Back in 2009, with a few Great North Runs under by belt, I thought I might fancy London one day. I think it was still 5 refusals, then you get a place back then, so I threw my name in the ballot with a long-term plan. Surprisingly I got a place first time! But it wasn’t to be, and I had to defer a year. By April 2011 I had a 2-month-old baby, so marathon plans were shelved for a long time…Continue reading London Marathon 2019
Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sweat. Yes, it was hot! As we waited for the start, we were all drinking water, looking for shade and paying frequent visits to the ‘female urinals’ (a bizarre experience!) Finally, our wave set off. After all the waiting and anticipation, it was great to be finally running my first marathon! Although my training had been derailed by a combination of injury, snow and work, I still hoped I might be able to finish in under 4 hours. The first miles seemed deceptively easy. The atmosphere was brilliant and there were plenty of distractions: crazily-dressed runners (Paddington costume – in that heat??), cheerful crowds, Greenwich, the Cutty Sark. It was already roasting, but there were lots of water-stations and showers, and I found I was able to maintain a reasonable pace.
Blood. About 10 miles in, with the temperature continuing to rise, I suddenly had a terrible nosebleed! What to do? This was definitely not in the Plan! I didn’t want to stop, so I carried on running slowly for a couple of miles with blood streaming from my nose onto my face, hands and legs. Not a pretty sight! It finally stopped, but by then I realised would have to abandon any hopes of a sub 4-hour time.
Tears. The second half was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. There were lots of highs: catching sight of my family by chance; spotting Striders Rachel and Michael Mason and Peter Hart in the crowds at around 18 miles; strangers shouting my name; the man running with the washing machine on his back… But there were plenty of lows too: by about mile 20 my legs were screaming at me to stop and I had to force myself to continue. By 24 miles, I knew the end was in sight. Despite the excruciating pain, I managed to pick up the pace and finish with a decent time of just over 4 hours.
I came away from my first marathon with mixed feelings. I’m really glad I did it and it was a thoroughly memorable experience, but I can’t say I’m in a hurry to do another one any time soon!
|Place overall||Place gender||Place cat.||Name||Runner no||Category||Finish|
|1||1||1||KIPCHOGE, Eliud (KEN)||3||18-39||02.04.17|
|15||1||1||CHERUIYOT, Vivian (KEN)||109||18-39||02.18.31|
|142||142||111||Jackson, Stephen (GBR)||1397||18-39||02.39.31|
|455||449||78||Littlewood, Michael (GBR)||1965||40-44||02.50.28|
|631||621||434||Pritchard, Gareth (GBR)||1444||18-39||02.54.14|
|703||692||475||Kearney, Mark (GBR)||1989||18-39||02.55.32|
|9241||2067||1155||Walton, Katy (GBR)||20291||18-39||03.58.02|
|10682||2558||181||Davies, Sarah (GBR)||10045||50-54||04.05.42|
|12922||3374||716||Gardham, Sue (GBR)||20293||40-44||04.16.41|
|25121||8102||120||Bradley, Jean (GBR)||24716||60-64||05.09.38|
|28404||9697||5229||Brannan, Stacey (GBR)||20292||18-39||05.24.56|
|30424||10716||61||Farnsworth, Christine (GBR)||30595||65-69||05.35.48|
|35569||13532||88||Thompson, Margaret (GBR)||20290||65-69||06.10.04|
2:45 was the magic number, 6.17 min/mile average pace. This meant Championship time. I had missed this target by 2 minutes last year and it was not going to happen again. To achieve this, while I needed to heed Allan’s advice (don’t go off too fast x 3) I wanted to feel settled at 6.13/min mile pace until halfway to then relax for the remainder of the run. I had my nutrition strategy sorted – my normal gels at 1 hour, 1.5 hours and 2 hours + five sips of water. Oh and I had remembered my Strider vest and the ubiquitous yellow hat!!
