London Marathon Report 2013 – Neils Race

I traveled down to the start and what was a glorious sunny morning which wasn’t too hot or cold and pretty much perfect conditions for marathon running. The atmosphere as I got off the train was building up and electric, with everyone talking about the task ahead  and this made the nerves really start to kick in. I think that due to my previous 3 weeks in injury worries, I hadn’t given myself much chance of achieving my goal of trying to finish in sub 3 hours, but as I was walking towards the red zone to meet up with Chris Smullens, the butterflies started going.

I met Chris and we started discussing race tactics (that was after he took the mickey out of my orange hair for the day) and how our training had gone and whether my lack of runs over the previous 2/3 would do me any harm or whether it would actually be beneficial to me. We would find out soon enough. After leaving Chris I met up with Barry ‘The Machine’ Abrams in the good for age start and again discussing tactics and previous marathon runs as we did a warm up we wondered how the race would pan out. Due to my injury, I took some (legal) painkillers to help me just in case my ankle or calf started to ‘play up’.

Anyhow, I moved to the start and talking to fellow runners about how the conditions were perfect for both runners and spectators. They then announced the 30 second silence in respect of the Boston Marathon and when this started it was impeccable and moving by all. The loud cheer and applause when the whistle went sent a shiver up your spine and I hope sent a clear message to all those who were involved in Boston.

A few moments later it was the countdown to the main action, which I had been training for for over 8 months and it was now here. The hooter went and a big cheer of excitement went up. I walked to the start line in the crowd and as soon as we stepped over the mats, the watch started and the race was on.

I set about my task to run the first few miles quite quickly (for a marathon that is) so set about my task going through the amazing and loud crowds and setting a steady pace. After a few minutes I looked at my watch and I saw I was going at 6 minutes per mile so I thought wowww I had better slow down. I passed the first few miles at a pace of 6.35 – 6.40 and I thought spot on, if I could sneak a few seconds here and there then it would make the later stages a bit more bearable.

At about mile 5 I could feel my left foot starting to burn, and although my trainer were relatively new, I had ‘worn them in’ so I though that couldn’t be the problem. I later found out that this was the start of a blister coming on, but I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time. It was at this point that I spotted a Harriers vest in front of me. I got a bit closer and it was Barry. I was chatting to him for a bit asking how he had got there as he started behind me and I didn’t see him pass, but then again there were a few other runners nearby so that might be the reason. He gave me a bit of advice by stating that even though it’s not ‘too’ hot, stay in the shade as much as possible, so I took that on board and did, which did mean moving away from the shortest route line…..

I went past the 10k marker in just over 41 minutes so again I thought spot on. I was feeling ok, but not 100% relaxed and comfortable, but there’s not a lot I could do about that now so I just carried on. The crowds were truly amazing and I actually think more turned out a) because it was a nice day and b) due to the Boston bombing and the noise they were generating was deafening at times.

The miles passed by and it was still going to plan. Every mile under 6.50 was good for me even if it was a few seconds and I reached half way in 1.28.21 so in my head I had a lead of 99 seconds. The miles passed and I was keeping close the 6.50 pace and thought ok. I got to about mile 20 in 2 hrs 15.20 and again I thought spot on as I wanted to be there between 2.15 – 2.17 hrs, and although I felt tired here I just thought that it’s only a 10k left so just keep going and hope all the training would pay off. Everyone says the marathon starts here and they are not wrong….

The next few miles I started to struggle and was clocking times of 7 minutes dead per mile then at mile 23 I clocked 7.19, so the 99 seconds lead I had was whittling away. It was at this point I felt really tired and doubted for the first time of whether I was actually going to ‘do it’.

I had to really dig in and as I was so tired I didn’t take in the scenery and the crowd as I was in so much pain with both my feet now burning. I thought though that I am not going to let this slip by though and I just need to carry on running for 20 minutes although this was taking me close to the 3 hour mark. If I wasn’t close to this I would gladly have slowed down, taken everything in and strolled home at about 9 minute mile pace, but fortunately I was close……

The next couple of miles passed and I just thought I had nothing left to give. At about the 25 miles mark the pacer with the 2.59 flag came along side me, then in front and I thought if I could stay close to him I would be ok. The problem was I didn’t have the energy to stay close to him and I saw him, along with a few other runners around him (not too many mind you) go further and further into the distance and I thought that this is slipping by. I dug in further and I passed my fan base (which was basically my wife, kids, mum, brother his family and friend) but I was so focused on digging in and looking ahead I didn’t see them until I was level with them and heard the shouts of ‘Precky’. I knew it was somebody who knew me then. I gave a quick wave but thought I’ll see you soon enough.

The 800 meter maker came and I thought right 2 laps of the track, but I couldn’t pick up any pace, 600 meters then 385 meters to go. I actually knew then that I would do it. I tried to sprint to the line, but again my legs wouldn’t go as fast as my mind was telling it to, but I got to the line and I just wanted to collapse and lie on the floor (for a week If they had left me). I know I had given everything and literally had nothing left. A few seconds later I looked at my watch to see what time I had got and it was still going, so I stopped it and it was just under the 3 hour mark so I knew I had done it but wasn’t sure what my time actually was. I actually found out my time of 2.59.23 off my sister who was at home who had found out from what Graham Millington had put on Facebook. Technology I don’t know…… but thanks Graham.

Overall, I had plan to get under 3 hours and whilst I can honestly say the last 5 miles were the hardest I have ever experienced, with the blisters and pain I encountered on route, this was all worth it. I will hopefully try again next year, but try and enjoy it a bit more…… if that’s possible!

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