“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Katharine Switzer
London Marathon 2018 was certainly one for the records – including the record of hottest London Marathon ever. There’s so much to talk about, so sit back, get your coffee/tea/wine/beer/beverage of choice ready and let’s get to the recap.
I’m not normally one for Race Expos – I like to get in and get out pronto, but this year I did it differently. My friend and colleague Oli joined me for the Expo, and we had a good time walking the floor and checking out all the goodies. There were tons of photo opps to be had with the bib, so naturally I queued up for each one just to get a photo.
Just *LOVE* that I somehow got the banner for Ride London and not London Marathon. Still, I LOVE these photos.
While I was at the Expo, I had a chance to sit down with my coach and talk strategy for Sunday. He set me straight right away: the heat on Sunday was going to cost me time – about 6 minutes if all went well. The good news is that this wasn’t my “A” race for the year, so I was more than happy to forgo a PB attempt at London. He also told me I start out too fast, and that I need to train myself better to run consistent. OK, right coach, I will listen to what you say – slow and steady.
3 hours later, full of knowledge, some new photos and a lighter wallet thanks to some purchased goods, I was ready for Sunday.
Race day started like all my race days do – full of stress and anxiety. An email from Coach the day before said the conditions were going to be even hotter than expected, so expect to add even MORE time – another 4-6 minutes – than we trained for. Ok, add more time, add more sunscreen, wear a light colored top instead (oh how I wanted to wear my all black Run4Ron top), wear my extra big Mizunos – everything to help me get around a hot course. Now, this is what happened in Paris last year too, but then I was starting at 8:30 am, not 10 am.
Willy and I left the house (late, natch) and headed toward Greenwich for the start. It’s a long way to Greenwich, but we made it with time to spare. Willy was doing my Instagram takeover and had meticulously plotted where he was going to be along the course so that I could find him. Miles 7, 14.5, 20 and KM 40 (mile 24.5) – check.
Upon arriving to Greenwich, marshals were there to help runners get to the right colored start pen. About this time my belly did it’s infamous “it’s time to go to the loo, NOW” routine (this is clockwork for every race I do), so I started to get stressed and told Willy I have to go, NOW. A quick Instagram story, a kiss for luck, and we departed ways with plans to meet at mile 7.
Bag drop was nice and easy and then it was the queue for the loo.
OH.MY.SWEET.JESUS. The queue – it stretched FOREEEEEVVVVEEEERRR. This was not going to bode well for my belly, which was about to lose its shit, literally.
Some dancing around, some mental meditation, and finally some sweet words to the gals in fancy dress ahead of me who were in start 7 to please let me go before them, and I was getting close.
The one perk for the queue? Seeing Sophie, one of my favourite runners from this community. She and I have a knack for finding each other before the start of our races, and it’s a great way for the both of us to smile and calm each other’s nerves.
Nice and calm seeing Sophie.
Hugs to Sophie, whispers of you’ve got this/smile/have fun, and we were in our starting pens. I literally had 5 minutes to “warm up” and then it was time to start.
Mile 1 is my favourite mile in every marathon. Everything seems possible and nothing hurts yet. Except this time mile 1 was HOT. Extraordinarily hot. Ok, Michele, slow and steady, just like Coach said. Not too fast.
This went pretty quickly, and my pace seemed reasonable at the time (looking at my splits, I went out too fast, goddammit.)
We arrived at Cutty Sark before I knew it (10K mark- check!) and then on to see Willy at mile 7.
Hello Handsome Husband – look how good I feel just after 10K!
Not much to report here – course was uninspiring, but then you get to TOWER BRIDGE. Running over Tower Bridge on the street is every runners dream. It also marks the halfway point of the race. I knew I was going to see LDN Brunch Club here and that I was close to seeing Willy as well.
By this point I was knackered. It’s not normal to feel this tired in a marathon at the halfway point, and I knew it was going to be a slog for the rest of the race.
I was ready to walk, and I had to bribe myself with seeing Willy at 14.5 before I would allow myself a respite. I wanted to run strong to him and promised myself that after I got out of viewing distance of him, I’d give myself a break (note to self: this means you were going to fast.)
