London Marathon 2016

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London Marathon 2016

Postby WayneC » Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:34 pm

Well it was a jolly good time, in spite of a less than stellar time. Expectations were low, (finish) so I met them, but there was of course always that hope for a magical day. Some of the issues including a lingering illness, and a recent hamstring injury did not set me up well for a good result. The training over the last six weeks had been significantly limited. Such is the world of racing marathons. You take what you bring on race day and make the best of it.

We arrived in London on Thursday evening, so not a lot of time to adjust to the eight hour time change. I did pretty well with that though. I had obviously been checking the weather for the week prior to the race (over and over again) and it was constantly changing. Rain was in and out of the forecast. Then there was potential for flurries at the start of the race. In the end, an Arctic front moved in, dropping the temperature to 3 degrees at the start with icy cold 25 kph northerly winds to add to the chill factor. There was also a prediction for some brief periods of sleet for the slower runners during the race. Ah yes, perfect racing weather, gloves and a singlet (and arm sleeves and calf socks).

T - 3 hours.
Up early with no alarm needed and down to join the other racers in the hotel for breakfast. Waffles and syrup was not my usual pre race fare, but it was pretty close. Then it was back to the room where I bundled up warm for the start with 5 layers, including a long sleeve, short sleeve, jacket and poncho, as well as sweat pants.
I also carefully attached that all important timing chip to my shoe.

T - 2 hours
The Marathon Tours group had arranged the luxury of a bus to the start area, rather than the tube like most runners. Very nice. My new buddy Joe and I took the later bus so we would not have to stand around in the cold, which was as predicted, for as long. That worked well as we arrived at 8:45 for the 10 am start after a bus ride teaming with an almost overwhelming intensity of nervous energy and anticipation. This was the LONDON MARATHON!! One of the MAJOR marathons. Who wouldn't be excited.

T - 60 minutes.
London is unique in that it has multiple starts, each with their own holding area. I was in the Blue Start. We walked over the hill to the setup which was in a huge grassy field. Things were quite wet due to the overnight rain. I ignored the long row of baggage trucks as I had already decided to leave my gear on as long as possible and drop it in the corral. All throwaways go to charity, so I knew they would not be wasted. A worthwhile sacrifice for sure. I wrapped plastic bags around my shoes to keep my feet warm and dry as well. After surveying the extremely well organized scene, I made the first of multiple trips to the loo for a nervous pee. These are a great invention with rows of probably 40 plastic molded urinals set up in a fenced off area, allowing for "high flow". Apparently the ladies had their own stand up urinal areas as well. They were provided with a folded piece of cardboard to act as a funnel. Sounds a little awkward to me.

T - 50 minutes
The next priority was to check out the access to the corrals. I had fortunately been given a place in the first corral. By the size of it there would probably only be 300 runners in the corral when I eventually settled in there. Of course that is recognizing it was only one of at least four start areas. I was not in a rush to stand in there though, being told I only had to be in the corral 10 minutes prior to the start. So, I found a place to sit, out of the cold wind, with my back leaning up against the urinal tenting. There was another huge covered tent, but it was packed with hundreds of runners trying to stay warm. I set myself on the newspaper pillow that I had brought specifically for that occasion. (Gotta cover all of the variables). Then I hunkered down, watching the racers of all shapes and sizes shivering around me. I gave one young fellow an extra pair of gloves I had brought to the start. I thought he was going to kiss me, he was so happy.

T - 30 minutes.
It was time for the final preparations. The staging area was big enough that I could do a few strides and dynamics before heading to the corral. Just enough to get the muscles warm, but also wanting to avoid wasting any excess energy. I would need it all for the task ahead. My hamstring was a little tight, but otherwise I felt good.

T -15.
I slid my way into the start corral and then slipped off my throwaways. Sleeves on, running belt on, watch check, one last drink and I was ready. Not nervous, but definitely excited. I would stick to the plan of being conservative and see how my body responded. I then carefully moved my way into the mass of closely packed runners. I positioned myself about in the middle of the corral so I would not be tempted to go out too fast.

T -10 minutes.
The rope in front of the corral dropped and we shuffled up towards the start line, nestling in behind the British "good for age runners" who had joined our procession. The start was only two lanes wide and we were jammed in pretty tight. Even with no warmup gear I did not feel cold as the communal heat of all of the runners around me kept me warm. I was excited to get going as I kept my legs moving with little circles. Announcements were going on, but they were impossible to hear clearly. There was a buzz in the crowd. Crap! I just remembered that I had left my handheld bottle with my specially concocted drink, at the start with my extra clothes. So much for the best laid plans. Oh well, too late now. I would just have to hope the two ten ounce bottles on my waist would meet my needs and supplement on the course with water if needed. I did have some energy gels with me just in case.

T - 30 seconds.
Apparently a British astronaut in space was doing the official countdown. It was impossible to hear. All I knew is that the crowd in front of me was slowly shuffling forward before easing into a gentle jog. I hit the stating mat after about 30 seconds, clicked my watch, and the race was on. London here I (and 40,000 other runners) come!

The London Marathon offers a scenic tour of the city, zigzagging back and forth in a generally east to west direction from Greenwich to Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, Blackwall, Tower Hill, Big Ben, Westminster, Buckingham Palace and on to the finish 26.2 miles away on the Mall in St James Park. Better than a Hop On, Hop Off bus tour. Of course, there were a few people blocking the views of the sights though. The crowd support on the route was amazing. Almost every inch was lined several deep with screaming people reminiscent of the girls at Wellesley College on the Boston route, only 26 times over.

