Race Reports by Thomas Kinsella, Justin McKeever and Damien Geraghty
Will I, won’t I? Ah sure I might as well, since I have the flight over and the entry anyway! After a bad run in Dublin last year, I really needed to get a good marathon under my belt again soon! London ticks all the boxes…..fast course, super organisation, huge depth of field running, amazing crowds. So I managed (some) training this time, peaking in a boggy, sloggy phoenix park 18miler done 2 weeks out – not enough hard training to really need much of a taper, so just eased off in the last week to be fresh on the day. Arriving in London on the Saturday, it was warm – a lovely change from our neverending winter, but heat could derail even a seasoned marathon runner and I was rightly nervous about it.
I always like flying in to London city airport – it’s situated close to the east side of london and the plane often descends right over the River Thames in the middle of London. This time I had superb ariel views right over the top of the shard, the millennium dome and canary wharf……the immense scale of the city literally laid out under my nose. This would be my 5th London marathon, so I knew the course well and these would be the streets we’d all be running on……it seemed so straightforward from up on high!
The planned DLR (like the Luas) strike was thankfully called off at the last minute, so straight from the airport to the expo in the massive Excel centre nearby. Managed to bump into Damien and Tom in the crowds, I was on the way in to the expo, they were done and on the way to Wembley! The famous life coach Tony Robbins was in one of the other halls motivating thousands with his “unleash the power within” 3 day event……..I wondered he had any words of wisdom for runners? Anyway, number collected and chip checked, it was time to enjoy the expo, the usual mix of running merchandise, massages, international races to enter, all kinds of nutrition and plenty more…….I loved the giant treadmill challenge for members of the public – which they would set to run at elite marathon runner pace for 400m – about 70secs male and 77secs female. As I watch, a fella makes it to the 400m, comes off with wobbly legs and out of breath to a nice round of applause…..it really illustrates just how fast the top runners are moving for 26miles, even though they make it look easy. A treadmill like this could be a great addition the the clubhouse!
I found the pacing stand and decided it was a good omen that they had run out of 3hr pace bands…….picked up a 3:10 band which was a more realistic race pace for me. I spent the rest of Saturday catching up with my sister, my brother and his family (and staying hydrated!)
Race day morning– tube from Kilburn, then the train to Blackheath near my start area….you need to be early as the trains get jammers later. The 10am start is very civilised, so no need to be up too early. Strolling across Blackheath with my first coffee of the week, I soaked up the sunshine and the atmosphere, determined to enjoy the day and race well. There are over 40,000 runners split between green, red and blue starts that converge after a few miles. I got a nice position about 20m from the front and we watched the queen on the big screen officially start the race from Windsor castle by pressing a big red ceremonial button…..this was a nod back to the 1908 Olympics where the marathon started in Windsor and finished in London – this 1908 race is also where official marathon distance of 26miles 385yards (42.195km) came from.
It was warm…….after a small jog earlier to get the legs moving, I was already sweating on the startline. I knew it was not a day for my previously used unrealistic fast early pace, then hanging on – my strategy now was clear – keep the heartrate low and use as little energy as possible, for as long as I could…..then hang on.
I was happy to be getting through the early miles around 7min pace and the heartrate was behaving, phew! The atmosphere along the way was amazing with huge crowds, bands playing and the sun shining. Felt good the 1st 10miles, sipping plenty of water……had planned to see my family around 11miles, I stopped briefly for high-fives before my brother shoved me back out onto the course and I was suddenly running sub 3hour pace. Settled myself down again, then turned right onto Tower Bridge…..I love this section as the crowds go crazy here!! Then I pass halfway, some of the elite ladies passing the opposite direction towards the finish…….but for now we’re heading toward the docklands, which becomes twisty turny and tough. I clicked off the miles, without slowing too much, but the heat was now a factor, even by 18miles there were a good few walking, and that increased with the miles.
By 20miles, I had notions of dipping under the 3:05 if I was able to pick it up over the last 10k, but by the next mile I realised this was getting harder and the splits were slowing a bit. Got a great high five across the barriers from Tom who spotted me in the red and white!. After that there was nothing to do but keep hanging on til the end and offer up some kind of “sprint” up the Mall to finish in 3:07, absolutely delighted for it all to be over!! (until next time!) Medal, goody bag and baggage collected – time for post race refreshments……….
Great runs as well from Damien and Tom who were running for Temple Street Hospital in tough conditions, the hottest London marathon on record apparently, well done lads!
London Marathon has always been an ambition of mine, but with a 1 in 10 lottery chance of getting into it, it was always going to be ambitious to get to do. That was until December when i got word back from Temple Street Ireland that they had a few spots up for grabs (i had raised money for Temple Street for the 3 previous Dublin Marathons). I quickly sent out a message to a few of the lads to see if anyone was interested….instant reply from Marathon man TK (Thomas Kinsella) to say he would do it…..not quite sure if he actually wanted to do it or he just didn’t want to say no……only he can answer that!
