Before joining the harriers in June 2012, I had been pounding the streets solo for about 4 years, gradually improving my marathon time each year in London. The main reason for joining the club was to meet like minded people and to take my running on to the next level. This year’s event would be the yard stick to see exactly how much the training and support from my fellow club runners had taken me. The PB to beat was 3.23 set in the capital 12 months ago…….
Winter training had gone very well, supported by Andy Ecc’s tried and tested plan and having a training partner (Neil Prescott) really helped on the long, cold runs. The morning weather report confirmed perfect running conditions, so the list of pre-race excuses was now fully depleted!
It was a buzzing atmosphere at the red start and I was joined by Neil and my cousin Lynn who was about to embark on her 10th London Marathon in a row! As I made my way into pen 2 it was time to focus on the task in hand. The 30 second silence for Boston was both emotional and inspirational and was followed by an almighty roar……..before this had died down I was across the line and up and running.
The miles and land marks passed quickly and before I knew it mile 12 was upon me and it was time to greet my support crew who were positioned outside a pub just before the turn onto Tower Bridge. In preparation, I picked up a bottle of water and proceeded to spray it’s entire contents at my friends and family in the crowd (as well as a number of innocent bystanders too!) The run was going according to plan, passing the half way point in just over 1.28. (Lazy Mo terminated his run at this point, saving his legs for the full distance next year!) It was time to dig deep, maintain the pace, and reach 20 miles in reasonable shape to tackle the true start of the race and the final, gruelling 10km……
I was starting to feel sick as the gels and water washed around my stomach in a gloopy mess. My legs were tired, but my mind was strong……..grit and determination and a positive attitude was going to see me through to the finish line. Then, with little warning at mile 23, I cramped in my left hamstring forcing me to stop abruptly and stretch it out. It was frustrating as the seconds ticked on but I knew that stopping was the only way to cure the issue. I had lost valuable time, but the dream of sub 3 was still on and I was a man on a mission! Two miles further on, Big Ben came into view, the crowd roared, the finish was just minutes away……..and then, bang, I cramped in my right hamstring! At this point, the crowds were incredible shouting “go on Smully you can do it” and patting me on the back as I stretched on the road side. They roared me on and clapped encouragingly as I gingerly got going again.
The ultimate dream was now over as 3 hours came and went as Big Ben struck one o’clock. I turned the corner at Buckingham Palace, blew kisses at the crowds in the grandstand and enjoyed the last 365 yards. I finally crossed the line in 3.05.48, a PB by more than 17 minutes! A bitter-sweet feeling as I know I am capable of a faster time, but I can’t be disappointed after coming so far after just 10 short months with the harriers. A few sociable drinks in the pubs and bars of London helped to ease the mental and physical pain! Time for a well deserved rest, but I’ll be back fitter and stronger for next year with a ‘good for age’ place in the bank………p.s. well done Neil on breaking the 3 hr mark yet again, awesome effort my friend……..any tips on how to avoid cramp would be gratefully received!