Virgin Money London Marathon 2014

We had decided in the New Year that we would make a weekend of the London marathon and stay in a central hotel to make getting around easy. On Saturday morning we travelled into central London and headed for the Radisson Blu hotel in Leicester Square, arriving earlier than our check in we dropped off the bags and went for a walk. I took my wife and children just around the corner to Trafalgar Square and then along Whitehall where they would watch me on the Sunday, then we carried on to Big Ben and along the Embankment.

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After getting our bearings on where to go we headed back to the hotel to check in and then had pre planned to go the cinema and out for dinner for the rest of the day. I stuck with a simple pasta dish for dinner and although tempted refrained from having a beer! After we went back to the hotel and had an early night as I had a 06.50am alarm call booked.

  I had all my kit pre layed out so there wasn’t any messing about in the morning or anything that would be forgotten. Down in the breakfast room I kept with my usual porridge with honey, a banana an orange juice and some water. I met a runner from Falkirk named Brian over breakfast and had a chat about running, our travel plans for the morning and other interests. I had decided to get on the 08.15am service from Charing Cross to Blackheath that would get me to Blackheath around 08.49am and with a 10 minute walk or so would have me in the start area for 09.00am..plenty of time. Except the queues for the toilets were huge and I seemed to pick the one line that wasn’t moving…20 minutes later and busting I got that job out of the way!

 I had arranged to meet my club mate who had travelled down by bus but once I turned my phone on and got messages coming through I was running out of time and unable to find him. checking the time it was now 09.50am and the marathon started at 10.00am so I hastily made my way to my starting pen and made sure I got right to the front. Looking around although I was in the right allocated pen the pacer in pen 8 was 4 hours 45 minute pacer, my club mate and running partner in pen 5 and the 3 hour 30 minute pacer I wanted to be with in pen 3. It didn’t feel right and I wondered why I was so far back. On speaking to those around me they all had targets of 5 hours or slower!! My previous marathon time was 6 hours 2 minutes so I feel they they thought I was over estimating my predicted time and put me at the back. I could be wrong but it is strange I was put so far back when most 4 hour runners were in pen 6.

 At least the chip time means my time started at the start line so the only thing that would hamper my time would be the thousands of slower people I would have to pass. Once the tape was broken and we could begin to move forward to the start line I was able to by pass a lot of people by keeping to the outside edge that was clear and passed a couple of thousand people by time I got to the start line but I had still only got up to pen 7 runners. I was now running in the VMLM 2014!! I was able to get into a reasonable pace and was actually happy to be kept slow at the start by other runners. Although I wanted to try and get up with Tim I didn’t want to break my neck in the first 3 miles. My pacing was bang on for 3 hour 30 minutes running at 8 minute miles and felt comfortable. Mile 3 soon came around and this is where all the runners converge together, some spots were narrow and created slight bottle necks which was awkward for trying to stay upright and not trip on either a runner, bottles or kerbs. The weather was warming up by now and I was hoping this wouldn’t continue as this would really knock the life out of me. My pace was still smooth and Cutty Sark at mile 6.5 soon came around.

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 The runners had started to thin a little but the occasional bottle necks meant they bunched up again now and then and I would suddenly find myself boxed in and being slowed down. My pace aim was to be passing over Tower Bridge around 1 hour 50 minutes. I eased on through mile 8 in 1.04.07, mile 10 in 1.20.30 and had Tower Bridge and mile 13 in my sights. One of our club runners was watching at around 14/15 miles so I knew once over the bridge I had to switch to the left hand side to stand a chance of seeing her. Passing over Tower Bridge the clock time read as 1 hour 50 minutes, bang on my predicted pace time!! mile 13 comes a short way over the bridge and my Nike+ time cam in at 1.44.57! Just inside a 3 hour 30 minute marathon which is the best I could have hoped for. Somewhere around 14.5 miles I saw Fiona from our club and stopped for a few seconds to say hello and ask if she had seen Tim, he had been and gone but was only a couple of minutes ahead, i’d continue to keep my eyes open for him.

