The road to London Marathon...

Race Weekend - Saturday & Sunday

Saturday 22nd April

An early start today, a 7:13am train from Newcastle to Kings Cross for me and Lily.

Early metro and into Central in plenty of time, so that called for a coffee and a chocolate pastry, naturally.  Bumped into Colin and Ange on the platform and then we were off.

An uneventful train journey and arrived in London just after 10, a walk to the hotel to dump the bags and then off to find somewhere for Lunch and then a walk round the British Museum.

Being the cultured people we are, we opted for a Burger King for lunch, I'm all pasta'd out this week and decided today was about just eating whatever i fancied, within reason I guess but i wanted burger and fries and that's what I bloody well had.

Saturday 22nd April - continued

After a few hours of walking round London it was Museum time.

So, it turns out we walked about 10 miles on Saturday, now there's a fine line here between protecting your legs and being sensible and having a nice day.  Having a nice day with Lily won out here but the coach in me would tell anyone else to rest more and walk less.

Couple of hours in the museum, then went to buy a coffee and cake.  Cake was a fiver for a slice of carrot cake, I say a slice, it was more a slither.  

I didn't have any cake.

Saturday 22nd April - continued

Museum done.

Back to the hotel for a couple of hours resting.

Sorted out my kit, showed Lily my superb last minute poncho purchase, all I can say here is I'm glad it was black as with the pointed hood the white version would not have been appropriate to be seen wearing.  As it was I couldn't bring myself to wear the hood up on the day anyway.

Out to Wagamama's for tea, noddles and lots of veg and a walk trough London and then back to the hotel.

Early night about 9pm and up at 6:15am as I've got something a bit busy to be doing tomorrow.

Sunday 23rd April - Before the race

Up early but not too early.

kettle on for a coffee and some porridge, the forecast rain was nowhere to be seen.  

Porridge eaten, coffee drank, running gear on, chuck away warm clothes on, questionable pointy hood robe kept firmly in the bag, stale bagels and honey in the bag and off to the train.

Now according to the website it was 2 walks and 2 tube journeys to get to Cannon Street train station, but it was only 2 miles and it was a nice morning so I decided to buy a coffee and walk it nice and slowly.

I walked 2 miles, it took about 40 minutes and I didn't see a single other runner, the odd person but no runners.  It was a bit like the opening bit in 28 days later and I started thinking I had made a terrible mistake and turned up on the wrong weekend.

Then arrived at Cannon Street and they were all there, train to Maze Hill and then a walk to the start zone.  Turns out Maze Hill is at the bottom of a hill, I'm gonna call it Maze Hill, I didn't appreciate this hill, I don't do hills.

Found a space on the grass, found a use for my pointy hood robe and sat on it.  Ate my bagel that I had toasted on Saturday morning, it was hard and stale, smothered it in honey to make it palatable, covered myself in honey in the process, grabbed a bottle of water and used it to clean the honey from my fingers.

Needed to 'lube up' to stop any chaffing.  The queues for toilets had suddenly gone insane so decided this delicate job needed to be done in the middle of the field, some discreet lubing action and then turned round to see some French fella with his shorts round his ankles lubing up a little too vigorously for my liking, he also had been sitting on the grass eating an entire roast chicken whilst I had my bagel.  

Bumped into Vaughan, bumped into Allan and bumped into Abi.  Then into the start zone, chuck the clothes, have one last drink and we're off.

Sunday 23rd April : miles 1-11

So, you've all been following my London training for quite a while now but I've never really said what time I'm going for.  Truth here is I didn't want to say in the early days as I was never sure I'd actually do the run, always a chance I'd bail on it.

As training progressed, I enjoyed it more and more and decided 3:30 was the goal, in the last month or so I thought there was a bloody good chance of something around 3:20-3:25.  So 8 min miles would give me 3:30, 7:39 min miles would give me 3:20

Mile 1 in 7:40 and feeling good, settle into a nice pace and them 2 miles downhill where I pick up the pace.  Here I made a call to go with it, could have backed off but that involves locking up your quads a bit and so ran a couple of sub 7:30 miles.  still feeling good.

Then it was just about running, I've talked before about not liking knowing how long or far I've ran for and again this was the plan.  At about 4 miles I spotted the blue line on the floor that shows the ine the elites run so from here that was my absolute focus to follow it.  A great distraction and i just stared at it and ran, this meant if someone was in my way I elbowed past them, at first I apologised but as the miles went by I just became even more of an arse than usual and kept barging through people.

I would like to apologise to anyone I did this to, but I'm not sorry.

Took my gels, ran and followed the line.

At 11 miles my average pace was just under 7:40 and I was bloody loving it but and I kept having this thought in the back of my head eating away at me, a marathon is a very long way.

Sunday 23rd April : miles 12-22

Coming upto halfway now, gels taken at 4.5 and 9 miles and next one due at 13.5 miles

Around this time I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see Jim, he said I had just gone past him as he grabbed a drink, we had a quick chat and ran together for  minute or so but then my greater athletic ability and prowess meant I just left him for dead and could hear him sobbing away as I accelerated away.

Slight poetic license there, Jim's training has been hit and miss since Tokyo and I was feeling good so pushed on.  Any other day and he'd destroy me in a race.

I don't really remember massive parts of the race here, it was loud, seriously loud and the crowds were huge.  I just kept running and following that blue line, every time I took a gel I thought when I'd have the next one and worked the marathon into 4.5 mile chunks to get through.

