VLM Part 1
Eight intrepid club members rocked up for the start of the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2015. These are the tales of four of them, the rest come in the second instalment!
The road to the 2015 London Marathon was a challenging journey to say the least. The first big hiccup came whist competing in the International Running Challenge in Lanzarote. In the last of 4 races (the half marathon) I went over on my ankle badly with 2km to go. I managed to finish but the swelling and angry red colour meant it wasn’t a minor sprain. A trip to the Physio revealed I’d partially torn 2 ankle ligaments! After the best part of 6 weeks off I gingerly started running again in Jan and built up to 5 miles. Setback number 2 then occurred whist on a ski trip I fell on an ice patch and my ski didn’t release which caused a nasty calf muscle tear! That put pay to anymore skiing on the holiday and another month of enforced rest with no running as it slowly healed.
So I found myself in February with no real run training under my belt. Time to start over again, well not quite, I picked up a chest infection for a few weeks which meant yet another period of enforced rest.
Marathon day was fast approaching, do I drop out or see what I can manage in very limited time? I decided go for the latter. I embarked on an accelerated programme to get me from a few miles up to 10miles. It was good but tough and importantly no more injuries were sustained. With a month to go I had only one 10 mile run in the bag so I took a leap and put in a 16mile training run. It was tough and slow but I completed it without further injury occurring.
The last few weeks it was pointless doing any more long runs as it was too close to the event.
Due to lack of miles I was nervous at the start line as I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to be a case of don’t go mad and minimise losses when the wheels fall off.
The wheels stayed mostly intact till about 18-20miles then it was a head down slog (legs please don’t cramp) to the end. Finished in 3:19:24, happy with that after all the setbacks, happy with the atmosphere and all the support, I’ll be back again in 2016, hopefully a better training base and a slightly faster time.
The London Marathon stirs pictures and emotions across the whole country whether you are a runner or not. The memories of the first of the winners, crossing the line hand in hand or the glories of Paula Radcliffe smashing the world record. As a very average club runner, stepping through Greenwich park at 8:30 on a cold and rainy Sunday morning, the nerves, the worries whether the training has been adequate, when is the right time to take gels and just the sheer realisations that 26.2 miles is a long way even though you have a run a few cross countries….
As soon as you are ‘in the village’ you realise that this is one of the few events as an amateur, you will be treated like and Olympian. The party atmosphere, the volunteers who help and give advice, for a moment I believed I might be….
Then reality hits in… 10mins until the start, despite warming up, legs are a bit tight and nervous and then the start is upon you.
My training plan suggested a 3:40 finish and I set of easy at just over 8 min mile pace. The crowds even in the early stages are an inspiration, they have a life of their own almost sweeping you along with a will of their own, unlike any other race I have done. At mile 3 a glance at the watch mmm a sub 5 min km – still felt good…..
By the iconic Cutty Sark, still thousands of runners, still running well and easy but not over confident (still a cheeky 4:58 for a km). I am also now motivated by the sight of running with Olaf, a story to tell the children, or perhaps not. (they are now teenagers). Throughout this the crowds are like a wall of noise. Combined with the drummers, bands and general emotion, this is the best feeling the world, I’m running well and feeling the emotion (Pride comes before a fall).
Halfway, 1:50, and almost bang on track…except, I am slowing down, but I don’t realise it until I hit 18 miles. At this point, despite the training, despite some disciplined refuelling, my quads begin to burn. “Where has this come from?” I ask myself. Never happened in training, but power on… Except, the legs are burning, and just not responding….realisation hits, you have to walk… disaster. So walk for 1 minute run for…. as long as you can, 2 mins, 3 mins, 4 mins….Canary Wharf hits you with a wall of noise, the minds says you are letting yourself down, and everyone else, but keep going, 20 miles. 21 I am running for longer now… Then a primal screaming voice, ‘ Come on Jonny Hull run!!!’ (I am literally quoting) Amy Inchley thank you… I ran again…. 7km to go, you are on the home stretch (in marathon terms), but this is not the 30 minute jog you normally think about, by this time your mind and body are doing everything to tell you that this not a walk in the park, so come on, jelly babies, Lucozade sport, get past Blackfriars Bridge, get to the next lamppost, the Embankment.
