Race Report – Virgin Money London Marathon

Let me say right from the outset that I didn’t enjoy myself on 22nd April and I don’t intend to re-cap the entire race. Well, I say that I didn’t enjoy it, I did, but not for very long. This guy certainly did enjoy the latter part of his race though:

Ben Dye

That I didn’t enjoy an event I finally had the opportunity to run upset me greatly because I love the London Marathon, probably the biggest and best organised marathon event there is, and was very excited (and certainly very nervous) about now having the opportunity to run it myself after many years of volunteering and watching friends and club mates run it.

I can’t put in to words exactly how grateful I am for the support of my friends and others. I’m thankful to all those that took the time to track my progress. I was out there a while and it was, in part the fact that I knew that people were watching my progress 5k by 5k and willing me on that motivated me to keep going, to keep checking off the miles. However slowly those miles went by.

I have no intention of putting my finish time down here. You can find it if you want but it really doesn’t matter. We (read I) tend to judge success and achievement by desired outcome not by completion. I’ve been told by friends this week that I should be happy just to have completed the race, but for a good few days I was still left a little empty. I need to shift that mindset if I am to enjoy (yes enjoy!) the distance. Marathons will not be forgiving and there are likely to be occasions where its going to be just as demoralising in future. That is something I will need to accept. It means I need to work harder. I spent a long time working away to achieve my desired time goal at both 5k and 10k (although I’m still not satisfied with either of those). My future work at the Marathon distance will be no different.

When I woke up on Sunday London Marathon had uploaded
. This really psyched me up for the day! Not that I needed to be much more excitable!

The race

The warmest London Marathon ever staged. At 7:45 when Amy and I left the house it felt warm, at 8:30 when we got off the train and took that walk out of the station and up Tranquil Vale up to the heath It was warmer. Heading into the Blue start area, the scene was very strange. Almost everyone already there had done what they could to occupy a bit of shade. The conditions were clearly occupying everyone’s mind, not just mine. Everyone had found a spot, be it in the changing tents, under banner arches and where fencing cast a shadow just to sit and conserve their energy. There were even guys sat down in the shade in the fenced area leading into the men’s urinals!

I found Richard Masi, the other recipient of Team Derby Runner’s EA club place pretty quickly.

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He was sat under a banner arch with many others. I joined him and we sat chatting until I needed to go and join a toilet queue and find water.

I’d been allocated Pen 7 for the start area but felt like that might not be the right place for me. My pre-heatwave plan had been to run with the 4:45 pacer (around 10:50 mile pace) and speaking to them they were going into Pen 9. That seemed better. Advice from the organisers (and Martin Yelling) during the week had been to reassess expectations and slow down.

At the time I felt like this applied most to faster runners seeking a lot faster times than I hoped to achieve on Sunday. In hindsight I now know that this applied as much to me as anyone else. I chose the wrong pace group and should have gone with the 5:00 or 5:15. Starting the race entirely wrong then probably meant that what was to come was inevitable.

The mass start began at 10:00 but my zone didn’t get to the start line until 10:40. So, I must have spent at least an hour in the sun in the start area. David Weir finished and won his race before we had even gotten out of Blackheath. I spent most of that time chatting to a few of the runners I thought I might be running with if we all managed to stick with the pacers, sipping on water and pouring water over my head. I chatted to a guy called Michael and ran with him through Greenwich and out down Creek Road but never found out his surname so have no idea how he did.

Those first miles then. It was my estimation that 4:45 pace meant around 10:50 miles. I’d also picked up a 4:50 pace band at the Expo so I could keep a check on my pace between the two times. From memory I know that all of those first seven miles were up to twenty seconds quicker than what I had planned. This was not start slow, get slower and then wind it up. I got caught up in the moment. Right from when I got this ballot place what was going to make my first London Marathon so special was that those first six miles were in my home borough, along streets I call home.

Amy’s family live in Charlton and told me to look out for them after the M&S outside Frankie and Benny’s just before Mile 5. I know that stretch well and right from when we turned left at the roundabout with the McDonalds on it I moved over to the right hand side. It was still just under a mile before I would see them but I wanted to make sure I had uninterrupted line of sight. Amy missed her sister and nephews last year. I didn’t want to miss them.

I ran past M&S and then past Starbucks, the place they said they would be was here. I saw Amy’s mum first and then the rest of their faces were kind of a blur because I didn’t stop. I just know that was happy to see them and that right now I felt good. I was glad they had seen me at this point and not later in the race, or at the finish when I might be an exhausted mess.

