VLM Part 2
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the London Marathon: it’s a fantastic event as a spectacle, but I’ve struggled to do myself justice there. It can be too warm, too windy, too busy and too stressful. I’ve also missed the last two years due to frustrating late injuries.
This year I was on the Championship start, which may sound special but basically it’s just a different section of grass on Blackheath Common. It has a better runner:toilet ratio, but the rumours of heated toilet seats are unfounded. The main highlight was being able to warm up with the elite men on Shooters Hill Road, where I overtook current world record holder Dennis Kimetto!
Leading up to the race I’d had a cold and a niggle in my left calf so I wasn’t sure how it would go. Once I got going the target pace of around 5:55mm felt harder than it ought to have done. However I wasn’t going to slow down because I had one of the best seats in the house for the Paula farewell show. Being fairly close to her for most of the race, the noise and excitement when the spectators recognised her was quite funny and overwhelming. And then I overtook her just before Tower Bridge, making it two world record holders in one day!!
After a few more miles, up ahead I spotted infamous former fat-boy turned international and British V40 record holder Steve Way (he ran 2:15 at the Commonwealths). He was doing the race as a training run and I managed to catch him up. I ran with him for a couple of miles before he peeled off to go to the loo, something I said?!?
At around 20 miles it started to become really tough, I had nothing left in the tank when first Steve Way and then the Paula entourage came back past me around 22 miles. But I hung on the best I could and finished in 2:38:17*, my first sub-2:40 and a PB by over two minutes.
I left everything out there and have no regrets. After crossing the line things went a bit hazy, I remember being put on a wheelchair and carted off to the medical tent! They gave me a special drink and I don’t know what was in it, but I need to get some because within 15 minutes I felt like I could have run the thing again!
So how do I feel now about the London Marathon? It has grown to become so much more than just a running race and whilst that can occasionally make it frustrating, ultimately that’s what makes it the greatest race on the planet. It’s a race that compels me to want to do it again and again. I’ll be back.
* This is my gun time, my actual time was around 10 seconds quicker but apparently you don’t get chip times on the Championship start!
2015 was my 5th unsuccessful attempt at getting a space in the London Marathon ballot. I refused to enter another marathon that I’d be guaranteed to get a place for as I wanted my first to be a bit special. Plus, my Dad ran the second ever London marathon way back in 1981 and I wanted to beat his time on (almost) the same course. Thankfully, now I’m part of LBAC, the marathon dream didn’t end with the rejection letter in October and I was lucky enough to get a space through the Club.
Then came the feeling of dread… what have I done?!
I decided to start my marathon training properly once 2015 rolled around and set out a training schedule that seemed to stretch on and on into the future. April was ages away anyway right?
After 4 weeks of building up the mileage I was struck down with a severe case of hurty knee and didn’t run properly for three weeks. With 10 weeks until race day I was seriously thinking of deferring my entry until next year, however, using the bike to keep my fitness up (including being Adam’s support vehicle on his 18 mile run) the next week I managed 9 miles and was back on it.
I went from 9 to 18 miles in 3 weeks but then just as I was planning 20 I was struck down with a bad cold and a burning lung – another week off running… By this point certain people in the Club had dubbed me “sicknote” and I again was wondering if I should defer my entry as I stood on the sidelines watching the final Stag race of the year unfold without me.
2 weeks before the marathon I squeezed in a truly awful 20 mile run as my final long run before the marathon. I barely got 10 miles before I had to stop and wondered how I’d ever get round 26.2 in one go just 17 days later.
People kept asking me if I was ready in the lead up to marathon day and I had absolutely no idea. My last long run was a failure and my last successful long run was over a month before the marathon. Into the unknown…
Along came marathon day with not enough sleep but more cereal than usual, the train to Blackheath and the walk to Blue start. Here I bumped into Andy and Amy giving their MK buddies some last minute tips and good luck. In we went and met up with Adam, popped the Vaseline on the unmentionables and headed off to our pens at the start. I noticed other people with what looked like 10 gels around their waists and started to panic that not only was my training a disaster, I was totally underprepared with only a handful of fruit pastilles and half a tube of refreshers to see me round…
Nothing really seemed real at this point. Was I really here to run a marathon? Surely this was just another 10k and my disrupted training had all been some weird nightmare?
