Sunday, 6 days after the Boston marathon, and after 5 days of no exercise whatsoever, I ran the London marathon for the third time. It wasn’t going to be my first back to back Marathon, and I’ve done them on consecutive days before in multiday ultras so I wasn’t daunted by the prospect but didn’t have any idea what time I would run. In a way this was good though, pressure was off and I could just enjoy myself. But there would always be the secret hope I would run sub 4/ good for age/ BQ / faster than Monday / maybe even do what I tried and failed to do in Boston / miraculous sub 3 / fantasy win etc.
Following my surprise PB here last year of 3:14, I was in the club championships pen. This was nice, more space, more toilets and not being held up at a congested start line like last year when I was slowed up stuck behind the celebs. But it also meant advertising my fall from grace by wearing a championship bib number on my back so that people passing me would know I should be/have been much faster. There was no wearing a Boston marathon finisher top to display my excuses, as kit requirements are strict – club vests only, and small logos only with defined maximum measurements. I did wear some nice Boston compression socks though as a nod to what I’d just done. The club champs was also daunting in that you start right behind the pro men, and the qualification times for the championship pen is 3:15 for women and 2:45 for men. That means the men behind in pen 1 who just missed out on qualification are theoretically half an hour faster than the slowest qualifier. And that’s without taking into account they might not be a club runner, they might not have wanted to or known to apply for a championship start, they might have got much much faster, and that I could have got much much slower. I thought I was going to be trampled!
However, we all know I generally always go off too faster, so I probably wouldn’t hold people back by virtue of not running 3:15 pace. I ran the first 3 miles at sub 3 pace, then tried to settle into something more comfortable and got to 3:05 pace for mile 4, 3:15 for miles 5-6 and then slowed below PB pace to a 3:20 marathon pace for a steady 5 miles before doing 3:30 for two more up until the half way point. This gave me a 1:41:07 half so averaging 7:38 per mile or looking at a 3:20 finish time. At this point, I stopped and walked or a minute, looking around me for any familiar faces and to soak up the atmosphere and take on some fluids. When I started running again, my pace was improved back to PB pace again. 7:20s felt quite comfortable. And actually the majority of my running was around here or below 8:00 per mile. But I stopped for 4 more 1-2 minute walks over the second half, a stretch out, and 3 toilet stops so my splits were ranging from 7:44 to 9:23 per mile. Similar happened in Boston, my actual running was reasonably paced but I was so hot and thirsty I spent a large proportion of the time walking through aid stations taking on fluids which is something I’ve not done in previous marathons, eating and drinking very little and just passing through steadily.
Soon after walk break 1, I caught up with a club mate ahead of me. I hadn’t seen her go past but she must have as she’d been in a pen behind me. I gave her bum a slap and chatted for a bit. We were both struggling. Then I pushed on ahead as my running pace felt comfortable but knowing I’d be stopping again soon. She passed me again on walking break 3. As did another club mate, who went on to run a fabulous PB. Congrats Paula!
I saw a few familiar faces in the crowd: some members of my running club Bearbrook in Aylesbury, people I know from running the Marathon Des Sables, a fellow exercise mad medic, and a few school friends. I also saw a man running I knew from a local running club, and another wearing a Porthcawl club vest which is where my parents live and the club my dad has joined this year. I’d actually spotted a Porthcawl vest in official promotional London marathon material earlier in the day and sent it to my dad and he’d said that was his neighbour Julian who’d encouraged him to join. And this was the same man, so I introduced myself and said hi. Small world.
I picked up the pace for the last mile, but that last bit seemed to go on forever. Same as last year, my watch said 26 miles and the finish wasn’t in sight. What was in sight was the 1km to go sign. You’ve got to be kidding! I’d picked the pace up too early. I held on for dear life and crossed the line in 3:37:23, only 4 minutes slower than Monday so I’m really pleased with that, another London Marathon Good for Age qualification time.
1303/15468 women = top 6.5%
After the race, I saw 4 club mates just past the finish line so had a chat with them before a brisk 4ish mile round trip walk for a chat with Alan and back to the club coach home. I’d fancied taking advantage of some of the freebies London had to offer marathon runners, namely a cheeseburger but didn’t have time. On my quick march along the embankment to the coach, I stopped at a burger van to ask if they took cards and heard a man being given directions to a cash point. I said “that answers my question then” re cards. The disappointment was obviously visible on my face because she straight away said I could have whatever I wanted for free as I needed my energy after the marathon. Win! And what a lovely lovely lady.
I was thinking about names on running vests. I’ve never had my name printed on a vest (but have occasionally had a personalised bib number). The boost from hearing people shout your name is unreliable. But I think I prefer not to have my name there, because that way I am more likely to spot the people who I actually know shouting my name in the crowd and be able to give them a wave back.
My two favourite stories of the day come from The Swansea Harriers. 1) Josh Griffiths, a club runner making his way through the pack to beat all the elites and finish first British male, qualifying for the world championships. 2) Matt Rees selflessly helping the stumbling Chorlton runner to the finish line. I know how hard Matt trained for this race, he was suffering and I can imagine he must have been disappointed with the outcome on the day, but to help another runner like that and gain overnight fame must have been quite the silver lining.
A bit of rest, a focus on the bike, and a few triathlons over the summer. Also, with my fingers crossed for my move to South Africa to work out, I have my eye on the Soweto Marathon in the autumn.