For those that work in London this view is familiar but takes on a different perspective, when you have run nearly 4 hours. There seems to be some relief in the familiarity of these buildings, as much as gothic buildings can be but, I am nearly there… (perhaps everyday views are now very different after 3000 calories have been burnt.) I am running more freely again (I say freely 9 min miles but hey its running or it feels like it)…. The crowds are now driving you on, the screams almost have the urgency of emergency. As we get past 25 miles, we turn, on the right hand side, the barracks, the finish in touching distance, the emotions is now one of numbness, ‘ I just need to finish’
400 metres to go and I turn to the guy I am running with and we finish (in the spirit on London Marathon 35) hand in hand. A complete stranger, who I find out has done his 197th marathon that day…
As I stop the emotion is relief, slight disappointment at not beating that elusive PB. But as I stumble round to get the photo pick up my bag, I realise what a humbling experience London is… It’s not really about me, this is about the greatest city in the world putting on a show of what sport is about: Inclusiveness, achievements, battling personal challenges and helping those out who are less fortunate than you. This is a spectacle, that I was privileged to be a part of and have been 4 times in the last 10 years… All I would like to add is that this time Chris Large gave me the opportunity to run for his great charity Wheel Power…and if those guys don’t give you inspiration to put on a pair of trainers and give it a go… I don’t know what will…
It was 2009 and Katie had just dropped me at mile 19, I spent the remaining 7.2 miles hallucinating my way down the packed London streets. That year I had totally disrespected the London Marathon and only entered because both my parents and my sister had previously completed the distance. The moment I crossed the line in 5 hours 34 minutes I thought to myself “I will do that again and properly” however I spent the next three years growing a mullet and putting on weight!
Fast forward a few years following the births of Edward and Florence I decided to get back into running and entered the Hardwick X-Stream. I then met Andy at work who motivated me further and introduced me to LBAC!
Now 2014, I was ready to give the big one another crack and was lucky enough to get a place in the club ballot for the 2015 London Marathon.
I was determined to do it properly and committed every Sunday to a long run starting from January. This was a manic time as we had just moved house so life became running, decorating, running, decorating, oh and work. I quickly came up with a routine and went down to four runs a week replacing one run with a swim to help ease the mileage. Ian Grimshaw helped me at the early stages introducing me to his local village routes and hills.
Having a busy life I didn’t stress about the race at all until the week before which is then unbearable and full of paranoia, all you want to do is race. The night before is tense and hard to relax, following a few hours sleep the alarm went off at 5am and it was time to cram in some food before heading off to catch the coach in Leighton Buzzard. Despite being an early start, going on the coach is great fun as it’s so nice to see the LBAC crew and other friendly Leighton fun runners. I sat next to Ian who updated me on his final preparations which included a heavy stag do on the Friday night, impressive stuff! We relaxed on the coach, arriving in plenty of time and walked in the drizzle towards the entrance. Unfortunately, due to the high standard of fellow LBAC runners I found myself on my own as the rest went off to their posh VIP fast tents. No problem, I can look after myself and spent an hour or so milling around until I met up with Sam and some friends from the Milton Keynes running club.
Fifteen minutes to go and we headed over to our allotted pens, firm handshakes all around and we got into place. I was with Tom from MK and we were buzzing, the start was so slick and before we knew it we were off. This is awesome, four solid months of training and we were here running the London Marathon. The first few miles are pretty chilled and I was comfortable, at 10k I saw Andy and Amy, it was so nice to see familiar faces early on and I was cruising bang on pace around the Cutty Sark which was fantastic.
The first 10 or so miles are pretty uneventful and then you hit the bridge which is amazing, all of sudden the atmosphere goes up a notch and you are half way. I was slightly disappointed to go through just over 1.30 knowing I was never going to negative split therefore missing out on the ambitious sub 3 hours. The miles kept on ticking by, I saw my Dad at 20 and then Katie at 21 which was lovely. Everything was going so well until 22 when my legs packed up. This was gutting although I didn’t let the pace dip too much and was proud not to walk. The final miles were simply agony and all I wanted to do was walk even as I went past the “600 metres to go” sign. I crossed the finish line and attempted to stagger/limp my way to the H meeting point where I had planned to meet Katie and the Grimshaw’s. However, I didn’t quite make it and after a brief phone call to Katie she and Ian found me collapsed on the ground somewhere in Horse Guards Parade! After some TLC I managed to stand and take a very steady walk to the Princess of Wales pub but to my annoyance instead of enjoying that post marathon pint I had dreamed of for months and months things took a turn for the worse and I felt a wee bit sick!!!
I am thrilled to have been part of an inspirational day and proud to represent an amazing club. I especially have to thank my brilliant wife Katie for supporting me throughout the long training runs and of course on the day itself, roll on 2016 and Katie’s turn.
