A week on and reflection on the London marathon experience 2018.
Since January I had been putting the marathon training in with the one intent of making London as my A race.
I managed to keep my running pretty consistent achieving 120-140km per week and using races as my speed sessions. Another good way of keeping sharp for me is parkrun, which not only gave me a good work out but also good opportunity to catch up with friends and discuss running in particular. To enable me to get the mileage in whilst working full time meant I had to be up and out by 5.30am before work mainly doing 11k, then straight to the gym after work for a further 15-16k. People ask do I enjoy running and the answer is yes but to be honest, I don’t really like the training but I know if I wasn’t committed and made the time then firstly, I wouldn’t be able to achieve my dream of a sub 2.30 Marathon and secondly enjoy the feeling of racing well on a Sunday.
The races were going well despite the awful cold conditions. I broke my half PB to 1.10 dead and my 20 mile time went into the 1.49 region, I also became the Oxfordshire half marathon champion a few weeks out. This was giving me great confidence in being able to achieve the sub 2.30 dream.
With things going well I then developed a niggle; some issues with the hamstring developed about 4 weeks prior to London. After seeing the physio I was advised to increase stretches and do some work to strengthen the muscles and as such, started to reduce mileage a bit sooner than I would have liked but aired on the side of caution.
The weather reports were changing daily in the week before London and I had taken the week off work in order to try and relax and rest up before Sunday. It seemed it was going to be a hot one and in the week prior I did a few runs outside in the heat with a jacket on trying to get my body used to the hot conditions.
Expo day had arrived and on the Thursday I went down with Kathryn and friend Richard to soak up some pre race atmosphere. Picked up my number and enjoyed the day picking up freebies and signing up to try and win some running holidays
In terms of nutrition I kept things usual and on the Thursday decided to try and get some more carbs inside me on the evening meals (trying to maintain a weight of 66-67kg). I started to take a few salt tablets a few days before ( thanks Andy from AM-activ with this useful tip) to which I hadn’t done before a race, but thought this may aid in running in hot conditions in a few days time. My pre race meal is not the usual runner meal but I think everyone is different and it’s important to find something that works for you. So, packet of rice followed by 4 rolls with sausages in it was and some chips on the side all finished off with my usual treat of a magnum
The day had arrived and the nerves were kicking in. It was an early start getting up at 4.30am to get the Bearbrook coach which was leaving at 6am from Aylesbury.
Breakfast consisted of 4 slices of toast and a banana and off we went.
We arrived just before 8am and the temperature was already warm. Kathryn, Ian and I headed over to the Blue start area where we had a pre race chat of where they would be on the course then I headed into the zone. Walking through the Blue start you come to the Championship Area where the top club runners would be starting out. I was early so went into the tent and had a chat with a few other runners, obviously picking up some free Lucozade and water as you do. Matt from Runners Retreat in Marlow called to wish me good luck and to stick to the plan of the 1.13 half. It wasn’t long before I saw a fellow local runner Tom Dell who was experiencing his first London marathon. As time passed more people I knew arrived and had chats with; Elliot Hind who is on par with me in trying to achieve the sub 2.30 and Micheal Channing who also was in the remit all wishing each other the best of luck.
Everyone was concerned about the heat but I just thought forget that and stick with my plan of going out in 1.13 first half and then holding on. Kathryn had made some useful pacing bands for me, 2:26 and 2:28 - I thought on a perfect day that could be possible.
I soon met up with the legend Ty Farrer then we dropped off our bags before heading for a last toilet stop. Dan Hurst was spotted in his Secret Squirrel top and we tried to stay in the shade as long as possible then headed out to line up behind Mo and Kipchoge. I knew Ellie Loosley was racing the Mini Marathon at around this time so hoped she had done well but had no way of knowing until the end.
I tried to get as near to the front as possible but it was rammed and getting hotter with everyone cramped up. I wore my cap out the start line and after the build up music and National Anthem I threw the hat away and down to business; it was once the queen had hit the button from Windsor Castle.
The start is always crazy, getting into the areas of clear running whilst trying to get into your running rhythm as soon as possible. After abit of zig zagging across the road and passing quite a few runners I was tucked into a group.
