The London Marathon 2017 | Race Re-cap!
So I ran my second London Marathon on Sunday 23rd of April 2017.
It was my third marathon. And it was a beaut - we thank God! (Grab a cuppa, let's get into it!)
Last year, I towed the start line with so many questions in my head:
I was taking a big risk it felt: pushing my body to its limits (possibly) and making my mind up about this whole long-distance running thing.
Well, at the end of that race, I was hooked! I had run throughout and I was so carried by the crowds that I made 3:42 and some change! I was estatic! And of course, I wanted another chance to do it again.
Imagine my delight to find out that my time was "Good-for-age" for my age-group and I could enter without relying on the ballot (read, very unlikely) or charity places (I'm not so good at fundraising). The fundraising is something I have to work on but...not for now! lol!
So I booked my next marathon after a few more half-marathons and went off to Athens. You can read that amazing race re-cap here - it is the Original Marathon after all.
This year's marathon training was not a walk in the park!
I also had something to prove - to myself, really. I wanted to beat my last time but also push it down closer to the 3 hour mark! Yes, I am that crazy person!
To sum up how smooth my training was (not), here are the highlights:
I started with the same "Advanced Marathoning" book I had used for Athens but found that I was a)bored with it and b) picking up a right calf strain with all those long long runs!
So I joined an online coaching community and tried it their way! They were very similar to the Advanced Marathoning plan but they wanted me to go VERY VERY SLOWLY! They wouldn't accept that I have big goals and seemed to want me to sit back and shut up. I personally believe that the point of training is to get you fitter so you can achieve EVEN MORE come race day. Not to keep you at the same level. Did I mention I almost expired during their long runs in Ghana in 32 degree (Celsius) heat for 2 weeks of this plan? Oh the humanity! Needless to say, two months in, I was DONE!
I finally settled on Run4PRs whom I had been in email contact with since December 2016. It was early February 2017 and I was ready to get busy! Victoria (my coach) understood what I wanted to achieve and she believed in my ability to do it. I started with a one-to-one plan with her and after a month, stepped down to a custom-training plan with less daily contact.
Even with the best of plans and support, I managed to get anaemic!
I believe it was a combination of my volume of training (look up "foot-strike haemolysis") and my paucity of red meat at that point! I became unwell on top of this in mid-February and couldn't eat (mouth ulcers and swollen gums - #sorrynotsorry to gross you out).
As soon as I got myself checked out (oh, the ever-pushy Doctor-patient), I started supplementing my iron with over-the-counter liquid supplements and I was away again!
I went to a Spring training Camp in Algarve Portugal at this point (blog post on that here) and I was blown away by the world of runners of all ages and creeds who were happy to take time out to focus on their passion! I met so many amazing people (shout out RunBrighton!!!) and coaches who really boosted my morale!
Back home, I was still fasting for Lent. It's something I have done since I was 14. I started it by myself in boarding school and I usually was able to supplement my calories - aka eat everything in sight come 6pm. I had learned to eat normally on Sundays to avoid any long run bonking (foggy brain without food) from last year's marathon training.
With the fast, I inevitably became more anaemic and had to get prescription iron supplements.
As you can tell, it was a really fun training cycle!
Now back to the race.
The Marathon EXPO!
I really enjoyed the Expo last year and would recommend them highly. I went there for the goodies and the Sports Massage- £15 for 15 minutes or £30 for 30! Win. Oh yeah, and I picked up my Race number and timing chip. lol!
I got new calf sleeves for compression which I wore for the race - as you do! I got all sorts of other goodies as well as meeting the Ultramarathon Man himself, Dean Karnazes! Got his book (of the same name) too.
Below are the goodies I snagged at the Expo!
Waking early after a day of traveling to Birmingham for a dear friend's wedding, I was a bundle of nerves as I made my way to the station. For this race, I had chosen to wear my Altra "The One's 2.0" shoes (thanks to Steve Harris for the recommendation!)
