London Marathon 2017

Where do I start? I absolutely love running London Marathon which has a special place in my heart. This race was always an ambition of mine, and after years of trying to get entry I first raced as a rhino in 2011. 2013 was my next attempt and a massive PB for me. Then something special happened, I got entry as an official pacer.

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Susie and I before the start in 2016

I have never looked back and I will pace every year if I have the opportunity.

My London Marathon race history

Some stats for you: this was my 23rd marathon (27th qualifying event for 100 marathon club when you include 3 100k and 1 Ironman). This was the 27th event I have paced at and the 7th time I have paced for Runners World (4 London Marathon and 3 Silverstone Half Marathons).

Exciting build up to London Marathon 2017

I always enjoy the excitement of the build up to London Marathon, but this year was extra special. It included me helping out at the expo with Fitness Rewards; meeting Dean Karnazes where I thanked him for my interview and he signed my book; and I attended the Running Awards for the first time. I won’t dwell on this too much here, but you can see my BLOG about it if you want to see more.

Essential race kit shot

As always I laid out my kit the night before to make sure I had everything I needed. My essential kit includes: Adidas kit supplied to pacers (thank you guys it’s great); pacing flag; Racecheck visor; new gold CEP socks; pacepocket; pouch for phone (needed for running selfies); new Oofos for recovery ; Grub bar for pre race and biltong for post race snack.

Race mornings before pacing always start early. I always like to get there early anyway, but when pacing you are usually required to get there early for meeting/briefing/photo etc, and this was no different. As a pacer at the blue start it’s a little more difficult as we meet past the red start. I got there at the required 08:30 start and we stayed there until about 09:00. It was great meeting lots of familiar faces then we headed off to the start. Susie Chan was my partner in crime once again today and we got to the blue start for a quick bag drop, some photos and then straight into our pen.

Ready for action – all the gear and no idea 😂
Great catching up with Sandra from Ealing Half with Susie before the start of London Marathon 2017
Susie chan and I outside blue start, ready for action

When in the back of pen 5 I spent time chatting to runners, giving reassurances and letting everyone know our race strategy. We were moved forward a bit by marshals as us being right at the back was creating a large crowd blocking the entrance. So I went back to speak to the front of pen 6 runners as there were plenty there hoping to run with us. I could tell straight away it was going to be a cracking day, and it was full of lots of energy. There were nerves that I tried to help settle, and excitement that I encouraged. They even laughed at my jokes so I was happy.

Excited and eager group ready to run London Marathon 2017

One thing I noticed was that it seemed a lot quieter than normal. I may be wrong, but I paced the same pen last year and swear the start was busier. I was really surprised when we crossed the start line in only 4 and a half minutes, and we were immediately at the correct pace. Again last year it took longer to cross the start and when we did it was slow for the first few miles. This just proves that every race is different, no matter how many times you have done it.

My pacing strategy for sub 4 today was to run near 9 min miles. In London the course always reads long on the garmin as it is impossible to keep to the blue line. I find that running a few seconds faster a mile accounts for this and gets me to the mile markers in time. I like to be as consistent as possible, but also build a 20 second cushion at the start. This allows for any variance from unexpected delays, as I don’t want to be running faster later on in the marathon when my funbus may not be able to keep up. My measure of success is: 1) having a happy and confident group around me; 2) running consistent splits; 3) keeping lots of runners with me until the end.

5k into the London Marathon with lots of happy faces

We managed to build our 20 seconds in the first 5k, and as always  I called out the desired time and actual time at each mile marker. This is made much easier by my pacepocket. In the early stages the crowd support did not appear as great as previous years. And everything did seem quieter, but let’s be honest it may be quiet for London but it was still excellent. The whole 26.2 miles had support, it is amazing.

At 10k everyone is still having fun

As we carried on through the course it didn’t take long for the usual ambiance to return. In case I forget let me say a big thank you for every single person that makes this event the special occasion it is: the runners; the supporters; the volunteers and organisers. Thank you every single person who was part of London Marathon 2017.

Action shot caught from the crowd, looking sharp in my new gold CEP socks

I’ve ran in plenty of busy events, but London really is huge. For some it can be a little overwhelming. There is constant bumping of elbows and the water stations are difficult (especially as when you do fight your way over people often slow down or just stop in front of you). There is no space for you to race off, everything is just done gradually. When running in the correct pen the principle is that everyone in front of you is running faster so they should not be in your way. This is why there are some slow points at the start as people start to far forward, and in the later stages people start slowing down which has the same effect.

