Monday 22 August 2016

Not the Rio

#151 Not the Rio Marathon Marathon, Olympic Park London


What a crew

This race had such potential as we had visions of starting in Olympic Park, running laps around it and finishing off in the Velodrome and watching the real Rio Olympic Marathon on a big screen. The race was really hyped up and there was great expectation from everyone that I knew going and many promises given by the organisers as to the facilities and the unique experience. In fact a big crowd had flown in from Ireland on the promise of a fantastic event including Helena, Ali, Darren, Deirdre and Finn.

Darren and Ali
The start was due at 10am and I picked up Brenda early doors as we had to do a drop off in Gatwick on the way. Unfortunately the GPS brought us through London city which was slower than going around the M25 but we were committed. We were late. I knew that the international terminal had cheaper parking but couldn't find it and ended up parking in the shopping center (and taking the hit on parking charges). Fortunately we saw some people we knew walking towards the venue (there were none of the promised signs).

Brenda, Finn and Helena
We arrived about 9:30 to be greeted by a large queue for a rather slow registration. That in itself was no problem as we chatted to other competitors in the queue but the start would be inevitably delayed because of it. Once through registration it was off to find a toilet in the changing room. A massive queue to a couple of toilets (nowhere near enough) and I gave up. There were no toilets on the route itself.

Gathering at the start we met loads of people we knew and lots of photos and chatting got us ready for the march to the other end of the outside cyclo track for the start. The instructions seemed very complex. I had sustained an injury during the week by letting a sofa bed drop on top of me down the stairs I knew it was going to be a slow one. It was also overcast and I decided on no sun cream today. Boy did I regret that.
At about 10:10 we were off and 270 of us headed off on one small circuit of the cyclo track. It was surprisingly undulating. The one short lap took us across the timing mat and your name came up with 1 lap complete. We then went on a very complex longer 2.5 mile loop with lots of twists and turns. This took us out of the cyclo track and across some waste land before an out and back, along a long since disused road that was full of weeds. This was disappointing as I and I think most of the rest of the field was expecting some more of the Olympic Park experience on the route. This eventually led us back into the cyclo track and across the timing mat. First time back it showed your name with 1 lap compete (not 2). Just beyond was a rather sparse aid station with water, a few jelly's and in the early laps electrolyte (This soon ran out).

It began to get hotter and hotter and off we went again on multiple 2.5 mile laps. I found the conditions quite oppressive and the aid station too far away each time. There were sponges out on the course but these frequently ran out of water (but it was a good idea).

There was a lot of good running and many were faster than normal. Theresa Massey in particular had a fantastic run. Finn O'Mara had a great first half and it was great to see Pete Elliott in his new 100 marathon club top. Sunny had a strong sub 4 run and looked great doing it. It was also great to catch up with Costas, Julia, Emine, Apryl (and later Lottie) and Mel as well as many others. Brenda had a mare and had her first ever DNF after 9 miles (precautionary stop due to a sore foot), but she will be back.

Eventually the timing system which was good, ran into problems and as you crossed the mat the name and lap count of the person 2 ahead of you came up and you missed your own lap count. I gave up with this and kept my own count. 9 full laps and a bit more was a marathon.

Lack of water was a big issue and I think most people struggled. Marshals in general were good but quiet and I found one in particular a bit offish and told one lady who was struggling breathing to talk less and that would help (I'm paraphrasing).

My back held together for the first half which I came trough in an even 2hrs but it gradually got worse in the second half and I ended up walking most of the last 10K. This was mostly preventative, but still. There was a "strict" 5 hr cutoff but I heard during the race that this would be relaxed to 5 hrs 20 mins with James doing a great job as 5hr sweeper.

Small medal
After having finished the 9 large laps you were eventually directed into the velodrome with the finish right in the middle of the track. That was interesting. Crossing the line the timing chip was taken off you and that was it. It was up to you to pick up your own medal (which was lucky bag quality and not what was promised) and work out your own t-shirt. Luckily there were still some in my size (and it was pretty good in fairness and long sleeved which I like) but smaller athletes didn't fair so well which upset many. There were bottles of water also on the table but woe betide you if you tried to take 2. They were in very short supply. Photos were free which was great.

We left immediately after and I headed back to Basingstoke dropping Brenda at Fleet. My daughter brought me to Southampton airport. When I arrived the flight was boarding and left early. That was tight.

All in all it was a disappointing experience and I felt sorry for all those that had flown in and paid a lot of money for the experience. If they repeated this race I would give it a miss.

Pictures courtesy Helena Dornan (and someone I stole one from)

Strava for today

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