Apr 29

Marshalling at the London Marathon

London Marathon 2015

Last April I entered the Paris Marathon as my target for the year, but I still put my name down for the London ballot, just in case. I didn’t get in, but as a result of finally joining a running club I get did get an option to marshal the race. Having being very grateful to people who have marshalled the races I’ve run, I thought it was time to give something back.

London Marathon 2015

The day started early, with a group of us meeting at 7am at the Tube station to make our way to Shadwell for our briefing. West 4 Harriers have for years being part of the team that marshall on the Highway, which is from Tower Bridge mile 12.5 to Limehouse (mile 14) and the reverse route miles (21.5-23, or near enough). it’s a great piece of course as we get to see the runners twice.

London Marathon 2015

Briefing done, we spread out onto the course for 9am and then our job was waiting. Not too long, as we had a series of elite racers come by. The wheelchairs, the IPC championships, then the women elite and finally the men elite, who were followed by the trickle, stream and then flood of the masses.

London Marathon 2015

We were there for safety, to answer crowed questions and most importantly for the runners. We started off with a security role, keeping an eye out for left bags and then an eye out for anyone who may decide that jumping out in front of the elites would be a good idea. Luckily, nothing like that happened on my section, although the section along did have to call in the police after a woman had left her suitcase next to the course as she went to the toilet (there were long queues, she was gone a while).

London Marathon 2015

Later, it was all about supporting runners. On the way out, most runners were going along fine. On the way back, the effort was beginning to take its toll. Last year, with the heat, there were apparently a lot of collapses in the area that needed support. This year, I had to deal only with one person who had a very heavy fall and knocked the wind out of her. She did get up and carry on, hope she finished.

London Marathon 2015

So as it was quiet, I had the chance to take a lot of photos (you can find them all on Flickr) and chat with a BBC spotter, who was set up to spot celebrities (and great fancy dress) for the camera that was about 200 years up the road. So celebrity spotting and cheering was the rest of my day. Along with freezing as it was very cold – I ended up having to dance a lot to the music just to keep warm.

London Marathon 2015

This was the first marathon I’ve watched end to end and the difference from start to finish is huge. I think London, with its large emphasis on charity places and fundraising, may be slightly unusual on the people it attracts – it has a 7 hour cutoff time but there appeared to be a lot of people running who would not make that.

London Marathon 2015

As time went on, the stream reduced back to a trickle as the slower pens got to the 13 mile mark. The the sweepers came by, the car that told everyone that the course was closed, that they had to move to the pavement. Followed by the street cleaners, the rubbish collectors and the course demantlers. I felt for the people who were being overtaken at that point – at what point would they decide to stop if they are overtaken by course closed at 13 miles? People who had taken on the challenge but had probably not realised what that meant!

London Marathon 2015
As the runners went back the other way, the sweepers turned up again. This was at 22 miles, you’d got a mixture of people who had obviously suffered an injury or had hit the wall. it was all walking and at this point the stare of death had set in. I’ve been the, I know it. It’s one step at a time, just pushing forward to the finish, knowing about but not having the energy to acknowledge the comments. this is the point I made sure I was loud and encouraging, this is the point it is needed. 4 miles out, I would assume that everyone who was passed by the sweeper would keep going to the finish, I hope they got a medal! I aslo saw a lot of family and friends joined them at this point, just to keep the march going.

Overall, a great day, well worth it. Would I do it again next year? Only if I’m not running!

London Marathon 2015

Apr 13

Running the Paris Marathon

I ran the Paris marathon on Sunday. Running it was a very. very silly idea but I still went ahead and did it. Last year, London was my first marathon. I had no idea what to expect, I did all the training I could despite suffering an injury, I pushed through and finished the marathon to plan, in the target time. It was hard and I was not mentally prepared for those last 6miles but I liked it enough to try again.

When I entered Paris last April, the intention was I would train regularly during the summer to build up the base fitness and improve my speed before starting the formal training plan. But that was before I ended up with a detached retina and not being able to do anything for a couple of months. So I started off with the plan, at lower level then I wanted and it was all going well until a fall, a broken finger, another operation under general anaesthetic, colds, chest infections, and a shin splint that meant it was hard to walk at times, never mind run! Seven weeks ago, if I could have, i would have deferred the entry but you can’t do that with Paris. Furthermore, my travel and hotel were paid for, so i was going anyway. In the last 6 weeks, I have only run about 50miles, with some other aerobic training built in. Nowhere near enough when I was supposed to be running 50m a week! I was not sure I was going to run until a few days before and even then, I still had the option not to. I had amended my plan. Instead of 4 hours, my original target a year ago, I wanted to get under 5:40, the published cutoff time. I researched run-walk plans and was prepared – if I decided to run. I’d run to each km marker and then walk for 60 seconds.

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I arrived in Paris on Friday, dropped my stuff at my hotel and headed right to the expo to get my number. It was surprisingly quick through the process. Hand in the medical form, get my convocation stamped, move to the next section and swap that for my number. then make my way through all the stalls. I did end up buying a souvenir tshirt and cap, but didn’t do much shopping for other things.

