2009-04-26 – What a Day

It started at 6.30 am so that I could have a bowl of porridge and honey (high in carbohydrates) 3 hours before the start. At 7.50 am I got to Dartford station (free travel for runners!!) and was greeted with a platform full of people carrying London Marathon bags. Why had I never seen these people when I’ve been training? By the time the train had arrived at Blackheath there was standing room only. I followed the queue of runners up onto Blackheath and entered into the Blue Start Zone. There are three starts Red, Blue and Green. Thought it a good time to visit the toilet, as there was quite a queue. Then had a sit down to take in the atmosphere and gave in my bag, which had a change of clothes at the appropriate lorry. Unfortunately, the PA announces that if you needed the toilet to start queuing or you’d miss the start. This obviously played on my mind and had the unwanted effect and I joined the queue!!! Emerged just in time to wander to the start and enter my allocated start zone of number 8. There was only 9 zones so I was right at the back so far back I didn’t hear the start gun/hooter. 11 minutes later I crossed the line and broke into a gentle trot and joined the runners from Green start.  I have never run with this amount of people before and it was daunting and exciting. Tripping on other’s heels or tripping up yourself was a real problem.  Also the amount of people watching and cheering was a new experience. It didn’t stop, both sides of the road until the end. 52 miles of people on the roads, on balconies, in offices, outside pubs, music everywhere, a wonderful atmosphere.  Most were holding out sweets for sugar energy or cut pieces of orange. I must have passed thousands and thousands of people.  


Anyway I soon went by the Yellow Submarine and at 3 miles we joined the other large Red start and I also saw my family. I wanted to get into my stride but found it impossible with the amount of runners, having to weave around runners to find space.  At 5 miles I drank some Lucozade and had one of my carbohydrate gels. Not terribly exciting or appetising but fuel has to be taken on. I did this every 2 or so miles.  Eventually passed the Cutty Sark, which is unfortunately completely covered up and headed off through Deptford, Rotherhithe and Bermondsey to Tower Bridge. After Tower Bridge we headed towards Wapping and the halfway point. Along this stretch you see the elite runners already at 22 miles heading towards the finish. Again saw my family and checked my time. Wanted to keep to between 9 and 10 minutes per mile, which meant I had to arrive at the halfway point at about 2 hours 4 minutes. Checked my watch and perfect, 2 hours 1 minute hadn’t started too quick. We were now heading towards Docklands, running via one of the tunnels at Limehouse and Millwall. I had heard that Docklands is difficult. The miles are racking up and the office blocks hold the heat and the stuffy air. Managed to see my brother-in-law and another friend. It’s amazing out of the thousands of people you can spot people you know!! Yes, they were right, at 17 miles I knew I had run a fair distance and also the weather forecast was very very wrong. Where was the overcast 16ºC that I was told about? The sun was beating down and it must have been 20ºC in between the skyscrapers. At 20 miles I believe I hit the dreaded wall. This is when the energy in your muscles is depleted and energy has to be found from the muscle themselves and body fat. The body doesn’t like doing this and tells you so in no uncertain terms. Also at this point I experienced a tremendous instant pain in one of my toes. Nothing I could do and was later greeted with the same pain in the other foot. (Not for the squeamish but later discovered these were my nails detaching themselves – 3 at last count). Things were now getting hard, not painful, just no energy, putting one foot in front of the other was now getting difficult. Back through Wapping I was taking on water at every point. At 24 miles the crowd did their bit. Along the way the crowd were shouting out my name and pushing me on but here there was an underpass, which went up on the Embankment. The incline out the tunnel was a slope too far and I resorted to a walk. A chap up on the side shouted “ Keith, stop walking and start running!!” I gave him a “thumbs-up” and started running. The entire crowd along the side just started cheering. How could I walk any more!! The Embankment gave me a burst. Seeing landmarks that I needed to pass broke the distance up. Waterloo Bridge came and went, Charing Cross the same, Houses of Parliament then Birdcage Walk. My family was there and it was good to see them. Only the turn at Buckingham Palace and the last 385 yards down the Mall. I finished, looked at my watch and 4 hours 20 minutes. I was very pleased with that, an average of 10 minutes per mile. My timing chip was cut from my laces and I was given the all-important medal.  A long very slow wobbly walk down to find the lorry with my bag followed and then into Horse Guards Parade to meet my family. That’s it, all over, 4 months of training, up at 5.30am on cold icy January Sundays, running 30-40 miles a week, going to the gym. Was it worth it, well at 1.00am on the following Tuesday, my wife and I eventually got on the website to enter the ballot for the Virgin London Marathon 2010. I think that says it all.


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