London Marathon Update

It’s done! 6 months of training, 6 weeks of no drinking and less than 4 hours of running. I finished, according to the official site, in 3h 51m 8s. Not a bad time – inside my 4 hour time. It was also inside the top 10,000 – 9,064th in fact. Finally, to complete the triple and most importantly, I raised more than my target £5,000 and am presently at £6,892 with the tax man’s contribution. There’s a little more to come I think, so I should just tip over £7,000.

I was right at the front of the green start – with the white start line literally at my feet. All sorts of interesting people hang out there – Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell were next to me, Floella Benjamin in front of me, Gordon Ramsay just behind and there were other “famous” people there too, most of whom I didn’t recognise. It was a great place to be. Five minutes before the start, a guy came running towards the start – running up the course in the opposite direction – and was promptly bundled to the side by the security folks. I’m pretty sure it was Dale Lyons who I met last year and who had, for the 3rd or 4th time at least, run from the finish to the start and wanted to turn around and run it again! I hope that they looked after him.

On the sound of the horn, I was off and running. Too fast for sure, but the thrill of it all, the vast number of “proper” runners that pile past you and the desire to get away from them all means you go a little too quickly. My pace per mile looked like this:

I’m not sure if the stat for mile 21 is right, it might have been inside one of the docklands tunnels. In km it looks like this:

My plan had originally been to run around 5m 20s per km or maybe 5m 30s until I got to 34km and then see what I had left. That would have got me in at around 3h 52m, assuming I stuck to the plan. During the night before and throughout a reasonably sleepless night, I decided to change the plan and run faster out of the blocks – to do the first half in roughly the time I did Liverpool (around 1h 46m) and then slow down. I was wearing a wristband (from Lucozade) that broke down the times I’d need to run each mile for a 3h 47m time. I used that as my baseline and decided I’d try and out-run it a little in the first half.

Another view, showing the delta between each km and the average for the whole run:

At the 1/2 way mark I had about 7 minutes in hand against the 3h 47m baseline – and I kept that through mile 16 and then gradually ate into it. I should have been running 8m 46s a mile and it wasn’t actually until mile 16 that I ran slower than 8m 30s (I even ran 4 miles faster than 8m – the first 4).

From 21 to 26, things got harder and my time per mile was pretty close to ten minutes. Would I have been better off going slower up front, tracking nearer my 8m 46s time instead of my sub 8 minutes? I’m not sure. It felt good to be ahead of time at mile 16 – still 7 minutes ahead. I ate into that from 16-23 when I came out about level, and then went from 3h 47m to 3h 51m in the last 3 miles.

The leg from 25 miles to the end is the toughest. There’s no mile 26 and when you make the turn away from the river at Big Ben, all you can see are masses of people (around 9,200 on the assumption I overtook a few there as I speeded up!). You can’t see the turn past Buckingham Palace, so you just run and run. Eventually – after what seems like 10 minutes – you get to a sign that says “800m to go” and then after at least 2 more miles, you get to “400m to go” and then finally you round the corner, and then another one and you see the finish. And then it’s done.

The organisation this year was flawless at the start, with the water and the lucozade and at the end; but not with the clocks – they were all out of sync along the way; not a problem for me, but friends were running without watches and had no idea where they were until about mile 23.

The Macmillan Team Cheerleaders were absolutely fantastic – providing a real lift at crucial points along the way, especially along the Embankment when things were getting really tough.

And overall, the crowd restored my faith in Londoners. Even though it was a bit crappy and damp, they turned out in their hundreds of thousands and cheered everyone along. Docklands (central near Canary Wharf), Tower Bridge and the Embankment were the most populated, but there were people along the whole way. If this is what London can bring to the party, bring on the Olympics.

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