I entered the race as soon as registration opened – keen to go back and set the record straight after a horrible race in 2014. After that I forgot about it for a few months until December when I started planning my training & racing schedule for 2015. The first thing I noticed was:
There was no way I could race London and hope to recover in time for the Thames Path. The sensible option was to defer my London place, but i still wanted to run it. In the end I settled on running the London Marathon as a fun run. I’d run at 1 min/mile slower than race pace and take it easy. Then I could high five all the kids along the route and generally enjoying the atmosphere.
However the plan changed again a few weeks before the race. A friend from work was running his first marathon at London, and his training partner had to pull out with an injury. So I found myself offering to pace him round the route to his target time of sub 3:30. While this was in line with my target time, it would add a little pressure, but also I knew it would add to the enjoyment if I could help him hit his target.
Sunday morning and the weather looked like it would be perfect. As I traveled up to London on a strangely deserted train the rain seemed to be easing off, and there was little wind. I had a ‘Good For Age’ entry, but my friend John had an entry at the Blue Start. I tried to get into the Blue area, but was sent away. However after dropping my bag off at the GFA start area, i had a second attempt at getting into the Blue zone and this time the marshal waved me through, and so I managed to line up on the start with John.
It was great fun to run from the Blue start as the first three miles were on different roads from the Red start, and would go passed the area marshaled by my club. Sure enough, volunteers from Tunbridge Wells Harriers were out in force, and I must have seen a dozen friendly faces calling encouragement in the first 10 minutes.
The road was very congested through the first 5km, and we were already 1:30 behind John’s race schedule, but with plenty of time to catch up, so we settled in to a steady 7:55 to 8:00 pace, picking up time where traffic thinned out. I caught up with another Harrier, Colin, and briefly chatted before passing him. The support was fantastic as usual with huge crowds at Cutty Sark as well as near the Rotherhithe and Bermondsey tube stations. We made it over Tower Bridge in good spirits, but were still a minute behind schedule at the half way point (1:46:05).
I’d been drinking water regularly, but the cool weather and easier pace meant I wasn’t sweating as much as normal, and had taken in too much. I’d been running with a full bladder, and realised I wasn’t going to make it to the finish, so when I saw a sign for Toilets, I dashed off the road. There was a queue, but they all looked like people watching the race, so I ran to the front and straight into the foulest portaloo I’ve ever been in. Needless to say I didn’t hang around any longer than necessary, and was soon back onto the road. The first person I saw was Steve, another Harrier, so we chatted for a minute or so, before I sped off at pace to catch up with John.
I’d not lost too much time, so caught up with him quickly. We then decided we needed to put in a surge of 7:45 minute miles to get back on target.
The run through Canary Wharf was excellent. There was a little more space on the roads, so it was easier to run at your own speed, and we could now see the flags carried by the official 3:30 pacers just a little ahead of us on the route. There were hundreds of supporters here outside the pubs, all offering fruit and jelly beans, but no one seemed keen on sharing their beer, even when I asked.
John started suffering with calf cramps at his point, and had to stop briefly to stretch out, but he was soon back running and looked like he had picked up the pace. My garmin was playing up though… It jumped from 16.3 to 16.8 miles it about 30 seconds, so I think reflections off the tall buildings were confusing it. By the end of the race it had recorded a 27 mile run! As we ran passed the Tower of London, we were slowly gaining on the group in front – a bunch of a dozen or so runners clustered around the 3:30 pacers from the red start. We overhauled them as we hit mile 23, and then ran under Cannon Street and eventually Blackfriars Bridge.
I have no recollection of this part of the race from last year as I was in a complete daze then, so it was a great to run through here this year in much better shape. I could see the Harriers flags as we emerged from under Blackfriars, and wave at various friends. I even stopped to ‘high five’ my wife and children, before charging off to catch up with John and then cajole him on the the finish. I could see he was really suffering, and as we arrived at Parliament Square I even suggested he stop for a few seconds to stretch out his cramping calf, but he wanted to push on, and even accelerated along Birdcage Walk, catching and passing the pair of pacers from the Blue start, before turning into the Mall for a decent sprint to the line.
I finished in 3:29:37, a couple of seconds behind John, and we ran a negative split. Not only was it immensely enjoyable to watch someone achieve their goal, but it was fantastic to come back and enjoy the route and the support. A lot of people are fanatical about the London Marathon, and now I understand why.
The timing stats show we had a good strong finish: stats