Tuesday 30 April 2019

London Marathon 2019 - Is it Still as Special as 2010?

The London Marathon, if you spoke to the majority of people even if they don't run and you mentioned the London Marathon, they would know about it. Of course there are other marathons all around the world and some bloody fantastic ones here in the UK but if you asked 100 random people "Name a marathon race in the UK?" most would probably say London. 

Now I get other runners have their various opinions on this race, I understand many of those opinions but for me the London Marathon is special and I will explain why along the way through this blog. 

I remember as a child seeing it on TV, hearing that parents of friends of mine at school or where ever having completed it. So I have always been around the London Marathon for a long time. Never in a blue moon did I ever think back then I would run the London Marathon when I was older not alone have the opportunity to run it twice. 

My focus, since my last race the Arc of Attrition was the upcoming London Marathon, I devised a plan and had been following it pretty well. Training over the Feb and beginning of March had been going pretty well. Until I made an error one Sunday. I had already gone for a longish run but had not ran as many miles I'd have liked. So I decided to jump on treadmill at home and beast myself to make up for it, instead of just putting it to one side and sticking to the rest of the plan. 

Out on one of training runs near my house  

This unfortunately lead me to injuring myself and giving me a calf strain in my right leg. I was so furious at myself for being such a dick! So I eased off over the next couple of weeks, but it didn't seem to be showing any signs of improvement. So off to my buddy Big Geoff the Physio at Flow Therapies here in Plymouth. The man has worked wonders in the past with my body. 

Thing's seemed to be improving, although it wasn't fully healed, the uncomfortablity (is that a word?) I was suffering during my long runs were nowhere as bad, and although my training took a hit, I was content with how it was going. Up until the injury my pace was getting quick and I was feeling stronger running wise. It took a big knock with the injury, and damage limitation took over. 

Yet, two weeks before the big event, during my last long run, I had to cut my run short. I managed 8 miles but at around 6 my calf started to become comfortable again, and it worried me. I decided to call it a day at 8 which I was a little annoyed about but with two weeks to go, it was the sensible thing to do. Now I had a big decision to make, do I still start and hope I finish. Yes it may not be quick or pretty but I will cross that line again, whilst also giving me mileage in the legs for the future events I have lined up or do I defer until 2020? 
One of the training runs along the Camel Trail. Very lucky with the weather!
The only other time I have run the London Marathon was back in 2010 and that was the start of my running adventures. It changed my life and in a good way, ever since I've applied each year again through the Ballot hoping to replicate my good fortunes of 2010. After 9 further I attempts I finally was successful again in the Ballot, and finally getting a place for the 2019 event. My wife ran in 2018 which I was unfortunately away for, so I was unable to be there as she crossed the finish line, like she was for me back in 2010. 

I decided to sleep on it and give my calf a few days rest. I have until pretty much right up til the day before to decide either way. As it stands I chose to make the start line, knowing it'll be an easier last couple of weeks anyway, with no further planned long runs. I had  treatment still booked in at this point also and after a few days rest it felt good again, and treatment seemed to be doing it's trick. Only time will tell now, I will lay off any treadmills, so the temptation isn't there to push myself and I will just put in a few smaller, comfortable runs on the lead up. 

The weekend prior to the Marathon weekend was my birthday weekend, so a good excuse for a rest. I did absolutely no running at all. I just wanted to spend quality time with family and my best mates family. Something I rarely do on my birthday as it's often away, last year for my 40th I spent it at sea in the Java Sea prior to coming alongside in Jakarta, Indonesia (see blog here)

I spent the remainder of the week leading up to the marathon, with easy runs and just chilling. My original game plan was already out the window thanks to the calf injury scuppering training, so now it doesn't really matter I wasn't going to beat any PBs or my original London Marathon time. I'm there to enjoy myself come rain or shine. 
So the time arrived, and we made our way up to London on the Friday, the journey was pretty painless on the way up. We arrived and sorted ourselves out ready for visiting the Expo first thing in the morning. The one thing I love about the Expo is seeing friends, it's like a local a running event feeling, where you see people you know and catch up. Well that's what it felt like for me anyway.

