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London marathon notes
 
Below are the notes I made after running the London marathon in 2000. I thought it may be of interest for those running London for the first time.
Phil Coy
It was 5.00 am on Sunday 16 April 2000 and the alarm was saying, “get up”. I had put all my kit out the night before so I could dress easily. I had cereal and orange juice for breakfast then checked my kit again. I went out to the car only to find that there had been a frost, the door was reluctant to open and all the windows were frozen solid. When it is quiet, scraping a frozen car can seem very loud and I felt I was waking the neibour hood with the noise. I eventually set off for Banbury to catch the coach at 6.00.
I got to the bus station 5 minutes early and met up with my fellow runners and supporters, who had decided to take advantage of the coach provided by Hook Norton Road runners.
            The trip was uneventful with runners mainly discussing times and supporters the best positions to stand. The other object of discussion was the weather that had been very wet and cold on Saturday (not ideal for a marathon) but at 7.00 was showing signs of being a sunny day with little wind.
            My training had not gone as well as I had hoped with December and January off with flu and a chest infection. After that however the training had gone better with the only problem being time to put in the miles needed. My best week had been 52 miles with the books recommending 70 to 80 miles to get under 3 hours, which I had around £50.00 riding on. The top runners would be doing 120 miles or more so I felt I was way off the amount of training needed. But it was the best I could do with my work and home commitments.
            We alighted from the coach and the atmosphere hit us like a hammer, with hundreds of people snaking their way to the starts, the noise of hot air balloons all around and the tension and anticipation of what we were all about to attempt. I joined the snake to the blue start a walk of about half a mile.
            The runners were directed to a large open arena to get ready. Every available space seemed to be taken up with a runner stretching, applying Vaseline, changing or just sitting enjoying the moment. At the topside were tents for changing and free drinks and at the bottom end were the toilets. There were a lot of toilets but still large queues. It is a delicate balancing act between taking on enough food and water before the start but not too much to need “to go” during the race. The body’s natural system seems to be to remove all “excess baggage” before an “event” so the toilets were well used.
            It was about 9.00 and time to put my bag on the lorry and get to the start. Easier said than done. Having a low number and my lorry being on the route to the low end of the start meant that I had to fight my way through queues of people returning to the back of the start, but at least I was moving in the right direction. I gave my bag to the attendant and aimed for the start. I had been allocated start number 2 which meant that I would be near the front.
            It was so crowded at the start area that even removing my bin liner I had put on to keep warm was impossible so I had to rip it off. I passed the plastic to a fellow runner to pass to the side. Others were not so thoughtful and were throwing plastic bags, shirts and water bottles over our heads and their aim was not too good. We had begun to walk forward when we heard the start gun we then stopped. I noticed runners were overtaking around the outside but I was so tightly hemmed in all I could do was go with the flow.
            It took me 2 minutes to cross the start line and I was still walking at times. There seemed to be a space to run then it would close up and we would be back to walking again. I had been running for a few minutes when a particularly large group of runners made me run on the path. Half way past I heard “ello Arry” from the group, it could only be Frank Bruno almost hidden in the crowd. My first mile had been covered in 8 minutes 50 seconds.
 Another space for reasonable running then a larger crowd gathered around a centre like fly’s round a Frank Bruno “another celebrity” I thought but then I noticed a disc with 3.15 on bobbing along in the middle. Today’s Runner had pace men aiming for various times but they had not considered the human traffic jams they were causing.
The next few miles were uneventful and I was able to run at a consistent pace although it was still very crowded. I was following another runner closely when suddenly he dived to one side, I followed, we had narrowly missed one of the traffic bollards. That will teach me to follow the blue line instead of the white one. My first 5 miles had been covered in a total time of 35 minutes 42 seconds about 3 minutes behind schedule.
As I was still fresh I was able to enjoy the crowds and bands along the roadside. Children would hold out their hands to be slapped by passing runners, they would also supply us with extra drinks, orange quarters and even boiled sweets and chewing gum. There were many bands playing along the route and I even found myself singing to the tunes as I ran past. One compare was on a podium above the road and taking the “Mick” out of the runners, not recommended after a drinks station, I saw a few bottles flying in his general direction.