We had managed to stay at the same hotel as last year which was close to Stephen meaning we could travel to our separate start lines together. This calmed my nerves greatly. At the actual start line, my body wasn’t playing the game – cramp in both calves and spasms in piriformis and hamstring. Trying to complete flexor stretches next to the Elites on a full start line was fun!! Even more fun was the toilet etiquette when I was not allowed to leave the start line to visit the facilities and was forced to use a bottle instead!! Time to then put my music on, have a little dance (a little bit of Cypruss Hill) and get my head in the game.
0 – 6.2mile
The first 10k was a dream, I felt photo fresh and cramp free. My pace was bang on time and I had a massive smile on my face. I even managed to work the crowd a bit and enjoy some of the sights.
6.2 – 13.1
Still smiling and running well. I was concerned about taking the gel, although I had practised with this, I only had a 50/50 success rate meaning that on occasion it upsets my stomach. Not this time!
The absolute highlight was spotting Oscar, Lewis and Wendy as I ran off Tower Bridge. The first time in 3 years that I have noticed them in the crowd. It really gave me a massive boost and I actually had to slow myself down a bit in order not to excitedly increase my pace!
Now this was the first tricky bit. The route is a little dull coupled with the run getting harder. I needed to increase my effort to maintain my pace. I can’t say that I was struggling but my legs were definitely feeling more tired and just not as fresh – a bit of an anti-climax after the exhilaration of getting to the half way point.
18 – 23 miles
Mile 18 was my slowest mile at 6.30/min but I did not feel like I had slowed down. This worried me. I responded with a 5.53 at 19 miles which was maybe a mistake because miles 20 and 21 were really hard. I was not going to let it slip now though. I spotted a runner in front of me with ‘Training Oscar’ on his back – he was my focus. My pace stayed at 6.12 and 6.18 – still on track. This bit me on the backside at mile 22 and 23, pace was now 6.27 and 6.28. Could this really be slipping away??
The Decider – 24
Mile 24 was the biggest mile of my running life. I came out of the tunnel, up the hill and onto the Embankment, I had real negative thoughts. I wanted to give up, 2:45 seemed certainly out of range, I knew Striders were expecting me to succeed and I felt a failure, I had let them down. I had to kick my own arse and I looked at my hand which reminded me of Wendy and the boys who love me and really spur me on.
The attack began. The pain was incredible, the tops of my hamstrings were on fire, calves were screaming and my eyesight was beginning to blur but I was passing people left and right. I spotted a Crook runner about 50 metres ahead and I was catching him which gave me strength. Mile 24 was the quickest of the race – 5.47min/mile.
I had caught the Crook runner Rob Teasdale. This was North East team mentality in a nutshell! He said ‘Let’s do this!! Let’s get that Championship time!!’ This encouragement and teamwork was just what I needed, I was gone by then and really struggling, the impact of mile 24 meant I was even tasting a metallic taste in my mouth, the blood vessels at the back of my throat were bursting.
Mile 26 – finish line.
I came around the last corner with Rob and noted that I only had 40 seconds left, I was not sure I was going to make it. I told myself to light this one up!! I visualised myself in the morning looking back on the race and knowing that I had accomplished it. I don’t really remember much about that last 200 metres but I crossed the finish line with 9 seconds to spare!!
I could not believe what I had done, I stood still and was then quickly ushered forward although I did need some assistance with the first few steps.
The Championship Finishers – Stephen Jackson and Michael Littlewood
Final thoughts. (Warning – the soppy bit!!)
I would like to say a massive thank you to the purple army who I know had my back. I simply could not do this without your support. Allan Seheult as my coach and friend, thank you for all the time and care you give. My training partners Gareth, Tamsin, Matty and Stephen. It really is a privilege to run with you and most importantly, great fun! Stephen, Vics and Allan also get special mention for putting up with my drunken ramblings on that long train ride back home!!
To Wendy, Oscar and Lewis. I love you, thank you for all you do. Can’t wait to cheer you across the London Marathon finish line in 2018 Wendy!!
The London Marathon
Warning!: This is not a positive report. Other reports about this race are available!
I’m not a city person. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like traffic. I don’t like constant loud noise. And I don’t like too much concrete. COD (Concrete Oppression Depression) is a ‘thing’ that happened to me when I lived in Liverpool for 5 years. So why did I enter the London marathon? Curiosity and that was it. Ha, well, yeah, we all know what killed the cat don’t we.
