London Marathon - race report

16 April 2014, 17:55

This was a tough race. Mostly it was down to the relentless sunshine making for a very hot run, but also because I’d kinda forgotten how hard marathons are. I think in my mind I’d figured that Amsterdam was hard because it was my first marathon, and Copenhagen was hard because I’d been so ill and hardly had any training. But surely having 6 months of perfect training in the lead up to London would make for a different experience, right?

I’d had a pep talk with Energy Lab on Friday and decided that I would set out with fellow Run dem Crew Elites Jason and Daniel, figuring that their 3:15 target pace would still be slower than my adrenaline-fuelled starting gun pace. So we set off, ducking and diving for the first few km as Jason wanted to reach the 3:15 pace crew just ahead of us. I later found out that this particular pacer was awful and had set out a full 2 minutes faster than he should’ve, and didn’t even complete the race, so in actual fact we were going much faster than 3:15 pace as we caught up and then overtook them. I lost Jason and Daniel around 5km or so, but I was feeling good and comfortable and enjoying myself, high fiving lots of kids along the way.

London marathon

Cutty Sark was incredible and everything that’s been said about the London crowds is true! I’ve never, ever run a race where there were crowds the entire way like that. For the most part, I used the crowd’s energy to push me forward, but there were definitely times throughout the race where I would’ve preferred some silence for just a minute or two – hours upon hours of people shouting at you (no matter what their motive) can get really overwhelming, and the Lucozade tunnel around Mile 23 was the only respite on the entire course.

I didn’t really feel like this was a battle against the distance – this was definitely a battle against the heat for me, and as a really salty sweater, I had a sweat strategy built in to my nutrition strategy – taking 3 doses of the extra salty Margarita Shot Bloks spread over the race, but also grabbing a vital bottle of Nuun electrolyte from James (along with a sweaty kiss!) at Mile 12. As I predicted, running past home was a much bigger boost than Tower Bridge, which I hardly remember, and Canary Wharf was particularly memorable for me because it was mostly in shade. By the time I got the Run dem Crew’s epic Mile 21 cheering station, I was really feeling rundown and battered – my left hip was giving me problems, I’d had a recurring stitch for most of the race, and the balls of my feet had gone so tender that I’d been forced to flat-foot strike for the last few miles.

London marathon

I only remember brief snippets of my crew as I flew through the cheering station, but as I passed, a confetti cannon was set off in my honour, and as I looked up, I saw the brightly coloured tissue paper squares framed against the blue sky, and the image stood still for a while as time seemed to melt. It’s an image I’ll remember for an awfully long time.

I’d been told by Barbara and Claudia that they’d be waiting at the end of Mile 21 for me to give them a sign – a thumbs up, and they’d cheer me on my way. Shaky hand, and they’d jump on the course for a pep talk. Or a thumbs down, and they’d jump in and take me all the way to the end. I’d been battling the heat since about Mile 10 and in need of a boost, so I gave the shaky hand signal, and Claudia joined me for the next kilometer for a very, very welcome pep talk. I started my listing all my physical complaints, to which she just said “Yeah – you’re running a marathon!” Yes. I kinda needed to hear that! Then she talked me through the mantras and mental tricks I needed to go the next 5 miles, but pointed out that I was slouching my shoulders and that opening them up would help my breathing and my stride. With all that on board, I sent her back to help others, and carried on for the last few miles, using my own mantra of “Strong, fast, lean – you got this” over and over and over. In previous tough races, I’d been a fan of counting breaths, but for some reason this is what my brain wanted to hear on Sunday.

London marathon London marathon

The Embankment was crazy – somehow both shorter and longer than when I’ve run it thousands of times on my own and with Run dem Crew at turbo pace. I know that stretch of London probably better than any other 2.5km, and it was just a matter of putting my head down and getting to the end. As we turned the corner at Westminster and ran the length of St James’s Park, I happened to notice a familiar gait in an Anthony Nolan vest – I shouted “Honest Jim!”, and it was indeed my Daily Mile buddy who I’d never previously met in person! I’m still not entirely sure how I recognised him with such little brain, but I remember taking his hand and trying to pull him with me to the finish, but he told me to just go.

I pushed out the very last few hundred metres with as big a sprint as I could muster, and I crossed the line as the clock read 3:31, so I wasn’t entirely sure for a few minutes whether I’d broken 3:30 or not (as I couldn’t remember what my start delay was, and my phone battery died along the Embankment). No sooner had my chip been cut off and a medal placed around my neck, and my ExtraMile film crew appeared for an interview! I apologise for the state of whatever I actually said here, as it was literally seconds after I’d crossed the line and I have no recollection of what I’d said (only that I drank half of the sound guy’s water bottle!). It should make for interesting viewing when the last video goes up!

London marathon

Anthony Nolan were true to their word about their volunteers finding us at the finish and whisking us away to their post race reception – their five cheer stations throughout the course were all fantastic and huge, too, giving me a boost each time I reached the next one. The spread they laid on at the Royal Society was fantastic, too – hot food, really good massage therapists, places to sit and chill out, but the best finish line treat of all was a surprise visit from my husband, who made a huge effort to cross London to meet me there.

Going into this race, I’d told others that I was targeting 3:20, but that I’d be really happy with anything in the 3:15-3:30 range. I wasn’t as fixated on a time as three time-based goals – a new PB (previous was 3:48), a Good For Age time so I can get a guaranteed place for next year’s marathon (I needed 3:45), and the toughest of all – a Boston Qualifying time (I needed 3:40). So I’m utterly ecstatic that my final finishing time of 3:30:37 is indeed all three.

Thank you all again for all your support, comments, donations, patience, and hugs over the past six months as I worked as hard as I could to make my race dreams a reality. OMG PB GFA BQ.

London marathon, 13 April 2014, 3:30:37

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  1. Posts like these always leave me tearing up :-) A wonderful result Melissa – and so well deserved.

    — Louise    16 April 2014, 21:32    #
  2. What a spectacular accomplishment! Reading this, I was tearing up as well, even though I’ve heard it from you already! Go Team Fehr!

    — Mom    17 April 2014, 15:17    #
  3. Wow what an inspiration you must have worked incredibly hard to run in such a fantastic time .be very proud of yourself
    Well done

    — Claire    18 April 2014, 09:20    #
  4. Sounds like you had a great day!
    I was there supporting my brother-in-law, and I think it’s actually I’ve spectated a race as opposed to taken part.
    We saw quite a few of the pacers out of sync with where they should have been. The early pacers were good in that they seemed to be running at the pace they should have been. But we saw 4:15, 4:30 and 4:45 pacers all within the space of 5 minutes or so at 11 miles.

    Dewi    22 April 2014, 12:09    #
  5. What a fantastic achievement! You’ve had a hell of a year. I hope you’re enjoying the break finally!

    MsMcCall    1 May 2014, 18:58    #

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