race strategy and target running 5k splits in 20 minute intervals. The thought process was to break down the race into 8 (and a bit) segments and treat each one as a mini-race. Foolish? Only time would tell.
Saturday 16th April
Despite the reported problems regarding traffic heading towards London, the coach journey (superbly organised by Blyth Harriers) passed by without incident and before we knew it we had checked into our hotel and were soon on our way to the Excel Centre to pick up our race numbers. Amongst the other passengers on the coach were Tyne Bridge runner, Rob Kirtley and his wife Sue, so the club’s hopes of having a finisher in the London Marathon in their first year of existence didn’t rely solely on myself.
Sunday 17th April
I felt fairly relaxed during breakfast, and even the journey to the race start was quite soothing. But then, as soon as I disembarked and made my way to my allocated starting area, that’s when the butterfly’s in the stomach started to flutter. Would I deliver on my good training and recent race results? Have I asked too much of myself aiming for 5k splits in 20 minutes? Why am I doing this again????
Wandering around the starting area I bumped into Heaton Harrier runner, Les Smith, and we agreed to run the race together at 6m 26s mile pace (equating to 4 minute per 1k splits). Having ran last year’s Edinburgh Marathon alongside Mark Hall I personally think there’s a benefit to running with somebody else, even if to offer each other moral support along the way.
With a blast of the hooter we were off, and under glorious blue skies and warm sunshine, and roared on by amazing crowds, Les and I started to rattle off the 5k sections. However, as much as I was enjoying the atmosphere, our race plan went out the window just past the 10 mile marker as Les said he needed to reduce the pace and urged me to carry-on on my own.
Crossing Tower Bridge was again a magical experience, the iconic structure decked out in balloons and punting, and the cheers from the spectators almost lifting the runners off their feet. A few hundred metres down the course and I passed the half-way point in just under 1h 24m. So far, so good.
Mile 14 quickly came, and with it the first Lucozade Gel station. Having used the same brand of gel during training I thought my body would have become accustomed to their taste and texture, but unfortunately, as soon as I took a mouthful, I never felt the same for the remainder of the race as my stomach felt bloated and I could almost sense the gel swilling around inside of me.
The miles continued to pass, and it was with some relief when I emerged from the Docklands area of the race, still feeling in good spirits – albeit with a slightly dodgy tummy – and was seeing the back of the twisty part of the course. Having fell-apart during my previous two London Marathons at the 18 / 19 mile stage, it was immensely satisfying to get past this point and see the approaching 20 mile marker.
For the next few miles, as the route headed back towards Tower Bridge, I was inspired by the sight of thousands and thousands of runners on the other side of the carriageway. Some dressed in fancy-costumes, others proudly wearing their club vests, but all of them running their hearts out. With only a few miles to go I looked at my watch, and for the first time during the race, thought to myself, yes, I’m going to do it.
Mile 25, and despite my best efforts to keep running at a constant pace, a side stitch, which had slowly developed during the previous mile, had now got to the stage where I had no option but to slow down in an attempt to walk it off. But every time I slowed down (or should I say stopped) a cry of ‘Go on Tyne Bridge’ would come flying out of the crowd, encouraging me to start running again. This routine was repeated time after time until, like an oasis in the desert, I saw a beacon of hope for the runners, the sign indicating only 600 metres to go. And beyond that another sign, 400 metres to go.
Turning onto The Mall was one of those moments you’d like to bottle and saviour for all time. Up in distance was the finishing line, and in an instant all the pain and worries disappear and you feel like a person reborn again. I started sprinting (!) to the finish and as I was about to cross the line I looked up at the race clock and saw it read 2h 50m 07s. In jubilation I raise my arms as high as I can manage and cross the line a very, very happy man.
I’ve already mentioned the fantastic support of the spectators around the course but I’ve also got to thank everyone at the club for their tremendous encouragement prior to the race. It does wonders for your self-belief knowing you have the support and good-will of your fellow club members. Or is the fact you dare not return to the club through sheer embarrassment if you ran a stinker.
A special mention to Rob too, who although missing out on his own target time, demonstrated what a true sportsman and gentleman he is by being genuinely delighted for all the runners who ran and completed the marathon. His day will come when he run’s the race of his life, whether it’s a sub 39 at 10k or a 1h 27m for a half, and I only hope I am there to congratulate him.
Split and Full Times.
5k 19m 34s
10k 19m 46s
15k 19m 52s
20k 19m 53s
Half 1h 23m 27s
25k 19m 48s
30k 19m 57s
35k 20m 13s
40k 20m 38s
Finish 2h 50m 01s
Finishing Position: 465 (overall)
Rob Kirtley: 4h 18m 12s
Les Smith: 3h 16m 14s