Apparently not. There were the elites on the big screen. There was the free Lucozade. There were the 37000 other runners. This was real.
The gun went and I surprisingly crossed the start line only 2 minutes after the elite runners. Time to take it easy and not think about how many miles were to come. The first couple of miles I was held up slightly, but nothing too bad and I could see the pacer for 3:30 (my initial target) just ahead of me. I knew that if I could steadily draw him in and then keep him in sight I’d be near enough on for 3:30. The next few miles went by with us joining the red start and both sides booing the other which made me laugh and settle down into the race.
Just before Cutty Sark, the wall of noise hit me and I realised that this was no ordinary race. I’ve run the Great North Run and experienced some good supportive crowds, but this was just insane. SO LOUD. joked with a guy next to me that I wished I had put SAM instead of just SD on my vest as everybody seemed to be shouting his name in support as he ran by.
Onwards we went keeping my steady pace when round 10 miles, Carl from MK came up behind me and asked how I was doing. It was a very surreal feeling as we’d just run 10 miles and yet neither of us seemed out of breath. Things were going better than that dreaded 20… I told him I’d see him in pub and off he went.
I saw my parents at this point and plodded along to the next landmark, Tower Bridge. As I approached I could hear the crowd, an announcer was shouting out people’s names as they approached the bridge and I got caught up in it all and increased my pace like I was coming to the end of the race. “Calm down Dear, you’re not even half way!”
Round the corner, I saw my friends from home before the elite runners passed by on the other side of the road. I moved over to get a good luck and spotted the lead pack and Scott Overall before suddenly recognising Ian Kimpton from Luton AC flying along near the front. I started wishing I only had 5 miles to go like them…
On and on and on we went into the Isle of Dogs. This was my least favourite part of the race as I couldn’t work out which was I was going or what part of the course I was actually on… I saw my parents again, spotted Richard and Pete W and got a couple of shouts from people who recognised the Purple & Gold as LBAC.
Finally off the Isle of Dogs and over the 20 mile marker. This was all completely unknown territory. Just. Keep. Moving. Back to where I’d seen the elite runners earlier and a mighty cry from Andy and Amy kept me going. I was starting to take a water bottle at every station around here just as something to keep my mind off thinking about stopping. I just kept sipping and then before I knew it another mile had passed and another drinks station! People were starting to drop out around me. Some looking absolutely terrible, some just stretching troublesome calves.
I kept moving.
21….22…. Can I stop now please? NO, just slow down and carry on…23…Here I overtook a Harry the Hornet (Watford FC’s mascot). Forever in Luton’s shadow! (or maybe I was hallucinating?)…24…
2 miles left? That’s nothing!! I’d run this part of the course last year when running the London 10000 and I remember it seemed to drag on and on forever. This time though it seemed quite short. Before I knew it Big Ben was towering above me. I launched my last bottle off to the side of the course and knew it was almost over. It still felt a bit like a dream. How was I still running? 800m to go. I wanted to sprint but didn’t…couldn’t. 600m seemed to take forever to come, after that 400m, 200m, the finish all there too quick to take it in. YMCA was playing as I crossed the line and the rest was a blur!
The hard-earned medal. The goody bag. The need to sit down.
Off I went to find my baggage and the hoody, flip flops and packet of crisps that I REALLY wanted right now. Stumbling around the bottle neck of people in Trafalgar Square, wincing down the stairs under Charing Cross and finally to the pub. Handshakes and hugs all round.
Marathon: DONE. Legs: DONE.
