report by Paul Hamilton
If you held a gun to my head and asked me to choose one running event to take part in, my answer would always have been the London Marathon. So when I saw that Adrian Lanigan had entered a competition on strava for a place in 2019s edition I hastily hit the join challenge button. I didn’t think of it again until one night in June 2018 I got an email congratulating me on winning one of 100 places. After confirming that it was all kosher I started to celebrate and booked flights and accommodation. I then had to put it to the back of my mind as I was running Berlin in September and Dublin in October.
Once these races had finished I started to look forward to London. As an added bonus, as well as my wife accompanying me, my mother and sister also decided to come along for the weekend.
We flew into London on 27th April, the day before the marathon and went straight to the running show to collect my number. I hate expos at marathons. They are always jammers and designed to have you on your feet all day and the London one was no different. I collected my number and after getting a few gels and beetroot shots (yuk) and a quick look around left to get something to eat and rest up.
Race day arrived on 28th April and I jumped out of bed at 6am and went down and had my usual porridge and coffee in the hotel. Then it was back to the room to get ready and put the kit on and try to fight the nerves. This was my fifth marathon in a relatively short period. You would think I wouldn’t be nervous but I think having done a few can make you even more nervous as you know what is ahead of you. The one thing I’m not nervous about is getting to the start line in a different city. I have learned that as soon as you walk out of the hotel you will see a steady line of people being drawn to some destination in the distance. Follow these and you will be ok.
The London Marathon has 3 starting areas and I was assigned to the green zone and would be starting at 10.10am. I arrived in good time and after dropping off my bag went for a quick 1km warm-up and some strides. What strikes you at the start is how many people in fancy dress there are. I spotted Elvis, Snow White, Rhinos, a man dressed as a bride (full make up and everything) and a 7foot water bottle (who I think finished in sub 3 hours) among many others. We assembled into our zones and were walked to the starting line. On one side of me was the afore mentioned Snow White and on the other was Big Ben himself (check out the videos of him trying to get across the finish line https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=us77YNSfllk)
And then we were off. I was aiming for a time of about 3.10 and tried to settle into my pace. This was quite hard as even though you know that you pay in spades later for any pacing mistakes, the first 3km has a lot of downhill and you feel you should take advantage of this. However I settled into a good pace and felt pretty comfortable. Right from the start the support from the crowds is different level. Almost the entire route is packed with people all shouting and cheering. Tom who ran it last year tried to tell me about the atmosphere but you can’t appreciate it until you experience it. It’s hard to explain but the only way I can is to think of the support you get in Dublin and multiple it by at least 10. I spent the first 10km settling in and chatting to a few runners along the way.
The first major landmark on the course is at around the 10km mark, the Cutty Sark. The crowds were at least 10 deep and the noise was deafening. I was still feeling great at this stage and was looking forward to the next major landmark of Tower Bridge at halfway. As I approached once again the crowds were amazing. The approach to the bridge is great as you can see it for a while but you cross it before you realize it. All was good so far and after half way is when you get stuck into the next 10 km and wait for the argument to start.
The argument usually comes for me around mile 19 and it is my legs telling my mind to just take a little walk break, just a little one, my mind answers my legs no, just keep going for now. This starts as a polite disagreement but develops over the next 4 miles into a full barney with my legs seemingly having more valid points as we progress. At this stage of the race I had entered Canary Wharf and my watch started throwing off mad paces as the GPS was blocked by the buildings. At one stage it said I was running 7 minute Kms and the next 3 minutes. I was prepared for this however and kept running by effort rather than pace. I had to make a quick toilet stop (TMI I know) at around mile 21 and continued on looking forward to seeing my family at mile 23 where they said they would be. I was struggling at this stage to keep pace and felt it dropping off a bit. When I got to mile 23 I looked everywhere as I didn’t want to miss my family who had come all this way. However I couldn’t see them anywhere. This was a bit deflating and the legs side of the argument was really starting to sound appealing.
At mile 24 I could see Elmo, yes that Elmo, and decided that no Sesame St character was going to beat me today and I took off in pursuit. The best moment of the day arrived when I heard my name being screamed by familiar voices and turned to see my family who evidently can’t count. Joy! This was just the boost I needed and it carried me through to the finish in a time of 3.14.42. Whilst I missed my A target, I had set a B target of sub 3.15 and was over the moon to achieve this.
I was shattered at the finish and after getting my medal and gear collapsed in the park suffering from cramps. I picked myself up and went and found my family and the celebrations commenced.
I said at the start of this long report (sorry) that the London Marathon was the race I wanted to do the most. Usually we are let down after building something up so much, but London surpassed my expectations. It’s hard to appreciate the depth of goodwill and support on the course unless you have experienced it. If you ever get the opportunity to do this race grab it with both hands and don’t let go. By the way I beat Elmo by 19 seconds, your next Big Bird.