NEJ team mates were marshalling at Cutty Sark, the club’s annual marshal point a little further along past Mile 6. I wasn’t in club colours which made it harder for them to see me. I know from having marshalled and cheered on other occasions how hard it is to pick out faces in a constant stream of people. Once I again I hugged the right hand side and ran past a few of them, getting handslaps or pats on arms as I made my way past, all surprised that I had finally arrived.

I hadn’t really thought about when it was that I felt the need to stop running and begin walking. I know that we proceeded on into Deptford and Rotherhithe. It was there that my pace began to slip and the 4:45 pacers steadily got further away and further up the road from me. My Garmin seems not to have saved my mile splits from last Sunday. What a relief. I wouldn’t particularly want to see them now

Around Mile 12 the 5:00 pacer caught up with me and for a time, over Tower Bridge and into east London I felt good keeping that pace, but even he eventually disappeared up the road. The key thing though at this point was that runners that had reached the 22 mile point were coming the other way along the other carriageway. It was here that I noticed that people were walking. Good club runners in recognisable vests were walking. It wasn’t just me that was feeling the conditions.

It was somewhere along The Highway around Mile 13 that I lifted up my head after realising I was just staring down at the ground, and caught sight of my friend Rachel (Rachel loves the marathon and is only Chicago and Boston away from being a six-star finisher) coming the other way. We high fived as we passed each other. That was the first bright moment I had had since mile 7 and somehow my feet started moving quicker again. It was only a couple of minutes later that I heard a some pretty intense shouting on the other side of the road. What’s that I thought. Well, it was only Amy and my friends. What a welcome moment. All I could do was raise my arm. I think I smiled, or at least something approximating it and carried on. I saw them again at Mile 21 and parkrun friends at other points, right when I really needed them. I might not have seemed happy to see them at that point but them being there helped so much!

My reflections on my race

I’ve had to really dig deep to find positives from my run and, it would appear that very few of those positives are really to do with the course. I had a goal time in mind in training and I completely get that time shouldn’t be important, but it is. I made it round but just to have made it round wasn’t what I put a significant amount of my time into training for. However, I do understand that my run fell apart largely because I neglected to reset my goals and intentions for the conditions. Conditions which were far from ideal for anyone. All I am holding on to is that I can reset and use the next opportunity available to me with Berlin in September.

So here they are, my positives from my (first) London Marathon:

  1. I completed a World Marathon Major. Not how I might have liked but let’s put this in context. Is that an easy thing to do? Is that something everyone has done? Answers: No and No.
  2. Finishing is an achievement and fighting to get there is better than a DNF.
  3. I was not among the 750+ people that had to, or chose, to DNF
  4. My pre-race preparation went well. I was well hydrated and my body felt ready.
  5. After marathon #1 was treated by St Johns. That didn’t happen this time. I’m glad I didn’t add to their already very busy day. I executed my recovery plan well.
  6. I ran very well, if too fast, over the first seven miles (that I remember). The first six were in my home borough, the place I call home. What a start! I could not have a better start to a race. I had Amy’s family and my mother in law to be supporting in Charlton and was buzzing to see them. They all got high fives.
  7. The support of the crowds even if I didn’t appreciate them at the time. There were guys on the Embankment that shouted Willbarrow at me and they got high fives.
  8. That I was able to run most of Mile 25 and the last section down Birdcage Walk and round on to the Mall to finish.
  9. I got a high five from my friend at Mile 13 as she was coming the other way. I never expected to see her given the number of people and was grateful for that moment.
  10. The muscle pain I have had to endure since Sunday was not caused by lack of effort on my part. It is a welcome sign that I did work.
  11. I had the support of family and friends, especially at Mile 14 and 21, who understood that it was a hard run and were there to congratulate me in Horse Guards.
  12. Did I live up to my two life and training goals in this race? Those goals are Persistence and Perseverance. I fucking did!
  13. I persevered through the hottest London Marathon ever staged.

One thought on “Race Report – Virgin Money London Marathon

  1. I recognise all your points on VLM Will, I myself didn’t have the run I’d worked hard for for last year. However, seeing ‘your faces’ in the crowds of tens of thousands of faces, gives you the biggest lift you can imagine- last year YOU were one of my faces- twice- and I’ve never been SO pleased to see anyone in my life! I am immensely proud of your achievement- finishing a marathon, irrespective of time is exactly that! You are part of the 1% of the population!! We both live to fight another day, and that fact alone is to be celebrated, we are lucky to have a next time! You are a credit to the club, your friends, family and most of all yourself! Welcome to marathon running – proud of you xxxx

    Like

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