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.
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.
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.
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.