Race recap: London Marathon
Where to start. Finally, nearly 2 weeks on I have gathered my thoughts, have gone from utterly exhausted to just slightly exhausted and am now recapping probably the best day of running and magic EVER.
My final taper week was very low key, just as it should be. A four miler mid week and an easy two the day before. I also panic ate as much nutritious food as I possibly could, and probably acknowledged that my diet during training could probably have been better! But, I got in as much veg as possible (including SO.MUCH.BEETROOT) as well as having electrolytes each day. I use the SIS ones as they are yummy :)
After my easy 2 miles, it was on to the "day before" routine. Epsom salt bath, breakfast of huge porridge, banana and kefir (mango and turmeric - if you've not tried this you are missing out!), so much water, electrolytes and lots of beetroot juice. We then headed off up to London!
We wanted a hotel that was not too pricey and close enough to both the start and finish of the race. We decided on Z Hotel in Shoreditch and it was perfect - apart from no bath!! How would I cope without my pre-race soak! Oh, and the room had no windows - which we actually quite liked as it was like being in an underground cave, especially with the sound of the tube rumbling by.
We had a little potter (via Sportsdirect for emergency kit for Mike! What a numpty), had a coffee in Grind and the back to the room for my little packed lunch. My post marathon meal is (don't knock it til you've tried it) cheese, carrot & mayo bagels which is honestly the best combo! Had two bagels with some crisps, an entire packet of beetroot and loads of water. We then chilled out and watched football until it was time for our evening meal.
It was so cute to see so many runners out getting their carbs. It was starting to feel real at this point! We went to Zizzi, we'd tested the food a few weeks ago just to check it didn't give us dodgy bellies - olives to start, ragu for main, washed down by Nanny State. I felt calm and ready but it did feel weird to walk past the marathon route to get our Uber, knowing that tomorrow was the day.
Back to the hotel for my chocolate rice cakes (getting those last minute delicious carbs in!) and a decaff coffee. Then it was flatlay time of COURSE. So exciting.
I slept really well, I was probably just knackered, no energy left for worries! Woke up at about 6 to start eating! On the menu - SIS Beta Fuel (I'm sorry, I'm sure this stuff does the trick but christ it's hard to drink....yuck!!), my go to cactus balls, chia charge flapjack and banana. I also had SIS eletrolytes and my fave True Start coffee. We left the hotel at around half 7 and made our way towards Greenwich.
None of it was actually sinking in at this point. We were on a packed train of runners, in London, going to the start of the actual London Marathon...yet it still all felt a bit surreal. It wasn't until we got off the train and me and Mike said our goodbyes (green start and red start, gutted we weren't together) that it hit me, it was almost go time!
I started my jog to the red start and once I got there continued a gentle trot to bring it up to a mile. Dunno why but a mile warm up calms me down! Its like, everything is ok, I've done my mile!
Now, I had several fears about London before I started training - two of which involved the start. And I was delighted to discover, neither came true. I imagined an absolute debacle of a toilet que - not so, in fact it was an actual dream. I treated myself to about 4 loo breaks!! And I was so worried the whole wait for the start would be crowded and awful, but it was lovely - plenty of space to warm up, wander around and take it all in.
I was in Zone 1, lucky enough to be in the first pen to go so I was hopeful I wouldn't have to wait too long after the gun went off to get going. After a final easy breezy loo trip, I was ready for the pen to open and begin the final nervy wait. The pen opened at about 9:30 and we all started to huddle in. I listened to my tunes, kept the legs moving and waited for the fun to begin. After what felt like ages, the gun went off, and just 3 minutes later I crossed the start line.
I was running the London Marathon...it was happening. And my first thoughts? I NEED THE EFFING LOO. How. How is this possible. No, its just nerves. Keep running, this isn't actually possible. Oh but it was. Do I carry on and ignore it, maybe try for a loo break later on when my legs are in bits and I might be stuck on the loo seat unable to get up?! No. I need it now. Thanks bladder.