So, I was at the Green start, having got a Good For Age place, and needed to get to Maze Hill train station for this start area. The race and the whole of London it seemed were very well organised for this race. The organisation I can not criticise at all. There were marshals everywhere in the Underground train system sign posting people. Also everyone was extremely friendly. And anyone with a race number also travelled free. I arrived in good time and did all my usual pre-race things.
..It all went wrong when I went to my start pen. From then on for the next 26.2 miles I was in a crowd. The problem with being short is that most people are taller than you so you can see only the backs and sides of people around you and a bit of sky above. I once stood on a chair to experience life from the view point of my husband and it really does give you a different perspective! So, in this crowd of runners it was really hot, smelly and claustrophobic. Following the blue line was never going to happen as I couldn’t see it! As we got closer and closer to central London the spectator noise increased exponentially. Due to the crowd situation a short girl running next to me went splat on her face. I stopped to see if she was OK and two guys from behind ran straight into me so I went flying too. One of them had kindly tried to stop me by grabbing me, but he squished my body so tight with his hands that his nails made me bleed. I felt really stressed. I had a splitting headache. As we pounded the hot tarmac I tried to work out why. I can only conclude it was stress. Stress from people always in my personal space, stress from the noise and stress from lack of fresh air. I had sewed two pockets onto my Striders vest top and in one of them I had luckily put some foam earplugs. They only blocked out 50% of the noise but it helped a bit.
Then the sun came out. Thing with down south is that its obviously warmer than up here, add that to the London heat island affect (plus 2 degrees) and the sun coming out and suddenly you have 20 degrees. I’m not good running in the sun. I squirted my legs with water from the water stations to cool me down, which also served to get rid of the nauseating sticky orange yak that got squired on my legs from other runners stepping on Lucazade sport bottles.
After half way it soon became clear to me that I was not maintaining my 7.50mm pace, probably due to the stressful conditions, and my hopes of 3.25 rapidly dissolved. After some many miles of trying to get up pace and failing to do so I considered leap-frogging over the barrier to escape, but decided to continue because actually I’d only be standing in a hot, sweaty crowd queuing somewhere else to get onto a tube station platform. At least by continuing the race I was in a moving crowd going to where I wanted to go.
Finally got to the end. Thank God. Gutted about my rubbish time. A rubbish 30 minutes later than my PB and 35 minutes later than my goal! Didn’t really want a medal. Cried. Collected my bag. Gave myself a kick up the bum and went to meet my family.
On the Virgin train back to Durham I ate an overpriced Richard Branston baguette with chemical flavourings and tried to work out what had happened. I love marathons, it is my favourite distance. I just didn’t like London. I can’t wait for my next marathon. I suspect it will be a race in some unknown backwater of nowhere where I can just run freely, where I can concentrate on what I am doing!, where maybe there is some scenery!, and where I can enjoy it! Even though London wasn’t for me and didn’t go well I am proud of myself for trying it and I learnt a whole lot about big city marathons.
Extract from the book Running My Way by Tamsin Imber with permission from Pitch Publishing.
Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday, April 24, 2016
Stephen Jackson and Elaine Bisson
Stephen Jackson …
The day before I travelled to London I was informed, via Facebook, that my 2015 PB from the Greater Manchester Marathon was no longer recognised by England Athletics as an official marathon time. Suddenly, the trip to the Capital had a little more pressure attached to it.
Fastforward three days, and I’m inside a portable toilet in the Blackwall tunnel, about fourteen miles into the Virgin Money London Marathon, again cursing my luck as my dreamof emulating that time from Manchester isslipping away before my very eyes.
However, I emerged from that tunnel with a new focus, running a sub 02:45 marathon – slightly slower than my ‘dream’ time for London – but enough to earn a Championship place for the following year and a symbolic two fingered salute to the organisers of the Greater Manchester Marathon.
Just after the toilet stop I passed Alyson Dixon, leading the charge for the GB women, going in the opposite direction; this lifted my spirits as I was able to manage a “go on Aly” as she flew by me. Not long after that I saw my lovely wife Vics, our two girls and my Mam and Dad who’d made the trip to London to again meet the newest member of our family, my Nephew Seb.
