London Marathon 2014

Three years have passed since I last ran the London Marathon. I was injured in 2012 and dropped out at the half-way point last year (partly because I had a 100k race to run 6 days later, but still). Now, in 2014, I am three years older and slower than when I ran that memorable 2h19'. Despite not having access to a running track for speed work (Gosling Sports Centre charges £6 to run on their potholed tartan) and despite a long and horribly wet winter which flooded most of my favourite trails, I was determined to put in a solid performance this year.

My preparation started in earnest with the 'Barry 40' track race, which I won for the second consecutive time in a slow 4h24' (after passing through 20 miles in 1h59' - ouch!). After Barry, the weather improved a lot, and I steadily increased my weekly mileage to a maximum of 125 (which I only managed once, though). Not quite knowing what to expect for today's marathon, I decided to follow my intuition. The weather was really great and the start was exciting as always. I was standing two metres from the great Haile Gebrselassie and some five metres from the Olympic champions Stephen Kiprotich and Mo Farah. When Farah's name was announced, there was such a loud cheer that I thought my ears would bleed. There is no sport other than marathon running which allows ordinary plodders like me to compete in the same race as the best athletes in the world and stand shoulder to shoulder with them at the starting line.

Anyway, Farah et al. were soon out of sight and I joined a decent sized group running at a 5'09"/m pace (2h15' target time). That went very well until about 5 miles, which I suddenly had trouble breathing.  Although these problems disappeared a few miles later, I never managed to raise the pace again, and steadily lost speed until the finish. Strangely enough, I never really suffered all that much, and actually enjoyed most of the race, although there were the usual rough patches, when I couldn't quite remember what I liked so much about running! The crowds  were larger and noisier than ever, partly because of the good weather, and partly because of Mo Farah.

To make a long story short, I finished in a disappointing, but not entirely unacceptable 2h27'07". Just a few moments later, my RHUL colleague Tom Stevens finished his first sub-2h30' marathon, with a negative split! And what to say about the dynamic Steve Way, who only decided to race in London at the last minute and finished in a stunning 2h16'. Well done Steve, and see you at the Anglo-Celtic Plate 100k race in 20 days time. I shall not try to keep up with you!

At mile 12: slowly falling apart but still smiling (picture by Pete Grindrod).

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