I’m not really sure why I applied for the London marathon but apply I did and I was very surprised to get in. I always thought I’d run a marathon one day but this was a bit earlier than expected. I think I was swept up in the Facebook frenzy and I applied on a whim.
So January 1st was my date to start my training. Luckily Jantastic started at the same time and it got me going on my marathon training. I read though all the marathon plans and ignored the lot of them. Around the time I was starting training I was having a bit of problem with self diagnosed shin splints. I still haven’t a clue what it was, but it’s stopped now so my mantra of ‘ignore it and it’ll go away’ comes up trumps again. Due to this injury I couldn’t run for too long so I started running 4 times a week at about 6 miles, thinking that if I get my cardio up then I’ll be fine. Everything was going fine in training until Jantastic finished at the start of April when I stopped running. I didn’t taper, I just plain stopped.
So even though I felt great all the way through training from January, as soon as I got to London I was pretty worried. I did a sub 30 minute parkrun at Gunpowder Park on the Saturday, Anita’s first sub 30, then headed through to the Excel to collect my number and meet some Striders. I was very nervous while at the Excel and think I must have spoken a total of ten words to Alan, Stephanie, Jacquie and Alister. Anita loved the different stalls that were set up there and I was interested in a few but all I wanted to do was have a lie down. I was knackered. Finally we got back to my Uncle James’ house and had a carb load with lots of pasta and an early night.
Race day. I was up before my alarm and just lay in bed and waited. The alarm went off and I was up and getting ready. My Uncle James made me scrambled eggs on toast and I had that then nipped to the loo. This was my biggest worry in the week leading up to the race, Paula Radcliffe has a lot to answer for. I was ready to leave and just milling around the house wasting time, not really doing anything. Little did I realise that we were running very late. Straight in the car and to the train station where I had to say goodbye to Anita and James and run for my train. As I could travel for free I didn’t have to wait in line for a ticket in the queue but spectators had to. Luckily the train was a couple of minutes late and they both managed to get tickets in time to join me on the train. I wouldn’t have fancied the journey on my own.
We arrived in Blackheath with hundreds of other nervous runners all walking to the start line. When 9am arrived I said goodbye to Anita and James for a second time and entered the Blue section from where I was due to set off in a little under an hour. I was ready to run so dropped my bag off at the baggage lorries and went to the area near to the urinals and start area where I had a sit down and waited, conserving energy. Then a lie down, conserving more energy. Then I went to the toilet; it’s at this point I am always glad I’m a boy as my queue was a lot quicker than the queue for the portaloos. I repeated this process another 2 times. I was lying on the grass staring up at an almost cloudless sky just wanting to get the run underway. I’d thought about this run since September when I got my confirmation through and all I wanted to do was start running it. Eventually people started streaming past me towards the start pens so I followed and joined the crowds and got in my start position. From my position I couldn’t hear anything to indicate the race had started, my only clue was that everyone in my pen had started walking towards the start line. As we were approaching the startling a fellow runner was applying suntan lotion and offered the bottle around before he threw it away, this is why I love the running community. So suntan lotion applied and I eventually crossed the start line 9 minutes after the Elites and within the first 50 metres it dawned on me that I was running a marathon and I still had 26 miles to go. My immediate second thought was that it’s not a good time to start thinking about how long I have left to go. I got into a rhythm I was comfortable with and concentrated on not tripping anyone up. I was going about 25 seconds per mile too fast at this point and I had visions of smashing my 4 hours target by about 20 minutes but I decided to heed Alister’s words of warning and not get carried away so I wound it back and started taking it a bit easier. Very shortly I was in Greenwich and the place where Anita and James said they would try and see me for the first time. I was looking left and right for a large amount of the time to try and see them but there were so many people along the route that I had no chance.