The start felt good and I could feel I was running well and if anything going too well and found myself running through 5k in 16.45 - to quick really but Matt had said mile 3 was downhill so I continued on. I saw Ian at 2.5 mile and picked up a drink and some gels. At every water stop I was picking up water, drinking some and throwing the rest over my head and shoulders in an attempt to try and keep me as cool as possible. I could spot many people in the crowd early on and waved where I could especially to the Team Bex supporters; you can't miss those pink t-shirts! I saw Kathryn next at 9k and she handed me a drink and gel which I used straight away. 10k soon approached and went through in 34.04 which again was faster than I wanted to be fair.
The heat was pounding down now and I was regularly taking salt tablets and drinking water at every opportunity. The support at London is always incredible and in some areas so loud it was uplifting and probably encouraging me to run that bit faster. The miles were now being ticked off but I took a conscious decision to slightly slow the pace before getting to half way as I didn’t want to end up like I was finishing my first marathon at Brighton only 1 year ago.
London Bridge arrived and I went through in 1.13.19 which was pretty much bang on what I wanted. I soon again saw Ian at 14miles and took on more drink and gels.
I saw Kathryn at 25k and took another drink and gel on board in trying to keep my body topped up. Kathryn shouted I was a head of time and to be careful, think I had her worried at this point. I was pretty soaked all over and any other salt tablets I had in my pocket had dissolved in my pocket but I knew Kathryn had a bag I could collect at the 20 mile point.
It was now tough going and was having to really dig in. 20 mile arrived and last time I would see Kathryn and pre race I said to her to tell me to pick it up so I heard her shout ‘don’t you f**k this up’ not sure she meant to say that but gave me a chuckle in side!
To my surprise I was still passing some runners and went past the legend Steve Way and was soon approaching a tunnel where I could see runner number 4 ahead of me (later found it was the Ethiopian Guye Adola that went through half way leading the front pack). Now every mile seemed to take an age and felt like I was running really slow. I was glancing at my watch and some KM’s looked slow but the next that came was back into the 3.33 per km area which gave me hope.
I knew now about 22 miles in this was the toughest race of my life and I really wanted to walk but I was still on for the sub 2.30 time. I can’t remember where the showers were on the course but I went through a few as well as the fire brigade hosing people down with water. Paul Loosley I knew was at the 23 mile point but I missed him and to be honest I wanted to stay on the shortest course possible following the blue line on the road.
Soon after I heard someone shouting me to my left hand side it was Mike (Kathryn’s brother) and he held out some water which I grabbed and just threw it over me as I was now over heating and desperate to see mile 25. The mile finally came and to my surprise I was still passing a few people but I was running on what felt like fumes.
Where was the finish? I came to around 41k and glimpsed the time I had to do 1k in 4 minutes for any chance of achieving sub 2.30.
600 meters to go I could hear loud shouts of support although I couldn’t acknowledge them as I was so tired and needed to continue to concentrate on one foot in front of the other. It was Kathryn's family all going mental & cheering me on and they were managing to get the rest of the crowd who didn’t know me to do the same, what amazing support and I didn’t want to let anyone down.
385 yards to go I turned the corner onto The Mall and could see the finish and the clock which was ticking in the 2.29’s. I knew this was my opportunity and gave it my all and crossed the line in 2.29.42!
I didn’t stop running after the line as could feel the cramp in my legs starting. This gave a few Marshall’s a smile wondering how was I still running.
The feeling inside was immense as the dream of many runners is a sub 2.30 and I had achieved it in what was brutally hot conditions.
I half walked/jogged through to get my medal everyone saying well done. I spoke to a few runners around me and remember one saying I looked like I was running strong at the end even though I didn’t feel it. I asked what his PB was and he said 2.24 but the heat was killing everyone, which surprised him I had actually PB’d!
After a slow, I mean very slow walk to my bag collection I came out to the open to meet Kathryn who came running over with a massive smile saying I had done it. I couldn’t fully celebrate as was in pain and needed to keep walking but I was beyond happy and proud to have made all those tracking me proud of my achievement. I still managed a mini photo shoot with Getty images whilst trying to recover.
Once we had met up with Ian it was homeward bound on the free train home. Travelling back I had many messages on my phone and one saying I had come 25th! I couldn’t believe it that was insane and I thought I definitely had earn’t that dominos pizza and ice cream I would be having as soon as I got in.
On reflection I’m over the moon with the time and result. Maybe on a perfect day a 2.27/2.28 was possible but I didn’t care I had achieved the sub 2.30 after only a year of marathon running and in the hottest London marathon ever.
Ellie I soon found out had also had a great run in the Mini Marathon and thoroughly enjoyed her experience. I doubt either of us or those close to us will forget the London marathon of 2018.