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Hot 'n angry

Race Report

I ran the London Marathon. Again. It was quite sunny this time. And I'm annoyed.

I beat my PB by close to 40minutes. I raised £8,000. And I'm still not happy. What's wrong with me?

I'd done ALL my training in temperatures between -3degC and 12degC. And now a heatwave. 21-24degC weather! The hottest London Marathon on record. Aah the decisions...

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It kinda threw me. Made me focus on the temperature. What to wear? Do I take my own water with me in a Camelbak (small rucksack designed for carrying a hydration bladder, there's probably a generic name for these but I've no idea)? Do I wear sunglasses? A hat? Sun cream? How much do I drink? The right amount is somewhere between too little and too much. Where too much can lead to hyponatremia which is potentially fatal. All of these are important but not crucial and may just be the small thing that helps.

As it was, after sleeping on it and with water every mile available I decided to run without a Camelbak.

I was going to wear sunglasses. But when I got to the start I couldn't find them so ran without them and that was totally the right thing to do in hindsight. Was pretty sure I'd picked them up but oh well, bigger things to worry about at the start than them.

With the high temperature, how fast could I run? Would I hit my dream of a 4hr marathon? I hadn't thought I was capable of that, but when I did a half marathon in 1h56m a coupe of weeks ago, it made me think it was possible. Was it just stupid to go out and run that speed? Hmm. Probably. But maybe...

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Somehow I was placed in Pen 3 at the start. For people running 3:15-3:30! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

No idea how. Perhaps when I registered I was umming and erring about what time to go for. 3h53 would knock an hour off my PB. But with a shortened training program, maybe 4h23 was a better target? Perhaps with my fat fingers I actually entered myself as 3h23? I've no idea.
I'm pretty good at running my own pace. Not getting carried away at the start. In 2015 I was swamped by people going faster than me. But I kept my pace and didn't get carried away.
This time, I wanted some help with my pacing. There are official pacers and the 4hr marathon guys were back in Pen5. So that's where I put myself. You can't go into a faster pen but you can go back.
The race for me started at 10:28am. 28mins after Mo and the elites left. It took that long to just to get over the start line. With the start now in waves, I was in wave 5. With a wave released every 5mins I was expecting us to cross at 10:20. They introduced the waves to space out everyone on the course. Better for the runners. Better for the First Aiders. Better for the photographers. Better for everyone. At least, that was the plan.
I crossed the line level with the pacers. Just keep up with them, all the way round, it'll be easier. No need to think. Just run. Use them as a target.
And for the first 50 metres it was great, then I came up to a couple of slower runners and got a little blocked. I'm 2 metres back but it's fine. I'm close.
And then some more slower runners. OK, I'm now 5m back from the pacers but it's fine. I can see them. They're just there. All good. Just nip past these people, increase my pace, get through that gap. OK, back to a 3m gap.
And then some more slower runners. And now I'm 8m back. Hmm. This is annoying. I thought we'd be a constant mass of runners all at the same speed. Now I find myself constantly accelerating and dodging left and right.

I know the dangers of accelerating and decelerating. It puts more stress on the knees. It's an easy way to increase your heart rate and blow up. To not have enough energy to make it round. And in this heat? Hmmm.