We arrived at the Expo early, when it wasn't too busy and picked up my race number using the new system. It went far more smoothly than the first time I ran London that's for sure. They scanned my QR and boom I had my number. We made our way around the show, and I caught up with various people, including good friends Dan Lawson and Mike Julien. 

We spent a good forenoon visiting stands and looking at the new products out. It did however feel a lot smaller of an Expo to what I've seen in the past there. It may have been the way it was laid out, but it felt smaller or less there than usual. 

Good friend Dan Lawson
The rest of the day was about family time. So this meant lunch, trip to the cinema to watch Avengers: End Game (bloody loved it btw) and then getting some good sleep prior to the race (normally this doesn't happen but it did this time). 

The Day of the Race

Race morning came, I was already prepped and ready to go. I tried my best not to be a runzilla (you know the pain in the arse twat some runners can be because they're nervous and anxious etc about the up coming race). We checked out and had some breakie, something I don't normally do but I fancied some porridge. We made our way to the start line at Blackheath, the train from Charing Cross to Blackheath was rammed, and hot. Not the greatest way to start the day but, it wasn't going to ruin it. I siad my good byes to the family, and made my way in. After handing in my drop bag after security checks, well they weren't very thorough checks. If you had your own bag you couldn't take them in unless you put them in the clear bag provided. They didn't check the privately owned bags though, which seemed to defect the object of having security checks. Yes mate your rucksack won't have anything dodgy potentially in it, if you stick the rucksack in the clear bag. *facepalm* It's not a bomb proof clear bag!

Anyway the niff naff and trivia was all done, and I awaited for my zone to open and start the race. I saw some more people I knew and has some good pre race chat to calm the nerves down. I'm not going to lie, I was very nervous. Probably more nervous than the first time I ran London. I could probably put this down to various reasons, but either way I was nervous. 

Night before preps
Eventually around 45 mins my zone crossed the start line after what was a quite a cold hanging around period. In 2010, I started only 2 minutes after the gun went, there was no real wave type format then so this although cold, was far better due to reducing the congestion at the start but not for those in later zones (see further down in blog).

Not having a determined goal time, I went out with the aim to have a nice comfortable first half, the crowds from the start were pretty much buzzing all the way. The support along the course was absolutely fantastic, and I was making sure I took it all in. I chatted to other runners, I high five'd supporters. I danced to the bands, I went and had a ball! 

The miles ticked off one by one, as I weaved in and around the other runners, as I approached Cutty Sark, I was expecting to see my wife and boy waiting for me to cheer me on. I saw them not long after and seeing my boys face made my smile bigger, as I knew how proud he was. In 2010 he was there but wasn't born yet, the wife was pregnant with him. So it was amazing he's got to witness both his mum (last year) and now me finish this great Marathon Major. 
Approaching Tower Bridge
I continued on my way, making it to half way shortly after crossing the iconic Tower Bridge, I don't know why but at this point when you cross the bridge, it really does lift you. Is it because you know you are half way, or because the crowds are pretty epic? I don't know but it does spur you on. 

The miles kept ticking off, and as I ran I kept sipping on my Tailwind ( I went through about 2 ltrs but the end) , and just making the most of the atmosphere. The miles soon fell away and I was then counting down the miles. 15,16, 17 miles soon went, and I started to look towards the final 10K that was soon approaching knowing I will be seeing two friendly faces that I knew. I also by now had 2 wee stops!

At 20 miles, I saw two friends on the official London Fire Brigade water station. I stopped, gave them a hug and took some water. It was great to see friendly faces of Danny and Susan who organise Hope 24 (which I'm running in June). 

Up until then I've been supplying my self with fluids, having Tailwind Nutrition in my race vest. Two reasons for this, 1 mainly because it provides me with everything I require nutrition wise and 2 because I wanted to reduce my use on using plastic bottles. I did over the course of the race only use two bottles, and this was to pour some over my head and just to have a little change in taste. I also took S-Caps along the way in addition to help prevent cramp coming on which hit me bad back in 2010. All in all I was pretty pleased with how this side of the race went. 

