London Marathon

By Tompky - 5:52 AM

April and Challenge Number 4 was the London Marathon, and something I have always wanted to do and was really looking forward to.  I travelled down after work on the Friday evening, planning to go to the Expo on the Saturday morning.  I thought if I got up early I could beat most of the crowds on the Saturday morning.

I arrived at the Expo at 9.30am on the Saturday morning, and hats off to the City of London, they had laid on extra trains and undergrounds to take competitors to the Expo, which avoided any overcrowding issues.

The Expo was very impressive, I had thought that I would have to queue for an hour or two to collect my race number before being rushed through the stands and stalls and I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Picking the number up took all of 2 minutes, and then I was free to roam through the stalls, listen to guest speakers and stop at every stand along the way.  There was lots of fun activities aimed at competitors, non-competitors and people of all ages, and I was kept busy for a couple of hours absorbing the atmosphere which really set the tone for the next day.  I spent the rest of the day being a full on tourist, wandering around London, whilst visiting lots of cafes and restaurants making sure I fully indulged in the pre race carb loading!!

Onto the Sunday, and again the transportation to the race was excellent, with plenty of trains and undergrounds put on and all free to any competitors.  When I arrived at the starting pen, I was met with the sight of thousands of portable toilets, a big stage with music and entertainment, and hundreds of trucks to take all competitors valuables and clothing to the finish line.  Really well set up.

My resounding memory of the race itself will be the atmosphere and the crowds offering their support.  It really is an amazing feeling to be roared on by that many people for the full 26 miles.  Whilst running through a city isn’t top of my list, I much prefer trail races, I would fully recommend everyone run the London Marathon once to experience the atmosphere created.
The route was as busy as expected, and I think realistically it would be difficult to ever run a PB at London, with 40,000 people jostling for position.  Running around the Cutty Sark is often mentioned, but was a real highlight with throngs of people aligning the streets, and running over Tower Bridge brought a lump to my throat with the amount of noise being created.  There isn’t a single point over the course where there isn’t someone cheering you on.

Another point worth mentioning is the organisation in terms of drink stops, toilets and energy gels being handed out.  There are stations every couple of miles and the volunteers are excellent.
I cruised along until 20 miles, consistently maintaining an 8 minute mile pace, when predictably I started to ‘hit the wall’.  At this point it becomes a bit of a mental battle as I was striving to complete the race in 3 hours 30 mins.  The closer I got to the end, this dream started to fade slightly.  Between miles 21-24 I tried to run as quick as I could, knowing at that point even if I was exhausted I would only have 2 miles to go.  I got through there and at this point my legs were really struggling.  I managed to waddle on and crossed the line in 3 hours 38 minutes.  Annoyingly my Strava had me running 27.2 miles due to weaving between crowds of runners and had said my actual marathon distance time was 3 hours 30 mins, which would have been my target but ultimately not what counts on the day!! Hopefully I will get under the 3.30 barrier in Berlin towards the end of the year!
After the race Great Ormond Street had put on a great after-party, offering free massages to any competitors and a complimentary buffet and drinks for all competitors and their supporters just after the finish line which was greatly received.  

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