On 28th April 2019 I ran the London Marathon for the 8th time. This is always a really special marathon for me. I first ran London Marathon 2011 as my first marathon, this was back when I thought London was the only marathon in the world. I ran for charity after trying to get in for 5 years, and rose to the rhino challenge.
I then ran in 2013 and this is where I got my PB of 3:08:55. Since then I have ran each year as an official pacer for Runners World and am living my dream. This was my 47th Marathon, 54th for the 100 marathon club. It was my 8th London Marathon, 6 of which have been as an official pacer. This is the 70th official event I have paced and 20th marathon as a pacer.
In 2018 I ran the hardest London Marathon as the heat really took its toll on everyone. However I ran an identical time to 2017. This gave me a bit of pressure to try and run it to the second again this year. If you want a bit of insight into how hard it was in 2018 have a look at my blog HERE.
The Expo and Running Awards
Each year the build up to the London Marathon forms part of the marathon experience. Last year I came second in the running awards, and helped out with Runners world and New Balance at the expo, and you can read about it HERE. This year I helped out CEP on their stand at the expo. On Thursday I went for a run with Runderwear in the afternoon which was a lot of fun with the London Secret Runs exploring the dark side of the city.
Once I introduced everyone to the #funbus it was time to put some clothes back on and go for the Running Awards. Unfortunately I did not win this year, but to be honest the thing I like about the awards is the meet with lots of runners, having a drink, and having fun with my wife.
London Marathon 2019
Every race I get my kit ready the day before. For me this is a good way to ensure I have everything I need, as trust me I’ve forgotten a few things in my time. I’ve actually written a blog about things to remember on race day which you will probably find helpful HERE.
On race morning I always have a early start for London. Rather than joining huge queues I stay at my in laws and get the first tube. This means I get to Blackheath about 7:45 and have plenty of time to chill out.
There was a huge group of Pacers this year, and we had a meet up at 8:20. After a big group photo we departed to go to our own start areas. As normal I was in blue which is primarily for ballot runners, with some GFA groups thrown in as well. It was particularly cold this year. To be honest last year was lovely before the start, which made a difficult race, but in contrast a cold start is often a good sign of perfect running conditions. After waiting around in the blue start for a while I made my way to my pen at 9:30. I was joined by a huge sub 4 #funbus.
London Marathon changed the way the pens were set up along with the waved starts. We got over the start line at around 10:25, so not too bad a wait. On the way to the start I gave my usual brief, talking to runners about my pacing strategy and getting to know them. I always try to fill them with confidence, make them smile and relax, ready to be the best they can be.
I ran with Marty who mostly took the lead running a few hundred metres ahead. Its the little things in Marathons that make a difference, there will always be ups and downs, and sometimes literally. On the blue start we get to a long section of humps after a couple of miles. I always feel for the volunteers whose job it is to say “hump” over and over. I started getting involved shouting hump, and before long everyone in my group was doing it. It was great to see everyone having fun together.
Before long it was time for the Blue and Red merge. I have never in the 6 years of pacing merged with my counter parts. However today I did merge with Alex. As we ran alongside each other we had a bit of banter, and my #funbus started shouting Blue Blue Blue Blue, and the red team responded. Again, just because we are running a marathon doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
The early stages of the marathon are all about trying to control the pace. It is comfortable, so people don’t need a lot of motivation, and chat depends on who wants to talk with me. I kept us controlled and called out the splits at each marker. As always we ran further so I adjusted the pace accordingly. I told everyone we would have about 30 seconds cushion at half way, and looking at my splits I had 19.
It was very busy from start to finish and some areas became difficult to run, let alone pace. When I was slowed I just kept everyone steady, and got us to #pickupthepace when needed to respond, all in a comfortable way to not lose anyone.
The water stations are always brilliant at London. The lucozade was not as good this year. The first station I was given a bottle with the cap taken off, this always annoys me when it has a sports cap and they are taken off. The next few were in cups which are not ideal with lucozade, as it gets messy, but it was ok, and I was grateful to receive it.
At the start I had promised everyone for a treat if they stayed with me until half way, at which point I pulled out the haribo. The middle section is where you start to lose people who have over estimated their ability, or are having a bad race. I maintain the pace and keep people with me the best I can. I still had a really strong group with me, and Marty had pulled about a minute ahead. This was the polar opposite of last year where people were dropping like flies.
It did get really congested all the way through, and this was difficult on my knees as I had to do side steps and sudden reduction in pace regularly. But I kept the pace steady and started picking up more runners. The final 10k is all about motivating everyone around me to keep going. I had a few really struggling, so I tried to give little pep talks and keep them going. A few words can go a long way when struggling, as often your mind can keep you going, you need to believe you can do it, and determination can get you through.
The crowd support was absolutely amazing as it always is, and I’ve never witnessed anything like it before. It was fantastic to get so many shout outs from people, I’m very humbled, thank you. Most of the photos in my blog are from spectators who have sent them to me, so again thank you.
The only downside today’s run was a couple of incidents at mile 24. First we ran past a runner who was receiving chest compressions, I hope he is ok. Secondly as I was running a charity runner started running into me abruptly to run across from one side of the road to the other. I was sandwiched in and said careful, he then preceded to elbow me really hard and I lost my shoe as I stopped and someone stood on me. I hurt myself at this point. What an absolutely idiot. I get we all have supporters waiting for us, but please have consideration for others. Certainly dont think that because you are running a marathon this gives you the right to assault someone. I got over this quickly and continued to shout out our split times at mile 24.
Towards the end I had a 20 second cushion, and the plan was to maintain this, and ease of gradually at the end for a 3:59:49. It was going to plan, but I am always nervous for the final stages as I would rather go further under than risk going over. My family were at the same point as always and it is always great to see them.
As always I went in to high five my kids, and I was shocked to hear Kirsty shouting at me to hurry up. I thought I was bang on track, but this made me doubt myself, so rather than ease off I kept the pace going. It turns out she was looking at the App wrong and I was right Haha.
It was a great finish line and it’s always nice to run down the Mall with hundreds of other people.
I finished strong, in an official time of 3:59:39. Still a fantastic time, but 10 seconds quicker than I hoped. I could have slowed down at the end, but I don’t like to, I prefer to finish with everyone around me and run through naturally.
It was great to walk through that finish line and receive dozens of sweaty hugs. I also saw Charlie who had ran her second fastest time, and London PB. London remains my favourite marathon, and I’m so pleased to have delivered on time. I am a little disappointed not to have done the same time for 3 years in a row, but happy nevertheless.
I really hope I’m invited back next year to drive the sub4 #funbus once again. Until then I have a busy month ahead. Where will I be seeing you?