When you have A race that you’ve dreamt about, that you’ve never thought you’d ever the chance to run, that you’ve taken leaps beyond your comfort zone to get to – writing a race report for that race is a very hard task! Add to that an unbelievable atmosphere, the most crazy and fun people, and an forgettable race experience. The London Marathon was all that and more. I have photos, GoPro video (that still needs to be edited down to a consumable format) and a race report. But none of these effectively capture the essence of the marathon, and the essence of the city of London.
For those who followed my training all through winter, I had trained hard to reach a certain goal. And I was going along well until I got sick with strep and bronchitis just 2 weeks before the race. That derailed the last bit of my training, but most of the work was already done. My goal was simple – to stay steady during the marathon and to run the entirety.
I was very excited but not in the least bit nervous. The weather had settled down to high 40s but with some super strong wind that would push us back (why is the wind never at our backs!).
The 10am start meant that I could get up easily at 6:30am and catch the tube at 7:30am. All underground trains in Central London were free for runners. Every runner I met on the train would readily chat. I met Debbie and Ruth who I hung out with until the start. Debbie and I planned to run together but we lost each other in the mad long queue for the loo just before the start.
Miles 1- 12
The race was in 3 separate starts according to the number. And all three areas started simultaneously on different routes that merged in 3 miles. I never have the problem of starting out too fast and I was very steady and perfectly on pace. I hi-fived every single kid who was out there, took in all the sights and just all round relaxed.
I had just eaten a UCan snack bar at mile 9 and seconds after I crossed mile 10, I had stomach rumblings and had to stop. Even though I stopped for about 17 minutes, I didn’t let it mess with my head. If I lost time, then I did.
The family saw me for the first time at mile 12 at the Tower Bridge, which felt like a long bridge to run across but a long and powerfully imposing bridge. Luckily because I was so slow, the running crowd had thinned out and I was easy to spot.
Miles 12 – 16
From there it was a turn to Canary Wharf (the old Torchwood must’ve been in one of those buildings!), which Ruth had warned me was the boring-est part of the course, I was still in good spirits. I tried another UCan snack bar at mile 14 and within 30minutes, my stomach rumbled again. This time it was only a 3-4 minutes loss.
That was the last bit of nutrition that I ate. No more bars or gels or UCan for the rest of the race. Just plain water and Base salt for electrolytes.
But once I started back running, I had the weirdest feeling of my heart being in my throat and wanting to jump out with every running bounce I made.
It is annoyingly surprising how quickly things can go south in an endurance event. Even before I hit 15 miles, I felt like I had suddenly lost all strength in my legs and they felt like a dead weight! I was disppointed since I had put in training and I had certainly NOT started out too fast – and mile 15 was way too early to lose all the oomph.
At one point, a bit too quickly, running became really hard and I wanted to stop & walk. But I didn’t WANT to; if I wasn’t going to make my original time goal, I was going to atleast stick to the goal of running through. I kept telling myself to just make it to the water stations at the next mile. And so I did. I’d hobble up to the water station and walk the length of it while drinking water.
But inspite of that setback, how could I be miserable? How could I give up?
I WAS RUNNING ! IN LONDON !! A MARATHON!!!
Miles 17 – Finish
I separated my race report at mile 17 because Garmin says that that was when I picked back up to my goal marathon pace. I don’t know what the difference was, but telling myself to put one foot in front of another until the water stop (1 mile apart) was working and I was moving and I was holding on to that race pace dearly.
To distract myself over the last 8 miles, I got the people around me to do a cheer every time we crossed a mile marker. Hands up in the air and yell the Mile number. I was surprised on how many people joined in and didn’t try to beat me up for being obnoxious during the last miles!
All through, no matter how miserable or how down I felt, I talked to people around me. Even with the Italian runner who didn’t understand a whiff of English and of course I didn’t understand anything Italian, but had a pretty long “conversation” with me. Running is indeed an Universal language.
There was a blind runner and his guide that I ran with for a while. He had started going blind when a surgery went wrong. They had trained together for 6 months and London was his first marathon as a blind runner.
And the Bobsled team who had “lost” 2 of their teammates.
There was Paul the Tiger who was raising awareness against the endangered tigers. Why tigers, I asked him? Why not tigers, he replied. They are fast disappearing and are no long found in many countries that they used to habitat. And someone has to care.
There was this girl from Barcelona that I ran about 5 miles with before I had to duck into the loo again. She put her name in the lottery as a dare and she was accepted on her first try! First and last marathon, she said.
Recognizing Lorelei, my FaceBook friend through InkNBurn, amongst all those runners having never met her before was nothing short of a wow moment. All because I remembered her butterfly race outfit that she’d posted the previous night. I ran into her again as I passed her towards the end at Mile 24 when she called out to me.
From about mile 18 to just before the very end, I ran with Malone who barely spoke after the first few minutes, but we matched in pace perfectly and ran silently next to each other from mile 18 to mile 25.5, when we entered the Mall (the stretch of road that is the official entrance to the Buckingham palace) and she took off zooming.
I finally chased down the Grim Reaper at Mile 25; I had been chasing him since mile 19 when I spotted him at a turnaround.
I even ran the last few miles with a Rhino! (Dang, those Rhinos were fast!)
But nothing could beat stopping for a few seconds for my favorite people who managed to catch me yet another time!
When I came to Parliament House and Big Ben (So disappointed that the official race photos don’t capture the majesty of the tower juxtaposed with the Parliament house), my heart almost burst with joy.
What a magnificent icon to be running next to.
This right here was the stuff that dreams were made of.
At the final stretch on The Mall, I joked about how the 0.2 miles was the royalty’s fault and had a good laugh on seeing how surprised a lot of runners were on learning that bit of marathon history that originated in London!
Rounding the corner to “The Mall” (the official entrance to Buckingham Palace), I saw the family again! They were certainly busy running all around trying to catch me that day!
And then, just like that, it was over.
26.2 miles done. My bucketlist marathon, done!
I dedicated each segment of the race to kids and their family who are affected by Autism. I am not making it up when I say that the memory of all these kids and their family gave me a ton of strength to keep moving.
The first 10 miles were run in honor of and dedicated to Michael, Ryan, Tate, Brian and Ava. The next 10 miles were dedicated to Rhys, Conner, Zac and Cooper, and William. And last miles were run in honor of and dedicated to Alex, Sean, Andrew and #TeamTagg.
I’m ever thankful to everyone who supported me and humbled to have been given an opportunity to run in the London Marathon.
My Race Performance
My final time was way way off my goal. But I have absolutely NO regrets about my training and my race day performance.
The Marathon is an experience like no other. It lifts you up, brings you down; fills you with joy, excitement and utter despair amongst the rollercoaster of emotions. It also humbles you on a very basic level and shows you what you are made of.
The fact that I was talking to people around me with a GoPro in hand did NOT mean that I was lollygagging the race. I was running it seriously, running it with a goal in mind. But this is ME. I’m always talking to people, always eager to hear their journeys. I want to remember a race for not only the experience I have with my training and my performance, but also the people who make it an experience. I know there are plenty of people amongst my friends and acquaintances who will scoff at that, but this is who I am and I know I’m richer for it.