 I was now heading into the Canary Wharf and Isle Of Dogs district. Being all concrete and glass it is a real sun trap and the heat was getting really bad heading up towards mile 16 the road starts to rise for a couple of miles as well. I started to feel it at mile 16. My pace was still perfect passing mile 16 in 2.09.10, still heading for 3.30! I was taking on a gel .5 miles previous to the lucozade sport stations situated every 5 miles and my energy level felt really good although my legs were stating to ache. With long distance running it is to be expected, I can handle aches and blisters, cramp is the dreaded foe simply because it’s debilitating. Mile 17, 18 and 19 came around with ease passing 19 miles in 2.35.06 still looking good. 22 miles is back at Tower Bridge this then heads along towards the Embankment so that point was my next target. Mile 20 the worst possible situation, cramp!! I had to take a few seconds to stretch as my left leg had locked up. I had been drinking and taking gels, my pace had been comfortable but the heat was quite bad and I was sweating profusely and I don’t think my body could keep the hydration up quick enough. Not surprisingly my pace started to suffer, being this close to home it was time to ignore the clock, dig in and do the absolute best possible. I relaxed back to give my muscles some recovery space and not push then so much, every mile marker I had to stop and stretch. The crowd at this point were out of this world screaming and cheering as if you were a front runner yourself, amazing! Every time I stopped for a stretch people would scream my name and cheer me on, telling me “not far”, “keep going Baz” and ” you’re nearly there”. Passing trough 22 miles I didn’t have a clue what my time was, I now know from Nike+ it was 3.05.35. I knew the next section to 25 miles was the Embankment and my wife and children were waiting just a little further along so this spurred me on to get to them and give them a hug for their support. Another mile anther stretch, another mile another stretch, I was hurting badly but I wanted a good time and definitely a sub 4 hours I knew I was more than capable of. Mile 25 3.37.10 my absolute best effort was slipping away, damn I hate cramp!! I rounded the corner by Big Ben and knew the family was on the left at the end of Whitehall…there they were!! I dashed over and had a hug and was a bit emotional, I tried not to stay for more than a few seconds. Less than a mile to go. Head up Birdcage Walk toward Buckingham Palace and then turn onto the final 385 yards of the Mall. I was hurting but I was running, cramp wasn’t going to stop me now, I had no strength to push or sprint for fear of cramping on the finish line. I did it!! I finished the London marathon and knew I had knocked a huge chunk of my previous time. I felt sick, I felt dizzy, I thought I was going to collapse. I took a moment by the side of the road, composed myself to collect my bag and almost keeled over again. I needed to get some food and drink pretty badly, I felt so ill.

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 After collecting my bag, goody bag and medal I stopped for my photo. I desperately needed to get back to my family and the hotel so I could start recovering. I tried to drink some more Lucozade but it made me feel sick again, as well as the heat and being dehydrated I think I may have over carbed and the sugar was making me feel sick. I found the family at the letter T meeting point and had a carton of coconut water I had pre planned to have. Miracle juice!! within minutes of having the drink and walking back towards the hotel I felt great again. Apart from some aching legs the sickness had passed, on getting back to my room the next thing was to jump in the bath…aaahhhh! bliss!

 I continued to eat and drink coconut  water through the afternoon and felt really good if not very tired. On starting to check the times and stats I could see from Nike+ I had actually run 26.99 miles! with all the weaving and crossing the road I had added .79 miles to the run..not good. For the first time on the train on the way home I got my time…3.59.29…Just scraping inside my sub 4 hour minimum target, anything faster would have been a bonus on a perfect day and with the heat and cramp that was an acceptable and credible time to me. Writing this the following day I have nothing more than sore thighs and can walk up and down the stairs easily! And am now looking for another marathon…possibly Amsterdam in October.

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VMLM 2014 Expo and Registration

A great start to the journey! The first train we boarded from home ended up being terminated so we had to make a change before finally heading to Stratford and then on to Custom House for the Excel marathon registration. The opening time was 10am so we had plenty of time departing home at 07.35am but I was expecting there to be large amounts of people and some queuing to do so I wanted to get there in good time. I took my 8 year old son along to experience the day and he was hoping to spot a celebrity or two! It was his first time on the DLR service which was an experience in itself for him, driverless trains weaving through the city buildings, great fun for him. Excel is dead easy to find, it is on the doorstep of Custom House station and you virtually walk straight into Excel once getting off the train.

