I’ve been running for about 7 years now and for the first 6 years I’ve avoided any injury or even minor niggle. Not surprisingly, that lucky streak had to come to an end and the past 12 months have been littered with ups & downs injury wise. I started 2015 with 3 weeks on the couch with my feet up, getting more frustrated and fed up…….I knew I needed to rest my injuries but I missed running and it was driving me crazy. Late in January I faced a simple decision, pull out of the London Marathon or push on through the injury and take the consequences. Against professional advice, I took the latter option……..
Come race day on 26th April, I was 80% fit and wished I had a couple more 20 mile runs under my belt but I’m sure I was not alone with those feelings…….the path to a marathon never runs smoothly in my experience. After clocking 3.04 at last year’s event I was in the “good for age” section for the first time……..Wow, I felt like an elite athlete. No queues for the toilet, a marquee to get changed out of the drizzle & cold and a starting position just yards from the start line. After this experience, I had already decided that a sub 3.05 (to get this again next year) was a minimum goal for the day!
On the start line, just 2 rows ahead was a fellow harrier who I didn’t even know was planning to compete, Mark Glynn. It was nice to see a familiar face and we set off together for the first mile or two. Inevitably, we drifted apart in the crowds but I would see Mark again later in the race. The great thing about the “good for age” start is that most people are aiming for a similar time so it was relatively easy to drift along with the sea of runners without having to weave and waste energy. Passing through landmarks like cutty sark and tower bridge brought a smile to my face and reminded me why I love this race so much. The crowds were great and as big as ever, despite the dull & cold conditions, and it’s the atmosphere that has dragged me back 6 years in a row.
I passed half way in just over 1.28 (vs. a target of 1.27.30) so all good and feeling strong. In the past I have struggled with the “no mans land” of the London Marathon (miles 13 to 20) but this year I just zoned out and kept going. Mark Glynn tapped me on the shoulder at 16 miles and we ran together again for around a mile. He was ok, but complained of heavy legs………then eased away from me…….wish I had heavy legs like Mark, I thought!
As they say, mile 20 is the real start of the race and I got here in 2.16 something (vs. a target of 2.15) so not a disaster and all to play for. At mile 21 the runners world 3hr pacer eased alongside. In previous years this has been a challenge mentally for me but I didn’t panic. I raised my game and kept with him for a couple of miles before he started to pull away. This wasn’t going to phase me, I just needed to concentrate on my own race and my goal.
By mile 24 I was starting to suffer, but a sub 3 was still possible……….however, by mile 25 I needed a Paula Radcliffe style last sprint! Into horse guards parade and the signs came thick in fast…….800m to go, 600m to go, 400m to go (at this point my watch clocked 3 hrs)…….in sight of the palace and just one corner from the finish and my ideal goal had gone. Nevertheless, I knew a good PB was on the cards and pushed on to a 3.02 finishing time………queue huge emotion and tears. I cry every year at the finish and I’m never quite sure why……..sheer relief I think!
Hopefully it will be lucky 7 next year and I will finally join that sub 3hr club. Well done to all the harriers at London, Manchester and other spring marathon venues. I was delighted to see that Mark had pushed on and achieved his PB of 2.57 – great effort!