Then things started to go a bit wrong, now my recollection and my strava data dont quite match up here and this is where my head started to go a bit and I thought I was struggling when I really wasn't.  I knew around 18-20 miles it would get tough, I knew from approx 20-22 miles I would be in unknown territory.  I knew around 18 miles I'd be in Canary Wharf and my watch would go weird with the GPS signal, this is where my head went.

At 18 miles I was still averaging 7:38/7:39 miles, then Garmin said I ran a 4:55 mile and my watch and the mile markers went totally out of sync, my watch would beep for for a mile and the marker wouldn't come for another 800m or so.  Next mile was 6:10 which obviously was wrong again, tried to ignore it but it was messing with my head and my average pace now showed 7:30 per mile because of the two phantom speedy miles and I just didn't know where I was at anymore.

Out of Canary Wharf and a normal mile of 7:53 and then an 8:14 and now 22 miles in, or was I? According to my watch I was at 22 miles, according to the markers I had just gone past 21 miles.

Took my final gel and then my legs seized up and my brain soon followed.

Sunday 23rd April - Last Few Miles

My head was totally gone, I got screamed at by Jennie and Will at some point here, all I remember is hearing 'Run Simon, just Run' screamed at me and so I did, no way I was going to argue with her when she shouts like that.

Wanted to stop and walk, every bit of me was telling me to stop but I knew I needed to keep going.  Then an urge to be sick and I'm talking a real vomit urge here but it was packed with people on both sides of the road and wherever I did it meant splashing people's legs with the contents of my stomach, didn't think that was in the marathon spirit so drank 2 cups of Lucozade instead.

Correction, I drank one cup of Lucozade and managed to miss my  mouth with the other and poured it down my chin and cheek.  

Now I was walking.

For the last 2 miles my quads had seized up badly, I was running weirdly to take pressure from my quads and now my hamstring was twanging and I thought it was about to go.

Walked for a minute and then some bloke grabbed me and told me to run, so I did.  It appears I just do what people tell me when I'm tired, don't even process it and just go with it, that's probably not a good thing.  Then in the distance I see Big Ben.

I made a point of not looking at the course, didn't want to know anything about it.  The only bit of info I knew was Big Ben was a mile from the finish, follow the blue line and just run, 1 mile to go, that's 4 laps of the track, piece of piss.

Hang on a minute, surely I should have seen Buckingham Palace by now, it's pretty big isn't it, why haven't I passed it yet...

At this point I change the screen of ,my Garmin to see how long I've been running for.  I assumed it would be around 3:40-3:45 as I feel like the last few miles have been dreadful and I've been walking bits of it.

I'm amazed to see its just over 3:30 and there's Buckingham Palace and it's less than 400m to go.

Lift the pace and push to the finish line, everyone around me are raising their arms as they cross the line.

My first though it, how can you stop your Garmin if your arms are in the air?

But they're all doing it, I should do something but, but what about my Garmin.  I do some half arsed raised fist and then quickly stop my Garmin as I cross the line.

A hand on my shoulder and turn to see Simon from Jesmond Joggers, we have a big sweaty hug and then I see my old mate Kelvin, he's the elderly official who a few years ago helped a bloke dressed as Big Ben get under the finish gantry.  He is very old and tells me my tracker hasn't worked for the entire run.  I'm initially pleased about this as it means nobody saw my terrible final few miles.

Anyway, my Garmin recorded over 27 miles but I was done.


Sunday 23rd April - The Aftermath

Grab my bag and try and put it on my back, my shoulder and back are in agony, I can't take the pain of carrying my bag on my back so instead drag it along the floor.  The rope handle wraps round some blokes foot, we look at each other, I don't have the strength to pull it from his foot, he doesn't have the strength to lift his foot, we walk in silence as he takes a step and my bag pulls him back and then i take a step and his foot pulls me back, this goes on for a few minutes as we stare at each other and say nothing.

Eventually the rope snaps, we both smile and continue in silence.

Onto the family meeting area and meet Lily, first things first and I find my bottle of wine and drink it, it was bloody glorious.

Then off to meet the rest of the Poly in the pub, then a 45 minute walk to Kings Cross which takes over 2 hours.  Everything hurts.

Find a pub by Kings Cross, get changed in the toilet, have a pint, spot Colin and Ange walking past and go out to have a big sweaty, moist cuddle with them both.  I'll let you decide which if them was sweaty and which was moist.

Train home.

Sitting down hurts.

Getting up hurts.

Walking hurts.

So, after 15 years of running and always saying I'd never do a marathon, what now?

I bloody loved it, I loved the training, I've loved writing about it and I've no doubt bored anyone and everyone shitless with it.  

Entered the ballot for London 2024 whilst sitting on the train travelling home and Manchester will be my back up plan. 

So, that's it for now.  Thank you all for reading and thank you all for keeping me going in my training.  The blog was always a way for me to have some accountability for completing the sessions, I knew if I had to write about it I would have to do it and it just kind of grew from there.

Thank you to everyone who encouraged me and all those that got a name check and especially Ben who got more than everyone else, I should say all the stories about him I completely made up, he's actually a lovely bloke.

Apart from sending a guy the wrong way in parkrun, that was true.

And when he knocked a blokes chips out of his hands on a run session, that was true.

Actually everything about Ben was true, he's a bloody liability.

My legs have now seized up as I haven't moved in 2 hours whilst I wrote this, I can't get off the settee, I'm going to have to roll onto the floor to move.  Sod it, I'm going to have a sleep instead.

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