2012 Virgin London Marathon Race Report
I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of eight people to run the London Marathon this year on behalf of Bristol Cancer Research Fund. After running four half marathons in the past two years I figured it was about time to step up my game – the only catch was that I needed to raise a minimum of £1,250 in order to guarantee my place. As the year began, it suddenly felt like if I wasn’t running, I was pestering everyone I knew to visit my JustGiving page to make a donation.
I was also lucky enough to have a friend who was training for the big day at the same time as me. Sasha and I had run our first half marathon together back in 2009 and after first starting to run with her in Bristol it was great to both be working together towards the marathon.
Just before the new year I was finding it hard to train due to a bit of a knee problem. After seeing a physio, it turned out to be due to a tight IT band. A swift purchase of a foam roller from Amazon and after many hours rolling around on the floor, I was ready to start ramping up my milage. Slightly worried that I’d left it too late, I started to follow training this schedule in the 13th week, roughly aiming to complete the race in just under four hours.
People often (probably) say that running a marathon is 50% the training and 50% the actual day. Training in and around Bristol was definitely one of the best parts of the marathon experience. Whether I ran along the harbour, along the cycle path up to Pill, found myself lost in Leigh Woods or all three together, it was amazing to end up at my door after completing further and further distances. After the weekend with a long run of 20 miles, the worries about the full distance started to slip away and I began to look forward to the big day.
Sunday 22nd of April came around and I awoke early to get some food down me and get ready to head to the runner’s village. It seemed like the weather was on our side. There was such a great atmosphere as all the runners filtered through to their starting pens. It was amazing to look around to see so many charity running vests and to think about the massive amount of money raised in total by all of the runners. Organisation before the race was superb. At least for the men there were enough toilets for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd visits to the toilets, although the queues for the portaloos grew larger and larger. I find there always seems to be a fine line between being hydrated enough before a big race and needing the toilet for the majority of it!
Suddenly I found myself ready to cross the start line. Looking ahead I saw 26.2 miles ahead of me (figuratively, of course.) Despite remembering what I’d been told time and time again, I found it so hard to keep my pace down to start with and to not be swept along with the other runners. I guess this problem is mostly due to the mental situation of not wanting to see people overtaking you before you even get started running!
As the route weaved around and the reality of where I was and what I was doing finally hit, it was easy to get excited about the road ahead. I knew things would get harder and harder but at the beginning of the race, it was easy to ignore the apparent pain that I knew I would be in soon enough! Perhaps the best thing about the race was seeing my Mum and Dad twice along the race, along with Katharine and Ben along the way too. I never thought that seeing people would be quite the boost as it was, but as I found it harder and harder to put each leg in front of the other, seeing people made them just that bit lighter as the race went on.
Two parts of the race stick out to me now. The first was turning the corner onto Tower Bridge and hearing an audible gasp from the runners around me. As I ran across the bridge a woman to my left caught my eye – “Christian! You look amazing!” she shouted. I don’t know who this woman was but after miles and miles of people shouting “Go on Derek!”, “Come on Derek!” at the unseen Derek who was apparently running near me, this was such a boost!
The second memorable part of the race was near the end, when we went through a long, dark tunnel. If you had stumbled into this tunnel and opened your eyes it would be easy to think that the apocalypse had arrived. The smell of urine was overwhelming as runners finally gave in to their bladders, half full lucozade bottles were being thrown against the walls narrowly missing runners while spectators were held in (what seemed like) cages as they shouted at the many thousands of runners. The only thing that made this tunnel more surreal was near the end when I ran past a `runner’ in a charity shirt, walking on his phone as he shouted “YEAH, I’M JUST ABOUT TO COME OUT OF THE TUNNEL – I’M WEARING GREEN!”
The last eight miles were the worst for me. I guess I hit the `wall’ you hear so much about. I tried to keep a smiling face going as I ran past the official photographers and the crowds scanning the runners for the one or two people they knew. I rounded the last corner, crossed the finish line and came to a slow stop and immediately felt nauseous after coming to a halt after running for just over 4 hours. My final time was 04:07:49 and although I missed the sub-four-hour mark I was aiming for, after just 3 years of running at Bristol I had finished I was extremely pleased that I’d completed my first marathon.
So what’s next for me? I’ll probably run a few smaller races in the near future but I’d really like to run the Toronto marathon in 2013.