There was a catch however – we would have to raise nearly €5000 between us which we managed to do through very kind donations from friends, family, Sportsworld members and a few bag packs in Tesco Bloomfields (shout out to Adrian and Sean from club for helping out)
With a busy Christmas, training started back on 2nd January, a freezing cold/wet night which was the trend for the following 4 months. Thankfully there was a few other mates in the club training for other spring marathons, Emmet and Paul for Paris, Diarmuid for Boston and Martin Doyle for ___________? so getting the long runs in were made a bit easier with these guys.
On the road to London i entered a few races so i could track my progress….i managed to smash my 5km, 5 mile, 10km and half Marathon PB’s all within a few weeks – surely a good sign and gave me plenty of belief i could get another marathon PB.
The weekend itself started at 5am Saturday morning with TK picking me up to head to the Airport. Getting on the plane that morning felt as tho we were getting off in the Sahara Desert. We made our way to the Excel center to collect race packs and see what was on offer. It was there we bumped into fellow Sportsworld member Justin Mc Keever, we all had a good laugh about the hot weather outside before kneeling down to say a prayer for some wind/rain/snow….. anything other than Sun.
As 2 big Man United fans myself and TK had a very important fixture to attend that evening in Wembley – Man United v Spurs (Fa cup semi final). Quick check in at hotel, some food and change into our united jerseys (lovely picture below) we departed for Wembley. (a nice relaxing evening before running a marathon…..). We were both delighted with the 2-1 win – back into the final, where the most successful team in England belong!
Another early start – with a 5.30 breakfast and bus leaving hotel at 7am we had no time to spare. We arrived at the starting area of the Marathon around 8pm and with the sun beaming and not a cloud in the sky it was a race from the bus to find a shaded area in a rather large park……at half 9 we made our way to our starting blocks, we were both starting in different blocks so a quick good luck and high 5 we went our separate ways.
The start of the race thankfully was very well marshalled and wasn’t as jammed pack as people had stated. I decided to race the marathon instead of pacing it, i told myself before hand i wanted to have no regrets, my training and race times suggested i was capable of going between 3.00-3.10 so i set off at 4.20km pace. The first half of the race went to plan with the only issue being the water stations, they were like the stampede scene out of the Lion King…..at every station!!!! At 15km i got the best surprise ever, with thousands of supporters out on the street of London, i heard a shout of Damien, Damien, Damien…..i turned around and my Fiancee Sarah and younger brother Shaun were there cheering me on…..i had no idea they were coming over. Sarah had organised for 5 of my friends and family to come over to cheer me on….an unbelievable feeling ….although i did question myself whether i was hallucinating in the sun!!
I got to the half way mark at 92 mins and still felt very strong however i had already taken my 3 gels which were suppose to last me the race. My race turned on its head then around 26-28km (16 mile). The body started to feel quite weak, i started to panic and drank quite a mixture of lucozade sport and lucozade energy gels (at stations) but the damage was done, they made me just want to puke. At the 30km mark i again panicked as i felt the race was getting away from me, so i took off my top thinking it would help, it didn’t, it just meant i was running round London for the rest of race with no top on (while working on my tan)! At the start of the race i promised myself if things didn’t go to plan i would make sure i got home safe and that’s what i did (at this stage it seem a lot of people were stopping, an a lot of people were getting medical support which was tough to watch, i hadn’t experienced seeing this in previous marathons i had done).
The last 6 mile surprisingly were not a bad experience even tho my splits say otherwise. It really was a strange feeling….my legs felt great and were telling me to keep going hard but the rest of body just wouldn’t allow it. I managed to get over the line at 3 hours 34 mins. It was clear to see at the finish line how much the heat had taken out of people, unfortunately the medical tents were jammed packed with people needing treatment, so a big well done needs to all the medical staff throughout the course and finish area. With about 1200m to go i went passed a Spanish runner who was really struggling, he had stopped in middle of road and was struggling to move his legs, i stopped and give him some friendly support which turned out to be caught on Camera (see picture below).
I collected my bag and went and met Sarah, my brother and friends (making sure they were actually there) that had flew over that morning, an all day breakfast in Waxy O Connors managed to restore my energy levels, and once TK met us we managed a few pints while watching the Munster match. As the others departed for home myself and TK grabbed a taxi back to hotel were we had planned a few more well deserved pints……however that didn’t happen, 9pm came early and it was time for bed.
Overall it was a fantastic weekend….a marathon experience I will take plenty of learnings from and take into the next one. Which judging by the weather, might be in Iceland next time!
The race itself was truly an unbelievable experience, an experience i want to do again sooner rather than later, highly recommend the London Marathon if you are lucky enough to gain entry. The crowd support was amazing throughout.