Before long I was again hitting on or around 03:53 per km (06:15 minute miles) and things were, sort of, back on course. I felt better at 16 miles than I did at 6, I felt like I was back in control. 19 – 23 miles were, as expected, a struggle. My pace dropped off slightly and I really needed to dig deep to keep the dream alive. That said, I was passing people, I wasn’t thriving but I was struggling less than those around me. At 24 miles, I started to work towards the finish line. I had a wrong to right from Manchester, I wanted my Championship place back.
The last two miles were everything I hoped they would be, I didn’t really give a monkeys about the iconic landscape, I was more interested in the fact I was finishing strongly. I did the maths in my head with 1km to go and new it was in my grasp, only just.
02:44:06 – 54 seconds to spare; maybe I didn’t need to rush that toilet stop after all. I have unfinished business at this distance; I can and will go faster, no doubt about it. But the feeling as I crossed the finish line was as satisfying as I’ve had in my short running career.
I’d barely paused for breath and I saw Michael Littlewood heading towards me – a HUGE PB for him on the day, taking 12 minutes off in 12 months – impressive to say the least. I only mention Michael by name as we’ve travelled the length and breadth of the UK together over the last 9 weeks, united in a common goal under the stewardship of coach Allan Seheult. We were in this together and I got just as much pleasure out of Michael’s time as I did my own.
All the Elvet Striders in London did the club and the North East proud.
Now, I have a taste for the Marathon majors; what to do next?
… Elaine Bisson
Driven by the excitement surrounding last years VMLM, I gained a place with a GFA entry. The hotel and train tickets were booked months in advance. I travelled down on friday, staying in Lewisham (ideal 20min walk from the start line at Blackheath). Registration was at Custom Excel VMLM Expo, here there was a buzz of excitement from fellow marathoners and stewards.
I spent the remainder of the Saturday being very lazy and finishing off my carb loading. That night was the first in a long time when I slept until the buzz of my alarm clock heralded the start of race day. Fuelled up with porridge heavily soaked with maple syrup, I made my way through the magnificent surroundings of Lewisham to locate the green blip in the sky, marking the start for the GFA and celebs! By the Hare and Billet Road there was no doubt in my mind that I had found the right place, it was absolutely teaming with runners as they too made their way to the start.
A highlight for me was running into some fellow striders and being sneaked into the Virgin tent, with its warmth, bean bags, chairs, pre race fuelling, and most importantly pristine toilets with no queue (thank you!)
Baggage buses were loaded by 9:25, we headed to the start pens with 10 minutes to spare. 10am and we were off. Our route collides with the blue and then the red masses and the paths get busier and busier. So busy I narrowly escaped being tripped many, many times over as runners pushed to get past, or to stick strictly to the thin blue line marking the shortest route, or to dash in front to grab water. It felt like mayhem. I did not like it. I cursed a lot.
Honestly, I don’t remember much. If you asked me about Kielder or of Windermere, I could tell you so much about the surroundings, the rise and fall of the road, this was very different. It was an assault on all of my senses.
The noise from the spectators was incredible, throughout the entire 26.2 miles, and as the day wore on the voices seemed to get louder and louder. There were numerous bands along the route, pubs playing music, an insane 100m stretch filled with people in blue frantically ringing bells.
The smells were pungent from takeaways preparing food, beer, smoke… The sights of thousands of people shouting, the Cutty Sark, miles upon miles of roads that could be anywhere in the UK, the dark grotty tunnel, the shard, no. 10, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the most amazing finish line ever. We experienced all seasons, from a cold chilly start, hot sun, hailstones, rain, wind.
With 5miles to go, I had had enough. The buildings were encroaching on the sky, the spectators were becoming more raucous as the pubs were drunk dry. My ears were ringing and my heart no longer singing. The wheels were quickly falling off, I tried to imagine running along the quiet road to the finish line at windermere, I summoned all my strength to get this thing over. I clung to two women and forced my legs to keep in time with theirs, finally the mall was in sight and my heart began to leap, 1000m to go, 800, 600, I round the bend and see the finish line, with its 3 entrance ways and large clocks tick, tick, ticking. It was quite spectacular, I should have enjoyed it more. Expertly herded through to receive the biggest, heaviest gold medal (sorry, no, i hadn’t won), to get a picture taken (and try to smile and stand upright while my legs start to cramp), along to pick up my bags and then out of the barriers and into even more mayhem.
