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  • Writer's pictureDarren Last

London Marathon 2023 Race Review - Wet Wet Wet

When you sign up to a marathon, any marathon, but in particular London, you are signing up for a life changing experience. It's more than just the 26.2 miles or 42.2km. The journey starts from getting that place, or even choosing to do it.

From the moment you are 'signed up' you get all the emotions from excitement to fear and anxiety. But it's all good. This is WHY you signed up.

You start the training, you work through the weeks of building up the running and long runs. You get the ups of finishing runs, then downs of having to do them. From the niggles, through to the fitting in around work and social life. The colds and the covids.

Then after no time at all you are tapering and the marathon is 2/3 weeks away. Now the anxiety really creeps in.

Have I done enough? Why am I tired? All the ‘Maranoia’ stuff.

Then comes race week. The Expo, and all that anxiety turns to excitement as you walk in to pick up your race number with the traditional 'London Marathon' theme tune tingling those hairs round your neck and down your spine.

Then it's here. Race day. The day you have been waiting/longing/dreading/pining for.

The day itself turned out to be very 'Wet Wet Wet'. As Marti Pellow, sang in his 80's hit 'Wishing I was lucky', I was certainly hoping to have a day where everything went for me. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case.

As I came out of Surrey Quays, heading towards Tower Bridge between miles 10 and 12, I knew the legs were starting to get heavy. Normally the legs feel like that around 20/21 miles (if you are lucky), but I'd been here before in 2019 at London and I knew the feeling. It was not a good sign.

In contrast to 6 months ago, in October, at London Marathon 2022, the legs were motoring, oozing seamlessly like an F1 car towards a PB and dream race. Not today though. This was going to be the kind of marathon you pray you don't have, but you have to deal with....somehow.

The rain had started about 9:30, half an hour before the race began. It was tipping down hard. The heavens had opened and this continued for the first 90 mins of the marathon. The roads through Greenwich, the Cutty Sark and Surrey Quays were flooded as the rain poured down, water streaming by the sides of the roads. Runners happily drenched, tip-toeing and hopping over the puddles (damn, is that gonna waste energy).

The crowd out in full force, umbrellas, anoraks and amazing cheers of support. The typical British weather does not put off this hardened crowd, or the marathon runner.

I had started well, finding a pace to sit in, trying not to push a particular pace, but hitting the pace I was targeting around the 4:35min/km. The plan was to ease into the race with a comfortable pace for the first few km’s, find a flow, then let the rhythm dictate the faster speed, and glide to the finish line.....yeah right.

Feeling fresh at the start, little did I know what was in store

Training had been pretty much perfect, well almost perfect. I run most days but began to up the miles towards end of Jan and then get deep in the long runs each week adding faster pace efforts in the middle and at the end. I had avoided injury and niggles (a rarity). I was feeling strong. The one blip was picking up a virus 4 weeks before race day which knocked me out of training for 10 days. I wasn't too worried as the training was kind of done by this point and it was about beginning to bring the mileage down.

Though one thing I noticed, post virus, every run had felt hard work, it hadn't felt great, but I put this down to the 'Maranoia' and taper.

Anyhow, I went in to the race, fit, positive, and perfectly 'primed' (any Whoop users will get the joke) for the marathon.

Back to the race. After passing Cutty Sark at the 7 mile point I was bouncing, really getting in the flow, excited that it was all becoming effortless. Then halfway through Surrey Quays it was changing, I could feel the legs draining quite rapidly. 'What?' 'What’s going on?' 'Please don't'

I cracked on heading towards Tower Bridge and knew this was not going to get any better, it was like 2019 all over again. This was going to hurt. As I say, normally I feel like this through Canary Wharf and Isle of Dogs, not here. I hadn't even got to Tower Bridge.

After getting over Tower Bridge where the crowds were as amazing as ever I reached for the EarPods and the playlist. This will help, it did, a little. Making my way towards Isle of Dogs I knew my family were waiting outside Canary Wharf to support. I started to think of a strategy to get to the finish line knowing I had a good 10 miles to go.

My legs were cramping up and the muscles in my quads pounding, hurting, throbbing. I know if I start to walk I will never get going to run again. I thought get to Canary Wharf, then stop. Stretch out and get going again, then I can repeat. This has worked before and despite pain, it works.

Tower Bridge as the legs start to feel heavy and Canary Wharf

Finally, I reached, and past my family at mile 18 in Canary Wharf, I didn't stop but it did give me a needed boost worked my way through the thundering noise echoing round the high rise office blocks. I made a deal with myself. Once I had got out of Canary Wharf and down the slope to the roundabout I would stop and stretch out the god damn legs I was hating on, but at the same time relying on.

I got there, I stopped, I stretched. 20 seconds later I got going again. I needed to find targets and knock down the miles.

Next target was getting to the end of Poplar High Street (mile 20). Why do these roads always seem far longer? I'd ran this road hundreds of times before as I worked in the area, it never used to be this fecking long.

By hook or by crook, I got to the end of the High St. stopped again stretched, then got going. There was now around 6 miles to go, approx. 10km. I went with the approach to run a 1km. Then stop and stretch. I did this for the remainder of the race to the finish. It's incredible how you find ways to get through. It is such a mental battle.

As I head down past Tower Hill, Monument, then onto the Embankment. Through the tunnel by Blackfriars, now this tunnel is like the zombie land. People going through all sorts of trials and tribulations. I told myself there was no way I am stopping in there.

On leaving the tunnel and what seems like embarking up a mountain from under Blackfriars train station I had less than 2 miles to go.

As I past Big Ben there was only birdcage walk to get through. Time had gone out the window for me at this point. I didn't care, but looking at my watch I could see there was a chance of getting the sub 3:30. With just a short distance to go I knew if I just kept the legs ticking and skipped the standard 1km stop and stretch I'd make it.

I did, turning the corner to head down The Mall I was ecstatic to nearly be home. How the feck had I made it over 12 miles with these good for nothing legs? And how had they ticked over to get me home for sub 3:30 (the answer is most definitely the first half gave me a lot of time in the bank).

In what now seems to be normal I thought I'd better make a hard dash for the finish line just to be sure. I crossed the line in 3:29:28.

I stopped. Wow. There is so much euphoria (and a little confusion) in just stopping once over the line. Who would have thought that just to stop moving would bring so much pleasure.

So there it was. My London Marathon Experience Number 6 completed. FOUR months of the most incredible life experience.

As I said at the beginning, London Marathon is more than the miles/km on the day. It's the whole package. You learn so much about yourself, take yourself to places you never thought possible, whether it's the 1st, 10th or 100th time. Physically, mentally, its unbelievably wonderful.

How it went on the day is a just A part of the journey and good or bad you just want to experience it again!

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