Since this race starts at 9:30 am for the pros and 10 am for “the masses,” we weren’t required to wake up very early, which was great! We stayed in a Hilton DoubleTree hotel in nearby Deptford Bridge. This put us approximately ½ mile from the park where the race began. This large park was located in Greenwich and had a museum and a ground marker for the GMT “Prime Meridian.” My start area was the Green zone, John had the Red area. We walked to the park including up a hill with surprisingly not a large crowd of runners, considering how close we were to the race start. It had begun raining, we wished each other good luck, and each headed to our start area.
The signs for the Green start led me to a road and barricades blocking any passage across for runners. This was because the women’s pro field was beginning, and this crossover was right where they’d be 50m into their race. We waited in the rain and had one race official tell us that this way was closed, there was no other path to the Green start, therefore we could not do the race. He was obviously wrong – we waited less than 10 minutes and saw the lady pros start. I only recognized Domonique Scott from South Africa; the leaders were a blur of Africans in colorful outfits. I looked for Alice Wright from the Hoka Team but never saw her.
I dropped my bag of dry post-race clothes at the correct “lorry” and went near corrals 3 and 4. Without delay, Rachel Picciano found me. She recognized my “Classics By The Sea” race shirt. We stayed near each other with both of us now looking for Maria. She was easy to spot with the large “3:35” flag affixed to her back. The three of us took a few photos and waiting in a drizzle for the start. Rachel said she’d start with us but didn’t know how long she would last. She ran well! For her it lasted long enough, as she finished in 3:44, a new PR for her!
I started with them and quickly took notice of how narrow the streets were. In the early miles, volunteers stood near every speed bump voicing, “Hump!” as we ran over each one. The course passing through little suburban area was tight, allowing 48,000 runners to wind through from four different starting areas. I carried a disposable plastic bottle with Maurten 360. Also, I carried 3 UCan gels and salt pills. I kept the bottle for 7 miles, sipping it and continuously switching hands holding and running.
One surprise were the water aid stations on the London course. Water was given out in hard plastic sealed water bottles. Each cap had a secondary blue top cap that if done properly, was flipped up allowing the runners to drink from it on the go. I didn’t understand that clearly; my first bottle was a frustrating “tear the blue thing off’ which removed any top my bottle had. I ran and splashed water on myself. I took a few gulps and tossed it to the side of the road. The side of the road was littered with these bottles, they were an easy trap to slip or roll an ankle on. The water aid stations were not the Lucozade (energy drink) stations either. They were at other spots, same with the gels. Gels weren’t offered right before a water stop, or if they were, I wasn’t paying close enough attention. We do course nutrition differently back home.
I ran with an eye on the blue line painted in the street. That signified the true measured course. It also wobbled side to side constantly, which was helpful mentally. I could see what was coming ahead on a flat section by watching the blue line ease left or right. Mentally. Physically, it was difficult to make the move necessary to keep that blue line under foot because of the crowds. This race was more tightly bunched for more of the miles than Chicago or New York. One good side of this was that the crowds were very close to the runners. So their cheers and music were LOUD! The sides of the road near the curbs were sometimes the wrong place to run, as small little flows of water ran alongside the curbs or in depressions in the roadway made by car & truck tires over time. I’d make a decision to run slightly off one of the little puddles or streams of rainwater, only to have someone run right through them, splashing anyone nearby! Wet is wet, and based on the forecast, we were already ahead weather-wise in that the whole day was predicted to be sloshing through solid rain. The outlook was the same last year, thankfully so was the result. We had temperatures in the low 50s and minimal rain with no direct downpours.
My pacing was nicely done, I ran next to Maria and Rachel for some miles, a little behind them for more, then back up with them again. I noticed we were quicker than the 8:12 pace we’d need to do the 3:35 goal finish time. I learned after the race that Maria and all pacers were told to get to the halfway point, I kept an awareness on my right rear leg and glute area. It has been sore on most runs at about 2-3 miles. It intensified at around 5 miles on most of my training runs, which is where I’d stop. Most of my preparation for this event was done at a leisurely effort on an elliptical machine. None of my runs were longer than 5 miles since the Feb 19th A1A Marathon.