On the first train connection, I met a fellow runner who was in his 50s and had run over 70 marathons to date. He is aiming for 100, of course. And he had also run 2 marathons in one weekend a few weeks before. His usual time for the London marathon was 3:06! Love it!
On the second train, we got chatting to another lovely lady who was running her first marathon. She was in a quandary as she had left her "sweets" at the hotel this morning. By sweets, she meant energy gels and nutrition chews for the race. The good news, I am a true girl scout (though I've never actually belonged to said organisation)! I had 2 extra High-5 gels and one Clif Blok (which I had bought at the Expo the day before) so I gave those to her. The latter is equivalent to 2-3 gels. I figured, since I would have been unlikely to take them during the race - as I hadn't trained with the Clif Bloks and I already had a full belt with an extra Caffeine shot (for luck?), I would be fine without them.
As we reached the Green Start area, we found our way onto one of the LONGEST TOILET QUEUES ever! We managed to take some selfies (and a jump shot) and hand our bags in all whilst still on this queue! I made sure I ate my TRIBE cocoa and orange Energy bar (free from the Expo) 40 minutes before the start as we joined the end of the queue. That way, my fuel would be ready to use as we toed the line.
After getting into our respective pens about 15 minutes before the start, I realised I hadn't done any warm-up jogging or running! No worries, I had my dynamic stretches handy. I did them all - with the walking lunges adapted to the smaller confines of the packed pen - was complimented on looking "very spry" by a fellow female runner. lol! I quickly edged closer to the 3:30 pacer for the pen. I planned to stick to him for the first half - a plan suggested by one of the coaches from the Spring Training Camp (Tom Craggs of www.runwithus.com) whom I tracked down at the EXPO!
We heard the foghorn go off and looked over to our right to see the elite men head off! Oh the Gazelles!
In short order, we were walking forward to cross the line. I looked up and noted I was starting about 2 minutes after 10am.
And we were OFF! (Garmin watch GO!)
So, it wasn't a fast start at all - we are not gazelles yet - and it was quite a crush with so many of us bunching around the pacer and hanging on for dear life. My GPS watch had no idea what pace I was really going but I tried to keep my shoulders relaxed and my feet under me.
One woman behind me actually asked out loud in that first mile: "is it going to be this tight all the way round?" A guy answered her, "No, it will be freer after 3 miles". I didn't have the heart to tell either of them, it was more like 5 miles. At 3 miles, all three starts (blue, green and red) would converge!
After initially thinking I was struggling to keep up with the 3:30 pacer, I managed to pass him before the 3rd mile and didn't see him again. I grabbed water at the first station and noted how close to collision so many of us came. This kept happening at several water stops up till at least the 8th or 9th mile!
By the 5th mile, I was definitely in my stride and just told myself to keep the pace around 7:45-50/mile until halfway. Whenever my pace dropped, I reminded myself to shake my shoulders back, stand straighter but keep my legs under me. It was very effective at getting me back on pace! Suddenly, I looked up an we were at the Cutty Sark - mile 6! Yay! Only 20 miles (second longest runs of my training cycles to go). I found that having run 22 miles as my longest run really made a difference to how I felt counting down after 4 miles. I already knew I could finish that so I'd be like, only 22 miles to go - that's a training run, no biggie! I also spotted a woman who seemed to be going a my goal-pace and kept her close by. I noted her mainly for her could french braid and ponytail (yep, hair obsession never fades) and she seemed like a good metronome for me. She was!
Just before mile 12, I spotted the Blue start's 3:30 pacers about 100 metres ahead of me. I resolved to keep them there and see if I could pass them eventually. As we went over Tower Bridge, I noticed the crowds once again. I have a habit of counting how many people or groups yell my name. I started doing it at the Royal Parks Half Marathon last year where I struggled so much to keep going! It really helps me focus on something outside of myself but also not actually have to calculate anything more complicated that counting upwards. Around 130 people chanted my name by mile 21! After that, I estimated as I tuned out and just ran for the finish! (I estimate around 200 people by the end!)
