I think I'm about recovered so it must be time to write the long overdue race report.... I'll try and keep it brief ;o)
Pre-ambleDuring the week before there were a couple of tasks to do; figure out travel plans to the start, figure where I was going to see supporters, where and how I was going to meet the parents after, go to the expo and pick up stuff (race number, timing chip and the letters to iron onto my NSPCC running vest). Most important though was to keep an eye on the weather.... we went from predictions of torrential rain, thunderstorms and sunny spells to a final "forecast" of about 11-14 degrees (centigrade) and light showers. That sounded perfect! Final run happened on Thursday morning - and it felt like my worst run in ages, slow, sluggage and nasty - just to help the pollen count had gone through the roof!
Race-dayHaving realised (a bit late in the day) that despite only living 35mile from London there were no trains that would guarantee arrival in time to be "early" for the start. I had a conflab with a work colleague (who had also made this realisation somewhat late in the day), we decided to get a taxi up to Greenwich. It cost £80 but between the two of us that didn't seem too bad. So, having had not a bad nights sleep I got up about 0530 in order to get some bread and jam and a cup of tea in me before the taxi arrived at 0615. I'd packed afters stuff or laid out all my kit the night before, keeping the precious timing chip and number uba safe! Taxi arrived early which was great as this led to less stress and before I knew it I was packing myself and bag into the car to go and pick up Dom. The sky at this point looked worryingly bright, blue and clear... where were the rain clouds?
The journey up went well, very little traffic as you'd expect at that time in the morning! I was given the pleasure of a full frontal from Dom as he taped his nipples up on the way, just wish he'd given me a little notice he was going to get his belly out ;o) luckily the taxi had darkened windows or I'm sure we would have had a few quizzical looks!
We couldn't get quite to the start area so got the taxi to drop us off at a road closure, rather then bothering with driving around and no doubt queuing at the proper vehicle drop off point. Dressed in an old pair of tracksuit bottoms and top, which were throw-away-able, we headed with bags on our back to the "red" start area (there are three start zones, elites, fast and masses - red is for the masses, including the chickens!). Cool breeze but still lovely sky.. humm.
We made it up and I started to get a real buzz from the atmosphere! Had several NSPCC team pictures taken, not that I have them! ... and I did TRY the p-mate thing... WHAT A HOOT! I could write an entire blog about what conversations woman have at P-mate woman urinals, in fact I may do a blog entry for that by itself. Anyhow, needless to say I was one of the few who just couldn't get to pee standing up so ended up having a last minute (literally) porta-loo stop, which was as well as it turned out it wasn't a "nervous" pee... LOL! By the time we were being carrolled into out starting pens bags had been put on lorries (the logistics of this event are amazing), vaseline had been applied, we were all looking to the skies... bright blue not a cloud in sight... how wrong could they have gotten that forecast... VERY WRONG that's what!
The Flora London MarathonWOW! Due to the last minute porta-loo stop I was late getting to my pen, and stewards tried to get me to just go to the back.... humm... didn't fancy that and someone had already broken in through the railings near where I should have got in... so I did the same and walked up just ahead of the man with the 10min miler sign. I was going to see how I felt when I started, figuring if I felt good I'd head for 9.30 miles, and if sluggish then 10min miles. Before we knew it the race had started and we started to shuffle up through the park. I had expected it to take 15 to 20mins to get to the start line... and as we shuffled the anticipation grew. Having passed through the park gate and turned right I saw the start line - quite an innocuous affair, not sure what I expected! Before I knew it I was off.... people lining the sides of the road, not just for the start but actually the entire 26.x miles! WOW! I was being a part of that massive event I'd seen on TV three years ago when I thought I'd never be able to run a marathon. Suddenly I was doing it.. SH*TE! ;o)
This is definately a story of the first half, the next quarter and the final quarter so here goes;
I grinned like a cheshire cat throughout the first half. I went past several fancy-dress runners, it was at about mile two I thought "at least I've passed the rhino", only to see another two later on. At mile three the red start merges with the blue and green start which was a great moment.... I heard a commentator saying "I see a tree", well I had seen a few but then I realised he was talking about a running tree! A great outfit I have to say. In the first few miles I also saw several guys running for Help for Heroes who were evidently heroes themselves having had arm or leg (or both) amputations. There were people on the course who were amazing and inspirational believe me.