I often judge a run by the first mile, it really gives me a pretty good idea of how the rest of it is going to go and I was so so desperate (for the loo, lol) so desperate to get a good first mile in and under my 8 minute mile target. First mile, 7:57 - job done!
Then, it was all about spotting a loo, preferably one without a que. I was going at around 7:30 pace at this point and saw loos at around the 1.5 mile point. No que, quick quick quick, much better, off I go. Ended mile two in 8:07 pace after that daft delay, disappointing but that'll teach me for being so super hydrated I guess!
Feeling much better it was time for the race to really begin. The route merges with all runners from the other starts at around the mile 3 point - another thing I was dreaded as I was so worried it would be impossibly crowded, but it was fine. The whole route was fine actually - no overcrowding whatsoever and I could keep my pace and stay in my own little world without any issue. This was a big, big relief.
I aimed to stay at around the 7:55 to 7:45 pace range to give myself a buffer for the latter stages of the race. If I was to get my 3:30 goal, I'd need to be just under 8 minute miles so I decided to get ahead whilst I was still fresh.
The crowds were the stuff of legends. Right from the start. So many people, so much enthusiasm. I saw my first Horley Harrier at about mile 5 and it was so special to see people I knew on the route. I had my first Maurten gel at mile 5.
Just before Cutty Sark, two amusing things happened. First, I heard a flurry of noise and excitement and realised the 3:15 pacer was coming past me. I mean, why was I in the company of the 3:15 mob I've no idea - and what was even more surprising was I kept them in my sights (not intentionally) for a good few miles before they cruised off into the distance.
And the second amusing thing - I was tired. Mile 6 and Cutty Sark came, and I ached. Really ached. Legs were sore and heavy and I felt the familiar dull pain of fatigue you get in marathons...normally at the mile 16 stage so this was just so silly. I did think I was in for a right old slog at that point, but my pace wasn't dipping, I was still well under 8 minute miles. So, ok for now.
Miles 6 to 13 are a blur. I can't tell you what happened or what I saw but I do know how I felt. I was smiling. I just felt happy. My only issue was water stations - I didn't drink at the first few as I didn't need it, at mile 7 I wanted my first water but couldn't get the water station in time and the didn't see one until mile 10, By which point I was fairly thirsty! I tried to get water at every other station after this, just a few sips to keep me going.
Heading up to Tower Bridge, there's actually a cheeky little climb onto the bridge which isn't easy for legs that have slogged through almost 13 miles at that point. But you're on that bridge and it's a real "wow" moment. I made a real effort to look up and take it all in. The crowds were going batshit crazy, such an iconic London Marathon scene.
I was looking forward to the next few miles of the route and it didn't disappoint. At around 13 and a bit miles there is a big screen showing the race for the spectators and it was showing the lead pack, Kipchoge in the thick of it. Ahhh, god it was exciting. And I remembered we were all running same race, which I'd sort of forgotten, ha!
I couldn't tell where the lead pack where from that footage but noticed that there were no elite male runners on the opposite side of the road - which for them would have been around 22 miles. No elite men yet meant I hadn't missed them, I was going to see them! The spectators on that side of the road started to get really excited, then I saw the lead car and basically lost my mind with excitement - they were coming! Kipchoge floated past and it was such a special moment. I screamed and shouted and clapped like an absolute maniac, then moments later Mo ran past and I reached peak crazy! A treat and a highlight that carried me through the next few miles on sheer happiness alone I think.
The miles to come were hard. I took my third and final Maurten at mile 15 and had a few sips of Luzacade from one of the drinks stations. I wanted to reach 16 miles and start the ten mile countdown. I wanted to reach Canary Wharf and hope my GPS didn't go crazy (it didn't). I wanted to reach the home stretch.
