It came. You saw. We (mostly) conquered.
Weeks of charity-requests and months of training now over for everyone, after 2012′s Virgin London Marathon took over the streets yesterday on Sunday 22 April, and my first ever marathon.
Laying shattered on t’sofa on St. George’s Day (wanted to go out and celebrate this!…my leg’s had other ideas), here are ten thoughts summing up what I thought of the whole rollercoaster, surreal, life-encompassing experience!
WHISTLESTOP LONDON SIGHTSEEING…BY FOOT!
‘Twas a beautiful morning yesterday, and heading out to Greenwich Park, one of London’s best viewing-points, was a sight. Thousands of runners…and what a way to see London! From the park, to Woolwich, through Charlton, around The Cutty Sark ship back in Greenwich, onto my home in Bermondsey, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf & Docklands, back to the Tower of London, then the City of London, past my old school, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Embankment, Waterloo Bridge, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and The Mall.
26.2 miles…! 42 kilometres! Until you do it, you can never appreciate the enormity of the distance covered as you take in some of the world’s most iconic structures. All while running! Nuts!
This year was (I read but cannot find the source!) the THIRD biggest turnout for the London Marathon. 36,705 is nearly twice the capacity of the O2 Arena. Running with so many people, publicly pounding the London roads, like being on some mass exodus. It’s an army!
FANCY DRESS BRIGADE
Running a marathon’s tough. Running a marathon in a costume?! This year’s marathon didn’t fail to deliver on ‘wacky race’ attire. From banana-men, super-heroes, firemen (phwoar), rhinos and more, they were awesome. My favourite, Bagpuss!
It seemed the vast majority of runners were running for a cause. When you zone out and forget what you’re doing running down the street, looking up and seeing heart charities, cancer charities, and other’s all being represented in earnest was impressive. My favourites were the kid’s charities and the hospices, especially those running in memory of loved ones.
The London Marathon holds the Guinness World Record as the single largest annual fund raising event in the world, with an estimated almost £50 MILLION being raised for the day. Since 1981, the 1st London Marathon, an estimated half a BILLION POUNDS has been raised for good causes.
From hamstring injuries, blisters, subungual haematomas to tarsal fractures…and that was one leg! I’ve never needed so much physio! And on race-day it was evident others had also suffered, with compression tights, taping and bandages in abundance. And still all soldiered on to the finish line!
HITTING THE WALL
4 hours, 9 minutes, 10 seconds. Finishing in 13,213 place out of 36,705 runners. The top 36%. But I didn’t reach my goal of a sub-4 hour marathon!
A good (slowest time) estimation in the runner’s world is that your marathon time can be gained from your half-marathon time doubled, then 20 mins added. I ran the Silverstone Half Marathon in 1 hour, 46 mins and 45 seconds, so by that equation I would finish in under 3 hours and 54 minutes at the latest.
Obviously not an exact science, but combined with finishing a 21.5 mile training run in a good time and not seeming to ‘hit the wall’ ever, it seemed definitely possible yesterday.
Plagued by injuries in training, I was well equipped with analgesia along the route and amongst all the many bits of advice read over the months, the most important is to NOT RUN TOO FAST to begin with, the most common cause of ‘hitting the wall’. It’s not the first 6 miles of a marathon that are important, it’s the last 6 miles!
What is this wall? Simply speaking, your body’s fuel is glycogen. Your muscles store glycogen but have a limited supply, and when this runs out (e.g. during running) your body is forced to convert fat stores to glucose instead, a much slower process…and resulting in suddenly not being able to move a muscle. There are other aspects too such as your CNS response, your psychological strength, etc.
You store glycogen after you eat complex-carbohydrates like potato, pasta, rice etc. So it’s important to saturate your body’s reserves prior to a marathon.
Starting out, I made sure I didn’t run too fast, kept hydrated but not too much, thought I consumed enough sports-drink throughout, and reached the half-way mark at a respectable time of 1 hour 54 mins and 13 seconds…enough to keep energy in the bank for the final 6 miles.
