Greenwich Park 8:30am and there were already hundreds of runners preparing for the run. The park hosts the three separate start points. The red and the green starts initially take slightly different routes, then merge after 3-miles. The blue start merges with the green route after 800 metres. I was allocated the red start and then pen five, based on my expected finish time. I managed to get into the pen early (too early perhaps?) and was third row from the front. I still had 45 minutes until the start. The atmosphere was alive with nervous energy. The 30 seconds silence in memory of those who died or were injured at the Boston marathon was perfectly observed and pretty emotional. The tapes between the pens were removed and the runners shuffled forward towards the line.
The race started at 10am and after a slight delay we began to walk. I crossed the start line after 5 minutes still walking. At 200 metres into the race there were many runners who appeared keen to ensure the gorse on Greenwich Common was well doused (possibly to reduce the chance of heathland fires?) and I happily joined them.
I didn’t really know what to expect, having never run a marathon or been part of such a massive event. Given my training I was confident that I could run 4:15-4:30. Maysty ran the race a few years ago and finished a few seconds over 4 hours and I secretly wanted beat that time and go sub 4-hours, so I went for it. I set off well under sub-9 minute mile pace. My plan was to keep going at this pace for as long as I could, get away from slower runners, to latch onto the 4 hour pace makers when they caught me and to then stay with them to the finish.
The plan worked. For the first 18 miles. Then it fell apart. I should perhaps have slowed my pace when it took quite a while for the 3:45 pace maker to pass me! Between 18 and 20 miles was very tough. My thighs were very painful. No gradual change, they just started to hurt. A lot. My pace dropped considerably and I lost interest in my finish time and was more concerned about completing the run. I carried my own sports drink from the start of the race and had taken a sip at each mile marker, but I had had enough Lucozade Sport by mile 20 and decided to stop for water. There are water stations after each mile marker. I drank water while I walked and then tried to get back into my stride. I did this at every mile marker until mile 25. I also took a gel at mile 20 and 22.
Spectators lined the whole course, but coming out of Docklands the crowd was unbelievable. Running along Embankment and the crowd was even larger and even louder. Incredible. I didn’t stop from mile 25. I turned the final corner and the finish was a blur. Over the line, walk over a ramp, timing chip cut off, medal around my neck, goodie bag presented, my bag handed to me as I arrived at the baggage re-claim (very impressive), then to the meeting area. This was like an out of body experience.
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t feeling 100% at this time. I was having difficulty walking, I was light-headed and my stomach was churning. I sat down at the pre-determined meeting point and waited for friends and family to arrive. I shut my eyes and concentrated on not being sick. I won’t give you the detail, but that plan fell apart too. Maysty and Fiona and her family arrived, followed by Melanie and my children and then Alok and Ian.
I began to feel better and it was only then that the post-race euphoria kicked in. I had finished the run in 4:16, having burned almost 4,000 calories. Just 14,381 runners finished ahead of me and another 19,788 finished behind me.
This event is mind-blowing. The size and scale is unbelievable. The crowd amazing, the atmosphere electric. There are so many highlights, but the noise from drum band as I ran into an underpass at 5-6 miles (the first big live music event) was amazing and running over Tower Bridge was a truly unforgettable experience.
If you get the chance, then do it. But it is very, very tough.