Notre Dame

Saturday, i decided to spend a could of hours wandering around Notre Dame (to add to my cathedrals visited collection) before a quick pasta lunch and then an afternoon napping and eating carbs, before more pasta in the evening. A long, lazy day eating carbs sounds fun; the lazing was, but not the ongoing ingestion of noting for bread, pasta, fruit juice and sugar!

Notre Dame

Sunday morning, it was time to race. I’d spent the week watching the weather and my worst fears were realised. It was going to be a ‘hot’ and sunny day. Hot is relative, but 20c is more than warm enough. An early breakfast before getting ready to be out for 7:30. Made my way to the Metro station for the direct journey to the start area, then a quick dash back to pick up my watch. yes, despite making a list, I still forgot to put on my Garmin! Second attempt to get on a train worked and off I went> Most people got off at the Arc de Triomphe stop but I stayed on an extra couple of stops to get to the end of the finish straight and an easy stroll to the baggage drop off. A final loo stop, a check I’d remembered everything (it turned out I hadn’t. more later) and then no queue to drop the bag off. More strolling up to the start, through the chaos around the Arc de Triomphe where not all traffic is stopped and the runners play frogger.

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Because I knew I was nowhere near my predicted pace, I decided to drop back a pen or two, but they would not let me. I was only allowed into my original starting pen. Once in there, I settled at the back and waited, not oo long, only about 25 mins before we were ready to move. We slowly made our way down the pen, moving through the queues for the loos (hint, if you’re in a back pen and need a last minutes put stop, wander on down once they release you as there are loos with no queues).

They started on time and I headed off, keeping well to the side and trying to stay out of the way as everyone started to stream past me. It was straight down the Champs Elysee, wide and plenty of room. The first km marker came quickly and my first walk break. After the wide part, the roads narrowed, made even more narrow by crowds creeping in.There was very little control of this and in some parts it made for some vary slow running. There was also minimal control of people crossing the course and I saw plenty of near missed and the odd collision, as people just strolled across, with bikes or small children. There was often little time to react of this, which made the running risky at times!

The first water break arrived and it was time to grab a bottle, half of which went over my head – it was warm!! I also made sure I took advantage of the cooling stations, grabbing a handful of water out a bowl and running through the spray from the firemen’s hoses. The kms (and miles) kept ticking over. At mile 10 I grabbed a quick loo break, ignoring the state of the loo. There were plenty of men nipping to the side fro a break at many points where the course was quiet

So far so good, but i could feel the tiredness creeping up. At half way, I was on pretty much the same pace I’d run my last half in, passing through it in just over .5 hours. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain it. I’d been drinking regularly and taking my gels to plan, so it was just plane old lack of miles in the legs rather that fluid or fuel I think. By mile 18 I was taking 90 second breaks, then I hit the drinks stalls at about mile 20/km 30. Paris don’t provide gels or isotonic drink (except for one stand) but they do provide oranges or bananas and lots of people take advantage of them, throwing the peel all over the ground. This stand was on a slight slope and I could have done with spikes to keep my grip – traction was definitely an issue! This was the start of me starting to walk for longer and also the start of my right hip starting to cramp up, interestingly more so when I was walking rather than running. for the next few miles, I was doing shorter runs and longer walks. But I was not going to stop. It was only 2 park runs to do, then only the 1 park run. that was only 3 laps round my local park. But the legs at this point had done enough. They didn’t like running and the hip hurt when I walked. I switched to run 1min, walk 1min, or rather count of 60, again and again. The final mile though was walked, or rather limped, even down the finish straight. I’d done more than enough, all I wanted to do was finish.

Eventua;y, I got there. Through the markers and just keep walking. Get finishers tShirt, get water, get some oranges and pick up my medal. I was very silly to try and run Paris marathon but I finished it, in 5:38, so just under my target time. I would never, ever advise someone to do the same with such little training. It hurts!

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Oh, the final things I forgot? To vaseline my upper arms, so I’m in extreme pain now from chafing and bleeding there. Always remember to slather on the vaseline! It worked on my feet, no blisters there. And surprisingly, despite legs being sore, i can still walk down stairs normally.

I liked the Paris marathon, but not as much as London. Paris is huge – they had 41k finishers. Much of the course is past some of the greatest sites that Paris has to offer, but some is still through boring woods, including eh last section which has nothing on the end of London. There is much made of the crowd who watch, but although they were heavy at times, I did not think there was the same consistency as London. Overall, the organisation was good, he start, finish and information provided. The only area I had concerns with was what appeared to be lack of marshalls. There were large stretches with what appeared to be no cover, which, given the temperatures, could have lead to delays getting treatment

Apr 14

Running the London Marathon

London Marathon 2014

The day started off early! 5:30 wakeup to get 6:30 bus. I always prefer to be early and hate travelling in crowds and achieved this extremely well. Saw very few on the bus, tube or train and got to the meetup point 20 mins early, just before 8. So meet up with a few people from a running forum, plus with Angela, she’d volunteered to run with me – and I was extremely happy she did.

