On the 1st of August 2021 I ran the London Landmarks Half Marathon for the first time. I ran in my 2020 event t-shirt which was sent to me after it was cancelled. This event marked a huge milestone in covid recovery. After running the London 10k last weekend (see review HERE), it was the continuation of the return of mass participation events. With 14,000 runners, pacers and a mass start, it felt like a huge leap back to normal.
Ahead of race day I prepared my #flatlay as normal to ensure I had all my kit. However, on top of this I made sure I filled out my health declaration form, and took a lateral flow test. A small measure to ensure everyone is working together to stop further contamination, and help us to recover.
I was really excited to return with my pacing flag to pace the 1:45 #funbus. It was the 88th official event I have paced, and after 16 months of absence, and dozens of cancelled events, it is great to be pacing again. I felt nervous going to the start line. Something that was all so familiar to me before covid, was now happening again. It was so busy making my way to the wave one pen, and it was fantastic to see so many familiar faces.
Once I got to my start I spoke with everyone around me and my group began to form. Pretty soon people started asking questions, so once we got closer to the start I gave a pep talk to everyone. It has been so long since I’ve done this, but it felt great. I talked about my pacing strategy, what to expect from the course, provided assurance, and cracked some jokes (maybe they weren’t that funny). The purpose is to motivate, build confidence and bring the group together, and I certainly feel like I achieved that before the start.
When we started there were barriers to thin out the start, with signs asking us to maintain 1 metres apart. This doesn’t feel necessary or possible with current guidelines, but I understand why it was introduced. The course was mostly on wide roads, and mostly flat. There were a few narrower sections and a couple of bumps, but nothing which caused congestion for my group. We had plenty of space at all times.
The mile markers seemed well spaced out. Each marker got further and further, so I kept adjusting my pass to accommodate for running longer. I actually ran an extra 500 metres according to my watch, and that is the thing about pacing, it is much more than just sticking to your watch. I called out the pace, target time and actual time at every mile marker. I was pleased that it ranged from being exactly on target, to about 15 seconds ahead of target at every marker. I had said I would try and get to 20 – 30 seconds ahead by 10 miles and sustain the pace until the end. With the extra distance being run (probably because of the wide roads and race line) I just kept us slightly ahead of pace.
Water stations were frequent in small bottles, and it was fantastic to have the London support out in force. We had bands, DJ’s, charities, spectators, it was just so fantastic with a great atmosphere. I kept a solid group of over a dozen runners with me from start to finish. Others pulled ahead, using me to get them started without going off too fast, others dropped off, but at the finish there were plenty waiting for a sweaty hug. As we got passed mile 12 I started encouraging people to #pickupthepace and its over the last mile I want to see people get ahead of me and pull ahead.
I found that at mile 12 I was only 5 seconds ahead of target, so although I expected it to ease out, I also picked up the pace a little, to ensure everyone had a strong finish and came in under target. As I hit mile 13 it was clear I was at my desired 30 second cushion, and I decided to just hold this until the end. I finished in an unofficial time of 1:44:33.
I had such a great time. The return or events, the return of large city mass participation, and pacing. I loved being about to help people achieve their PB. To be told at the end of the race that this was the best race they have ever run, and my pacing helped them to achieve their goal is fantastic. This is why I pace, to make a difference to people’s experience.
Did you run this weekend? If so how did you get on? Let me know.