Marathon day was going smooth, Dave Waddington (your writer), Jacqui Jones, Julie Platt and Barry Abram had all made it to the start in good time after a 7:30 meet at Euston tube station. Jacqui and Julie went their separate ways to their start pens (Jacqui to Blue and Julie to Green good for age), whilst Dave and Barry went off to the “Red fast good for age” start pen.
But no sooner had they got to the entrance than they split up as Barry nipped off to the bushes saying “I’ve got a weak bladder”, rather than go in and queue for the loos inside. So I was left on my own for 40 mins with about another 2000 runners. A couple of visits to the loos and getting gels into position meant the time soon passed. The final visit to the loo was I’m sure courtesy of a “Beetroot shot” I’d just downed that Jacqui and Julie had brought back from the marathon exhibition the day before. They were sold on the sales patter “perfect for marathon day”. With about 15 mins to race start I took my place in the start pens. There was a fair bit of chatter about what pace or time people where hoping for, I heard a “6:15 pace” and then “going for 2:45”, I felt that maybe shouldn’t have managed to get so close to the front.
It was 09:45 and we were off, I missed the first mile marker (how could you), the 2nd mile came, 13:45, right on target. I went through the first 4 miles at 6:50’s pace (sub 3 hour pace allowing for a few dropped minutes in the 2nd half), then at Cutty Sark I caught Tracey Dutton up. “Alright Trace” I said, the reply was something like “….too fast”, I couldn’t hear with all the shouting from the speccys.
I managed the same pace up to mile 9 then spotted Barry Abram just in front, I went wide past Barry I don’t think he spotted me (he had his dark glasses on). Then got to mile 10 and all of a sudden I thought this is feeling a bit hard already. Would it be an early bad patch I’d run through, or was the dream of sub 3 gone already? Half way came in 1:29 and realism hit: now it was a question of how much past 3 hours would I go.
Each mile was counted off “get to 20 then 10k only left” I told myself . At about 15 mile a runner with a stick appeared on my shoulder and I thought “whose this **** in fancy dress?”. Then I realised he was a pacer for an even 3 hour target and I almost got knocked over y by the scrum following him. From that point on it was a real slog, the Docklands Railway stops were getting more and more inviting; I was having a good argument with myself to stop jumping on the next train. The 20 mile marker came, 10k to go, I thought of all sorts of incentives and justifications to keep at it (at that point I’d have probably dealt with the devil). I felt a spasm of cramp in my hamstring and my pace slowed more, I realised it was going to be an even bigger slog to the end.
After about a mile my cramp eased and I ran on in what seemed like 10 min mile pace but it was probably 8 min mile. As the miles crawled by I started to think about Barry, Tracey and what about Kevin Edwards, I’d seen him in the start area briefly as we passed in the loo queue. I thought it wasn’t a matter of if, but who would be first to come past me. What about Jacqui and Julie as well? Just after 23 miles the tunnel at the Embankment came, (lots of runners escape from the crowds here and walk in peace). I can’t stop, I thought, I’ll never get going again.
I was on the way up the slope to the exit an heard “Come on Dave”. It was Barry, “I’m knackered” he said as he drifted past me effortlessly. I thought get with him and tried to go a bit faster, then bang, cramp in my left hamstring, I had to stop a walk for about 10 yards then hobbled on and saw the 24 mile mark. I looked at the clock, I had about 25 mins to get under 3:15 my “good for age” qualifying time. I was desperate to get under that time, so off I went shuffling along feeling sorry for myself.
Birdcage Walk eventually came then a sign “800m to go”; nearly there – dig in only 2 laps of the track to go”. Then after what seemed like an age came a sign 600m to go. Runners poured past me with their last spurts to the line. I looked at the clock and shuffled my way in to a time of 3:09:28. I was very pleased to get under 3:15 but boy did I ache: every step was met with a bolt of cramp. Barry was leaning on a barrier “3:07” was his reply to my inevitable question. He said “it was hot, and it was a lot hillier than I’d remembered” I agreed wholeheartedly.