I tackle my way as quickly as I can through the masses swarming St James Park, up and then down a footbridge to find Victoria Station…then the long journey back to my hotel to pick up my bags, back to Kings Cross to fill a waitrose bag with utter rubbish and then on the train home. My phone turned on and there is pandemonium as it beeps and buzzes signalling facebook conversations, messages and voice mail from friends and family who have excitably followed my small red running figure on a computer screen and watched trying to spot my purple vest on TV…I wonder if they have had more fun than me.
I have the most hilarious trip home, filling my tummy full of goodies, and sharing prosecco and daft stories with an actress who is off to dress as a cyborg for her next movie. I fall out of the station with legs unwilling to move and perhaps having had a little too much bubbles. The taxis are all taken. As I stumble towards the hill that I will have to climb to get home, the wonderful Simon saves me and gives me a lift (another highlight of my day!)
So, what did I think? I wonder if I’ve missed something. I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it, if at all. There were parts that made me grin, but when I thought the cheers would spur me on, I longed for the solitude, for countryside, for air that I wanted to inhale, for the sound of my breathing and of my own trainers tapping the floor.
However, I also know I have unfinished business. With every marathon under my belt, I learn more about how my mind and body work, Ill come back stronger and smash that PB next time…
London Marathon, Sunday, April 26, 2015
An Emotional Visit to the Capital
To us Brits there’s probably no bigger race than the London Marathon. I can’t pretend I grew up particularly obsessed with it or anything because I grew up as an overweight child with very little interest in anything sport-related – if you asked anybody I went to school with who was LEAST likely to run the London Marathon they would all have agreed it was me. However even as an anti-sporty type I was aware of it and heard of various (obviously insane) people who ran it.
When I qualified for a good for age place last year I wasn’t absolutely sure I wanted to do it. I’m not mad about road races and my previous marathons hadn’t gone particularly well. However, having joined Striders in the Autumn I decided it was worth trying to do it properly. I’ve spent a lot of my life living and working in London; my family all still live in and around London – so it would be an opportunity to get everyone together as well.
Training went well – PBs at half marathon and 5k and a good Cross Country season – everything was looking good. However, a few days before the race I heard people talking about it on the radio and surprised myself when I started welling up. This was to be a theme for the next few days. I spoke to my parents about where they’d be on the course and I felt emotional, I looked at the weather forecast and I got a bit shakey. It was all becoming too real.
We stayed the night before the race in a hotel about half an hour from the start. I woke at 3.30am and was totally unable to get back to sleep. On the train and at the start I tried to hold my emotions in but everything seemed so big and I was so aware of the time and effort that had gone into this day, it was hard to stay calm. At the start I met a friend who was pacing 3.45s and we enjoyed the atmosphere and meeting various oddly-dressed runners, including one dinosaur, whose costume must have weighed a ton.
Anyway onto the race itself. The start was very congested and quite stressful. All week I’d been saying I was worried about the start and the finish and I just wanted to get the first few miles done. I knew I was going faster than planned but I needed to get away from the crowds. Plus after a week of scarcely running I wanted to stretch my legs a bit! After a few miles I settled into my planned pace and felt good. At around 9 miles I heard a shout from my parents who looked utterly thrilled to see me. I gave them a wave and then felt a wave of emotion and tears getting the better of me. I couldn’t start crying at 9 miles! I tried to get a grip and managed to get my breathing back to normal but was aware of just how on edge I was still feeling. I had a similar reaction to going over Tower Bridge (such an iconic landmark and also near the halfway point) and then seeing my brother.
At this point I was so relieved we’d decided that my children would just come to the end rather than cheering me on around the course. With this level of vulnerability my kids would have sent me right over the edge!
