Never say never, but this year's race was not part of the season's plan which is to prepare for the European Duathlon Championships in October. As that's October, the 26.2 plod wouldn't really affect things that late in the year and so having qualified for this at last year's London marathon with a 'good for age' time, the honour of achieving that whilst so many runners face the frustration of missing out in the regular 'ballot', meant that i felt obliged....
It really is my last marathon though, honest, unless i rise to the challenge of unfinished business at Snowdon in the future. I have no beef with London. Four attempts so far, attempts at a sub 3 hour time. Two successful, two failures. A hat trick would be nice i guess.
Training for a sub 3 for me, is pretty hard. I never manage huge mileage, due to both time and fatigue constraints - my body doesn't really like more than 35-40 mile weeks without some old war wounds rearing their heads, plus I'm not getting any younger. A couple of 20 milers bolted onto my duathlon schedule was about all i did to prep for London. I knew this wasn't enough, despite some assurances that I'd be good. 20 miles every Sunday in the winter we just had? No thanks!
The first 20 mile training run involved a 10 mile straight out the door - dead east, into the Beast of the East, at night, with snow and ice all around. My partner Theresa decided to bike along side me for company in that weather. Guess who was the colder at the end?! With 17 miles done, i was also getting cold and commanded Tez to ride on home, put the bath on and order a curry. That's what pretty much got me through the last 3 miles. The minute she left, my pace went from 7.30 to 9 minute miles. It's all in the head they say ;-)
Straight through the door, up the stairs and into a lovely warm bath, whilst eating Poppadoms with mint dip.. It doesn't get much better than that!
The second 20 went better. It was after a rough bout of flu and was one of my first runs back. The first 17 were a measured plod with a marathon pace final three. It felt good.
On race day, despite 6 months of continuous shite (i mean weather, the kind of weather Bishop had to deal with in Aliens in order to get a signal to the backup craft in orbit, to rescue Sigourney Weaver), the sun decided to come out on marathon week, and baked the country in a heatwave. This was mainly good, but nobody except those flush enough to afford multiple foreign training camps (cough 'Mo), had any time to acclimatise between British Winter 2018 and this instant 24 degree heat.
I spent a few days in London pre-race but stupidly left registration until the Saturday. It was a low point in my life, and also a kind of busmans holiday. I've spent many an expo working at Excel and now the shoe was on the other foot. It was super busy, busier than any show I'd worked at there, and it seems we caught the lunchtime rush. London was packed that weekend and after a busy morning of doing Highbury Parkrun and eating a fry up, it took the rest of the day to get to the expo on packed, hot trains, register, look around the expo and get back to central London. Lesson learned. I was ratty and had to take a siesta in the early evening and even then, the legs were heavy. Kids - don't leave it til Saturday to register for the London Marathon!
Worse still, i missed an invite for a curry on Oxford St with my training partner Ed Land, and back at Expo, I'd paid for some new gear but left it on the counter. Like i said - low point!
The race prep was fine. Another packed train ride to Maze Hill, but that was expected and the communal anticipation of all the competitors was great to be part of. I got to my start area with 30 mins to spare, and queued for the toilet before dropping my bag off (i hadn't forgotten anything). Actually i had forgotten something, the most important piece of race day kit that all athletes need (jointly holding the honour with safety pins) - BOG ROLL!! The portaloo was devoid of it. I looked at my spare Mavic socks in my bag (take note Anita Worthing - i do own more than one pair), they looked back at me. I took a minute to decide their fate. There was no bin in the loo... What to do? Luckily Tim Lawson of Secret Training (the nutrition brand) had sent me a race day bag at the start of the year, containing no toilet paper, but a host of products designed to help you at the races - Vaseline, pre-race rub, post-race wash, suncream, pins, flannels, moisturiser AND a pack of baby wipes. Tim, you are a saviour.
I quickly lined up for the start and we were off. I was in the first wave and so the road should have been easy to navigate. It wasn't, and as our green start merged with red and then blue, it became very cluttered and difficult to keep pace. I guess this is only going to get worse at major marathon events as they accept more and more competitors. The sub 3 hour pacer was ahead of me, but he'd started about a minute ahead and i was only about 20 seconds behind him. Whilst i physically couldn't move up to him without swiping vast swathes of runners out the way like a Giant Orc, i was in a fairly good place. Mile one was a tad slow, mile two was fast, mile three super fast (downhill) and then miles 4,5,6 were stable at 6.45 pace. I didn't feel as fluid or fresh as previous London races/ I put it down to the heat, age and my Saturday experience.
Twice i spurted up to the pacer when the opportunity arose, using up valuable energy. 30 second surges helped me latch onto the group trying to stay with him, and as my watch verified but kept drifting back ever so slightly, to a more comfortable pace. I overheard someone discussing our pace, saying that we were 5 minutes up, and so heading for a 2.55. That also confirmed what my watch was telling me. I knew a 2.55 was not an option, but it was good to know i had the buffer, at least for a short while.
The first 10 miles seemed to go on for ever, and i was getting a tad bored waiting to hit the halfway mark. When it finally arrived, i was lagging a bit further back than I'd like, and i later found out that Mr Green pacer had pulled out with fatigue! The blue pacer came past a bit later and i had trouble latching on to him too, so the writing was on the wall. At 15 miles i saw Theresa, but she didn't see me. I could only muster one syllable and not the required three, and so "OOOiiii" it was.
By 16 miles my pace was fading into the 7.10's but i still had time in hand. Being honest, i didnt have the urge to hurt myself as much as in the past. My quads were tight and screaming. Other muscles were fine. My ankle joint has been a bit dodgy recently and it flared up again on the day. Mile 17 was 8 minutes and after that i stopped trying as the time was gone. I settled into a shorter stride that didn't hurt. My pulse immediatly got lower and i started to enjoy the last 10 miles, looking around the landmarks and taking in the atmosphere whilst being overtaken by a Camel, Penguin, a man on the toilet and numerous other Guinness world fancy dress record attempts. So I stopped to chat to Theresa at mile 20, yet she was shocked and told me to finish and not waste time!
The heat was well, hot, but it wasn't the reason for my demise. I reckon I'd have had a similar result in the cold - just lack of miles. I saw many people suffering and i started to pick a few off in the last 4 miles which made a change. I had drank well, and had had a couple of gels. My fueling was fine but the fish n chips and a couple of beers at the end were most welcome.
That's it for me in what was the busiest London Marathon I've done in terms of crowds & competitors. Next year I'll be supporting Theresa at the side of the road if she is lucky enough to get in. It's shorter races for me from now on with possibly another go at Snowdon one day.
London Marathon Summary
2011 - 3.12
2013 - 2.58
2016 - 2.56
2017 - 3.14
2018 - 3.25
Once again thank you to our Three_GB local sponsors Alexanders Estate Agents, Safety Net Services & Huw Lewis Tyres for their support in helping us get to Ibiza for the European Duathlon Championships later this year, also to Andrew Poole who looks after our social media activities for this.
|The socks have been sealed for retirement.|
|Don't waste time at the bar, order two pints.|