THE BIG ONE! So the London Marathon is all done! I can honestly say that was easily the hardest mental and physical challenge of my life by far! Having had 48 hours to reflect, I can moan about the weather and the heat, and the injustice of the British weather but I got to the finish line.
Unless you have been in the last 6 miles of a Marathon exhausted and struggling to put your legs one in front of the other, you probably can’t comprehend the level pain and mental struggle. Yes there were tears, yes there were moments that stopping crossed my mind, but I carried on and I got there, I did it. I kind of think somehow I was being tested to the extremes of my capacity to see how far I could actually push my body. This might sound a touch dramatic, but it was brutal.
My strategy was to go out at 3.45/50 pace for the first half and then see how I felt and either carry on at that pace or slow back to 4 hour pace. In training I’ve run 18 and 20 miles well inside that pace, but at 11 or 12 miles things started to go wrong. I was expecting this feeling to kick in at 21-22 miles, so this was a massive shock to the system. My legs started cramping and getting incredibly stiff, I’m thinking what is happening to me? I had to adjust my running style, this can’t be right I’m not even half way round! Then the realisation set in that this was just going to be a struggle to finish in one piece.
Now if I’d not put the miles in and under prepared, then I could’ve probably accepted this situation but I was feeling like, this isn’t right, I’m fit! But the effect of the heat was huge, probably combined with the nervous adrenaline it wasn’t a good mix. I probably went out a little fast, but not crazily so. Would I have run quicker if I’d run 4hr pace from the start? Who knows? But maybe if there is a next time I might change my strategy, but there’s no accounting for the weather!
So taking a step back, I went to London on the Saturday to register at Excel and stay the night before to avoid any stress travelling up early in the morning of the race. I fuelled up in Borough Market and then I couldn’t really sleep due to nerves and anticipation, I was up at 5.30am! I got to the start early as advised, but should’ve stayed in bed a bit longer. I ended up waiting around for what seemed like an eternity. Once in my pen about 9.45am, it was already hot! It was then a long waiting game until around 10.25 when I eventually went through the start line. It’s almost incomprehensible how many people are running in one place at the same time.
Now it’s a bit like a stampede at the start, you have to have your wits about you and look for gaps to run into whilst soaking up the atmosphere and the experience. Now don’t get me wrong the first 10 miles were great, I was buzzing, massive crowds plenty of water stations, music playing, yes London I’m loving this! This is going along very nicely thank you very much.
Then the wheels came off. Now there were a lot of people in all sorts of difficulty along the course, with some pretty scary collapses along the way. I guess like me the winter prep hadn’t taken into account the tropical London weather. I walked lots! Despite telling myself “right you’re not stopping again to walk” but I did. It’s a difficult thing when your body doesn’t react to what your mind is telling it.
You do have to maintain a sense of reality, “I don’t want to damage myself long term here!” It’s only a Marathon after all. It then becomes a battle of wills, “What will everyone think of me struggling to finish?” I tried to channel thoughts about my Dad and to stay as positive as I could, “don’t give up, keep pushing on!” The crowds were amazing “Come on Mark” at every turn definitely spurred me on at some of the low moments. The mile markers seem like 5 and the sun gets hotter with every second. Then finally I’m into the last mile then 600km, then 382 yards to go up the Mall, it feels like a lifetime, then the finish, the relief, the emotion, the tears. It’s been a very long day, a long four months of training. Would I run it again? Right now I just want to enjoy the moment and take some rest. Sometimes it’s more about the finish line rather than the finish time…..Mine was 4hrs 17.07 for the record. But more importantly with your help and support I will have raised close to £2,000 for The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. That one was for you Dad x