London marathon review – all over (for now)

Maidstone Harriers London Marathon runners 2019

Just like that it’s all over, three and a bit months of training, two marathons and that’s it, all done and dusted. In this post I’ll do a review of the London marathon, then a few thoughts about how it all went, and finally a look at what might be next.

London Marathon

As ever a fabulous day out, as it usually is whether I’m running or marshalling it’s just a great event to be a part of. It was the usual early start to get the Harrier club coach, and while it’s great to have hassle-free travel we do get up there very early and ended up having nearly 3 hours to wait before we started, but thankfully it was dry, if a little chilly. There was about 8 of us on the green start, which is by far the smallest start area and decidedly low key in comparison. We ended up sitting by the Guinness World Records tent, and enjoyed seeing the various runners arrive in their costumes. There was an Elvis, a zombie, a tent (yes, really), a post box and a sleeping bag amongst others. Also running was Kate Carter from the Running Channel website, and pre-race she did a video that showed what attempting a record involved. Oh, and she broke the record for the fastest female panda in 3:48! 

The 3 hour wait for the start went surprisingly quickly as it turned out, we sat around chatting, making the usual multiple loo visits and marvelling at Michael’s seemingly bottomless kit bag which seemed to have something for every weather condition! We eventually got to line up and finally at around 10:50am we got going in what were pretty good conditions, grey skies, cool temperatures and a bit of a breeze.

I made a cautious start, running a comfortable pace at around 9:45 minute miles, with the downhill section at around 2 – 3 miles helping. The first few miles are nothing special in terms of scenery or landmarks, but after 6 miles you do reach one of the iconic features of the race, Cutty Sark, with huge, noisy crowds that always give you a lift. After that it’s quickly back to another unremarkable section of the route, and it was around here that I began to feel that my legs were starting to feel a little heavy so I took the decision to drop the pace a little to ensure I could keep running.

The next major landmark is Tower Bridge at 12 miles with the added bonus of the first Harriers marshalling point and plenty of high fiving! By now the crowds are big on both sides of the road, which is a great boost as you head across the river but then run away from the finish, which is always mentally challenging especially as you can also see the runners coming the other way some 8 miles in front of you.

I’d settled into running 10:00 to 10:15 miles by now, and I was still feeling OK. It was good to finally get to Canary Wharf after the long loop around the Isle of Dogs, knowing that we would finally being heading back towards central London and the finish, especially as I was now really starting to feel quite heavy-legged and tired. I briefly considered a run-walk strategy but quickly talked myself out of it knowing that I was very close to the next Harriers marshalling point at Tower Hill and then seeing my sister shortly after.

The section from 20 to 23 miles is quite tough as it’s a series of long straight roads and I was very happy to see the end of it and get some more high fives at Tower Hill. Shortly after that I got to see my sister and her partner on Lower Thames Street and I knew it was almost job done. Shortly after you emerge onto the Embankment and can see the London Eye and Big Ben and it was just a case of keeping it going. It still seemed to take a long time to reach Big Ben and Birdcage Walk seemed to go on forever, but finally I got to see Buckingham Palace and round the corner into the Mall!

I crossed the line feeling very happy and relieved in a time of 4:31:13, which I was delighted with after running Brighton as well. I was also pleased that my stomach wasn’t too bad this time around, and after a slow shuffle to pick up my kit bag and get changed in St. James’ Park I was able to meet up with my sister and her partner and have a very enjoyable pint before heading home – and it tasted fabulous!

A few things I learned from running 2 marathons in 3 weeks

  1. I probably won’t do it again! I’m glad I tried it and I was really happy with how both races went but London was tough after Brighton, and I did get lucky with the weather, with the warm weekend conveniently falling in between. A repeat of the conditions of Brighton 2017 or London 2018 could have made for a different story.
  2. I tried some different things nutritionally. I’d heard it suggested in a podcast that adding extra salt to your diet in the two days before the race might help if you sweat a lot (which I do) during races, so I tried that. Whilst the cooler weather definitely helped I didn’t experience any cramp during either race which suggested that perhaps that is something worth trying again. For London I also ate my main meal at lunchtime rather than in the evening, although that didn’t make an obvious difference.
  3. For both races I ate nothing but 3/4 of an Eat Natural bar and just drank water, as I had in training, and this seemed to work. I had some stomach issues but nothing like before (and again the cooler conditions probably helped) and I didn’t feel like I was going to run out of energy from not taking gels or similar in either race. One thing I did try out was rinsing my mouth out with sports drink towards the end, as it’s been suggested this can help. At London I also tried out the new Lucozade capsules, which tasted fine, although a fumbled exchange the second time around meant I ended up covered in it!

What’s next?

In the short-term a couple of 10ks, and the North Downs 30k run at the end of June. Beyond that I have a few ideas which I’ll be thinking about and deciding what to do over the next couple of weeks, so watch this space. In the meantime it looks like some warmer weather is on the way so enjoy the sunshine and I’ll be back soon.