I woke up on the Marathon morning knowing that my training had gone to plan as white flaky skin between the toes on my right foot proved I had become an athlete over the 13 week training plan! Starting mid-January very slowly as an old Achilles tendon injury was still playing up, I increased my twice a week running to 3-4 times a week. This additional activity eased the injury and by race day had completely gone. One twenty miler at the end of March at race pace and a few 13-17 milers either side of that, at quality (for me) 7-7.30 pace, combined with lots of short and not so short speed work sessions (thanks James) seemed to be enough for someone that prefers to train less preventing injury before the day.
Having turned 50 at Christmas I did have Pat’s record that has stood for 21 years in mind thinking I had 9 attempts to try and take it. Excellent conditions helped on the day and the fantastic support from Family and Friends spurred me on to a time 27 seconds faster than my first London Marathon in 1995. Dipping under 3 hours again and taking the Vet 50 record completed a fantastic Winter of running. Next year will train harder to have the toes on both my right and left feet with flaky skin; there’s no telling what I can do with two “athletes feet”!
Last year, I ran Paris Marathon (in around 3:47) and then a week later ran London, coming in with a PB of 3:34:17. I was pleased with London but around mile 18 my hips and hamstrings ‘went’ and I struggled for the last few miles. This still meant that I qualified for Good For Age again at London, which I eagerly signed up on the day it was released. I had planned to do an autumn marathon last year but really got into Cross Country and just never did. I ran a few half’s and 10ks though and really concentrated on speed, hitting PBs in the races I did.
I decided, as I hadn’t with the last 5 marathons, that I would aim for a time. When I was running London last year, friends told me my ‘little running man thingy’ predicted I was to finish in 3:25hrs. (Prior to the hip incident) so I decided I would aim for 3:20. (I was secretly hoping for a 3:15 finishing time. I didn’t want to tell anyone as I didn’t think it was likely!)
Training went well. Really well. I put in around 70miles a week – tough while working shifts. And following my last 20 miler and 17.5 milers was confident of the pace. I had managed to sit around a 7:32min mile pace during these and this gave me some confidence I could get just under 3:20.
In the last week before London, I ran a 12 miler on the Sunday, 8 on the Monday and tapered down to a few jogs before race day. The 12 and 8 miler had been around an 7:07min mile pace and felt comfortable so I began to think maybe I could run this on the day… no, Laura!! Stick to the training plan. 7:30min mile!!!
I went through the usual Taper crazies during those last few days. “I can definitely feel an injury” “why does this 8:30 min mile ‘Jog’ feel so hard?” “Why am I so tired?” “Will I ever stop eating?” there were a few taper tantrums. I also began to panic. Crazy Laura began to tell normal (questionable) Laura that she’d used all her good tapering to run the 12 and 8miler and had blown it. That she was going to have a ‘just not feeling it run day’ (I had one of these in MK Festival of running half the previous year and very nearly quit at mile 4!!) or that she was going to go out too fast and ruin everything. Cue looking at everyone else’s training in the last week on any form of social media possible. (Although, I looked at one guy who had ran 20 miles on the Monday before on Instagram; I didn’t envy him!)
So, finally, the big day arrived. I was excited and nervous. I wanted to see if I could do it and pictured crossing the line in 3:15… and crying!
It was raining most of the morning and the coach got us there around 7:45. We had to walk across the field to get to the green start, and with wet feet, I went to sit in the tent to keep warm. I knew the weather was going to be perfect. Soon 10am came around and I went in the pen. I made sure my laces were triple tied and tucked in, and my shoes felt loose. They felt loose with cold lumpy feet, little did I know…
I started and felt great. I settled into the 7:20 pace straightaway. Damn too quick! Stick to the plan. I kept looking at my watch and telling myself to slow down and just try to run how I felt comfortable. Although every time I looked at my watch this was still around the 7:20 mark. So, I just went with it and prayed I could keep it up.
