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London Marathon 2023: "A mixture of emotions"

Jeff Walker, Up & Running Harrogate

The day before and London Marathon Expo

For big events like this you must collect your number from the Running Exhibition within the four days prior to the event, so you have can have time in the city hosting the event. For me it was just providing another 24 hours of doubt and panic prior to event day. Probably due to being exhausted from the anxiety I slept pretty well.

Today is the day.

Awake at 5am so I ate a pot of instant oats, lay down and relaxed as I was much calmer now. Probably because there was no going back, this is the day so you better embrace it. 6am ate a cheese butty, 6.30am had another cheese butty. 7.30am I started to get ready, shorts and t-shirt (swallow hard at the names of those affected by cancer on the T shirt), hydration pack and gel belt (have a little panic, take out the gels and count them again). Running Jacket (yes it goes over the hydration pack that way you can take it off and put it back on while on the run without messing around), buff and hat. Pack everything else into the drop bag and off to the start… not forgetting the disposable poncho.

11:07 Blue Wave 16 starts

At last we are off. Focus on the plan – there actually was a plan and that was based on training not the best, cold for a week before so hit 12 mins per mile and run until the wheels fall off then tough it out as best you can.

Miles 2 through 6 stay on 12 min miles bobbing and weaving through people walking. Mile 7 was the first time I had actually got out of my head and noticed the crowds and live bands. Mile 12.5 Tower Bridge, I'm now in the middle of such loud cheering I can’t help but smile, at one point I actually laughed when a young woman shouted, “keep going Jeff I love you!”.

Mile 13, it's halfway we’ve got to do all that again.

The quicker runners are on the opposite side of the road coming up to Mile 22! Docklands approaches and GPS goes totally haywire as there are so many tall buildings, now the pacing will be sheer instinct “12 min miles legs please, just 12 min miles”. Every inch of every street is deep in crowds and hearing my name shouted out is pretty cool.

The next section up to 22 miles is mind games. Counting down the miles, aiming for 16 miles first, then its only 10 to go, then 17 because its single figures, 19 next as that was my longest training run, 20 now its just a 10k (with a 20-mile warm up).

22 miles in and the wheels come off. Pins and needles in the hands, buzzing feeling in the head and heart rate spiking – body says time to stop, brain says grind it out, slow down let the heart rate drop – this is the survive bit of the plan.

23 miles... its just a parkrun to go.

Passing a drum band in an underpass that's so good, it gave the motivation to push on. Mile 24 its only two to go, the London eye and Big Ben are insight. 25 miles and feeling quite rough, but its just over a mile now.

Last mile and I might just do this.

Vanity kicks in at 26.1 miles, make sure the shirt is visible for the finish photo and have a little walk so I can run through the Mall and finish strong. A mixture of emotions a the finish line. Mainly relief, a little bit of shame and embarrassment feeling sorry for myself because it hurt, yet all the names on my shirt had faced and battled so much more.

Post-marathon feels.

Monday 24th April: back to work feeling pretty good, starting to absorb the fact that I had done London Marathon 2023.

A marathon is not for everyone (certainly not for me), it is physically and mentally demanding and I do think you need to be a little bit crazy. Sunday was hard, I had to get off the tube back to Kings Cross a stop early as I was about to throw up and faint (it was hot and very crowded). It took me a good four hours before I could stomach any food and more than a sip of water.

However, I have a big heavy medal and I will forget the tough bits in a few days and re-invent the story to a glorious romp through the streets of the capital.

P.S. the most shocking thing to me was the official split times which tell a very different story to the one I remember, my ten split times across the 26.2 miles where: 12:01, 11:57, 12:00, 12:00, 12:01, 12:01, 12:03, 12:04, 12:17, 12:20. So maybe the 12:00 min mile mantra worked after all!



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