ShutUpAndRun!

2014 London Marathon

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2014 London Marathon

The London Marathon is now the last long run separating my 'it's not for ages yet' reverie from the Thames Path 100 monster.  It's on my doorstep, it's one of the best-organised races in the world and such a massive occasion that if you can get a place it's almost impossible to ignore.

I've had a go at my pb here several times but my best time here is still 6 minutes down on my Amsterdam 2:37 despite being a flat course and all the other good stuff.  Various things just seem to keep going awry for me here whenever it has mattered.

The last few years I've been running for fun as part of training for something else and this year is no exception but have to admit I would like to come back and do this race full on once again.

It's interesting how, with no pressure on the race, all the usual stresses the night before melt away.  It's still an early start to get to the club bus by 6:30am but I slept better than ever, made the bus with 10 minutes to spare thanks to a lift from Elaine.  Watching the outskirts of London slip by as empty roads gradually became busier with other coaches obviously heading the same way.  A coach-load of Japanese runners in matching white trackies spotted us at a set of red lights and mimed running actions followed by the thumbs up when we responded in the affirmative. 

Blackheath is almost deserted (relatively speaking) when we arrive with over 2 hours to go before the mass start and the club team dissipates to their various start zones and I wander over to the championship pen in the far corner of the blue start.  There are probably only 3 other runners there.

It's already warm on the face though there's a cooler wind; it's clearly going to be a hot one and I never even considered sun cream.

Despite having almost nothing to do these two hours are the fastest of your life.  The wheelchair race is dispatched, followed shortly by the IPC race. The elite Women go at 9:15am by which time we're chivvied to get the bags on the bus. 

The time drains away, we're moved up to the start and the intros of the who's who of marathon running take up the last minute with the guys just a handful of metres ahead.  Even if you're not intending to race it's hard not to be fired up, especially with the enormous cheer that erupts as Mo is introduced last of the big 6.  There are grandstands ahead and to either side of the start line for the first time this year and they create even more noise.  A nice idea as otherwise there's just an empty, nondescript road before your eyes.

Kath Grainger sets the race going and everyone blasts down Shooters.  I should of course have decided on a pace plan and all that but found myself going along at almost pb speed within a mile which I knew wasn't sensible.  There has been no speedwork since last September, just lots of long miles.  But I don't do anything about it and head through the drop around 5K and onto 10k at around 10mph.

Since my calf blew at Frankfurt without any real warning I've been paranoid about it and running fast seems to give it issues; probably that lack of speed training.  It was starting to ache in the main body of the muscle (not where it tore) and I'm thinking I must slow up. If it goes again it would wipe out the 100-mile race and probably Comrades too.   That decision was taken out of my hands anyway with the first of several extended loo stops at the 15k mark.  They were to take up 14 minutes in all according to my Ambit 2S pit stop tracker.  It's not quite my record - that's 20 minutes in one 'sitting' at 14 miles having run the first half faster than I've ever managed before or since.

I'm sure the crowds are bigger this year even than last.  Where it's extremely busy anyway, you couldn't pack more in and notice them but I was conscious of many more people appearing much earlier in the race.  But it's a fabulously sunny day, people's champion Mo is running.. what more excuse do you need?  The noise from the crowd never lets up - a wall of sound from start to finish and if you can internalise that and use it it's your twelfth man.

It's a great experience running over Tower Bridge under the blue sky with bedlam all around and I soaked it in despite being down even on 3 hour pace by now thanks to the unplanned stops.  I am still wondering what caused those - eating too close to the race? The heat? Nothing obvious.

It's very warm by now and I'm using every shower and taking on more water, running with several elaborate fancy dress runners I suspect are going for records. An astronaut, a cowboy and some bloke in a full bridal outfit.  Tip - if you want to get cheered on, stay clear of these people! They are cheer hoovers and you won't get a look in!  How are you going to compete with a guy dressed as an orange Buzz Aldrin?

I've noticed I've automatically started considering remaining distances in units of 5 miles and that 10 miles to go doesn't feel like much at all.  A positive side effect of ultra training.  That said, I'm not finding it that easy out there and Docklands is a slog. I always hate that (very small) rise past the drinks to the 17 mile point. Ridiculous as it's so short! 

Out of the twists of Canary Wharf and the course runs for about a mile and a half parallel with runners coming the other way, 6-7 miles or so further back.  I can't say I envy them.  It's gone midday by now and they're in for several more hours in the heat.   The crowds are immense from hereon in.  I stopped for a quick chat with some of my club who man the last Lucozade station and downed an entire bottle in the process which certainly helped and I pushed on along Embankment dodging weaving runners, but feeling little better myself.  You know you have to turn in front of Big Ben and you can see it a long way ahead. It seemed to arrive quicker this year, probably because I didn't see the 24 mile marker.  There's under a mile to go by then, rounding the palace fountain and a last 200 metres to the finish - in my case 3:08 after starting.

It takes just a few minutes to find the bar of The Clarence on Whitehall and propping up the walls in a sun trap watching the people streaming by is a pleasant Sunday afternoon. 

Loved catching up with Lorna who'd run an immense 3:11, Jacquie and Camilla going for Comrades and Marcus who'd expunged the demons of last year's run and stayed around rather than immediately leaving for Lincoln in a strop.


So I don't know exactly what to take from this run.

On the positive side there's still some speed in the legs despite everything.  I wonder how long I could have held it?  Probably not much past halfway, but it's encouraging especially with a half-hearted taper.  Recovery seems better than usual too and I'm pretty good today with nothing debilitating going on at all. 

Negatives.. well the GI issues are unfortunate though probably just one of those things.  It's depressing to run so much slower than your best even when you didn't plan to match it and I guess I'm on a bit of a down in that respect.

My clubmate Tom Stevens smashed his pb down to a brilliant 2:28:54, coming in 35th!  He'd already erased my club record last year but this puts it into a different league altogether.  It's a time I would love to match and I hope I can summon up the energy to have another go at it but I'm running out of time.  I notice even a 2:33 would be a national age group top 5 so either it's very difficult or we don't have many people wanting to do the necessary training at that age.  Hopefully it's the latter and that's certainly what I'll have to believe anyway!

I have the option of racing Berlin in September and I'll see how things pan out over the next few months to decide if an Autumn race is on either there or a bit later in the year to accommodate the July 24-hr race better.

Those plans are for tomorrow; right now it's all about the Thames Path 100 in under 3 weeks and Ive realised now I've a lot more preparation logistics and headspace wise still to do.

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