London Marathon 2014 – Neils report

It was that that time of year again, whereby I travel down to the capital with my immediate family. I went to Wigan train station on Saturday morning with my 7 month pregnant wife and 2 kids. When we got there we were met with a sea (well river) of Wigan fans going to the semi-final v Arsenal. It was a really good atmosphere. We get to our reserved seats whereby I managed to get a table for the 4 of us so it was a nice comfortable journey. When we got to Euston I managed to bump into the Harriers quartet of Jayne, Jacqui, Julie & Darren.

We arrived at our hotel to be told we were on the 4th floor, which is fine….. except the lift wasn’t working. I had to take the family case up the stars which kept banging into my leg, thinking, I’m sure Mo doesn’t have to do this!!! Anyway, save dragging the kids along to the Expo Centre, I went there on my own. I managed to get my number and went back to the hotel to be asked if I then wanted to walk round Battersea Zoo (meeting friends). Although I wanted to see the kids enjoy themselves, I was being selfish and thought that I best not given the following days events so I just rested up in the hotel watching the sport on TV in the peace and quiet. I had actually forgot what this was like…. bliss!!!

The morning of the race…… I have done this 5 times previously, so know the routine, and I must admit that I think this was the most relaxed I felt beforehand and not putting too much pressure on myself. I felt good going into it but thought that the illness I had endured at the end January / beginning February, might have scuppered my chances of getting sub 3 hours due to the disruption of my training, but I thought I feel ok and I’d give it a go from the off and see how I get on.

I was in the good for age pen, but didn’t know anybody there, so I ended up going to the red start with all the masses and meeting up with Mr Smullen’s family for a bit of a chat and soaking up the atmosphere. I think I left it a bit later than I should to go to my correct pen, but I got to the start line in plenty of time and although I was in pen 1 of the good for age, I was behind 2 runners from pen 2 who were talking about doing it in around 3.30, so I thought they are going to hold me up, but that might be a good thing at the start of the race :).

I started off ok, although I can say that for the first half of the race I never really felt relaxed. I was running relaxed as my timing was good, clocking between 6.35 – 6.45 for the first few miles, but never really felt comfortable. I looked at my watch occasionally seeing the timing at 6.05, thinking I am going to pay for this later……

The miles were ticking off and I passed Tower bridge in good time and turning to the half way stage and looking out for all the Harriers who were on tour, but I couldn’t see any of them and with the noise of the crowds, I couldn’t hear them if they were shouting. I got to half way in just under 1.28, so I thought perfect timing, although thinking I can’t carry on like this for the second half of the race.

I got to about 15 miles and I think this is when I got my second wind (don’t ask me how) but from 15 miles to about 21 miles it felt comfortable and ok, not easy mind you, just comfortable. I got to 20 miles in just under 2.15 which was great and according to plan. I felt at this point that I just need to tick off each mile and then get to the next one. The mile markers were passing and I was still looking out for people I might see, but to no avail. I got to near the 22 mile mark seeing people on the other side of road, thinking how glad I was that I’d already done those extra 8 / 9 miles or so….. but thinking that the really hard work is about to start.

The noise was getting louder of louder and it was taking my mind of the pain which was now getting into my legs. I just kept thinking that I need to really dig in as I have got a bit of time in the bank and try and maintain the pace, which was getting harder and harder to do.

I was running up the Embankment and looking at Big Ben, knowing that there was less than a mile to go. The Runners World 2.59 pacer came along side me, and I knew that I took me nearly a minute to get past the start line, so I thought if I could stay with him I would be on for a 2.58. Then again, I thought if I could stay in front of him, even better. That last mile was the hardest I have run (although I probably say that at the end of every race – with the exception of Wrexham this year!!!), without seeming to get anywhere. I didn’t want to look behind me but the 2.59 pacer wasn’t going to go past me without a fight. I ran along Birdcage Walk, up to Buckingham Palace and saw the 385 yards to go sign. That is such a relief. I turned onto The Mall to look out for my family who had managed to get seats in the grandstand, and there they where, my wife and kids who were cheering and waving which gave me that extra lift to drive to the line. I crossed the line and stopped my watch (which I hadn’t looked at the the past 2 miles) and saw it at 2:57:55. I had dipped to a PB of over a minute and under 2-58 which I was just so chuffed with. My official time was 2:57:52 so even better. I was exhausted though, but all I could do was look up to the sky and thank my dad for everything. It’s so emotional when you are so tired….

I got my kit bag and I just wanted to find out how my training partner Chris Smullen had got on. When I got hold of him, he told me about his PB time of 3:04 which I was pleased with, but slightly disappointed for him as really wanted him to get sub 3 hours which he deserves it for all the hard training he does.

I said beforehand that it was possibly my last marathon with my 3rd child on the way and whilst I cannot say for definite if it was, it would be a great one to go out on. I just love the day so much and the training and pain you go through over the winter is totally worth it for this one day.

I would like to thank everyone at the running club who has helped me to prepare for this race, especially Chris, who has made the training runs, I’m not saying enjoyable but, better for the company. My wife as always has been brilliant to let me go training all the times I want to, but I will see what the next addition to the family brings :-).

Cheers

Neil

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