As is ever the way these days, I find myself writing the report from a strange place.
I knew I had done nowhere near enough training to do what I wanted to do. Especially, I hadn’t put the long runs in to get me the legs I needed. I had done some work though and I wondered whether there might be a chance.
However, drinking just before the start left me needing a piss right at the off so I dived off the start block (Blue) to wee up against a sign. This meant I was now some way behind the 3:30 paces but I figured it would give me a good slow target to aim at to help bank some early time.
How wrong I was.
It seems that blue start is far worse than red which I had last time. We had a number of pinch points which meant the first mile was 8:40. Some 40 seconds down on the target time and giving me an uphill battle. the second mile was little better at 8:19.
I had to put in more effort than I wanted but it started to become an ask. In fact it was worse than the figures showed as the amount of weaving I was doing meant my miles were coming up way short of the course miles. I got to 5k and was a minute behind schedule.
I got to 10k and was still a minute behind.
At this time someone I know from the Arc2Arch run shouted my name and squirted a bottle at me as I turned. She was annoyed she started a way back from where she wanted to be but was in better shape than me. I tried to stay with her and we chatted a bit and tended to leap frog as we weaved our way through the crowd.
20K came and I was still a minute down.
At this point I knew I was pushing harder than I wanted. It was also much hotter than I had expected, and I knew that the marathon is always a suddenly hot day. I adopted a different than usual race strategy of keeping a water bottle and just sipping a tiny amount whenever my mouth went dry.
So a decision was made. I knew I would not get the 3:30 I wanted today so I would kick back and enjoy myself. Before long it was the right hand turn onto Tower Bridge Street. Now the course had been far busier with support than I recall, possibly due to Mo. But Tower Bridge is always amazing.
I ran hard right and made sure to stop and pose for my friend Taff who was taking photos there all day. I then cruised round and after turning right noticed that the leaders were coming past on the switchback. And I knew who would be close behind.
I darted left and when he came into view I shouted as loud as I could at Mo to keep going. I then eased back and could tell this from the fact my mile splits barely changed…
Beats me too!
However, by now my left foot was playing up. Every stride was agony and it got no better. And this was a shame because, barring the discomfort and distraction caused by my cyborg appendage, I was in a very good mental place. The miles which are often the worst for me (14-19 - where you have run for ages and still have ages to go) I viewed positively. But the pain and sapping took their toll. Before long I Was running off my foot so putting all my right side out.
And so I came to stop and walk, something I desperately did not want to do this time, especially as my first (and only other) London became a walk run affair from mile 11.
So I decided I could make a little further before stopping.
And I kept going.
I had seen a couple of people from work and a few from my club cheering, but missed Laura at mile 21.
On the switchback I noticed that the 5 hour people were going past. Knowing that my Ems was taking it very easy and determined just to get around, I hung left again and looked out. This also allowed me to hide from the crowd as I was a little upset that I could not be as happy to them as I would like.
Suddenly I heard my name shouted from in front and there was my fine lady. I ran into her arms and stopped for a hug and kiss. I then sobbed as I told her just how much pain I was in with my foot. we chatted and I Was such a gent I did not ask her at all about her race was going and how she was despite knowing she was injured and ill.
Yeah, I’m a great guy!
But onwards I went and, by this time I was 22 miles in and before long I had another special shout and saw my parents crammed at the front of the barriers just before you head into embankment. Again I stopped to hug them and got the most amazing lift when my dad screamed how proud of me he was.
Having hundreds of strangers shouting your name and egging you on is one thing.
As a man(boy), having your own dad shout it at you in front of hundreds of people is something way above that. I kissed them, mentioned I was in a world of pain and was then shooed on by them. And so I went.
Weirdly, after seeing them my foot finally eased up. That or the rest of my legs started to hurt so much I couldn’t notice it any more. Still grinning and choking up at the support of friends, unknowns and family I headed to embankment and the constant wall of noise cheering me in. I am proud to say I still did not stop save for a piece of show boating where the two cameramen were at a division in the road in Birdcage Walk.
And after what felt like the longest 4 miles, I turned into the Mall and saw the finish line. I would make it.
And I did. In 3:43:10. 56 minutes quicker than my last London, but 9 minutes off my PB and 13 behind the target.
I know I did not deserve the time I wanted as I had not trained for it. It was a fight just to get me to the finish line. However, it is over and I can move on. Exactly how I feel changes by the day. I meant it when I wrote on twitter that at least now I can slope off and hide in ultras where times are immaterial to me. I have said before that London is not a great PB course unless you are very fast due to crowds. But crowds do not excuse a miles 21-23 paces of 9:09, 9:55 and 9:12. That’s just a lack of training, effort and effort in training.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, and 3:43 is no mean feat. But I hate the injuries I pick up on my left ankle these days when I push hard, and the thought that all my best times are behind me fills me with dread. And at the same time, the disappointment grows with each failure to the point I almost feel like giving up on ever getting a better time.
But for now, as I said, I can hide in ultras and moving towards the Neon Thames Challenge, more on which to follow. For now, I shall mull over what was a fantastic day tinged with an edge of disappointment.