A particularly emotional point of London is Tower Bridge

When you get to Tower Bridge you know you are almost half way there. You turn the corner and are hit by the noise. This is a fantastic part of the course, and the beauty of the city is really made special by all those on the Bridge, both watching and running. At this point it was great that I had most of the people that started with me still with me. I’m not entirely sure how many as some stayed close and others ran around me, all I know is there was a large happy funbus.

When I started off with my 20 second cushion Susie carried on keeping the pace to create a small gap. This was perfect to split the group and we ran the first 20 miles with about 30 seconds between us. This allowed us to run more freely and keep a larger number of runners with us. I kept the 20 second cushion throughout, and at most it was 40 seconds, and least 10 seconds. As we approached mile 20 Susie slowed gradually so we merged our groups. This was a perfect point as unfortunately many runners slowly slip off the funbus. We still had many originals with us, and many more for on the bus.

Mile 20 with lots of happy people with me, less talking at this point

Throughout there were a few narrow points, some made worse by supporters pushing into the course making it more narrow, and there were plenty of places unsupervised by marshals and no barriers. The worse point was around mile 21 and this really narrowed and we found ourselves slowing much more than we should. Because we were slowing down so much Susie and I were forced to zig zag through the crowds, something I hate doing as you inevitably lose people. We had no choice as we could not sustain the desired pace and had to get though. Most runners kept up with us, and we ran a slightly faster couple of miles to make up for the previous delays. As I said before, it is hard accounting for unexpected delays and the cushion at this point was crucial. We built the cushion back up to 30 seconds as I had told everyone that my plan was to keep this cushion until Big Ben, this was about 1k from the end and the point that people could push on to have a fast finish.

Another photo from the crowd with Susie and I running together towards the end

The last couple of miles at London is always fantastic. Running past lots of iconic locations and the crowds here are fantastic. By the time I got to Big Ben I was bang on target with a 30 second and just over a kilometre to go. I had spent the last few miles trying to encourage everyone to keep going and join the sub4funbus. Some joined on and later thanked me for the encouragement, others unfortunately dropped into the distance. My family always wait in the same place in St James Park and I almost missed them this year. But I managed to come in and give both Benjamin and Amelie a high five.

Near the finish coming in for a big High five

The finish was amazing as always and I would like to think I encouraged many towards the end to give it a last push and get their sub 4.

Loving the finish line. Thank you Run247 for the awesome picture

It was fantastic and at the end I was greeted by numerous hand shakes and hugs. A highlight for me was a big man hug from a fella who said he had been trying to break sub 4 for 16 years. This is my #ReasonToRun and I’m so glad I was able to share this experience with him.

Happy sub 4 group hitting target time by just under 11 seconds

Everything about the finish was great as always in London. I finished just 11 seconds under, with lots of happy runners and kept a consistent pace. This is always the target I set myself.

Consistent splits throughout

The finishers medal was new this year and was lovely. The goody bag was decent with an unusual but high quality Adidas top. The baggage lorries were quick and so efficient. There is a long walk but this is lined with lots of happy supportive people. The phones are always bad at the end with signal dropping through overuse, and it is so difficult to get through crowds. Fortunately I had arranged to meet at the Runners World meeting point just around the corner so was able to grab a beer and wait for my family. What a fantastic race and one I hope to pace every year.

At the finish.. very happy

Check out more reviews of London Marathon at Racecheck.


10 thoughts on “London Marathon 2017

  1. Absolutely incredible, brilliant blog and loved you got the splits bang on in the end. The guy who finally broke sub-4 after 16 years, wow, that must make it absolutely worthwhile. I’d hope to do something like this one day myself. Well done and glad you had a great experience.

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  2. How have I only discovered your blog? What a wonderful write up that brought back so many memories of my own London experience years ago. I would love to be a pacer (not quick enough) but I would imagine the responsibility can be tough as unpredictable things can happen on the day. Well done.
    Also – how did you manage to knock so much time off your original marathon time? I live and dream. 🙂

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    1. Haha spread the word… I’m glad you have found my blog. So my first London was my first marathon. I ran as a rhino, and had not trained further than 16 miles. Needless to say I struggled. Next time is my pb when I’m best shape and the rest I have paced 👍

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  3. That is some epic pacing!! Brilliant blog well done, I was there supporting this year, first time ever experiencing London in real life, it blew my mind! One day I’ll run it… will be 6th attempt at a ballot place this year!

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