I'm afraid this is an extremely long post, but here's a spoiler:
LONDON MARATHON 2018: DID IT!!!
Well, that was a crazy experience!
First there was the Expo, that was nuts. I picked up my number and timing chip within minutes, and then wandered around for a bit thinking ooh that's expensive I went and said hello at the Alzheimer's Society stand - I'm fundraising for my 100K, and actually got a couple more donations in the days leading up to VMLM. Then I sat down and watched some of the presentations - that Martin Yelling is good isn't he?
Then there was the accommodation! It's been a while since I stayed in a hostel or slept in a bunk bed, a very long while... This place (the VIA hostel in Lewisham) was actually amazing, a big old white-painted pile with lovely gardens, full of VMLM runners and a random group of Dutch rugby-playing children. I'd booked it yonks ago in case we couldn't stay with our friends in Maze Hill (which would have been convenient but I didn't really want to stay with them anyway, I don't like dragging other people into my pre-marathon ritual!), it was cheap as chips, and only a 10 minute walk to the start, and I met a nice man there called Duncan Anderson who was very chatty, and fast (chip time 03:24:05!). But apart from that I got very little sleep: there were lots of noisy people about, and a loud snorer in my room. But then who sleeps the night before a marathon? Well, the snorer did
Anyway, who cares? The next day I was off in the sunshine to the Blue Start at Blackheath. Such a beautiful day, it was already really warm by 9am! There was a peaceful scene at the heath with a brass band playing "Donkey Riding" and people sitting around on the grass chatting cheerily. I got into my starting pen, which for some reason was number 4, honestly I have no idea what I'd put as my predicted time! And after several weeks we were away!!
The start of the London Marathon gives you no clue about what's to come. It was quiet, and we were running on gently downhill roads, passing through townlets where there were a lot of spectators and music, but still we hadn't seen nothing yet! It was warm, and I passed a group of firefighters in full gear, and a man in a suit of armour!!! I hope they were OK (update: just saw a video on Twitter of the firemen coming through the finish). I'd carried a bottle of water from the start, but I was gasping for the first water station. I hear that some of the water stations ran out towards the end of the race, shades of Brighton last year, but I was fine, and had a drink at most of the stations. Also orange Lucozade, which always tastes like manna from heaven to me during a race. Oh, and here's a tip for you - Gaviscon tablets with Lucozade is an absolute taste sensation!!
Talking of tablets, here's my pain story. As you may be aware, I've had a bad problem with a tight, sore soleus muscle for the past 6 weeks, and I ran the Brighton Marathon last weekend, so my leg was not great at the start of the VMLM. In fact I wasn't sure whether I could run, hadn't dared try! Why didn't I defer my entry? I have no real idea, but I just didn't want to So I had paracetamol with my breakfast (steered clear of ibuprofen due to the heat), and again at 11am and 2pm. Also some caffeine in the form of chocolate covered coffee beans a couple of times. All this helped keep me going I think. My strategy was most definitely walk-run, and although my leg didn't feel all that much worse later in the day, inevitably under that beating sun the walking breaks took longer and became more frequent Still, today my leg seems to be about the same as it was after Brighton, which doesn't sound brilliant, but as I had feared that the muscle tightness might turn into an actual injury I'm calling it a result! And of course I actually finished, which was definitely a result
So, what about the London Marathon experience? Overwhelming is the word! Sore leg aside, there wasn't any part I didn't find fun. I don't know London very well at all, so I can't name many of the areas I passed through, but I loved the more villagy bits to the East, and I even enjoyed the Isle of Dogs part (I've heard it being complained about!). I loved all the wharves and quays, and the ups and downs, and the DLR trains whizzing overhead. When we passed through Canary Wharf and in and out of the City of London, when the buildings get tall and loom over you - it's breathtaking! I think the highlights had to be (and I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking) Cutty Sark, which at 10K is an important landmark, and then, just before the halfway point nothing could have prepared me for the majesty of turning a corner to be confronted by Tower Bridge rearing up before me!! But perhaps more astonishing was the size, presence, and sheer NOISE of the crowds. As with Brighton, the music was wonderful. I can't remember too much, but there were several reggae and blues singers, some wonderful jazz brass bands, a choir singing that Pharrell Williams song Happeeeeeee, and some super-loud drum bands. I heard "Donkey Riding" being reprised by a Morris band, which made me laugh a lot. There were lots of smiles to be had from my fellow runners too, I had a fair few pats on the back from other people in Alzheimer's Society vests, and for a long while I was running with a man dressed as Jesus Christ in a loin cloth and bare feet (ouch), complete with crown of thorns and a cardboard cross! I'm not religious myself, but he was VERY popular People were calling out my name again, which helped me keep my head up, and a smile upon't.
But I'm not going to lie, with all my struggles the best bit of all was to turn onto the Mall and try to pick up my pace for the finish!! There were all these signs saying 800m to go, 400m to go... never have I ran such a long 200m. Anyway, I sprinted under one of the finishing arches (well, I did me best). And I was done!! Medal, came over dizzy and looked for somewhere to sit, managed just in time to swerve a poor man vomiting copiously, got my goody bag (lovely goodies! Great t-shirt!!), sat to consume some lentil crisps voraciously.
LONDON MARATHON 2018: DID IT!!!
Unfortunately I ended on a bit of low. Trying to escape the 'meet and greet' area at the end was tricky, and just as I eventually got my bearings and started walking to Victoria Station, I found I had to queue up to cross a temporary bridge. I couldn't handle the queue, got really hot and felt faint. Some kind people helped me through the barrier and got a marshal to bring the St John's Ambulance people over. They kept me in their tent for a bit (I got a wheelchair ride across the course!! How embarrassing, but also kind of cool ), made me eat and drink and put my feet up. My blood pressure had dropped too low, and by the time I was discharged I had missed my pre-paid for train. But never mind, and they were really lovely I got home eventually, and even managed a pint in our local!
My time was 5:15:11 which I'm not especially proud of, but at least it wasn't a personal worst I'm definitely entering the ballot again.
Today I feel pretty fine, my leg was extremely sore when I woke up, and I can feel some compensation pain in my right quad (I'm guessing that's what it is - I had it after Brighton too, and my quads don't usually bother me). But after painkillers and moving around a bit it feels OK. I was a little concerned for my ultramarathon (it's in five weeks!! ) re. the low blood pressure thing, but I think the memory will just make me more careful to eat and drink well on the day. My leg will be better by then, because I know what to do about it now. And I also think that getting through the two marathons with a bad leg means I'm a bit of a BADASS!!! And I feel really Happeeeeeee
Oh, and by the way did I mention that...
LONDON MARATHON 2018: DID IT!!!