I felt good with the pace in the early miles, around the Cutty Sark at mile 6, up on to the Tower Bridge near mile 13, and into the center of the city. I knew many of the mid to later miles were completed in the “Isle of Dogs” area, through Canary Wharf. I went through those sections, miles 15-18, took about half of one of the UCan gels, and kept current with the salt pills. Even in cooler temps, I know the danger of not having enough of that causes cramping at the very end.
Nearing mile 19, I felt my back of leg area tighten up and become sore. I ran with it that way for another mile and a half – near the Run Dem Crw cheer zone. That was a highlight – so many people, such a loud squad, it was very fun! Right past that the Rainbow Mile, an area with more loud music and an underpass to amplify the sound. Here’s where I decided to walk through some of the water stops to see if a small break would allow the leg and glute thing to subside. It didn’t help, so I continued to run as much as I felt it was good then walk fast (my fast walks are SLOW). This is what I did for the final 5 miles, easing on and off the pace. A lady Corinna from Wales was running her first marathon, she passed me and encouraged me to run with her. I tried some of that but it wasn’t going to work for another mile, she slipped ahead and kept her pace. Rachel, who left Maria without me seeing her slip back, was coming up next to me, same thing. I gave a half-hearted effort to follow her but it didn’t last.
I knew I was coming to the area on the course where I’d know many of the landmarks. The Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, Blackfriar’s Bridge, the Cleopatra Needle, so many neat sights. I made it to the turn at mile 24.5. That’s a great spot for sightseeing on the course – next to me I saw the Thames River, the London Eye, MI6 building, New Scotland Yard, and right ahead the right turn to the finish area at Big Ben and the Parliament Building.
I would later come back near this spot along the river to see and take pics of John finishing up his race. I ran down the Buckingham Palace Road, turned on to the Mall and through the finish. It was raining for my last mile and my finish line crossing. 3:50:15.
Some of the memorable and most recognizable London sights are in the last 3 miles…
I received my medal, my finisher’s shirt, then I collected my checked bag. I saw white tents, thought maybe they would be for changing, but they were all medical tents. The Portable toilets were full and had lines of people waiting, so I kept walking straight towards Horseguards Parade. I found an open toilet and took about 10-15 minutes figuring out how to get out of my wet clothes and into the dry things I had brought. That was a great feeling – long dry pants, a waterproof jacket, and dry shirt and underwear. I kept the shoes & socks on, wet as they were.
I couldn’t find Maria, Rachel or Jen, there were hundreds of people milling about. All three of them finished ahead of me. Once I left the secure runner finish area, I began what seemed like a very long and slow walk to Tracksmith. I stopped to take some photos on Old Bond Street with my medal and the Coronation decorations. At Tracksmith I was second in line to get my poster stamped. I met the girl that won “First to the Trackhouse” with a 3:07 finish. She got a custom embroidered robe and a rabbit trophy designed by Bobby Gibb. I bought some shirts for Sandra and Kim who asked if I’d be back at that store. It wasn’t an easy place to get to, not many trains and such nearby, but I knew I’d go for the poster.
I walked back to the Mall & finish area, I timed my arrival so I could get on the barricade rail to cheer for John at his Mile 25. I saw crazy costumes, cheered and encouraged others, dangled my medal out & told them theirs was less than a mile ahead. It was neat to be there for that!
It was a good experience to tour London on foot this way. I was happy and surprised I could run at an 8 minute for 20+ miles, having not been able to do any of that in the weeks leading up to this one. The trip was a wonderful endeavor, goofing off and sightseeing with John.
I read a story on the plane about a woman that was a school teacher. She retired. She signed up for a $30,000 three year “around the world” cruise. This is her quote on the how & what behind her reasoning…
“I think I was always waiting for the perfect time to go when everything is right in life, when money is right, when appointments are right, when other people want to go,” she says.
“Don’t stay home,” she encourages. “Home may be where the heart is, home may be where you hang your hat – hang your hat, and then get on the boat, get on the plane, get in the car, go somewhere.”
Well that’s a memorable way to conduct one’s self!