The marathon route itself is basically rolling, with small hills scattered along the way, but nothing too grinding. The real challenge was the masses of runners to navigate through on a narrow route. A blue line marking the shortest route along the course was only a dream. There were many corners and curves where the crowds compressed even more and often slowed almost to a stop. Raised meridians in the center of the road and numerous speed humps added more hazards as we dodged around and over them. I was elbow to elbow with those around me, with no room to maneuver. I was bumped a number of times and knocked off balance. My watch got turned off briefly on one occasion. My heels kept getting clipped as I tried to avoid clipping those of runners in front of me. I saw someone go down in a heap to my right and saved someone going down on my left. It was survival at this stage. I had a few words with one fellow as he aggressively tried to push me aside and I held my ground with a stiff elbow in true British tradition. (Or is that supposed to be an upper lip) Just ahead of me I saw the three hour pace bunny. There was no way I could reach him as he slowly pulled away. I was trapped!

My mantra for the day was patience. Patience with my body and patience for what the race would bring. First Km was 4:30 pace. I'll get that back later I reasoned. I waited for the occasional opportunity to move through a small gap and for the crowd to thin out so that I could run freely. The route started on a two lane road. With having to contend with only one of the start areas on the course it was already packed. At the one mile mark I had the sense that the sea of people in front of me was widening out. Unfortunately, that is when runners from the Green start joined the masses from my Blue start and I felt a slowing rather than a speeding up. Second km was 4:12. It's all good I thought. I need a slow start to warm up. At three miles the Red start joined the procession and the cocoon continued. I still could see the three hour bunny up ahead, but he was pulling away. I was helpless to go with him. Third km 4:09. Settling in now and feeling good. By five miles, there was a little daylight and although I had to keep constant vigil, I could run. By 10 km I finally got in front of the three hour bunny and left him behind. All was well with the world.

Okay, now I am racing. Yesss! Here I am. London Marathon! Masses of people all around me, but I could run. Now where was that blue line? I took in some fluid and checked in with my body. Heart rate of 154 was a little high, but okay. Pace of about 4:12 per km was as per plan. It was cool, but not freezing and the crowd around me offered protection from the cool wind. Everything was good, except the hamstring. My hope that it would loosen up over the first several km with some easy pacing was not happening. I could feel the tightness and impending spasm deep within the belly of the muscle. I purposely had shortened my stride a little in self defense. The first three 5 km splits had me at sub three hour pace, but with the hamstring tightening I was forced to slow a little. I kept pushing, but did not want to risk cramping. Finishing was the main goal. My focus shifted away from speed, to survival. I kept pushing though, but realistically knew that a fast time was not in the cards for this day.

This was now a holiday marathon. I dropped to 4:20 pace and started taking in the scene around me. The crowds and bands were crazy. The moving sea of people spread all around me. You can miss a lot when focused on racing. A guy in space suit went by. Then there was a guy in a T Rex outfit and 2 guys strapped together at the ankle doing a three legged race. And of course, inevitably, there were runners looking my age going by. I took note of each one. Perhaps I would see them again. Half way, 1:30:30. Reality check. Negative split coming? Nope, not today. Just get it done. By 30 km I was down to 4:30 pace and then had a couple in the 4:40 range. I was talking to myself at this stage, fighting the urge to slow down further. There was a lot of grunting going on around me and I soon realized that I was part of the audio. I was hurting.

And so it went. Dodge the people, watch out for the meridians and speed humps and enjoy the day. With 10 km to go I still had lots of energy and tried to pick the pace up a bit to go in search of the grey hairs. Got it down to 4:35 pace, but that was all my body would allow. The hamstring continued to be my governor as it started to tighten with any significant increase in pace. Still, with minimal effort, I started catching people as I sped up a little and they started slowing. One by one I was picking them off. I counted at least four all important "old guys" in the last five km. At the same time I was sadly noting the road kill, with a number of runners pulling up lame with leg cramps or illness over the last several miles. I was congratulating myself on avoiding that scene. I spoke too soon however. With one mile to go, suddenly my hamstring knotted up and my right leg buckled under me. Oh no! Not me too?! After several hopping steps I was lucky to regain my stride and kept on with my push to the finish. There was still one "old guy" I could see ahead of me and I was closing in. I caught him on the curve coming into the last three hundred meters and went by with what felt like a peg legged sprint as I blasted down the Mall and across the finish line, smiling for the camera.

Except for my hamstring, I felt great. I had a big smile on my face as I congratulated those around me and had my medal draped around my neck. My leg was done though, as I dragged it five hundred punishing meters to the meeting area. I was happy with the race and proud to have completed it in spite of multiple factors. Will likely need a little recovery time I should think. Now, I think there is a beer and a cheeseburger with my name on it.
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Re: London Marathon 2016

Postby CGP » Thu Apr 28, 2016 10:14 am

Good job Wayne. Frustrating though to have an injury as a speed governor. Hope U bounce back quickly from this. London marathon sounds a bit of a hairy one with speed bumps hidden from view due to masses of other runners. I would have a problem with that.
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Re: London Marathon 2016

Postby Kiwi Keith » Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:17 am

Excellent report Wayne. The description of the urinals reminded me of Boston 1996, only there they had troughs for the men, so you would be peeing into a continuous stream of urine. I saw women just squatting anywhere in the field to pee. It was an eye opener for sure.
Good job toughing it out. Sounds like you need active release for that ham. It was the only thing that helped me when I was struggling with the hamstring insertion injury for so long.
Anyway enjoy the holiday. You deserve it.
"Aint nothin gonna breaka my stride, I'm running and I won't touch ground, oh no I've got to keep on movin."
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