I continued to feel great. At around mile 8 I felt a niggle in my left foot where my trainer was pinching on the outside of my foot. I knew my trainer was too tight now my feet were warm and they were pinching on a nerve. Agony. This was all I could focus on. I kept trying to wiggle my toes after every step and ended up running on the inside of my foot. I decided I was going to have to stop and loosen the laces. I did this just before the halfway mark. I didn’t care that I lost about a minute at this point, those next few steps were heaven!
I crossed the halfway in around 1:37 and knew if I could just stay at this pace I’d done it! Then, the rest of the race was just a blur. There were water stations after every mile and I got into the routine of taking a bottle, carrying it, taking a few sips before throwing the bottle after a few minutes, the next thing I knew the next mile marker would be there. This went on for around 7 miles. I couldn’t believe how easy this was feeling! I thought the niggles would be hitting soon and kept waiting. Nothing. I could feel a slight pull in my left quad but knew this was from the running on the inside of my foot so I didn’t worry too much. I saw Tom at the 19/20 mile point but couldn’t talk; I really wanted to focus on the last 6 miles or so.
It was then 23 miles. Still no pain. I knew I’d done it. Just a Parkrun to go.
The last mile did seem to take forever along Embankment until you were on Birdcage Walk; I swear someone kept moving Big Ben back!! I knew nothing could stop me unless I randomly fainted or tripped so, obviously, focussed on how faint I suddenly felt. I didn’t – total paranoia.
800metres to go… 400metres to go… then, 200metres to go… I grabbed some random old blokes hand and…
I’d done it! I crossed the line in 3:14:55! *cue tears*
3:14:55!! A massive PB. And I loved every second. All 13,495 of them!
It still hasn’t sunk in. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be back again next year and you know I’ll be trying to get that 7:07 min mile pace, right?
Lynn Boddy – spectator/support team member
The children and I love going to watch the London Marathon and things have certainly got easier over the years as I no longer have to dash around Canary Wharf with a young child on one hip, and making a hand chain with two more, looking for toilets. We have very nearly cracked it knowing the best places to go and how to get there. No more will we make the dreadful mistake of crossing the road when runners are coming in dribs and drabs presuming we will be able to get back across again, or get the tube going the wrong way (though we did this last year and saw Nick from the DLR twice which was a little bonus!). I say nearly as this year we again got confused trying to get from the tube at Canary Wharf to the DLR with about 6 minutes left to see Ian at mile 15.
Our first stop of the day was mile 9 with lots of other Buzzard supporters. We had a great spot and were able to watch some of the IPC runners and the elites. We were spotted by Pete, Ian and Nick and it’s as exciting for us to get spotted as it is for them to spot us. I think Adam found a very tall man to run behind and unfortunately we only saw his back. Katie joined us for a stressful transfer to mile 15 where our only hope of being spotted was to put a child on some shoulders. Hattie obliged and Ian luckily saw us. We knew Adam was doing well when we spotted his back shortly after!
I think we hit the jackpot with our mile 20 spot however and could see the runners approaching from quite a distance. It’s usually at this point when I think, I’m not running a marathon EVER, as the pain is obvious in so many faces. Pete was the first to pass, making it look easy as usual, seeming relaxed and gave us a smile. At this point about 8 African drums parked themselves behind us and we had to up our shouting a few decibels. Ian came past next waving and smiling looking like he was out for a Wednesday club run. Nick and Adam followed, both looking strong. We stayed for a few more minutes and luckily spotted Tom who managed to give us a few words – “they hurt” whilst pointing to his legs/feet. He looked like he was enjoying himself though!
At the meet and greet Katie and I spotted Ian tucking into his pasta, a very happy man indeed. Adam didn’t quite make it to letter ‘H’ to meet us as I think the 50 or so yards left for him to walk must have seemed like a million and he decided to just stop exactly where he was! We found him and although he wasn’t really up for talking to me he did manage “that was hard, I’m not doing it again”. Words I believe I have myself spoken whilst giving birth! You soon forget though and I did have 2 more children ……
Well done to everyone, you did brilliantly!