I saw Willy at mile 14.5 and ran up to him for a high five (and a secret break) and he told me to just keep running. I did just that.
Miles 15 – 18
I literally remember none of these miles – usually that’s me for miles 17-20 miles.
Running through Canary Wharf is a bore – always has been for me. Glass buildings, new construction, not the heart of London, so I was pleased by how quickly I was out of there.
By mile 18, I was really knackered. I took a gel, stopped at 18 for some water, and that became my strategy for the next 7 miles. Stop at the water station, drink a bottle, then keep moving.
London does a BRILLIANT job here – having water stations at every mile just makes so much sense to me. I now think every other race I’ve done is cruel – who makes you run 5K to get water?
Smart husband that Willy is, he tipped me off earlier in the week to carry some electrolyte tablets with me in my belt and use those on the course. So gel at 18, half a tablet each at 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.
Spot husband at mile 20 and can’t wait to see him at the 24.5 marker.
Miles 21-25 were SPECIAL. This is where the crowds really drive you.
Mile 21 was Run Dem Crew. I cannot tell you how electrifying their crowd support is. When you’re running and all of a sudden you see a sign spray painted on the street saying “you’re now entering Run Dem”… oh hell yeah. I’d run the London Marathon every year just to run past Run Dem.
Mile 23 – LDN Brunch Club, take 2. Such power to draw from our mighty club. I’ve run so many miles with these guys training for this marathon, so couldn’t believe we were already nearing the end.
Mile 24 – Blackfriars. Down into the Blackfriars tunnel you go, and up into the most intense situation I’ve ever been in. I love noise, I love support, I love crowds, but this.was.too.much.
Everyone told me to take out my headphones, to take it in, to enjoy this and let the crowds carry you. I tried, I really did. My music went off and I listened to the sound, but it became too much. It was so deafening, so overwhelming for me. I had to put my headphones in, crank up the music and carry on.
I missed Willy at mile 24.5 – no surprise as the crowds were insane, but my head was down and I was there to finish.
That last stretch of course was BRUTAL. I was spent, my legs hurt worse than they’d ever done in my previous marathons and mentally I wasn’t focused. I took one last pause at the 385 yards to go mark. The last 400 meters and I just needed a moment to collect myself and remind myself that I could do this.
A turn right past Buckingham Palace and the finish line in sight. Swing the arms, hold your head high and GO!
Sorry I can’t wait Nigel, I’ve got a pint of beer to drink.
Mile 26.2 and beyond
Crossing that finish line was incredible. Knowing that Nat and Kerry were just there to give hugs to made me walk as fast as I could (read: not fast at all and walking like penguin) to see them. Then, seeing Sophie AGAIN just made everything.
Chuffed for us both – look at those smiles!
Each marathon teaches us something, about ourselves, about the distance, about the environment. This marathon taught me about the ability to reign things in when I needed to. I didn’t care (too much) about my time, I wanted to finish strong and healthy. Seeing runners collapse along the course needing medical attention put the run into perspective for me. I had to run for them and run for myself because I physically could.
That rang especially true when our community learned about the passing of Matt Campbell. A young man with a bright future ahead of him, who was running and raising funds to honour the life of his father who passed away, sadly lost his life on Sunday. It’s tragic and heartbreaking, for his family, and for our family. Runners never expect not to return from a run, so the loss of one of our own has been tough. But, the most beautiful thing has come from it. Our community, decided to honour Matt and his family, and finish those last 3.7 miles that Matt didn’t. Meeting today at Tower Bridge, hundreds of runners gathered to run and dedicate their runs to Matt. #MilesforMatt has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds in Matt’s honour.
#MilesforMatt – photo courtesy of @GraceRunsLDN
Katherine Switzer once said, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” She was right, to a point. Running and spectating marathons will restore your faith in humanity for a day, but if you really want to see the human spirit, watch a community come together to honor one of its own. Nothing will take away the pain and grieving for Matt’s family, but hopefully the tributes being paid in his honour will help bring them a bit of comfort.
London, you were memorable in so many ways. May we take the experiences from you, and honor ourselves and Matt as we prepare for what’s next.