|Having rounded off my training the previous weekend with a parkrun PB of
20:46 (better by 29 seconds) and a good run in the Thames Towpath 10 (in
73:57) I was all set for the big day.
I had a bit of a shock, when at the Excel Centre for registration, I saw
a picture of myself from last year in a leopard-print mankini on the big
screen behind the stage where they were giving various marathon talks! Not a
very pretty sight! Still, worse was to come – this year I ran in a white
On Sunday morning after using the changing tent to get my limited amount
of kit on and then covering up with an old fleece I made my way to the ‘Red’
start in pen #3. There I met up with another Ealing Eagle, Martin, and
despite my lack of kit he suggested we run together for the first few miles.
Pen #3 was not too big or crowded so we managed to get near the front
before the start which meant that when the gun did go we were over the start
line in little over a minute. I said to Martin that my plan was to run 1:40
for the first half and just under 1:50 for the second giving me the sub 3:30
I wanted. He thought 1:40 might be too fast – but I know I always slow and
have never run even splits.
Off we went at just after 10:00am and I think we got a bit carried away
with the occasion as we ran some of the early miles in sub 7:30. As usual my
lack of attire attracted quite a bit of attention which as the race
progressed really helped boost my performance and stopped me slowing too
Around mile 4/5 I met up with a welsh guy running in a green mankini and
sporting a suspicious looking orange/brown tan – he had it sprayed on the
day before. However I must admit it did make him look much better than the
pale and pasty me! We ran together for a mile or so until I saw sense and
dropped back – he was chasing a sub 3:15 time. Around this time Martin came
a cropper after smashing his foot into the kerb of a traffic island whilst
checking his pace and splits against times printed on a wrist-band - ouch!
He ended up falling over and had a very badly bruised big toe – he got going
again but then dropped back after a few miles and did not have a great run.
As well as the bruised toe I suspect it was also because he had run the
Vienna Marathon a week earlier in blazing sunshine.
I’ve lost track of exactly where but at some point in the first few miles
we overtook Graham Taylor and then a few miles later he went past me. Much
later in the race I must have overtaken Graham again as I finished about 4
At one of the many water stations an over-excited young lady decided I
needed cooling down and squirted a bottle of water over me! Initially I was
worried that it might make the material of my cheap white costume
see-through! Luckily for everyone this did not happen!
A little after crossing Tower Bridge I reached the half-way point and my
marathon splits showed I got there in 1:40:01 – one second behind schedule
having averaged around 7:30 a mile. But I was beginning to slow and by 16
miles I started doing some 8+ minute miles. Around the back of Canary Wharf
I was on the look out for my daughter so naturally wanted to impress and
managed to up my pace for mile 19 to 7:21 but it did not last and I was back
above 8 minutes and beginning to struggle and thought that a sub 3:30 might
However I had a great boost at mile 23 when I came across the Ealing
Eagles cheering squad of over 100 people screaming encouragement. There was
even an eagle mascot that had been bought on e-Bay and shipped from the USA.
(see video below). I ran mile 24 in 7:28! and managed to keep a just sub-8
pace to the end with more encouragement being found from the BA marshals at
the various crossing points over the last couple of miles.
I sprinted down the Mall and finished in 3:26:18 well within my target
time. The VLM stats show that in the last 7k I managed to pass 512 other
runners whilst only 23 got ahead of me – this makes a change from other
years when I think the stats would have shown the opposite! Whilst I can not
actually run even splits I have at last learnt that it is the best strategy.
In the past I would often run a half-marathon PB of sub-1:30 and then hobble
across the line 2 hours later having slowed to 11 or 12 minute miles!
Looking back at my previous times this was my fastest marathon since the
NYCM in 2006 and best time in nearly 15 years. I am quite pleased with that!
Just after finishing I was ushered over to meet Sir Richard Branson where
I had my picture taken and then a couple of days later a friend found it
somewhere on the internet. One for the family album!
Thanks to all the marshals especially those at Parliament Square where my
wife, Kathryn and a couple of her friends were on duty on my behalf. They
were there until about 6:00pm so had a very long day.
My application to run in next year’s marathon has been duly submitted
along with 150,000 others. There was so much demand that they stopped taking
applications at midday on the day they opened. I know there will be some
disappointed runners around as the Good For Age times have been adjusted
making it more difficult for some but easier for others. I need a 3:20
rather than a 3:15. They have also changed the name – next year it will be
the VMLM – Virgin Money London Marathon.