Mile 20 came and I was buzzing for it. This is when it all starts to get that little bit more tasty doesn't it. Things get real at mile 20, you're in the thick of it then. I had SIS gels for mile 20 and an extra one for whenever I needed it (in the end I think I squeezed it down at mile 23) and my secret weapon of two Caffeine Bullets. In trying to be clever and save time, I had unwrapped the two bullets and kept them loose in my running pouch, thinking it would be quicker to just pop them in my mouth rather than faffing about unwrapping them. But they had melted and stuck the zip of my pouch closed - so daft. I got them out in the end!! This is the second time I've raced with these and I've already since bought a few packs more. Even if it's all in my head, I've loved using them in the final hard stages of runs alongside a gel.
At mile 20 I also got the music on. I saved this as a treat for myself when I knew I'd need it, and it really helped. Not too loud, I could still hear the crowds going mad, but just enough to change the flow of things and give me that extra bit of spark.
On the home stretch. Saw more familiar faces. And a few more. Smiled so much at everybody and everything. Still under 8 minute miles. My calves at this point were cramping like hell and my hamstrings were like lead. But for the first time ever in a marathon, I knew I wouldn't need to stop. No stopping and stretching like marathons 1, 2 and 3. No walking breaks like every marathon. I knew I could just keep going this time.
Mile 23 and I had my second SIS gel and Caffeine Bullet, and water and a few sips of Lucazade from the water stations. The Lucazade made the ground really sticky which was an extra challenge for tired feet and legs!
Soon we were on the Embankment and the final, final, COME ON LEGS, push. So tired, keep going, just a few miles to go.
Mile 25 turned out to be my slowest at 8:10 pace. If I'm now at the stage where 8:10 is my slowest mile in a marathon then how can I be mad at that.
The turn at The Houses of Parliament was so special. Oh, that beautiful turn, just a mile to go and the crowds, what fantastic people cheering their hearts out for us. It was time to push but keep it controlled. I've sprinted in marathons before at this stage and come unstuck (marathon two I think it was, I ran too fast for the final section and had to STOP to stretch my calf. Flamin' idiot!!).
I kept going. I knew I could get my goal if I just kept going, kept it steady. The Mall turn never seemed to come - I couldn't see through the trees the turn until we were on it. I started punching the air, I could see the finish. It looked so good. The flags, the crowd, the clock that told me I'd done what I came to do. Crossed that line shattered, knackered, sore, every bit of me having worked so hard, still smiling, feeling like magic, in 3 hours 25 minutes and 10 seconds. I got my 3:30, I got my sub 3:30, and most special of all, I got my BQ.
Cried my way over to the marshal for my medal, feeling so overwhelmed by the whole thing. Mike rang me having finished a while before (he got his own BQ in 3:04, the mad man) and we had a garbled chat as I shuffled my way through the finish section. Another fear I had was that the finish area would be mayhem. It was fine and about a thousand times more relaxed and organised than Brighton Marathon!
After photos, a sit down, a walk in the rain, it was off to the pub for a pint of Pride and a burger. We then made the journey back to Sussex, I had my traditional Lush bath then out to our favourite Italian for allllll the food and allllllll the Malbec.
Of course, we won't find out until we have been accepted into Boston for a good few months yet, and there is a chance we won't get in at all. But, to have in theory got the required time with 10 minutes to spare, I could not be more proud of myself.
I started my marathon journey 7 years ago and just scraped in under 5 hours at my first one in 2012. I'm not naturally fast, my running style has been mocked by many a physio (I run like I'm wearing slippers, or Ugg boots..) and I probably don't train "properly". But sod all that, I'm far too stubborn to care and it's sheer graft with a whole lot of winging it that compensates for all that I lack.
After the dust has settled a bit, I will start my next marathon training cycle. My next goal as even dafter and I have even less (much MUCH less) time to achieve it in. I almost know I can't achieve this next goal, but again, I'll be winging it, grating away and accepting that all that really matters is I've tried my best and enjoyed the journey. If my next marathon is even half as magical as London, I'm in for one hell of a ride.