It was starting to get very warm and I was glad Anita suggested bringing a baseball cap. I’m not great in the sun and when we go on holiday we always have to find a shady area for me to sit while Anita sits in the sun. There isn’t much to say about the race itself at this point as I can’t remember much. I ran past a fire station where the fire brigade had a makeshift shower which was a welcome relief and at one point someone stopped dead in front of me and I had to jump round him, only to realise he was texting someone! Anita said later that she was stood beside people who were receiving texts from their loved ones on the course to say how far they’d done and when they’d likely be at a certain spot. Crazy. I also passed Tony the Fridge, a group of guys dressed at the Jamaican bobsleigh team complete with foam bobsleigh and countless other people dressed in crazy outfits. One lad was even kicking a football the full length of the course.
I kept running and doing maths and split times in my head, making sure I was still within my 4 hour pace. I waved at someone holding a sign saying ‘give us a wave if you parkrun’ and just crowd watched the rest of the time. There is very little of the 26.2 mile route which doesn’t have some spectators so there is always something to look at. Alan Smith ran up behind me at one point and asked how I was doing and it was nice to see a familiar face. I said I was fine and on course for my time and asked how he was. I think he said he had a sore leg before wishing me luck. At some point between 6 miles and 20 (my memory of the race is that vague) I got a cheer of ‘Well done Mark Dunseith’ and I looked up to see Jacquie and Stephanie’s partner waving at me. It’s amazing how much of a lift this gives you, seeing someone you know give you encouragement does spur you on and you forget the pain for a little while.
I was worried about mile 17 as people say this is the point where you hit ‘the wall’ but a strategically placed gel station just before this got me through and I felt comfortable but slow going through the next 3 miles. I was losing precious seconds every mile around this point and thought I wasn’t going to make it in less than 4 hours but I decided that rather than walk I would aim for 4:02 or 4:03 and give myself something good to aim for next time. I got to mile 20 in 3 hours and decided that I could make my target time and just to keep going at the speed I was doing and not to get excited and try and increase my pace. All through the previous 10 miles I was taking a water bottle at every point I could and taking a sip then pouring the rest in my hat to keep cool. This kept me feeling comfortable in the heat all the way round and I continued this tactic to the end. I got to a point which I thought was a 5k to go marker but it turned out to be a mini marathon start point but I figured it was about the same distance and I knew at this point I was going to beat 4 hours, it was going to be close but I wasn’t letting it get away. Less than a parkrun to go and I increased my speed slightly. I felt great at this point, the pain was gone and I knew I was going to finish.
At 25 miles I finally saw Anita and my uncle and it was the boost I needed to get me over the last mile. I ran past St Stephen’s Tower as Big Ben struck 2pm which was brilliant. The British army had soldiers positioned along the last half mile and they were all giving encouragement to the runners. It was a great final mile. Until 600 meters to go where I just had nothing left. I was struggling to move my legs and just wanted to sit down. I trudged past Lizzie’s house and noticed the flag was flying high so knew she was probably having a cup of tea and watching me out the window so I looked at the clock and realised I had just over 3 minutes to cross the line and gave everything I had left. Over the line and stopped. My legs felt awful and I’m not sure I could have run another step, but I didn’t have to. I took off my timing chip and was given a medal and walked, slowly, to the baggage bus. One of the volunteers saw me walking towards them and had my bag ready for me the second I got there. Brilliant service.
After crossing the line I decided I was never going to do it again … I have since signed up for an ultra…. and have entered the ballot for next year….
|1||Kipsang, Wilson (KEN)||Kenya||M||2:04:29|
|1*||Kiplagat, Edna (KEN)||Kenya||F||2:20:21|
|4187||Terry, Rachel (GBR)||FV40||3:24:59|
|6247||Robson, Alister (GBR)||MV40||3:37:08|
|10023||Walker, Stephanie (GBR)||F||3:54:01|
|11318||Dunseith, Mark Lewis (GBR)||M||3:58:18|
|12016||Gourlay, Aaron (GBR)||M||4:00:51|
|17045||Brodie, Mark William (GBR)||M||4:22:09|
|21167||Smith, Alan (GBR)||MV65||4:39:42|
|21905||Goddard, Debra (GBR)||FV40||4:42:57|
|31342||Thompson, Margaret (GBR)||FV60||5:38:47|
*Elite Women’s race.