Highlights on the course were the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, crossing the elites on the out and back section (wow, they looked amazing!), the tunnel of hell at around Mile 23 and the final section along the Embankment and up Birdcage walk – an area of London I have walked around countless times. But the real stars of the London marathon are the crowds. Unlike anything I’ve experienced before the noise at times was deafening and their passion overwhelming.
From a running point of view, things got tough from around Mile 18. I knew the last third was going to be the hardest and I over-compensated with my fastest mile of the whole race at Mile 19. After this I was just holding on. I couldn’t stomach any more sweet energy-giving concoctions and was even struggling to take sips of water but knew I was getting weaker. I kept telling myself I could have a little walk when I got to the next mile marker but on each occasion the crowd kept me going so I gave myself another mile before the walk. Somehow this got me through to the end without ever stopping. My pace dropped a bit but I was delighted to have done it with a PB of 16 minutes.
It was without doubt an experience of a lifetime. Anyone who gets the opportunity to run it, please do. You will have an amazing day. Having said that, dealing with the mental and emotional exhaustion, as well as physical, made it incredibly tough. At the end I yearned for a little fell race with 200 runners and no crowds! Will I do it again? I don’t know. I wasn’t planning to but then my daughter pointed out that in 2 years I’ll go up an age category. Having come 104th in my category this year she reckons I’ll be on for a top 100 once I get REALLY old. Hmmm…
London Marathon, Sunday, April 13, 2014
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.
London Marathon, Sunday, April 21, 2013
The day had finally arrived. The day we had trained for. The day of the London Marathon.
I wasn’t feeling like I’d rested as much as I would have liked over the past 48 hours but nevertheless, I was up, getting ready and raring to go (well, maybe ‘raring’ was a tad exaggerated). Steph and I had a hearty bowl of porridge to keep us going before we set off on our journey to the start line … Thankfully, we only had to use the tube for a couple of stops and then we were lucky enough to blag a free ride in a taxi to as close to the Blackheath start (blue zone) as possible. There, we were met with the crowds of fellow runners and spectators – this was really happening! The sun was out in force too – this was a little worrying as most of our training was done in low and sometimes minus temperatures. After finding our way through the masses, we arrived at the blue assembly area, where we didn’t have too much time to wait before bags were loaded onto the baggage buses and we found ourselves in the toilet queues. This is where we spotted a fellow Strider – Margaret. The queues went down quick enough but pretty much as soon as we got turned around and grabbed a drink we were back in them.
We made our way over to our starting zones (bumping into Andrew on the way) and the heat was really starting to pick up as much as our nervous anticipation. In theory, we had decided to try and run with a pacer (9.43 minute miles) and so were pleased to see him stood just behind us. The countdown had begun: my watch read 10:00am. We started to move slowly forward and after about 10 minutes we were through the start line and off on our journey …
The pacer seemed a little way behind even though my Garmin was telling me we were doing the right pace so we steadily proceeded without him. A couple of times I had to call Steph back to slow the pace down which felt alien to her to run a start of a race at such a slowed pace – however, we knew it would be for the best to conserve energy for the second half. Steph was also probably tired of me saying “blue line Steph, keep near the blue line” …
I couldn’t believe the support around the course; it was simply amazing! It was the first race I had participated in where my name was printed on my running top and the boost from the crowd certainly spurred me on. The first half felt great and we were met by our family and friends at around about this point (just after crossing Tower Bridge) – which was perfect! I mentioned earlier how sunny it was … well, it was unbelievably hot, especially since there was no breeze or cover for the majority of the route. I longed for the sporadic shaded patches we came across and the welcoming showers.
From about 18 to 20 miles, Steph and I were beginning to feel the pains and felt unable to keep any sort of consistent pace up (as hoped). I just settled back and enjoyed the atmosphere, knowing that I wasn’t prepared to do myself an injury or jeopardise my health from pushing myself to an uncomfortable level of running; especially with the heat pounding down on us.