Running through Greenwich was great, the crowds were out in force (probably in part due to the NICE weather). I was happily listenting to a pod cast for the first hour or so before my music kicked in.... I think the first song was "Smile like you mean it", well that's the lyrics anyhow, by the Killers. Made me smile even more! I think my cheek muscles were aching as much as my legs...LOL... I remember running around the Cutty Sark (old big ship), although bizarrely don't remember actually seeing it, just remember the little diversion. How weird. Without a doubt the moment I was really looking forward to was passing over Tower Bridge just before the half way point. THIS WAS A COMPLETELY AMAZING MOMENT! I had Take That and "Greatest Day" blasting in my ears and still smiling from ear to ear.
Just on the far side of the bridge as we get towards "the city" I thought I heard a shrill voice yell "DORIS" (which was the name on my t-shirt, it's my hockey nickname and I thought it would make me chuckle hearing people shout me on with that!)... anyhow despite the noise of the crowd and the music in my ears, and being on the far side of the road to me, I had indeed heard Kirsty "the reemanator", a mate from hockey! I managed to just about see her and raised my hand to acknowledge the shout out... she must have the vocal strength of a company sergeant major for me to have heard her over all that noise!
Although by now I certainly wasn't feeling comfortable and in fact I was feeling generally a lot worse then I had on my training runs. Yet my pace was fine - thought I must be just having an off day - I had paced the first half with an average of 9min 52 sec miles.... and then.....
Miles 13 to Mile 20
Turning right after Tower Bridge we passed into the shade of the tall city buildings. OH UH! I remember feeling a distinctly different temperature, like several degrees different. We had been running the first 13 in full sunshine and it was now that I realised how hot it had already been... I think I thought, "well that explains a bit... but still.. .only 13miles to go now!".. humm... I had some salt tablets with me but they had disintegrated a bit in my hip bag. I was expecting to see my parents at the NSPCC supporters point around mile 14 so was getting myself ready for that boost. I wasn't disappointed! Saw my Mum who managed to scrum herself to the front when she say me coming so I reached over the barrier and gave her a quick hug, then paniced slightly as I couldn't see my Dad but never fear he was about 10m further down the road. It was GREAT seeing my parents! Things were beginning to feel uncomfortable... I took a look over to the far side of the road - through mile 14 you see people coming the other way who are on mile 22! The winners and elites were long gone, but these people were still really (REALLY) speedy - and by and large they looked awful (in the amount of exertion rather then just ugly! LOL!). Still only 8 miles to go to get to that point... WTF! ;o)
Running around the Isle of Dogs has to be the worst point. First off the road narrows considerably in places which creates bottle necks which were very annoying and really put you off your stride. That was frustrating I can tell you, I shouldn't have let it get to me but for some reason I really did... People were walking from this point - sometimes three abreast which left little space for runners, the crowd also didn't have barriers (well they can't put them on the entire course) and sometimes there was just no room to manoever. I did get some support around here though... My MTB buddy Elaine had got on her roadie for the day and headed to town to support! She barely caught me as a whizzed past ;o) ! Actually I didn't hear her shout - she's obviously has not got as big a gob as Kirsty or I was lost in my own little world!
The next nasty point about the dogs is the amount of winding around you do in the roads (see map below, click on to see mile markers)
Everytime I thought I may be heading out you seem to double back... I remember seeing the O2 Arena (that white blob on the right) and thinking "WHA?! I thought I'd be past that ages ago"... yes more frustration... you also come very close to the run route you've already been on several times... which is weird. It was like some form of nightmare!
It was in the dogs that I made two mistakes;
1. I gave away a gel! WHAT! I know, just don't! The girl who asked for it not only looked fresher then I felt but she also ran off ahead! LOL! She did apologise for asking and I did have three on me at the time. But one of those was a caffeine gel which I ended up deciding I shouldn't take. I should have given her the caffeine one. Still.
2. I completely and by mistake, threw in a couple of fast miles. TALK ABOUT WHOOPS! My splits for this sections were;
Miles 14 to 18 were averaging 10:15min miles... not bad... oh then came mile 18 to 19 at 8:45 (YIKES!) and mile 19-20 at 9:36 (DOH!).. .Yes I did have my Garmin on but I think I had a case of operator error (ie I had changed screens) or I've since been told that Garmin doesn't work too well in the Dogs (because of the tall buildings)... I remember having a feeling of euphoria somewhere between miles 18 to 20 and then I felt, well simply... awful! I was getting hot, darn hot, too flippin hot! My concentration was obviously not great - lesson learned!