At 23 miles pic taken by Susan :)
As I ran down mile 22 towards mile 23, we head the other direction alongside the runners still on the other side heading to mile 14 and on wards. I made the effort to applaud them and cheer them as I ran past. I know what it's like to be at the back and it can be a little demoralising seeing the quicker runners heading the other way towards the finish. But you battle on because you want to finish. It was sad to see though the road cleaners literally sweeping up the tail runners. 

They were still in front of the cut off, and with official pacers so the road cleaners shouldn't be there yet. It was also sad to hear that water stations had already closed for them as they made their way round. I'm sorry but if you advertise a cut off of a certain time you should allow those within the time to experience the same as every one else. Yes the crowds may disappear, but the event crews shouldn't go until the last runner is through. I can see why my wife last year had a horrible experience. 

I could go on but that's already done on my facebook page.

I carried on my merry way, ticking off the parkruns left to go. At mile 23 I came across another two friends, Chris and Maria shouted at me as much as they could until they had my attention and it worked, and so glad it did. In 2017 I gave them massive hugs when I saw them and this year they returned the favour. I bloody love these two!

I know I didn't run the racing line but wow! lol
I made my way along and came across the edible fluid pods that were being handed out. What a fantastic idea, and defo a step forward in my opinion to reduce plastic. My only criticism is the delivery as they were in cups, which sort of defeats the object. If they solve the delivery of these pods then it's a good way to go! I again by this point had my final wee stop, which was bound to happen as I took on plenty of fluids. 

I made my way down Embankment towards the home stretch and I was on cloud nine, you know it's the last couple of miles, left to go. You pass the 40K marker then the 25 miles and you turn the corner on what can feel like the longest home straight ever. However you turn right at Buckingham Palace then suddenly everyone's emotions are running. Many are running for great causes. It's a reason why this year's tag line was #ThanksaBillion because they predict around 1 Billion pounds will been generated for charity since the Marathon first begun! It's why this event is one of the greatest charity events, where people do such amazing things, some it's just running the marathon which is no mean feat, and some is running it whilst making it even harder wear some fantastic fancy dress. I saw a guy finish in full riot gear! 

A friend who saw me around the 41K mark said I looked a mess, I felt fine, however I have never looked very pretty anyway when running, so I'm ok with that. 

The Finish! I was sent this by Carly a friend who was watching out for lots of us.
I crossed the line, and I absolutely enjoyed ever step of the way! No time pressure, no worries, it was a fantastic experience, which is very hard to beat. Yes there are other amazing marathons out there. But for me there is something very special about London, it may not be the best course, but the atmosphere is very difficult to beat. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to run it again, and it will leave on in my memories and who knows, may even inspired my son to run it when he's old enough. If he does I will be there with him like he has been for me. 

I'm glad I didn't defer in the end, yes I could've come back next year stronger and my time this occasion wasn't my fastest but then I may not have enjoyed it as much next time. I took the risk and it paid off, two weeks leading up was looking very dubious, but in the end it was all worth it. 

So YES, London is still special if not even more so now, I just wish it was the same for my wife and others who didn't get the same experience I had.

Thank you to all those who sent me messages of support, those who were there and gave me hugs along the way and of course my little family, without whom I'd probably not finish the events I run. 

Thank you to Tailwind Nutrition UK, and Uglow Sports for their continued support. It really does help having such great brands behind me. 

So now it's time to look ahead, I've two smaller local races to look forward currently before Hope 24 in June. 

In other news I recently was informed my YouTube Channel was one the Top 20 Ultra Running YouTube Channels. Not expecting this, but I will take any good news that comes my way See Link but thank you Feedspot for this! If you haven't already here's my channel for you to check out and if you can please subscribe YouTube Channel. You can watch the video here 

Thank you for reading (I know it was pretty long and probably boring sorry!). 

Me in 2010        My wife in 2017        Me in 2019

#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

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