This was my first experience of a big city marathon expo and I have to say they have the registering and number pick up down to a fine art, despite my fears it really is a well oiled machine that sends you on your merry way into the main exhibition where there are lots of opportunities to part with cash for all sorts of running wares. The expo runs from the Wednesday through to Saturday afternoon, we went up on the Friday and it didn’t seem very busy at all, I’ve since been told that the Saturday is a completely different experience with lots of people busily trying to grab their numbers.
On race day it was a very early start as we’d decided to travel up on the day, so leaving home at 5:45am, we set off on the drive up to Richmond, from where we’d continue in by train. If you’re running in the marathon, you get free travel for the day on the trains operated by London Transport. On arriving at Blackheath, we hopped of the train to join the crowds making their way to the Blue start area on Blackheath Common. This was the first inkling of just how big an event the London marathon is! Again, everything is just so well organised and laid out. Once you enter the start area you’re unable to leave and re-enter but it’s not a worry as everything you need is in there. With the weather forecast predicting lots of sunshine and high temperatures, we took advantage of the free bottles of water and Lucozade on offer. After sorting ourselves out and having waited until the starting pens had started to fill, we made our way to our different pens.
Once in my starting pen, I only had to wait 30 minutes until we’d be off. You could already feel the heat starting to rise at 9:45am and this was the main topic of conversation around me. With lots of nervous chatter amongst everyone the sense of occasion began to rise and before you knew it, it was our turn to set off. Away we went under the starting gantry and hopefully the next stop would be on The Mall! The support from the start was quite amazing, I’d expected the early stages to be largely supporter free but this certainly wasn’t the case as shouts of encouragement seemed to come from everywhere. The first big sight is Cutty Sark at about 6 miles and here the crowds and the noise started to go up considerably! This set the tone for the rest of the run, on we went until the next big moment as at approximately mile 12, we turned the corner to be faced by Tower Bridge! This for me was the moment I’d been waiting for and it didn’t disappoint. It was a surreal moment to be running over the bridge, looking up above to take it in and being met with a wall of noise from the crowds lining the bridge! It was here that I managed to catch sight of my wife as I came off the bridge, this gave me a welcome boost as I was starting to wilt in the heat. We turned right here and headed off on a loop that would take us round to Canary Wharf where the crowds got bigger and closer to you and the noise became unbelievable!
By the 14 mile mark, the heat had really started to build and was heading to the hottest London marathon on record, at this point I’d abandoned all hopes of pb’s and decided I was just going to finish in one piece. At the 18 mile mark I bumped into another Hedgie, Richard George, and with us both struggling by now, it gave us both a little nudge and spurred us both on. On we went back towards the Tower of London and starting to head for home. Coming out of a particularly low patch I heard a shout from the side and turned to see Andy Cockerell encouraging me on, this was like a shot in the arm at just the right time, that was it, time to get on with it and get it finished, with a sign telling me it was jus a parkrun to go I was off and heading towards the Embankment where the noise of the crowds were overwhelming, it was so loud at this point you couldn’t have had a conversation with the runner alongside of you. At the Houses of Parliament we turned to the right and entered the last mile, by now the heat was taking its toll and it was a battle to keep moving but knowing the finish was in sight was enough to keep me going. Turning by Buckingham Palace there was the finish line, with the clock heading to 4:30 it was a quick “sprint” to go over the line before the clock got to 4:30.
All in all, it was a great experience to run the London marathon although with the record temperatures it proved too much for lots of runners, I’ve never seen so many people collapsing or pulling up from so early in a race! Luckily for everyone there were plenty of first aiders on hand to help. There are a couple of things I’d say to anyone who gets the chance to run at London in future. Firstly, if you’re able to, stay up there on the Saturday evening. This avoids the very early start on the Sunday morning. Be prepared to adapt your race plans according to the weather, I didn’t react quickly enough and soon started to suffer.
Lastly if you’re unsure of entering the ballot, go for it, you really won’t regret it!