VLM 2014 – A race recap

London Marathon!  Never thought I’d say I would be running the big one!

When we arrived at our hotel on Saturday I realised I’d forgotten to pack my bagel with peanut butter for race morning breakfast so queued in the longest queue in the world for breakfast supplies.

Queuing for a bagel VLM

Neither of us got a great night’s sleep despite accidentally booking a room with twin beds.  We had some really loud drunks sat in the corridor outside our room who woke us both up at 1am.  Initially I panicked, thinking I’d missed my alarm and it was people heading down for breakfast.  After nearly an hour of loud noise I ended up ringing the hotel reception sending a security guard down to move the drunks along and I managed to get back to sleep.  It did make me empathize with the fire alarm being set off before Lauren’s marathon last week!

As always, it’s a good job I have Dan to travel with and organise directions and train times!  I had to catch two trains before leaving him and then he pointed me in the direction of my final train.

Dan's puzzled train face VLM

It was crammed full with runners.  Luckily I managed to get a seat and rest my legs a little before their long day ahead, but some carriages had people pressed face to face with others!  When we arrived and got off the train I needn’t have worried about not knowing where to go. The street was full with runners and supporters heading to a field in the distance which had a very festivaly feel.  I was glad Dan hadn’t traveled all the way down with me as there was nowhere for him to go once we arrived and had had our numbers checked as supporters weren’t allowed into the field.
Heading to the blue start VLM Heading to the blue start VLM

entrance check VLM

From the field we were collected in we could see the Blue Start, Red Start and Green Start blimps up in the sky.  I didn’t expect them to be so close together.

Blue start blimp VLM

I found club runners Laura and Chris where we had agreed to meet and it was at this point I realised I’d left my carefully packed suncream back at the hotel.  Laura gave me the remainder of hers, but it was only enough to cover my legs – I thought they were probably the most important after seeing the shade of red they turned at MK marathon last year!  The elites were warming up not far from where we were sat through security fencing and there was a large screen showing us all the action from the start line and the pre-race build up.  After two trips to the toilet we managed to catch the women’s start just before taking our bags to the baggage lorries.

My game plan was to stick with the Sub 5 Runner’s World pacers hopefully as far as 20 miles and then see if I felt good enough to push on.  I managed to spot three other club runners making their way to Blue start 9 (the back one where I was) whilst I was hunting out the pacers.  After harassing two charity runners who also appeared to be running with flags on their back, as well as the actual pacers, I managed to spot the actual 4:58 pacers and (un)subtly spun round to follow them to the middle of the pen.  I wasn’t on my own and they soon had a tight circle of 30+ runners surrounding them hoping for a Sub 5 finish.  We were in place by 9:30am, so had plenty of time to chat and catch up with past running stories and previous failed attempts at sub 5.  The pacers Mike and Mark kept us nice and relaxed – giving us tips on the course and how best to approach the marathon.  When asked to raise hands, it turned out that there were only about 10% of runners in the circle who had run a marathon before, and none under 5 hours.  There was lots of friendly banter from all though and I felt part of a group.

Being as far back as we were we weren’t aware that the race had started until the lady stood next to Me received a text from her sister saying “You’re off!  Good luck!”  It was several more minutes before we gradually began creeping forward and another 15/16 minutes before we broke into a slow jog.  I officially crossed the start line at 10:17:27.  Once we were over the line the chat faded – each runner was running their own race – although we all tried to keep in sight of each other.

Despite the stories I had no idea how crowded the race would be.  It was crazy.  Especially trying to keep up with the pacers.  To begin with I tried my best to keep right behind them, but they had a tight circle of others doing the same.  When I spoke to Dan later on he told me that from his spot just over the bridge at halfway he could tell where pacers were as they would come through with a whole tight crowd of people – the rest of the race field was much more spaced out.

Looking rather concerned here in a club runner’s photo a few miles in!…

Half way VLM

Despite the crowds of people running with barely any space between and continuous knocking into runners and them knocking into Me I loved the atmosphere.  We passed a marching band ‘running’ the marathon and several rhinos.  The crowds were phenomenal and a few times in the first couple of miles I felt a lump in my throat out of nowhere.  Everybody was running for someone or something or had worked so hard to get to where they were that day.

Before mile three there were no water stations but then we joined one of the other starts and not long after, passed the first water station – the only one I didn’t take water from.  To add to the already crowded streets, we were now having to dodge people flying from one side of the road to the other to collect water and thousands of half empty bottles on the race path.  I saw a couple of people start to go down but the crowd soon pulled them right back up and along again.  I concentrated on the floor and where I was placing my feet – desperate not to go down or wring my ankle!  In places it was so crowded though, it was difficult to see the ground.