Sunday 26th April 2015
04:50 – Alarm goes off
05:30 – Pick up Adam from a wet street corner in Whitchurch
06:00 – Climb aboard Fun Runners coach from a wet LB town centre
08:00 – Arrive at a wet and windy Greenwich
10:10 – GO
The journey to the start of the London marathon is always an early start, but as everyone who has run any marathon knows, it really starts much earlier than race day. This year my training preparation went well, commencing around January when I started to increase my Sunday run mileage. I hadn’t renewed the tube part of my season ticket so, in frugal fashion, my training now included three 6.6 mile runs per week in London. Through February and March Adam and I ran our Sunday runs together, eventually reaching 16 miles – the run after the National Cross Country Champs was one we’d both like to forget I’m sure. I turned one of my London morning runs along the Regents Canal into an interval session and after one 10 mile club run with Andy (which became the minimum Wednesday distance from then on) I was soon running 50 miles per week.
Two weeks before the marathon I ran 24.5 miles in 2h40 and my intervals were now basically 6 * 5 minute efforts with 1 minute recovery; I felt capable of sub 3! With the big day approaching I did a smallish taper, they’ve not really agreed with me before, but I eased off in the last two weeks. In the final week I slowed on my morning runs along with a very gentle Wednesday club run and, obviously, on the Friday before the big day I went on a stag do to Sandown races. Due to circumstances beyond my control, a couple of drinks and an early escape turned into a couple of drinks (ehem!), a curry and singing in the village pub until, well, shall we say, past midnight!
So the big day arrives and after a restful and rehydrating Saturday we rock up at Greenwich to do the waiting in the rain thing. After sitting in the changing tent for a while I went out to sit in the cold and rain chatting to the runners around me. Soon I was stripping off, applying Vaseline, putting my bag on the lorry and standing in the toilet queue in a bin bag vest with blue hands. I was in pen 1 on the fast good for age enclosure, right at the front of red start. As 10am approached I was stood about 5 meters from the start line, we applauded Paula and then we were off.
My plan was to start at about 6.30 min/miles but, as is always the case, the running mass and crowds dragged me along and I was doing 6.20 and faster before I knew it. For the first few miles I could still see the front of the red start runners, that was quite exhilarating in itself. There were a few crowds on the footpaths, not as much as I’d experienced in previous years at this point, but I felt ok and at one point was blessed by a Father sprinkling Holy water on the runners backed by a choir. Soon we were at the merge point and the race was truly on. Greenwich came quickly and I spotted Andy in the crowd, the atmosphere at this point was the usual uplifting experience and running around Cutty Sark was great. A man passed me in an all-in-one orange gimp suit, the crowds appeared to appreciate this and he took up position in front of me for several miles. This was much preferable to last year’s orange man experience where I had a man wearing nothing but trainers, a mankini and false tan running in front of me for over 10 miles. Unfortunately I don’t think I will ever forget that, I still see it when I close my eyes…. It must have chaffed!
At around 7 miles I started to feel a bit ‘rough’ and for about 10 minutes I thought Friday night’s frivolities were going to catch up with me. I stopped for a quick toilet break and remarkably as I emerged I felt brilliant, the change was instant. I put in a fast mile or so, caught the orange man and was flying. Around mile 9 I saw the family and other LBAC supporters and settled in at a strong but comfortable 6.15ish pace. This was my forth London marathon and I felt like I knew the course, I soon recognised that I was approaching Tower bridge where the crowds and the noise increased to the halfway band booming out music. I passed some Fun Runners marshalling at around 14 miles and took my second gel still feeling good.
At about 15 miles we turned into Narrow Street, the crowds along this, err… narrow street were deafening, they were making me smile though and I was enjoying myself now, the running was almost automatic. I passed James Cracknell, ran along a bit of my usual morning run route and then saw Lynn and the kids again near Limehouse DLR. Next we entered Canary Wharf, my least favourite section of the course. I saw Stu at the drinks station and Andy, Amy and a few others shortly after, but I always associate Canary Wharf with the start of the fatigue that runs into a wall! However, I kept going, had another gel along with a few sips from my always present bottle of water, turned back north at the bottom of the Isle Of Dogs and was soon heading into the business district of the Wharf where the crowds were deafening again. I saw Richard just on the edge of the Wharf who positively bellowed at me to keep going, there’s no way I could stop now!
Back past Limehouse again now, past a marshal stood in the road who shouted “Leighton Buzzard” at me, past Lynn and kids again, the Clays and on into mile 22. I’m almost there now and I decide to go for it: 6.20, 6.19, 6.04, 6.12 along embankment where I see a clock that says 2.34 and I can hardly believe it, 2 miles to go. The rest of embankment is tough, but it’s not far, Birdcage walk is a blur. There’s Chris Williams in a pink marshal’s coat and sunglasses, there’s the palace and the Mal and the finish…. 2.47:44.
359 days to the next one…