I'm slowly losing ground and my heart rate is already in the 170s. I'm not sure I can go fast enough for long enough to catch up with them. And without a doubt there's no single gap to get past everyone. I'm up the kerb, I'm running on the grass verge, anything to get past the crowds of slower runners.
The sea of people in front of me is opening and closing constantly. You have to slam on the brakes so often as people dart to the side to give their loved ones a hug. To get a drink. Or just they want to overtake someone too. It's infuriating not being able to get into a rhythm.
Gaps open and close behind me too. Someone clips my trailing heel and I stumble but don't go down. During the first half of the race it's going to be clipped twice more. Luckily not as bad as the first time.
And then we're running past the 5hr pacers from the green start. They started some time before me so there's a gaggle of slower runners to overtake. No wonder I'm overtaking so many people. Dammit. Excuse me, coming through.
I'm back now within 20 metres of the pacers. All is good. And then we approach Cutty Sark. It's narrow here. The runners squeeze up and we slow down even more. There are barriers up and it's much narrower than it used to be. The runners fill the width of the road unlike in 2015 and the crowd is close enough to high five.
I'd always wanted to play to this crowd, to give them something back, to moonwalk around Cutty Sark for them. But learning the moonwalk hadn't been my top priority during my training. I do some weird backwards running thing across the top of Cutty Sark. I reach out my hand for high fives but no-ones expecting it and the first 20 people are too slow to react. D'oh. A couple of high fives but now it's getting narrow again. I turn back round. I've lost more time to the pacers. Ugh. Stupid.
The crowds were amazing. So many people. So many cheers. So many high fives. So many sounds systems. So much applause. It was amazing. I can't believe I'll ever be applauded by 500,000 people again my life. Moments to treasure.
So many people... that they spilled off the pavement and into the road. Choking the flow of runners. In an environment where it was hard to overtake it just made it harder. I felt like crying in frustration. All these people out to support and help me. But so many that their collective might meant the opposite. Please, just let me run.
The flags the pacers are carrying are moving further into the distance. I'm getting angrier. Angry at the situation. Angry at myself. Angry at the decision I made on Saturday to drop myself back two pens.
I keep on running, accelerating through gaps, dodging left and right. But large crowds of runners in the road and large crowds of spectators also in the road makes it start to feel like a losing battle. At one point, with the road narrowed I come across six people all walking, blocking the road. I'm forced to stop and walk for a few paces until a gap opens. Super frustrating.
I've run in two mass events before London Marathon 2015 (35k people) and the London Big Half Marathon (16k people in March). I never felt like I had this problem before. This is 100x worse than either of those. I'm so angry.
Going across Tower Bridge, the crowds are so deep, so much noise. But I've lost sight of the flags the two pacemakers were wearing. Aaaaaaaagggggghhhhhh. I'm so angry. Why am I even doing this to myself? My dream is vanishing fast...
Why am I doing this to myself? This is supposed to be fun. Where else do you get 500,000 people cheering at you? Many of them calling out your name. It's almost personal, like they know you.
I'm not sure I can sustain this heart rate. Not sure I can sustain this amount of weaving, constant acceleration and deceleration. So I make a decision. To conserve my energy so that I definitely finish in this heat. I back off to a pace that I consider to be more comfortable. I swing out to the side of the road and I start high fiving people. I start looking for the cameras, playing up to them.
It's tough. It's a marathon. But it's easier now. I crossed the halfway point in 2:00:02. I was on for it. But no more. Easier now. Wave to the crowd, high five them, smile. Well, when you can. It's hot... and I'm more tired than I should be for this distance.
It was great to see my sister in a few places. She's started running this past 12 months or so. I hope she and her friend Louise enjoyed the day. It's London's best day, who wouldn't enjoy themselves? I hope this day inspires her.
My gf was out today too with her son. I didn't see them though but Sharon says they're both ok and it was just bad luck. They saw me but I didn't hear them call. :-(
Other friends call out to me, Wess, Mike, Kate, they all saw me. But it feels like thousands of people are calling my name out too. Often I can't work out who said my name so I stop looking every time. I wish I had now. I wish I'd kept looking.
You start looking forward to the water stations. The ability to pour water over your head. To be momentarily cool again. Stunning.
It's all a slog and nothing much sticks out in the second half. My heart rate is under control. My pace is probably a bit slow but, well, whatever.
I cross the line 4 hours and 14 minutes after I started. The hottest London Marathon on record. A new pb by 39 minutes. I finished in 12,397th place. of 40,000. Not bad, eh?
And thanks to many of you reading this, I was able to raise £8,000 for St Marks Hospital Foundation. Thank you.
In 2017, the 12,397th person finished in 3h57. In 2016 3h55. Am I annoyed? Yup. How can you tell?
Will I run another marathon? I don't know. Probably not. It burns inside but it's a big deal training for one at the right standard. Everything has to go right. No health issues. I just don't know if I have it in me. If only I wasn't so stubborn I'd be able to let it go.


  • Not to poop myself - ACHIEVED
  • Finish in a more respectable time - ACHIEVED
  • Moonwalk around Cutty Sark - Not really
  • Finish with enough thoughts in my brain so that I can work out how to unwrap the foil blanket - ACHIEVED although it wasn't used I'm sure I could have.
  • Not to make my hernia worse. - Yeah, about that. Hmmmm.
  • Get through the training without injuring myself. ACHIEVED. Ok so a handful of runs were missed due to a cold and a sore knee but hardly anything. 300+ miles run in training. Bit of a limp at the end of the race but by Wednesday after the race I was walking fine, up and down the stairs no problem.
  • Raise more than £6881 - ACHIEVED
And yup, still annoyed.

For the record when I got home I found my sunglasses at the bottom of my bag.