London Marathon - 23 April 2017
What a year it's been so far! My daughter was born in February and we've been doing well as a family to balance everything! Despite all the additional responsibilities and challenges my running has got stronger and stronger; it really is amazing what your body is capable of if you really are determined to achieve something. To say I’d been looking forward to the London Marathon of 2017 would be an understatement; training had gone perfectly and I’d broken the LBAC record for 20 miles twice in the build up (best was 1.52 at the Oakley 20).
My brother’s girlfriend very kindly let me stay at her flat in East Dulwich so I was only 12 minutes by train from the Championship start at Blackheath. I had a really relaxed journey down and had a quiet evening eating pasta and watching TV. In the morning there were trains every half an hour from Peckham Rye station, I decided to go for the 08.21 which would get me to the start well over an hour before the 10.00 race and had plenty of buffer time if anything went wrong.
Unfortunately, something did go wrong! I got to the station at 08.10 and put my feet up waiting for the train; my friend Jamie Seddon (from MKAC) was on it already coming from Victoria and all seemed well. Suddenly ‘On Time’ was replaced by ‘Delayed’ on the screens, I was a little concerned. News quickly filtered through that there had been a person on the track at Brixton and the police were on their way…..I became very concerned very quickly. I was only 4 miles away from the start, but had very few options available. To cut a long story short I stayed put at the station and after a further delay arrived into Blackheath at 09.20. I was stressed out of my mind, it was the opposite of how I wanted to start! I jogged up the hill to the start and had no issue finding where I was supposed to be.
I was able to quickly drop my bag off and prepare for the race, fortunately finding my friend (Chris Oddy from Serpentine AC) whilst in the queue for the toilet!
Chris and I have known each other a long time and have both progressed over the past year at a similar rate so we planned to run together for as long as possible. We were soon ushered into the road for the start and the tunes were really getting everyone up for it! It was really exciting to be only 20 metres from the elites, we couldn’t see the royals but just knowing they were only a few metres away really added to the excitement.
One of the great things about being in the Championship start is that I was able to cross the start line only 10 seconds after the hooter. The first few miles were a lot busier than I was expecting, but Chris and I got into a nice rhythm and even managed to recruit another runner to the group. The plan was to go through halfway in 1.15.30 and 20 miles in around 1.55.
The support was quite simply out of this world. Family and friends were spread across the course along with thousands of others; we felt like celebrities. We managed the first part of our plan without any issue, getting to halfway in 1.15.18 (I was actually annoyed we’d gone a bit too fast) and continued to tick along nicely. These were our 5k splits for the first half:
17.38 (a lot of the first 5k is downhill)
Unlike previous marathons I was able to keep my pace consistent all the way until 35km clocking 17.57 for 25-30km and then 18.04 for 30-35km. I suddenly realised Chris wasn’t with me at about 35km, but by then I was starting to get tired and there was nothing I could do but push for the finish. During my recent London secondment I’d rehearsed the final 5km from Tower Bridge to the Mall loads of times and despite my fatigue really loved it. I saw my parents for the final time at Blackfriars and knew that the last bit was going to be very hard. I passed 40km (18.43 split) in 2.23.59 so knew I had over 9 minutes to beat the club record, but I was slowing down quickly. As I got to the 1km to go I had very little left in the tank and each 200m (there is a sign and clock) felt like a lot further! When the Mall came I was seriously worried I’d do a Jonny Brownlee, but made it home. I looked up at the clock and was delighted to see 2.33.23 (chip time was 13 seconds). I was not in a good way, but after water and a sit down I knew I’d be ok.
I was ecstatic to have broken the LBAC club record and an (almost) consistent marathon at my 4th time of trying. I want to thank my brilliant family & friends who came out to support me as well as everyone from LBAC who seemed to be everywhere around the course. We had great fun sharing stories in the pub afterwards; what a day!
Review of the London Marathon 2017
I've done hundreds of races and this was by far the best experience; it comes with a big reputation and really delivers. I was in the Championship (Blue) Start; from the moment I got to Blackheath station to the moment I left the Mall the organisation was superb.
The course is flat (think it actually has a slight net downhill) with excellent road surface.
The support is absolutely incredible. I was lucky to have a decent amount of family & friends there just to see me, but there was also thousands of people out cheering on runners, unlike any event I've ever seen before.
Great medal, one of the best I've got and one I'll keep forever.
Lots of places to eat and drink walking distance from the finish.
You need to be able to get to the start in Greenwich on a Sunday morning; I'd advise staying as close to the start as you can. That said, plenty of friends took coaches down from Milton Keynes early in the morning and said it was fine!
The crowd support can actually be a bit too much at times, this can be particularly true if you have your name printed on your vest and you're starting to struggle!
The finisher t-shirt is absolutely terrible. This is only a very minor complaint and I am aware they have to do something different every year (it's been going since 1981!), but a big Ice Cream saying 'Got it licked' is really odd. Not sure if I'll ever wear it again and I love training in race t-shirts.
Because of the big crowds it can be quite stressful for spectators getting around, do some research and encourage your family and friends to head to the less congested areas (get in touch if you'd like some advice).