Monday, 25 April 2016

London

#133 London  3:38:42

I'll start off by saying I am not a great fan of really big races. They are too busy and too noisy for my liking, but from time to time you have to do them. This was my fourth marathon major (second London) and to date I have performed pretty terribly in them all, not having broken 4hrs. Indeed my last outing in London in 2009 was 4:14. However I had been in reasonably good form recently and despite having raced over 150 miles in the last month was hopeful. I was also very lucky getting into this race having won the raffle from the UK 100 marathon club to gain entry at a reasonable rate.

Richard Rodgers at the start
I also don't like races where you have to arrive the day before to pick up your number, but I was committed. My car was still parked at Gatwick after last weekend's 50 miler so I flew in very early on Friday morning and decided to drive to the expo at the Excel arena in East London. It was a fairly uneventful and quick trip in and in no time I was parked up and paid my £15 parking fee for the day despite me only staying for a couple of hours. Now the expo's at New York and Berlin are massive and you could literally spend all day there. I found the London one relatively small and the highlight for me was meeting Anna Hatton on one of the stands.

Bespoke medals was also interesting and I managed to see some of the medals that I will be competing for later in the year. The Battle of Somme one was brilliant. Saying all of this I still managed to spend £150 in the couple of hours I was there (new Hoka One One Vanquish 2's) but overall I was slightly disappointed by the main stage and lack of interesting talks (apparently I missed all the interesting talks). The number pickup was very efficient and I was on the road before lunch. Getting back to Basingstoke was a nightmare in traffic and it took nearly 2.5hrs.

At the good luck wall
Sunday was race day and logistics were complex to say the least. The weather was forecast as cold and dry which was fine so I decided on long sleeves with buff and gloves (I quickly dis-guarded the buff and gloves). I took the 7:15am train to Waterloo. On board there was plenty of room and there were plenty of other runners so when I arrived I would follow the herd. At Waterloo we had to walk to Waterloo East to get a train to the start. The trains were packed and it took 2 full ones passing before I got onto one. 15 mins later we were at Black Heath. A 10 minute walk had us at the blue start area. The first person I saw was Richard Rodgers who I went to The Red High school with nearly 34 years ago. He was doing his first marathon with his brother Paul. Richard (who has talent) would go on to do a Boston Qualifier 3:24 just missing out on a GFA for London. Interestingly his partner Kerry O'Flaherty (who Richard also coaches) is Rio bound, representing in the 3000m Steeple Chase. Paul nursing a hamstring injury would pull out at half way after running with Kelly Holmes for the first half (1:37) . Toilet queues were massive but well organised and before long I was in pen 4 of the blue start. At 10am we were off. It took approx 2 minutes to get across the line.

I started with the 3:30 pacers but lost them quickly as the start was ridiculously busy and we had to walk several times in the first couple of miles as the roads narrowed. I had forgotten how congested these races got. The first mile was close to my slowest, but thankfully was able to get going proper after mile 2. The race was well organised with my only real complaint being the use of bottles in such great numbers at the aid stations. You really had to have your wits about you to avoid falling and 2 women running beside me came a cropper because of dis-guarded bottles. They were heavy falls. I am now converted to cups at these races.

I was very pleased with how the first half went after a slow first 5K, with every subsequent 5K being progressively faster until  half way which was accomplished in a time of 1:46:55. The support was truly awesome (with surprisingly very few Irish supporters) and I am really glad I didn't have my name on my shirt as I was getting a little sick of Julie and Liam running beside me and their support from randomers.  There were also some very ignorant runners who were using sharp elbows to get past. One particular little shit nearly knocked me off the road. I was absolutely delighted to pass him at 20 miles and despite few being around us managed to give him a good knock on the way past. That was satisfying.

I still felt strong coming over Tower Bridge and had managed to settle into about 8 minute pace and headed towards the East End with the wind slightly helping. Just as I passed half way the leaders started coming against us at their 21/22 mile mark. I noticed Sean Hehir and Tom Frazer going well. All I can really remember about the second half was pushing the pace and keeping going and not even thinking about walking.

When we came past Canary Warf you could feel the wind picking up and it would be in the face for the rest of the race. I love the bit at Mile 21/22 when you meet everyone coming the other way and it was mad busy on the far side of the road. I noticed the 5hr pace group going past and in the middle many many fancy dress runners.

I knew early that I was under 4 hrs and there was no sign of the 3:45 pacers and I felt confident of a sub 3:45. At mile 22 this changed to a sub 3:40 and I put a big effort in for the last 3 or 4 miles. I was delighted when the 800m countdown happened and turned into the mall well under 3:40 pace and then tried to beat my Seville time. I managed this coming over the line at 3:38:42 which was my 5th best effort ever and I was absolutely delighted.

Splits for the day were

5K                    26:16
10K                  25:12
15K                  25:02
20K                  24:58
Half way           1:46:55
25K                  25:11
30K                  25:52
35K                  26:55
40K                  27:46
Finish                3:38:42

With Ciaran Diviney after his magnificent 2:38
I moved quickly to pick up my gear and had a quick stop off at the Coal Hole to see some Crusaders team mates including Ciaran Diveney who managed a 2:38 and a massive PB. It was then straight back to Gatwick for a 17:30 flight back home.

It was a busy but great weekend. I would only do this again if I won an entry or got through the lottery as its too expensive otherwise but what an experience.

Photos from Richie MacLiam and Linda Cunningham.


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