On 22nd April 2018 I took part in the Virgin Money London Marathon. This was a tough race, in very hot conditions, the hottest on record for London Marathon. So, I want to start by saying a huge well done to everyone who took part today and thank you to each and every one of you for making it a special experience, the marshals and other volunteers, the organisers and all the amazing spectators.
This was the 7th time I have taken part in the London Marathon, and my 36th official marathon (42 for 100 Marathon Club). Of these events it was the 5th time I have paced London Marathon (3 as the sub4 #funbus) 11th Marathon I have paced and 48th official event I have paced. Clearly I love London, and I will do it every year I get the opportunity and will pace it every year I’m invited to and whilst my body is capable. Check out more about London Marathon 2017.
As always I got my kit ready as part of my preparation for the event, and I posted about what to expect on race day in order to help fellow runners (blog here if you fancy it). I also spent every morning at the expo talking to runners which was fantastic, and picked up a running award for best personal blog, thank you all so much. Read up about it Here.
I never get as nervous as I do before the start of London Marathon. When I was growing up, and before I started running, it was a dream of mine to run London. I tried for years before I got a place, so when I finally did I made the most of it, and it lived up to the hype. So when I got the opportunity to Pace London it was really important for me that I help people reach their targets. Yes it’s the same as other events but this one is extra special, often people’s dream event, only marathon, and it’s huge. So many more people taking part means many more people counting on you. People say that it must be easy, some pacers say that they don’t get nervous because it’s in their comfort. Well I do, I care so much that I would be so gutted if I didn’t deliver, I don’t do this for me, that’s not what it’s about. So going to the race start I was nervous as anything.
It’s great seeing familiar faces in the race village. I went into the blue start before it got busy for a quick toilet stop and I got the ealingfeeling when I got my water.
I then got together with the rest of the pacers before we made our way back to our start areas.
Before long it was time for us to make our way to the start areas, so I headed their with Helen who replaced Susie as my partner this year. There were a lot of changing of pens as it seems this year a lot of people were put in the wrong Pen. Fortunately I had prepared people at the expo so lots knew to drop back rather than starting too far forward.
We had a huge group start with us, I mean hundreds. And it was great to see Darren and Matt (fellow pacers) join me to heckle me around the course. I started with my usual pre race prep talk (sorry if you have heard this before). I’m sure it isn’t for everyone, but I had full attention from a lot of excited and nervous runners and I find giving a bit of a brief on how I will Pace, and some expectations of the course really helps. From here people can make their mind up what they want to do.
This year they started us off in waves. I would be interested to see what the stats say, but I’m not sure it helped at all to be honest, and never had any congestion issues previously. It delayed our start by about an extra 10 minutes, and to be fair it was a little clearer as we got going. However, they didn’t start the greens in waves so this meant there were a lot of slower runners given a good 20 minute head start causing congestion later on. I also did not see a single red Pacer and the usual filter of us because of the slightly different start helps ease congestion. I think because we merged more closely this caused more people to be running at similar paces together.
The race started so well and at 5k we were flying. It was great running and chatting with runners and at this stage people were enjoying the heat. It got harder though and soon people were starting to feel the heat. I encouraged sensible drinking, offered my nutrition and sweets, and this helped some, but as the event progressed I found that people started to slip away more regularly than normal.
At Cutty Sark we had a strong group still and lots of fun, but progressing towards London Bridge people were already dropping away. I found this to also cause more congestion with many more people walking and the usual narrowing of the course by spectators. It’s great to have a race with so much support out there, it is unrivalled by any other event I have taken part in. In places spectators come on to the course early on with less runners, but by the time I come through it’s busy so I try to politely ask them to move back a little.
Whilst crossing Tower Bridge, which is one of my favourite parts of the course, I bumped into Charlie who was the 4:45 green Pacer. We were both on track but because the green start got off so much quicker it meant they were about 20 minutes ahead of everyone else.
Everyone asks me how I take videos, and post whilst running. Well this last one was a close shave. After finishing this video I looked down and I almost ran over a photographer haha. That would have made a good video hey.
The whole experience was fantastic as ever, but as I started off this blog saying, it was hard. I really had to dig deep myself. With the hot weather many runners were stopping, and lots were receiving medical support. If you helped someone today thank you. There was plenty of water on the course from what I saw, so the organisers did a great job to mitigate the heat, it was just so hot. The only thing I would like to see improved is perhaps a target for bins to encourage runners to discard used bottles to the side. #drinkdousedraindrop is great, but dropping at your feet is very different to discarding to the side, and I encourage all runners to be mindful of those around you when you drop a bottle.
I didn’t finish with as many runners as usual, but still plenty of happy faces when I finished. It is hard watching people drop of, but as I always say, it’s important to listen to your bodies and sometimes if that means slow down then so be it, there will be other days. It was harder than usual but we kept going and I even made it on TV.
I’m so grateful to get to Pace London Marathon and I can’t wait to do it again next year. For all those that didn’t hit your target this time remember there is always a next time, and whether that is London or another race I look forward to seeing you out there.
I didn’t have the energy to run backwards encouraging as I usually do at the end, but was able to keep the last few with me. It was hot, it was hard… but it was amazing. Not only did I come in on target, I finished in the exact same time as last year, 3:59:49.
I can’t wait until 2019.