Sunday, April 13, 2014

Virgin Money London Marathon 2014

This was the second time that I took part in the London Marathon. Back in 2012, I was super excited to run in my first major city marathon, especially as it was in the lead up the London Olympic Games. However, I had a awful experience due to illness during the week before the race. So I wanted to do London again and try to put things right.

I had a very good training period with Zoe, my now fiance as well as training partner. She was flying in training and it looked like we were able to run the race together. Unfortunately she injured a hamstring and missed 3 weeks of training including several long runs. So we decided to run our own race.

I managed to get to the start line in good health this time. After what happened in 2012 when I caught a bug before the race, total paranoia kicked in this time. A bottle of hand sanitizer became my new best friend for the final weeks leading up to the race. My job takes me into doctors surgeries on a daily basis and I was in the danger zone!

The weather the day before the race was perfect for running. Light cloud cover, cool and dry.  However, come race morning, the cloud was gone leaving clear blue skies with sunshine. Perfect for spectating but not what I was hoping for.  I'm not great at running in heat and there had been no hot days in any of the training months leading up to the race.  The race started at 10am, so it was already feeling very warm as we made our way onto the start line.  I wished that London started the marathon earlier in the day like they do in Canada, often around 7 - 8am, and avoid running in the hottest part of the day.

After the slow start due to the mass of runners, I soon got into my stride.  Despite the weather forecast, I decided to run at my planned pace of 7min 15sec per mile and go for my target of 3hrs 10mins. Not sure if this was the right thing to do but the temperature was OK to begin with and I just hoped that it wouldn't get too hot in the latter stages.  I felt good and clocked the miles off and maintained the planned pace.  The crowds were incredible, thousands of the lining the streets and making so much noise.  

I crossed Tower Bridge and the half way marker bang on schedule at 1hr 34mins 50secs.  However, the heat was rising and it was getting tough.  I took water on board every two miles and ran in the shade whenever possible.  However, I feared that my pace would start to slow in the miles still to come. As I reached mile 16 it was clear that I was slowing.  Time to dig in and just get to the finish.  Maybe I should have started slower in anticipation of the heat rising towards the second half of the race. Maybe so, I just had to give it a go all the same after months of hard training.

The last 10 miles of the race were a struggle but I ran with a smile on my face all the same.  The atmosphere was fantastic and the support was overwhelming.  I passed a few people showing signs of heat exhaustion and some that were being attended to by first aiders.  The last few miles were past some of the most famous landmarks and the noise levels seem to reach fever pitch.  The last mile came and I was relieved. Then one of the celebrities passed me, a guy called Tony who plays a part in the TV series Emmerdale. I remember he passed Zoe and I in the Yorkshire Marathon last year.  But to add insult to injury this time, he was sporting a huge plastic false bottom.  That was it, I gritted my teeth and picked up the pace and passed him.  Take that Tony! I beat him to the finish which was a very welcome sight. I crossed the line in 3hrs 26mins.  

Zoe finished in 3hrs 41mins and also had a tough race.  Running in such a huge race is quite an experience.  Both times have not gone to plan for me but I feel lucky to have done it twice.  Zoe has now done it 8 times! Time for a change and some new challenges.

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