Friday, May 1, 2015

The 2015 London Marathon was my least enjoyable race to date...

Well that's one more major marathon ticked off my bucket list and I can't tell you how glad I was to cross that London Marathon Finish Line. Now that I've had a few days to reflect and I've seen my official race photos to remind me of the experience, I can say with some certainty that my first London Marathon will probably be my last and I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped.

Crossing the 2015 London Marathon Finish Line 
with fellow Terrence Higgins Trust charity runner
2015 London Marathon Finish Line Terrence Higgins Trust charity runners
This was my 11th marathon to date and clocking in at 4:12:32 it wasn't my slowest, but it definitely wasn't a great race result either (although my first in my 40's).

There were a few factors that counted against me on this occasion. When I travel for a marathon I usually fly in the day before to pick up my race packet at the expo and I'm running the next day, whilst this time flying in from L.A. and traveling around Wales and England to see friends and family was a change from my usual routine.

Waiting in the Red Start Zone before the London Marathon
2015 London Marathon red start before race
Terrible jet-lag, plus eating and drinking my way around London being a social butterfly probably wasn't the best foundation for the race (although I'd not seen them for almost 15 months), and after brilliant weather with clear blue skies and crisp temperatures in the run up to race day, it decided to rain on the morning of the marathon.

London Marathon Red Start Corrals in Greenwich Park
2015 London Marathon red start corral
I always have a certain anxiety before any new marathon, wondering about travel times and where I'm going and how long I'll need to get there, but fortunately as this was the 35th anniversary of the race it was all very well organized when I arrived in Greenwich, which was a relief.

Almost ready to start running
2015 London Marathon red start corral Greenwich
My biggest memory of the course has to be how narrow the streets of London feel compared to the other races I have run in North American cities like L.A., New York and Vancouver.

Running over Tower Bridge at Mile 12
Running over Tower Bridge 2015 London Marathon
From the beginning I felt boxed in and constantly barged to and fro, with people constantly dashing in front of me at the last minute making me have to stop and weave and making for a really stressful run. It probably also contributed to the fact that I ran almost an extra half mile according to my watch.

Running by the Terrence Higgins Trust supporters at Mile 17
Terrence Higgins Trust London Marathon charity runner
You also had to keep your wits about you to avoid people constantly spitting to the side of themselves, or tossing water bottles directly in your path.

Taking a walk break around Mile 23
Taking walk break 2015 London Marathon
And on that note, whilst the water and Lucozade bottles seemed like a good idea to avoid slippery conditions from paper cups, you had to constantly watch your footing as the bottles were kicked and crushed around you (plus I'm not sure how environmentally friendly all that plastic was).

Running along London's Embankment around Mile 24.5
Running Embankment London Marathon 2015
The narrow streets also meant that spectator support was right on top of you, and whilst great to hear shouts of encouragement from the crowds, I got the distinct impression that no one was doing the same run/walk ratio that I'm used to and have used for every one of my marathons.

By the end of the 26.2 mile course I was completely frustrated by all the well-meaning well-wishers telling me to "keep going" and "don't stop now" when I was taking a walk break from very early on in the race.

Running by the Houses of Parliament around Mile 25
Running past Houses of Parliament 2015 London Marathon
Also because of the narrow, crowded streets even when you signaled and moved off to the side to walk, other runners just didn't seem to be very considerate.

Just beyond Big Ben in the 2015 London Marathon
London Marathon 2015 charity runner
Running a marathon doesn't just come down to physical stamina, but it's also about mental strength and if you're having a lousy time it can affect your performance.

Being in my home country I was hoping to see more people I knew along the course, but I really didn't as the sidelines were so packed, even though I knew my friends were out there.

Digging deep near the final stretch in front of Buckingham Palace
Most of these official race photos come from the latter stages of the marathon and it's really then that the course becomes more visually interesting.

Running across Tower Bridge was a big thrill and through a teeming Canary Wharf, but it wasn't until the Embankment and Westminster that I saw those infamous London landmarks. By that stage I wasn't really in the mood to take it all in, I just wanted to finish.

Crossing 2015 London Marathon Finish Line
Crossing 2015 London Marathon Finish Line
Running down the mall before Buckingham Palace felt never ending, especially as there were signs reminding you there was only 800 metres left, then 600, then 400 - it seemed to go on forever.
Crossing 2015 London Marathon Finish Line
Just as I came to the last dash I spied another runner for the Terrence Higgins Trust, also raising funds for the HIV/AIDS charity, and I asked if he wanted to run hand in hand across the Finish Line which was the theme of this race after the first ever London Marathon on March 29, 1981, where the winners Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen famously crossed the line together holding hands.

I finished the 2015 London Marathon in 4:12:32
2015 London Marathon Finisher
For me that was a highlight of the race and a memorable way to finish, running those final steps along a Union Jack strewn stretch.

2015 London Marathon Finisher Shirt and Medal
2015 London Marathon finisher shirt medal
Like I said the London Marathon was on my bucket list after growing up watching the annual event on TV, a bit of a national institution, and never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be competing one day.
2015 London Marathon medal
After finishing this race it felt like I'd never run a marathon before and this was my first time, my legs throbbed so much that walking to the family reunion area was absolute torture.

It really is a shame that I didn't have a better London Marathon experience, but then I always conveniently forget how hard running 26.2 miles can actually be (and I've run in all kinds of conditions before from sweltering heat to torrential rain and freezing winds). At least I finished with a smile on my face.

Relaxing after the race
2015 London Marathon Finisher
Now with London crossed off the list, plus five L.A., two Vancouver, one Honolulu, one San Francisco and one New York Marathon in the bag, it's time to rest and recover and contemplate how I can have a better race for my second NYC Marathon in November (methinks there'll be lots of hill training involved).

Time to start thinking positively about my next marathon, but not before I celebrate this one with a few more sneaky cocktails...

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