As mentioned yesterday, it’s quite difficult to really encapsulate the experience of running the London Marathon into a flowing narrative. Instead, there are a number of moments and experiences that stand out – and here are some more of them.
If you missed it, you can read the first part of this post here.
A lot of bottles
The London Marathon featured water stations roughly every mile, and stations offering Lucozade Sport every five miles or so. That meant a lot of bottles being discarded at the side of the road (don’t worry, they were all scooped up and recycled, or something).
There was tremendous discipline from most runners in at least trying to throw their bottles to the side of the road, and it was quite surreal to see some of the piles that built up. It was also surreal to see volunteers occasionally try to scoop them up using a snow shovel.
Oh, and I should apologise here to the poor volunteer I accidentally splashed with water, a consequence of throwing a bottle away without pushing the sport cap back into place. Luckily she was wearing one of those water poncho things as a precaution. Even so… sorry!
Over the bridge
Despite never having run the London Marathon before, it was still quite surreal how much of the route seemed familiar – because I know it so well from watching on television. So it was quite hard not to get exited when you reached the famous bits of the course, such as the Cutty Sark or the final drag up Embankment towards the Houses of Parliament.
The best bit? Crossing Tower Bridge. You take a sharp right turn, and then suddenly hit an incline. Looking up, the famous towers fill your view. It’s also a hugely popular spectator point, so the road truly was lined with cheering fans. A real ‘I’m doing the London Marathon’ moment. And also a popular place for the next thing I recall…
I don’t run with my phone. I dislike running with my phone. But lots of people do run with their phones, and on the marathon it was amazing to see how many of them used them to take selfies and photos on the route.
This largely happened around the major landmarks, such as Tower Bridge and the final run down The Mall. It still seemed a bit weird. Apparently, some people even ran with selfie sticks, which is… just plain odd. That said, those people have photos of themselves running the marathon. I don’t.
My loss. Or not: I think I look particularly stupid when I run…
Fried chicken, anyone?
Relatively early in the run, the marathon route went past a relatively new branch of KFC. I knew this before I could see it, because of the waft of deep fried chicken that passed over the course. I was pressing on at the time. There’s a time and a place for the Colonel’s finest poultry, but a few miles into a marathon definitely wasn’t it.
Remember those plastic bottles? Well, a mass of discarded Lucozade Sport bottles contributed to my nearest miss of the marathon. I was on the side of the road at a drinks station when someone drifted over to grab a bottle of Lucozade in front of me. They slowed to take a drink, leaving me blocked in by another runner to my left. I ended up moving further right, before suddenly finding myself having to tip-toe through hundreds of half-empty bottles of Lucozade Sport.
It was my fault for putting myself in that position. Still, tripping over plastic bottles would have been a terrible retirement reason for the marathon…
Oh, the other potentially hazardous moment involving mid-race nutrition? When a runner just ahead of me trod on a packet of energy gel someone else had dropped. I narrowly missed having energy gel sprayed all over my legs. That wouldn’t have been pleasant.
The charity runners
The London Marathon is one of the biggest fundraising events of the year in Britain, and it was really demonstrated by the huge variety of runners wearing tops promoting a huge range of charities (and yes, that included my top for the South West Children’s Heart Circle).
It’s amazing to think how many people were running the marathon to help improve the lives of others. Heroes, every single one of them.
Even at the reasonably competitive end of the marathon where I was running, there were still plenty of runners in fancy dress. I passed a spaceman making an official Guinness World Record bid, for one thing.
In the late stages I was also beaten to the line by someone dressed as Elvis and a man dressed as a beer bottle. Given that I now know how hard it is to run a marathon in just under three-and-a-half hours in normal running kit, I have nothing but respect for their efforts. Amazing.
Spotting the leaders
Around the halfway point, the marathon route runs down one side of a dual carriageway heading towards the Docklands area – with the return route running on the other side of the road. I got to that bit just in time to see the leading elite men heading in the other direction.
Two things stuck out. One: they run really, really fast. Two: they looked in a lot less pain than me.
Speaking of which…
The pain barrier
A marathon is a gruelling race of attrition, and particularly in the latter stages there were runners slowing, limping, walking, resting and generally looking in a lot of pain everywhere you looked. It is a tough event, and the displays of grit and determination from runners to keep going when their body was telling them to stop was inspiring to see up close.
Yup, I hit it. Somewhere in the Docklands, my legs began to feel heavy. By the time I was heading along Embankment towards the finish, I was feeling the pain. I slowed fairly dramatically, but somehow kept running – albeit at greatly reduced pace. Perhaps I might have benefitted from a quick rest, but I managed to keep running for all 26.2 miles without stopping, and that felt good after the race – even if my legs didn’t.
Like Tower Bridge, this was a bit of the course I’d seen on television so many times. Running down The Mall towards the finish was a truly great feeling – especially because my mum and brother (who’d flown in from Texas) were in the grandstands cheering me on. I didn’t spot them, but I did my best to look fresh as I headed towards the line.
Crossing the finish line of the London Marathon? Amazing feeling. Excitement. Relief. Exhaustion. Joy. Pain.
Shortly after the line were the volunteers with the medals. They insisted on putting it around my neck, which was nearly disastrous. It was all I could do to stand at that point – the weighty medal nearly tipped me over the edge.
The finish area
Like the start, this was unbelievably well organised. Exhausted, emotional and slightly disorientated, the most impressive moment to me was staggering down the row of lorries containing all the kit bags, trying to find the one that match up with my number. By the time I did, a volunteer had already retrieved my bag and was dangling it over the railing. Unbelievably efficient.
It’s finally over
After catching my breath for a little while (okay, quite a long while), I limped out of the finish area to meet my family in the ‘meet and greet’ area in Horseguards Parade. That’s where the emotion really set in. It was all over – both the 3h 28m 17s of effort, and the months of preparation.
How best to celebrate finishing a marathon? Simple: I met up with my family, friends and fellow South West Children’s Heart Circle marathon runner Matt – and then we went to Wahaca. Because nothing says I’ve run a marathon like eating unbelievably good Mexican food.
I ran the London Marathon to raise money for the South West Children’s Heart Circle, a small charity that helps children undergoing heart surgery. The marathon is over, but it’s not too late to donate – click the ‘Just Giving’ button below for details. Thanks!