We entered the gathering area about 9ish, made the obligatory loo visit and then got ready – sun cream and vaseline. It was too warm to wear my throwaway clothes, which I’d dragged all the way there (and then took all the way back). made our way to Pen 9, and found a corner to sit and wait. When I’d entered, I had no idea what time I’d do, so probably put something close to 6, therefore we were at the back.

And we were off. I’d made the decision to run 9:50-9:55m/m as far as I could, knowing that I would fade and that’s what we settled into and pretty much managed for the nearly 30k. The first 5k was fairly quiet as we went through Woolwich areas, with the men yelling ‘hump’ making me smile, especially the kid who just kept up yelling. 🙂 Nothing much to report about the next 5k, we just kept ticking the miles down. the crowds around Greenwich were brilliant and my family had managed to get a spot right by the Cutty Sark so that was the first photo opp, even though by this point I was starting to look a little like a drowned rat, as I’d been pouring water over me in an attempt to keep cool.

London Marathon 2014

All the time we were playing dodgems, trying to get around people and at times we were definitely slowed by the crowds. In Surrey Quays, one guy ran right into the traffic island marker and took a very bad fall right in front of us, Angela helped him up (and then he did the ‘I’m OK’ and just limped on. I noticed there were lots of crowds around the shopping centre, assuming they’re combining their day out. And all through the earliest parts, heaviest crowds were round the pubs. I didn’t take any of the beer that was been offered though 🙂

At Tower Bridge and I definitely had a emotional moment, very close to crying, but got through that and made sure I was smiling for the camera. At this point, I was definitely starting to feel it, half done, another half to go. It was time for another gel, which I was taking every 4.5 miles. The hips were starting to get sore (although they were fine at the end of the race) and from about mile 16 my arms and legs were basically pins and needles and there were times when I could not feel them properly – not a nice feeling at all! From about mile 17, my ability to sport gaps and move into them had started to go and I got stuck behind people a few too many times. From here, Angela switched from running with me at my pace to encouraging me and keeping me going!

I was having to dig in now and mental goal changing from finishing in a time, to just finishing. The heat was getting to me, I was feeling sick and pins and needles were getting worse. At 20 miles I did 30 secs walk and that was to try and shake some feeling back into the limbs. That then became the pattern for the rest of the way, it was my mental reward for making the mile. Saw the family again at mile 22(ish) and there was no pause for photo, it was a matter of keeping going! On and on, with more more people walking or trying to stretch out cramp. you could just feel the determination and grit to get to the finish here. The Blackfriars tunnel was good, loved the Lucozade balloons.

Onto the final stretch, the Embankment. I’d run along here a fair bit during training and now it was just full of people rather than cars, a far better picture 🙂 Everything was focused internally now, keep going, keep going, one step at a time. There was nothing in the legs at all, no ability to increase the pace. Although looking at the Garmin, I was moving faster than I thought! The last 3 miles were run at a pace of 10:33, 10:45, 10:45 which is still faster than my LSR pace, it just felt a lot slower. It was all about the mind games. 1 mile, it’s the run to Kew Bridge, 800m, it’s 2 laps. Round the final corner, wash hoping the sight of the finish would give me a boost, but no, nothing. Plod, plod, plod. Tried to raise arms for camera, nope, not happening. I’m still pleased with my final time though, 4:30:10 is pretty good. And I completely smashed the others from work 🙂

Through the finish and the everything stopped. The legs didn’t quite want me to stay upright, so Angela and a friendly marshal supported me until I convinced the legs to work again! Timer chip cut off, medal collected (oh yes, I LOVE that medal) and bag collected. OMG, the walk to the end of the mall to get into the park, then the queues and crush to try and get somewhere. All I wanted to do is sit and have a drink and stretch out. Finally out, drink, snack, change the shoes as my feet were so sore! Then met up with Malcs (and others, I can’t remember!), and he and Angela made their way to the pub and I went to meet the family at the Help for Heroes meeting place, which was a welcome haven. Quiet, a seat, food, drink and a massage on the legs. I also got a second medal, as well as a round of applause as I walked in 🙂

London Marathon 2014

My first marathon done, a wonderful experience even with the pain. So what could I do differently?

  • Don’t get injured! I missed about 4 weeks of training, at a point where it was high mileage and a lot of running on tired legs. So when I hit that in the race, I had no experience to fall back on.
  • Think far, far earlier about my race pace – and don’t change plans! I’d trained at 10m/m but given I wanted that as an average, started off quicker. Would I have finished quicker if I’d started off at 10m/m and then still slowed, I don’t know.

So what am I going to do now?

The goal for the summer is to build on my speed, with the aim of bringing my half time down as far as possible, Sub 2hrs should be pretty easy (I hope, but let’s see where I can get to) So I’m going to join in the local running clubs Speed work evenings – and hopefully get some coaching on form as well

I’ve got 3 halfs booked for September, with Ealing being my main focus. I’ll be running through the P&D plan for that. And I intend to keep the mileage up over the summer as well.

London Marathon 2014