Mile by mile, keeping my pace constant. Getting knackered / bored (and desperate to see some supporters!) after mile 14, I kept going. Then mile 18, started feeling sick. ‘OK, you’re just tired, keep going’. Mile 19, still felt tired. Mile 20, legs starting to burn. Mile 22, the realisation I’m losing the sub-4 hour goal. Mile 23, foot fracture starting to hurt. ‘These analgesia tablets are taking ages to work!” Mile 24, just wanting to stop SO badly, legs desperate to plod. The finish line taking AGES to come! Every part of me struggling, until finally crossing the finish line.
‘What happened?’. My legs were in pain and I found it difficult to force myself to maintain the modest running pace I had begun at. I thought it was the pain of injury which I was expecting. But I hadn’t experienced this in training. By 1pm I felt boiling, found myself running with my eyes closed, grabbing at jelly-babies and Twix bars from the hands of spectators…not to mention hallucinating!
And then I saw my results on the official page:
Constant pace until 35 km (21.7 miles). Then bang, dropped. I struggled to run faster than my new slower pace, although it remained constant till 40 km and then the finish.
I heard about serious runners and celebrities hitting the wall, and checking out their times they had the same pattern.
Maybe I hit the wall. Maybe training once or twice a week wasn’t enough? Maybe I didn’t hydrate enough through the race. I won’t rest until I break 4 hours, because I know I can…one day! But until then, for my first marathon I’m chuffed I didn’t stop for a pee break NOR stop running once, from the start till the finish line.
James Cracknell, chef Michel Roux, newsreader Sophie Raworth, chef Gordon Ramsay, TOWIE / The Only Way Is Essex, Ed Balls just some of the celebrities out in force, also raising money for charities. Nell Mcandrew was the fastest celebrity this year with 2 hours 54 (WOW!). And a special mention to Fauja Singh (lives in my home town Redbridge!) for his last marathon, at a record-breaking 101 years old!
Will Young was behind me during the end as all I could hear was people screaming, ‘It’s Will Young!’ every minute. He’s a good guy, but perhaps having enough of hearing that propelled me to race ahead of him and beat him! Here’s his time:
And I beat Iwan Thomas, former world-class GB athlete in 400m!
This isn’t a highlight. It’s awful. By now you’ve heard of Claire Squires, 30, who died just minutes from reaching the finishing-line. She was raising money for The Samaritans, possibly inspired by her brother who died from an overdose a few years ago. She had raised £500 until then. With the public hearing of her death this has rocketed, after donating just now I’ve seen it’s nearly at £200,000. Here’s her fund-raising page if you’d also like to: Claire Squires
The London Marathon would not be the same without the spectators. That’s half a million of you all out on the streets! When you’re ‘in the zone’ it doesn’t make a difference, but when you need that energy drink, jelly baby, or chocolate, boy does it help. And going through London the regional differences are fascinating, from the well-to-do Greenwich gang, the boisterous Bermondsey boys, the City slickers to the heaving throngs along the Embankment, it’s a lovely thing for people to do. Unfortunately I missed seeing my sister, Royston and Oyvind though, and they tried 3 times as I searched in vain! But I managed to see a few friendly faces which was a nice surprise. And while the crowd were, shall we say, shying away from pronouncing my name to begin, at the end while I was struggling, it was all I could hear for a couple of miles. So thank you!
I ran for Mind, a mental health charity. I’ve blogged about them before. They’re excellent. We probably all suffer from mental health issues at least once, but are ashamed to talk about it, unlike heart problems, cancer, diabetes, even HIV these days. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being strong for too long. And thanks to ALL OF YOU, you’ve helped me raise nearly £3,500 for Mind! Smashing my target of £2000. And if that wasn’t enough, gorgeous Stephen Fry himself donated too! (I’m still gobsmacked about that!). Best of all, I’ve met some lovely people while training for the London Marathon, all with their own story to tell, all determined to raise money for a good cause. And it was so good to run with thousands of other people on the day, who all had their reasons for doing it too.
PLEASE sponsor me if you haven’t already done so! Link here: Fiez’s First Marathon
And lastly, I ran for my dear Mum who died a few years ago. Any pain I felt in the last few miles, I forced aside knowing how great and loving a mother she was to my sister and I, and how good a person she was to everyone. My hero.
So, same time again next year…?