I got a little choked up when I placed my foot down on the first chip mat at 5k; knowing that Dan and my parents and anyone else tracking me would now be getting an estimated finish time for my race.  I also noted how comfortable and easy I was finding the race – I felt almost like I hadn’t begun to run yet!

I think we lost a few people from the pace group around the five mile mark.  The pacers were great and kept updating us on how we were getting on compared to our goal each time we passed a mile marker.  They had told us at the beginning that they were aiming to run a 11:22 pace consistently, but due to weaving/overcrowding some miles would be faster than others, and several of the miles we ran were closer to 11mm pace with a little extra distance.  I was fine with this, but in the heat there were several who weren’t.

Surprisingly, the heat didn’t seem to affect me too much.  From the second water station I took two/three sips from each water bottle, poured some water over my face, neck and shoulders (which I was aware were burning in the sun by now), munched on a jelly baby, sipped on the remaining water and chucked the bottle just before the next water station.

One of the best race signs I’ve seen cropped up around the 5 mile mark, and appeared a few more times on course.  Several people had drawn a big red button on their sign with the words “Press here for power!”  Loved it, and so did many runners – thumping it and laughing as they ran past.

Dan had texted just before I handed in my bag to let me know that he was just over the bridge after the 20k chip mat and I knew several other runners from my club were planning on cheering from around that section.  I almost didn’t spot him as he wasn’t far from Rob, one of my coaches and I was busy waving to him – only hearing Dan’s shouts after I had already passed.  Luckily I turned and spotted him in time.  Would have felt a bit guilty if he’d been stood there for nearly five hours and I’d not spotted him!  Here’s the one and only picture he managed to take of me out on the course…

Me from the back VLM

Dan actually made it onto TV a couple of times from his cheer spot.  Once when Mo ran past!  (In a red hoodie here)

Dan on TV Dan on TV with MoI struggled to open my gel around this point and was slowly sliding back from the pacer despite running at 10:45 pace.  I couldn’t spot the second pacer anymore, and later found out from checking the online results that he had pulled out before the 20k mark.

To begin with I was a bit disheartened that I was getting further away from the pacer.  I felt my running was still at a consistent pace.  However, when I placed my foot down on the halfway chip mat I saw that I had gone through in 2:28 – spot on for a 5 hour finish.  This spurred me on again.  At the start of the race the pacers had said to us that we wanted to go through halfway feeling like we could have gone a lot faster and I definitely felt that.  I still had a lot of energy and wasn’t about to drop off from the steady pace I had been running.

The crowds of runners were still bothering me but the crowds of supporters were fantastic at keeping us runners going.  The atmosphere was absolutely amazing.  As a last minute decision I had brought my iPod along with a few select songs which had special meaning to me.  The Runner of the Year video songs and one that my friend Hayley’s husband always plays for her at races we attend.  I watch the club ROTY video every time I need some motivation to do well and succeed – we have some very inspiring runners at our club that have been through a lot.  I played these songs at about mile 17 to give me a boost and they were just what I needed.  It was about here I also grabbed some Vaseline from a St. John’s Ambulance worker to rub on the sore under my left arm from my vest.  I had rubbed some Vaseline in at the start of the day but clearly not enough!

My Garmin was gradually clocking up more mileage than a mile each marker I went under and I think I must have missed a few mile markers so I was a little confused as to where I was by this point.  I was certain I was around the 24.5 mile mark when I passed the Lucozade section marked as mile 23.  This caused me great issue as I had worked out in my head if I was at 24.5 I would have no problems making a sub 5.  I sulked for all of 5 seconds before realising I would still probably PB and made the decision to stick as closely as possible to the blue line on the ground as the road was much clearer by now.  I overtook so many people walking or on phones in these final few miles.  The VLM online stats say that 53 people passed me but that I passed 981 runners in the final 7.2k!

I thought there were crowds before but running the final couple of miles actually made me shudder.  It was packed full of supporters – several people deep.  I saw our club Race Director and his family and spotted Dan one final time despite not knowing that he was going to be there cheering me.  I failed to spot Kev with a handful of other club runners, although they didn’t see me either and also missed my friend Sarah from BRJ and Erin who both spotted me.

final stretch VLM

The end seemed to go on forever.  600 metres to go.  How far is 600 metres?!…It feels like forever when everyone’s cheering you in and you know you can’t stop but must sprint for the line and throw your hands above your head with what little energy you have left before you finish!