I don’t normally take on board much water when racing but I was rarely without a bottle and found it a great comfort. Two and a half gels into the race I was starting to feel the lethargic legs and was so glad of the family support again at mile 23 – it’s what kept me going until the finish – 4 hours 26 minutes I crossed the line. Three minutes slower than my Liverpool time in 2011 but my Garmin read just over 26.5 miles and so I allowed myself that extra time. The support was to be applauded alongside the organisers of the event – an absolute pleasure to be a part of.
However, what happened after made the day even more special …
Awaiting the arrival of friends and family at the meeting area, I was in a heap on the floor, eating my pistachios and longing for a hot bath; not wanting to think of the journey home or the fact I had to work the next day. Soon they arrived and after the initial emotional embraces Daniel got down on bended knee, pulled a ring out of his pocket and proposed. The pain in my legs subsided, the tears flowed and I said yes! There were cheers around us, approved clapping and a few photos.
A special day indeed!
|1||Kebede, Tsegaye (ETH)||Kenya||M||2:06:04|
|1*||Jeptoo, Priscah (KEN)||Kenya||F||2:20:15|
*Elite Women’s race.
London Marathon, Sunday, April 22, 2012
I had such a positive experience in last year’s London marathon I was worried that this year might not live up to that. I needn’t have worried.
My big running target for 2012 was supposed to be the Hull marathon. I entered the VLM ballot, sure, but was unlucky so thought no more about it. I didn’t enter the club ballot because I was lucky enough to get a place via the club last year and wanted to give others the same chance so I thought no more about it, entered Hull and got on with my training. It was only in the middle of February when I got a phone call out of the blue telling me I’d got a place courtesy of adidas that it was back on.
Hull came and went and I have to admit I was a bit envious reading Yusef’s report, but it was just too much of a risk only two weeks before London. All my races leading up to London were tailored towards Hull so I was a bit worried my taper was too long. There were positive signs (5K, 5M and 10M PB’s) but also some really bad races (Spen 20, probably as a result of doing Dent the day before and also Run Northumberland Wallington Half, again probably as a result of doing Prudhoe XC the day before). I broke 4 hours last time, so thought 3.45 was an appropriate target, although publicly I only said I was looking for a PB. I deliberately set my target on the low side because I’d rather run well, achieve that slightly low target and then lower that. If I was to have a real blow up going for an ambitious time I might not want to run one again. That works for me, but I’m not sure it will work for others. The traditional method of calculating your marathon pace is to take a recent, decent half marathon, double it and add 10%.
We travelled down on the Friday afternoon same as last year and stayed at a friend’s (again the same as last year). After a very pleasant Italian meal on the Friday evening, we popped across London on Saturday morning to Bushy Park, where along with another 800+ runners we took part in the parkrun that started it all. I took it steady and even let Jacquie beat me and we had a very pleasant coffee and bacon butty with the parkrun founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the bushy park Event Directors Ray and Ann Coward and Dave and Gabby who are starting a new parkrun in Newcastle. Newcastle, New South Wales that is! After that it was back across London again to get to the marathon Expo. Lots of runners hate this and find it something to be endured but after being so nervous last year I wanted to drink it all in and was glad I did. We bumped into Ian and Jane and had arranged to meet Anna which was nice. My good friend Craig was working on the Sweatshop stand so we called in and saw him. We listened to Martin Yelling, coach and husband of Liz up on the main stage and some of his tips, although I’d heard before, had a real resonance.
After a couple of hours it was back to our friend’s house, (via the supermarket to pick up exactly the same food I normally eat before an important run and a cheap jumper to throw away at the race start), where I cooked dinner and then we popped out to our friend’s local to have a beer. I know some people would frown on this but I find it relaxes and helps me sleep and in moderation doesn’t affect my performance. We were tucked up in bed at about 10pm.
Next day we were up and about at 6am and after the obligatory race morning photo it was off to get the train to Blackheath. I was in the Red start this year rather than the Blue and although you were supposed to go to Maze Hill station, I wanted to repeat as much as possible of last years run, helping to reinforce positive memories. I loved the feeling of coming up the quiet Blackheath common off the first train and gradually spotting the huge assembly area at the top of the hill.