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 We got to the queue about 09.50am..it opens at 10.00am and only had about 100 people ahead of us. Once the doors opened and people flooded in the numbers soon swelled and there were thousands of people streaming into the Excel. The first port of call was to loo for my relevant number station to pick up my race pack.

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Number 24813..went and collected my pack and listened to some instructions and then we could head on to the chip collection point.

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It didn’t take long to get the chip and then we headed on in to the expo. We tried to be methodical going up and down aisles but there was so much going on and so many people trying to get your attention and talk to you we had plenty of turns off our intended path. In all it didn’t really matter as we probably ended up doing about 4 loops of all the stalls anyway. Adidas had a huge wall that could be signed so my son and I wrote a few messages up on the wall for people.

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One message was for all the Saffron Striders at the club and the other was for the people on http://www.therunningbug.co.uk . As i was raising money for Macmillan cancer we went over to their stall and had a chat they also had a wall which I signed against my pre printed slot on the wall.

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Being absolutely bombarded with all sorts of gadgets and gizmos to try out i was careful not to blow my money straight away. I had some purchases in mind but didn’t want to get caught by all sorts of things I hadn’t intended to. Having worn out socks i bought some new Balega socks which look and feel great but i’m not sure if to wear them for the marathon just yet. I had also wanted to buy some Brooks ASR shoes. Brooks had sent me a camera to document my runs in the build up to the marathon and in return for handing it in they were giving a £20 discount on shoes and a free bag of pasta. Typical! of all the possible shoe models they didn’t bring the ASR to the expo because it isn’t the most popular shoe. What to do..I was offered an alternative shoe but with no medial post…no thanks…what about if we email you a 20% discount code so you can still buy the shoes..yes please. And the bag of pasta? as we don’t have the shoes, no problem! Samples were available at the majority of gel and snack bar stalls and I think me and my son tried 75% of them, some far tastier than others. I ended up buying some powerbar gels and electrolyte tabs I haven’t tried before so we’ll see what they are like at some point. Fullers London Pride beer is one of the sponsors of the event so we stopped by to speak to them..and have some samples, “sorry son, dad only here”. Next on the list was Vita Coco coconut water stand where again my son was happy to dive in and try all the flavours available and settled on a purchase of mango and pineapple..good choice! I have had trouble with the soleus muscle on my left leg and have been having treatment for some time but one thing i wanted to try was Kinesiology tape. We found the KT tape stand and asked them some questions on what it was made from, how to apply it and why I shouldn’t go away and buy a cheaper brand. I had some applied to my problem area and was told it would be good to keep on for the marathon. I could feel the effect of it pulling and lifting the skin which is what is supposed to help alleviate pressure of any muscular pulls or strains. Feeling happy I bought a roll which I will use along side treatment.

 After about 3 hours of wading through charity leaflet handouts and international marathon invites we decided we had seen and purchased everything we wanted and had covered all the bases on who we wanted to see and speak to we decided to move on to the final section where we could buy some lunch and listen to various speakers. On our way I bumped into a friend and stopped and chatted about our preparations where he told me we had not long missed Wilson Kipsang…gutted, one person on my list I wanted to listen to. We moved on and bought noodles for lunch and sat down to an informative but less interesting talk on final instructions. Looking through the timetable we would have to wait a good three hours to listen to a celebrity speaker and closer 4 to hear Priscah Jeptoo..a bit too long to wait with a couple of hours travel home and trying to keep an 8 year old interested. Nevermind! we had a great time at Excel, the only problem is I am in the rear most pen 9..the 3.5 hour pacer is in pen 3. Being conservative with my application time of 4 hours has given me a little catching up to do..i’ll stick to my pace and i’m fairly sure I will catch up to them in the second half. That’s the plan anyway!