And then I was there!  All over.  We were ushered over to have our finisher’s photograph taken…

finisher VLM

…before collecting our bags (a very quick process) and being escorted out to the waiting area (a much slower process!)

Where my #1 supporter was waiting for me along with the rest of my club.

Dan and I finishers VLM

Randomly, Sarah ended up parked right next to me on the field, so we had a quick natter about the race.  It was her first London as well and she had PBd by a couple of minutes too, although much, much faster than me!

Checking out my splits online I was so happy about how consistent I had run the race.  Starting slow really does pay off!

race-consistency VLMOfficial finishing time: 5h 4m 15s – A new PB by 2m 37s.  But most importantly I felt strong at the finish.  Like I could have gone on to run several more miles.  In all three of my previous marathons I have reached a stage where I felt ‘Meh.  Gonna walk this bit.’  And even though I walked a few sections of the London Marathon, it was never for more than a few seconds – to open a gel wrapper/fish out some jelly babies, etc.

Official finishing position: 26439 / 35766
Official ladies position: 8248 / 13228
Official age placing: (Senior Female) 4959 / 8069

London marathon medal VLM

London marathon medal VLMI love how detailed the medal is!

I rang Mum as soon as I could get phone coverage once more and she told me how her and Dad had been following me on the online tracker, along with my Aunt and Uncle and at one point when the tracker had frozen (between 25-30k) they had all feared the worst.  (Maybe it was a silly idea to let them have the tracker!) before the website finally updated both the 30k and 35k times together.  Dan said he was also concerned at that point, despite mentioning later how he had seen my times drop throughout tracking me and seen me going through strongly with his own eyes.

To be honest, I surprised myself yesterday.  I know that the heat is the worst weather for me to run in and that my training has been pretty poor this time round.  I did not really expect to PB, even if it was only by a few minutes.  I genuinely enjoyed the London marathon though.  The crowd support suited me and the fact that my mind was always busy throughout the whole course.  My Garmin finally logged me at 27.9 miles?!  What?!  Did I get lost somewhere out there?!  And running at a 10:53 average pace.  Checking the 26.2 mile mark on my Garmin, I went through at 4:45, so I know there’s a much bigger PB waiting to come my way.  Mablethorpe in October?  Marathon #5?!

average pace VLM

Distance VLM

Phew!  That was a long recap.  Tell me about your weekend!  :)
Did you watch the London marathon?


31 thoughts on “VLM 2014 – A race recap

    1. Thankyou! Running a marathon is something I would definitely recommend. Its such an amazing feeling crossing the finish line and it was brilliant being able to run London this year with so many others. I hope you decide to give it a go!

    1. Thankyou! It was the last few hundred metres where I got a full on shudder from racing at London. Definitely an amazing experience I’ll never forget!

  1. Well done! And thanks for writing such a great recap – it really reminded me of my own experiences and I think you captured a lot of the essence of what the London Marathon entails. I was tracking you as well, but had problems with it freezing. I’ve used it before for other runners at London, and it seems to be a recurring issue for some reason. You can see from your race photos that you were strong throughout the race, and I wouldn’t worry too much about the extra distance, as I think everyone runs extra at London (my Garmin read well over 27 miles when I did it too). You definitely have a sub-5 on the cards for your next marathon :)

    Jess recently posted…The Ghost of Green Smoothies PastMy Profile

    1. Thanks Jess, I did think of you a few times when I got caught in the crowds and I can only imagine how frustrated you would have got getting caught up in the runner swarms. Despite how busy it was and how terrified I was of getting tripped up in the first half I did enjoy the atmosphere the majority of the time. Fingers crossed for a new PB at the next one now. I’m desperate to book another one in sooner but have a few ultras in the calendar over the Summer. Hopefully they’ll only make me stronger!

    1. Thankyou! I’m about halfway through the coverage at the moment .. It’s so exciting to watch the race! Don’t think I made it on to TV this time round though! Haha!