Shortly afterwards, I noticed the elite men going past on the other side - oh to be one of the gazelles! I cheered for them and got my head back in my race!
Last year, I remember not being so bored before mile 21 (where my friends were waiting to cheer me on). This year, I was thinking, are we still on mile 17? lol! Mile 20 could not come soon enough. However, to make that happen, I had to keep moving forwards. So, shoulder's back and relaxed, legs under me and I kept going.
At mile 21, (I did not notice the marker for this by the way) I looked ahead for my friends from the London Midnight Runners and found them at the bend ahead! I had to be very cautious to gently veer sideways to call out to them - can't trip other runners trying to rave with your crew! So I yelled, "Midnight Runners" and got a cheer of "LOLA" in response as I sprinted away. I remember thinking, "I hope I don't pay for that silly sprint later!"
Suddenly the next few miles flew by! At mile 22, I was cheered on by the Mornington Chasers (my official running club) whose vest I was wearing with LOLA at the top!
The last few miles of the race are truly the most spectacular!
The crowds revved up even more and yelled "you're almost there!" Then they yelled your name even louder and chanted it over and over as you passed! I remember passing through the wall of sound at mile 24 as people on either side screamed for me. I got goose bumps all up and down my arms! It was electrifying!
Then I dug deep and re-calculated. Nope, I didn't feel strong enough to sprint the last 1km. Yes, I could go a bit faster every 200m though. And that's what I did.
As I turned the corner on the Mall and saw 200m to go. I turned those legs over a bit more. Looking at the clock (it read 3:28:00), I raced to keep it within 3:26 (allowing for my 2-minute start delay). And I made it!
Oh my GOSH! I couldn't believe it. I was done!
Then I bent my head to receive my medal! My shiny new baby - which I am still wearing daily by the way!
And as I walked towards the photo area, I got a whatsapp from my bestie saying how she was so proud of me! She had tracked me and my 5K splits were dead even! A load more messages poured in as more people who had been following me online via the App congratulated me on my time! My friend had reminded me of something quite important but which I had managed to push to the back of my brain for the whole race until that moment: I had BQ'd - qualified for the Boston Marathon next year! Hooray!
Final thoughts on the Race this year
My final thoughts are: I was aiming for a bit faster (who isn't?) but at least I know what I am capable of - with anaemia! lol! So, with that said, see you at the next race - which happens to be Hackney Half Marathon a week after London. Yes, I can and I will.
And I encourage everyone to try out the London Marathon. It was my first marathon and for that I am eternally grateful. I am so thankful to all my family and friends who supported my crazy training obsessions. And to MacMillan Cancer Support who let me run my first marathon on their amazing team last year. They are such an amazing charity - you should donate to this year's athletes. Mostly, I thank God for making me stronger and keeping me healthy (and mindful) enough to get through this tougher training and come out the other side.
Oh and, I have to give a shout-out to one of the many gentlemen of the day - Matthew Rees (aka @thewelshrunner) - who helped a fellow runner over the line at 150m to go when he saw them in distress! That is why I love runners. I had no idea that moment had been captured on camera when I finished the race (40 minutes after)! I already followed him on Instagram and was so pleased that even in the midst of a race, the true heart of runners everywhere shone through so brightly!
Thank you for reading and coming along with me!
Ps: What marathon do you think I should do this Fall? I'm thinking TCS New York City Marathon but can be persuaded otherwise - after all, there's also the California International Marathon!
Pss: What marathons (or halves) have you run so far? Did you run the London Marathon this year? How did you find your race? I'd love to hear: on here, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter...let's connect!
I'm Lola - a hair obsessed doctor who stumbled into running long distances and baking all the cupcakes.
I blog about life, running and of course, hair! I'm an Altra "Team Red" Sponsored Athlete, so I will do the occasional running shoe or gadget review.
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I do not own the copyright to all the pictures so I will credit the source, where that is the case.