 At every mile there was an archway of balloons over the road and a clock
 with the elapsed race time, also within a short distance was a drinks station with thousands of bottles of water. Most runners would take one sip then throw the bottle to the side, making the road wet and littered with bottles that were not good to stand on. They were also dangerous places with runners diving across the road to get the first bottle then stopping without warning to drink it. Some of the stations also provided an energy drink which I had found made me queezy but came in a plastic bag which meant if you stamped on them they would burst sending a sticky shower scattering the crowd.
             I passed another 3.15 disc (from the other start) at about 6 miles and a 3.00 hour disc at about 10 miles which I had completed in 1.08.23, a 5 mile split of 32 min 41 sec.
I felt I had been running at an even pace over the last 5 miles and was not worried about getting in front of 3 hour pace. The crowds and noise were getting louder as we turned the corner onto Tower Bridge, just after 12 miles. Going over Tower Bridge was great with the crowd pressing in on both sides, it made me feel like the cyclists going over the mountains in the Tour de France. Some of the crowd would be watching us again when as went under the bridge at 22 miles.
Half way in a time of just under 1.29 not bad considering the start but hoping I could keep it up for the rest of the way. For about a mile we ran down one side of a dual carriageway. Half way down I saw a lead car coming the other way and was able to see the lead women coming back from the Isle of Dogs at about 20 miles. There was a group of about 5 behind the car but well spaced out after that. I think that, where ever possible, women’s races should be separate especially for championships as they do not get the advantage of men pace making and also it is better for the spectators. I went through 15 miles in 1.41.05 a 5-mile split of 32 min 42 sec. Consistent if nothing else. That compared with my Banbury 15 time of 1.34.47.
 On my first London in 1988, the Isle of Dogs was the low point of the race as it was still a long way to go and the support was very sporadic with some roads having no spectators at all. Now with new transport links and a re-generated area we had support all the way, However it was still, for me, the low point with twisty roads, turning back on your self, it seemed never ending. Going back along the dual carriageway I hardly noticed the streams of runners still at 14 miles. - 20 miles in 2.13.36, a 5-mile split of 32 min 31 sec.
After zig zaging through the tower blocks and underpasses of Docklands Tower Bridge was a very welcome sight, but I was dreading the cobbles in front of the tower. Even with carpets down they were hard to run on especially when you’ve just run 22 miles. I could not see but I expect there would have been runners still streaming over the bridge at 12 miles. Even with only 4 miles to go I could not feel optimistic and think about the finish as I’ve heard of people getting to 25 miles and still not finishing, so I just had to put it out of my mind and keep running.
After clearing the cobbles we had a long stretch along the Thames. By this time I had put most things from my mind and was just concentrating on running. I don’t remember much about this part of the run except for passing a Clown in full kit, including red nose, and wondering what he would do in normal running kit.
We finally turned away from the Thames and up Bird Cage Walk. The crowds were great but I was just concentrating on the final mile, putting one foot in front of the other. - 25 miles in 2.48.10 a 5 mile split of 34 min 34 sec. At the top of Bird Cage Walk I expected to turn right and see the finish but it was not there. “Someone has pinched the finish” I thought forgetting the bit in front of the Palace. Another turn right and I was on the finishing straight and could see the clock on the finish it said 2-56 “I’ve made it” then my right calf tied up with cramp. Only about 80 metres to the finish I was not going to stop for anything.
I crossed the line in a time of 2hrs 56min 24sec very pleased but very, very tired. I knew from other races it’s not best to just stop but to keep walking so I carried on, collecting my medal, reflective blanket, bottles of water, goody bag, T shirt, and finally my kit bag. By which time I was so weighed down I had to stop to sort everything out. The finish area was very quiet with just the rustle of the blankets but by the time I got to the end the runners had recovered enough to begin the endless discussions on the race. I had A very nice massage, courtesy of Macmillan and a change of clothes, then headed for the bus home.
When I arrived home I was surprised to discover my wife had arranged a small party. So my day ended with some great food (pasta to replenish the energy stores), wine and friends. I also raised £572.00 that was split between Macmillan Nurses and the Warriner farm.   

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