  2. Ahhhh congratulations! Well done! It sounds like a pretty damn good race. The fact that you didn’t feel completely drained by the end, and comfortable half way, shows that you paced it perfectly. With all the crowds and weaving I definitely think you will get a sub-5 in your next marathon. I am sooo keen to do London now. I desperately hope Ben gets a place…but I guess we can keep applying every year anyway!
    I found the pacers in Paris (and I expect this is the same in most big marathons) to really annoy me. Obviously not their fault, or the people running with them, it’s just the name of the game. But a pacer would run past me and then 30 people would storm past me nudging me out the way so they could remain their distance. I can understand and no doubt one day I will want to use a pacer too but it was just a bit annoying it happened so often as there were so many damn pacers.
    The support sounds truly epic and I know it was probably more so because of Mo but it really does put to shame Paris. And Paris had more runners! Funny really.
    Congrats again! Well deserved :)
    Anna @AnnaTheApple recently posted…Running and supportingMy Profile

    1. Thanks! Fingers crossed you’re right and I finally hit my target with marathon #5! My fingers are crossed for Ben next week. I shall be up bright and early on Tuesday morning to get an entry in for next year.
      I wasn’t about to push through people to keep up with the pacers, but perhaps if I had I would have come in a few minutes quicker. It was really unsettling being in such a tight group for the first few miles and they did help me set a strong first half. I didn’t have any pacers pass me but can imagine getting annoyed in that situation too.
      The support was epic. I’m in the middle of watching the TV coverage back though and it seems that us ‘fun runners’ got the best of the support. The crowds seem much more limited with the elites!

  3. Congratulations!!!! On a pb, and also from keeping a steady pace and feeling strong. This must fill you with confidence for your next races.
    I tried to use the pacer runners in the marathon I did, but could not keep up, and was overtaken by the 5.45 pacers (which worried me at the time as it had a 6h cut off time)- I finished before this so they must have decided to go quicker than their balloons said!
    I must say that the crowds of London put me off- I am not a fan of it being that busy, but I do love the idea of all the crowd support- love that button sign!
    And how exciting that you raced in the same one as Mo! :)
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Tea follows running in the rainMy Profile

    1. Yes, I’m much happier about being able to keep myself steady and finish strong, rather than the PB itself, although that is obviously a bonus!
      One of my worries pre-race was that the pacers would be out from their time as that’s what I experienced at Milton Keynes in the heat last Spring.
      That button sign was great. Definitely the sign most runners interacted with throughout the race!

    1. I know what you mean about needing to dull the noise of the crowds. They were great in places, but in other places I wished I could turn them down just a little! Such amazing atmosphere though! :)

    1. Thank you! Yes, I was chuffed to have taken any time off over that distance and in the heat as well. I’m usually awful in the heat and I’m not sure why it didn’t affect me as much this race, but there is no chance of me complaining!!!

  4. WOW! I’m honestly so impressed that you ran a whole marathon! I feel like I Say that every time I read a marathon recap, but seriously. The amount of training, hardwork, and endurance that must take. You’re amazing!

    Loved the recap and glad you were able to finish strong. I especially enjoyed the part about the sign that read “Press Here for More Power” hahah! Too funny and I bet things like that help make the time move a little faster :)
    Christine@ Apple of My Eye recently posted…WIAW: A Dream Day of EatsMy Profile

    1. Huge thank you! It did take a massive number of hours of training each week to get to the start line but every one was worth it!
      That sign was great. Half the entertainment on the course came from the signs and supporters!

  5. You did amazing! Sounds like you ran a really strong race right to the end!
    I love the VLM online stats- I was looking at my brother’s stats earlier to see how many he had overtaken etc.
    I was sad not to be in London to watch the marathon, but I was cheering you all on from NY!
    Massive congrats on your PB!
    Lucy recently posted…New York: FitnessMy Profile

    1. Thank you! I did have a strong finish – one I was really happy with. The stats they give you are great and I could analyse them for hours!
      Hope you had a fantastic birthday/trip to NY! :)

    1. Thank you! And yay for signing up for your first marathon! There is no better feeling! :)
      Tips – definitely enjoy your first one and don’t worry about the time. Make the most of the encouragement from friends and family as well. Once you’ve run a couple I’m afraid they start to get bored of marathon talk! I’ve not run Brighton before but have heard lots of good things about it. I’m sure you’ll love it! :)

  6. Great report! I know what you meant about how far the last 600m felt … felt like another mile at least!! The support was brilliant though! Loved having my name on my vest … felt like a rock star! Great to catch up with you at the end – well done on your PB … and it defintiely sounds as though you’ll have another one this year!!!
    Sarah recently posted…Yeovil Montacute Parkrun: There May Be Ditches Ahead …My Profile

    1. They must have mis-marked that last 600m right?! Definitely felt like further! And I dodged so many walkers at this point. How can you come all that way and then walk over the finishing line?! Yes, great for a catchup. So random that we ended up sat right by each other out of all those people! :)

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