Mile 20 to The End
So it gets a little fuzzy from here on in. I really didn't want to stop and walk. I really didn't. I'm not sure what got to me that made me end up walking. I remember going past an aid point and three seperate first aiders telling me about cooling showers coming up, so figured as three had told me, the last of which was quite insistent, that I'd better go and get under one. Again it was here that I realised how hot it was. I'm not sure exactly when or where it was that I did my first walk. It started with just five paces before I started again not wanting to give in. I managed to "jog" for a bit and I think I carried on for a fair amount. Then I walked again and the second time I just cried! Honestly I did. Not a lot (there were far too many people watching!!) but still I really had wanted to run it all and suddenly there I was walking. It wasn't like it was my legs were the problem. Mental toughness probably comes into it but I was dizzy and feeling sick. I did at some point make a consious decision about the walking - I'm not sure when or where - but I have a little half Ironman at the end of May and really wanted to get to the start line... I decided to getting to the start line was more important then finishing sub 4:30 and killing myself in the process. Still, I gave myself a talking to and ran some more. Around mile 24 was when I really felt awful and was probably my slowest and lowest mile. I had my phone so I rang my parents to tell them I'd be late for our meet (I didn't want them to worry), luckily I didn't either see them or actually speak to them as I'd have probably bawled my eyes out...LOL! My slowest time was certainly down past London Bridge and along embankment. But hey it was a lovely SUNNY day and the crowds were fabulous! If I had one shout out for DORIS I had a thousand! Each and everyone of them made me smile from ear to ear all over again. There were banks and banks of them - I kid you not when I say there were tiers of seating put up and where there wasn't it was 4 deep either side of the road. Just amazing.
Turning right from Embankment takes you past Westminster. This was the last mile - and despite my earlier decision I was determined to run it even if it did kill me! Just as I turned the corner I saw an NSPCC supporters sign and then heard a big "HI YAHH!" yes there's only one person with a gob like that! Kirsty and Karen had repositioned themselves and had front row seats! FAB.. So I stumbled over to a cheer from them of "Run Doris! Run!" I got to them returned the "Hi Yahhhhhh" and said "Doris not running no more!" and off I staggered! 800meters to go sign coming up and my Garmin already ticked over the 26mile mark - this marathon thing is a long distance! I shuffled down Bird Cage Walk and towards Buckingham Palace (my London pad... NOT!).... the metres were being counted down every 200m, they seemed to be taking longer and longer to reach! FINALLY, finally, I turned my back to the Palace (sorry Queeny) and into The Mall and the finish line in sight. By now I was dizzy, feeling like I was about to chuck any minute, had the biggest stitch and generally felt awful.... BUT the end was there and there was no way that I was going to walk any of this part - especially in the knowledge that the TV camara's were still rollling... LOL!.. how vain! I ran next to this lady and looked at her and said "We've f***in done it!"... she grinned from ear to ear and grabbed my hand! We let go and crossed the line.
Amazing. I've done a marathon. I never thought I'd ever say that.
After the finish line
Having crossed the line we queued to get our timing chips chopped off. In the queue this random man gave me a smacker (as in kiss!), I think he was pleased he had finished?!
I had to go to the med tent for a spot of rehydration - no drip just some diarolyte and to cooling down.
My watch had me clocking 26.9miles in 4hrs 44mins with an average pace of 10mins 34secs which I would have taken in January when I got given the nod of a place, and I take now with big hands. My first marathon was a learning experience for sure.
I got my medal, my goody bag and my personal bag from the same lorry I had dropped it at all those hours ago (I'm telling you the organisation and logistics is amazing) and headed off to the hotel that the NSPCC were holding their post race reception and meeting point for my parents. I had had a message from my Aunt saying her and my Uncle were up watching so I dropped them a line and arranged to meet them at the hotel too. I staggered around a mile to the hotel (well it was probably less then that but it felt that far), and finally saw the welcome balloons... only to be confronted with having to walk up two flights of stairs! Someone's idea of a joke I'm sure! With the banister to help I clambered up, Mum and Dad had found seats at the top and saw me coming! Thank and bless them both, I think it had been a marathon day for them too, but Dad still had enough in him to help me up and take my bag and Mum found some seats for us and got the coffee in! They are FAB! Uncle and Aunt then turned up and we all hung out for a bit, I don't think I was too compus mentis but still it was lovely to chill for a bit. Finally I had enough energy to move again and Mum and Dad dragged my sorry arse into a cab to head back to the train station, comedy moment of the day has to be my parents (both in their 60s and fit and healthy!), striding down the stairs into Paddington station without realising they'd left their daughter still at the top of steps trying to get down like someone who was more like 90!! Funny!
Journey home was largely uneventful. I got home with a big bag of fish and chips and my neighbours looking out to say I had been captured on TV! YEAH! I'm a star - get me ;o)