Although the weather all week had been heavy rain and chilly it was a beautiful clear morning. I had a coffee on the way up, something which is also one of my pre-race rituals now and then we just milled around at the Blue start looking out for people we knew. We bumped into a couple of Quakers RC we knew from parkrun but no-one else and were just about to set off for the Red start when we saw Barrie ambling up the common looking every inch the experienced campaigner he is and seemingly without a care in the world.
It was great to see him, Jacquie got some nice photo’s and we had a nice chat and then bid each other good luck. I didn’t know anyone else who was in Red which was a shame but by this point I didn’t have too long to wait. I’d brought some bin bags (to keep warm and dry with) and a newspaper to kill a bit of time. After putting my bag onto the baggage lorries (so well organised it’s almost unbelievable to behold) it was time to go into my pen, Red 4 (the pens are numbered with lower numbers being nearest the front). The pen was still pretty quiet and it was bright and sunny and warming up nicely. I always prefer to run in warmer conditions and I knew that would be better for the spectators although I also know that most runners prefer it cooler and struggle in the heat.
All too soon we were off. There’s a slight delay but nowhere near as bad as the Great North Run and after a couple of minutes I was over the line. After last year it was no surprise to see so many (male) runners who were clearly wanting to make sure they were correctly hydrated dash for the sidelines!
The first couple of miles passed without incident although there was one downhill and uphill which seemed a lot steeper than I remembered from the Blue start, soon the starts merged and after some good natured booing and ‘Who are ya?’s the full marathon assemble was in one stream at last. It was somewhat surprising therefore to hear Andy Biggs a Durham City Harrier I know know well from parkrun come up behind me. Naturally he’d recognised the trademark yellow hat and gloves from some distance back. After a chat, (If you can’t chat in the first half of the race, you’re almost certainly going off too fast, I reckon) , we agreed to run together and this worked brilliantly – me slowing him down slightly and him dragging me a tiny touch faster than I would have done on my own. We stayed together for the next ten miles and were also joined by another Durham parkrunner, Simon Gardner for a while in the middle too. We saw Jacquie cheering just after the Cutty Sark and Andy’s wife a little further on still and then we went past Ian who still looked comfortable. Going over Tower Bridge was as incredible as I remembered last year and I was very pleased with the pace – 8:36 by my Garmin, or bang on for a 3.45 finish, but Andy thought we were a little behind schedule and just after half way pushed on and left me.
I saw Jacquie again at about 14 miles and handed her by now soaked yellow hat – I’m sure she was pleased with that! After that it was just a case of sticking to the plan and to the watch. Everything felt fine, I maybe even felt a touch more comfortable than last year. Perhaps you have a natural pace that your body is more comfortable with. There was nothing more of any note until at about 20 miles if memory serves I caught and passed Anna and then Andy, or maybe the other way round. With a little more than 3 miles (parkrun?) to go I tried to push on a little faster as I felt good but my body didn’t respond and just stayed at the same pace. I guess after so long it just wants to keep doing the same thing! I crossed the line with a little sprint, and remembering this time not to stop my Garmin on the line but to smile and look up to the cameras. It was a little surprise to be so far off from 3.45 when I know I was doing such consistent 8:36 miles but I realised afterwards that I’d actually run quite a bit more than the 26 miles and 385 yards marathon distance weaving in and out. Still I was over the moon with that, 9 minutes knocked off last year and with room for improvement if I ever get back in.
After collecting my goodie bag, medal and having my photo taken I got to the baggage collection where again I was handed my bag as I walked up and then I half stumbled and walked around to the ‘R’ meeting area where Jacquie and my friend were waiting. Anna arrived just afterwards and after some photos, a recovery milkshake and a cheeky beer we set off across Trafalgar square to a pub where Anna had arranged to meet a few (hundreds!) Fetch Everyone runners. After a quick couple of beers it was off to get back home, but that’s another story altogether and thanks to this country’s unique railway ‘infrastructure’ we didn’t get back to Durham until 1.30am. Suffice to say two hours standing on the Transpennine ‘express’ from Manchester to York between 10.30 and 00.30 didn’t exactly help my tired legs recover…
|32,463||Evans, Barrie J||MV65||159||2:18:23||5:43:58|
*Elite Women’s race.