It’s April and that time of the year for another family trip down to the big smoke for the London marathon. After a sub 3:30 in Manchester two weeks ago, I hoped I could replicate a similar time. I do have a personal goal to complete 100 sub 3:30 marathons and am currently standing on 93.
With my main marathon focus on the Brathay 10in10 in less than three weeks time, London was still only a training run on the back of another 50 plus mile training week.
On the Saturday I made the obligatory journey to the London marathon expo at the Excel building. This always takes up a big part of the day which in someways I wish I was spending with family sightseeing in London but I must admit it gets you firmly in the mood for the race, with just about every stall imaginable regarding running trainers, clothing and world marathons.
In the afternoon I spent time enjoying Covent Garden and Regents Park with the family in the welcome warm sunshine. A pasta meal at Albertini, a tasty Italian close to our hotel, near Euston train station.
The stage was now set for marathon day. Usually I’m fully clothed to keep warm whilst making my way to the start at Blackheath but this year even at 7am it was already incredibly warm and I was only in my shorts and T-shirt.
Whilst preparing myself in the green start area, I bumped into Keith and Caroline and enjoyed their marathon banter. Just before the start I found Neil and fellow A&T club mates Dave and Mike.
The race started and I set off with Dave and Mike. I planned to run a just under 8 minute miling pace and get to half way in 1:43 to give me the opportunity of a sub 3:30, if I felt up for it in the heat. At mile 5 there is flyover that we run under, there is always a large band of drummers there with massive drums. I love listening to their sounds echoing under this concrete structure and they were there once again this year to entertain. Mile 6.5 and the magnificent sight of the Cutty Sark then at 12 miles, probably the most wonderful marathon point in the world, Tower Bridge, lined with thousands of incredibly encouraging spectators, always unforgettable. It was great to share the special moment with Dave and Mike, who were still keeping me company. At mile 14 we saw Mo Farah coming back at the 22 mile point, it was great to hear the roar of the crowd propelling him along. In fact, the crowd were like the twelfth man in a football match not just for Mo but for everyone of us running. They make every runner feel like an athlete and special. Just one of the many reasons that makes the London marathon so very special.
As we continued to run through Canary Wharf and got to mile 19, I started to feel the heat getting to me. I could have pushed through it but was worried I might struggle nearer the finish so slowed, letting Dave and Mike go. By mile 22 I felt better, realised a sub 3:30 may be still be possible and pushed on again. I knew this would be very close and then I lost another 20 or 30 seconds as the race was stopped in front of me to let an ambulance through at mile 23. I’d been watching runners slow from half way where I had started to consistently over take people. It was obvious the hot conditions were affecting runners much more than normal.
The crowds continued to grow along the Embankment and as I passed Big Ben coated in scaffolding. I came into Bird Cage Walk and started to look out for Yuk-Lam, Abbey and Lucas in St James Park. Finally I spotted them and gave them a quick wave. I passed a sign saying 600 yards to go. I only have 2 minutes to get a sub 3:30, I now knew it was now impossible, I needed 3! I coasted past Buckingham Palace and into the Mall enjoying the sun and the atmosphere. Not sure if or when I will ever get this chance again with the “Good for Age” criteria changing for 2019.
With the weather at 24 degrees centigrade, it was the warmest London marathons ever.
My finishing time for my 11th London marathon was 3 hours 30 minutes 51 seconds. Not quite what I had hoped for but all considered very respectable. Now it is time to taper and sort out my final preparations for the start of the Brathay 10in10 in just 19 days time.