I will make no excuses for the length of this blog post. Running London was such a huge emotional journey for me and no other race will ever have the same meaning as London 2018 did. So please bear with me, maybe get yourself a coffee before cracking on.
The London marathon is marathon number 7. I have always watched London on the TV, always dreamt of running this marathon, even before really knowing how tough distance running is. I remember watching the race with my dad one year and saying to him that I will run it next year. I didn’t do but the seed was planted right there. It wasn’t until my dad passed away in 2015 that I began my current running journey. October 2015 was when I laced up an old pair of trainers and ran a 1.2 mile loop from my door, along the canal and back to home. During that run I stopped four times, walked a bit and made it home in 22 minutes. My goal was to get fit so that I could keep up with my daughter once she found her feet. It then developed into running the Great Manchester run in May 2016 and the goal of running London in April 2017. That would give me 18 months to progress from a 22 minute 1.2 mile runner, to a marathon runner. Boy did I need to develop!
I was unsuccessful with my ballot entry for London 2017 and opted to run the Paris Marathon a week earlier instead. You can read how that race went HERE, there and then I became a marathoner a guy who somehow ran, well lets be honest, survived 26.2 miles. I than went on to run the Liverpool, Berlin, New York & Las Vegas marathons in 2017 and Greater Manchester marathon in April 2018, yep thats right, April. The same month as London, two weeks prior in fact. Again I had entered the ballot for London and was unsuccessful, so I went for the backup option of running Manchester.
I then discovered that the British Heart Foundation (BHF) were running a ballot for London marathon spots as part of their Heart Runners team. Running and more importantly, supporting the BHF was the perfect fit for me. My mum had suffered from a vast range of heart issues dating back almost 12 years. I entered the BHF ballot and was successful in landing one of the charity places. I told mum that I had a place in London and would be running for the BHF in her honour. She was really pleased and happy that I was running London for her. Two days after I returned from the Berlin marathon I showed my medal off to mum and she told me how well I had done and how much she was looking forward to seeing the London marathon medal. Six hours after that she passed away in her sleep following a massive heart failure.
After mum’s passing I changed my goal of just running London for the fun of it. It now became a more personal and meaningful 26.2 mile battle. I came up with the idea of running the marathon dressed as a love heart. Fancy dress and dressing up just isn’t me, I am not the type of guy who likes to stand out from the crowd, but, this is all about raising as much money as I can for the BHF and helping their research work to reduced the number of deaths related to heart disease. Who knows, maybe one day we can prevent deaths from heart disease. I then discovered that there was an actual official Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon dressed as a love heart AND it was only 12 minutes faster than my current personal best. So I completed all of the paperwork, sent photos of the costume and complied with all of the regs.
I was going to run the London marathon, run for the British Heart Foundation, raise money for the BHF, run dressed as a Love Heart, attempt an official Guinness World Record and run in memory of Mum.
Expo (Thursday April 19th)
My wife and myself booked the Thursday off work so that we could head to the expo to collect my race number and other bits and bobs whilst our daughter was in nursery and OMG didn’t we just pick the best day for it! After months and months of running in the cold, wet, snowy and icy weather. Heck, we even had snow four weeks ago over Easter! Today was 29 degrees and sunny. Summer is finally arriving, ok great, but I am running a marathon in three days dressed in a big foam costume….. we will see how it goes, but that is three days away.
We got the train down to London and arrived at the ExCel just before lunch time with the plan of spending an hour there before heading into central London to get some lunch and an M&M cushion for our daughter. We ended up spending the best part of two hours there. I remember once being told that no matter how long you think something will take, it will take double that. So true.
The number pick up was a breeze, no queues and very straight forward. Next was the timing chip collection, again, a breeze, no queues and simple. Technically, that was it. Expo done, I had my number, bag drop bag and timing chip, lets get this marathon ran.
The expo was pretty big with lots of different vendors offering things from protein supplements, clothing, shoes, run tech, charity stands etc etc, there was a lot to do, see and play with.
I came out with a New Balance training tee and two pairs of shorts. All to be worn after the race of course. Some other stalls that we visited were Cliff Bar (lots of free samples to try), Sports Tours International, Garmin, Abbotts World Marathon Majors, London Classics and of course the British Heart Foundation stall. I bumped into one of my Instagram buddies @pauladdicott who is the 4hr pacer for London, we had a great chat much to the annoyance of those waiting in line behind me, oops.
On the way out, we stopped off at the Virgin Money Giving lounge for the obligatory race number photos and headed out to M&M for the cushion, I know you are all dying to learn the fate of the M&M cushion!! well that was a fail, apparently they no longer sell the style that my daughter has so she is left just required a brown one to complete her set. Don’t worry though, we did buy her a My Dad Runs Things top from the expo so she didn’t go empty handed. Back home on the train, time to relax, hydrate, fuel up on those carbs and get everything set for Sunday.
Arrival (Saturday April 21st)
I travelled down to London with my wife and daughter Saturday afternoon, we checked into the hotel and had a quick wander around town before hitting Pizza Express for dinner for some carb loading and then it was back to the hotel to put my daughter to bed.
Saturday evening was what is now my accustomed pre race routine. I have a shower, get my kit out ready, make sure all timing chips are fitted, pack my pre race and post race bags and try to get an early night. This time, I could not get to sleep until around 2am with a mixture of warm weather keeping me up and my daughter woke three times. Oh and not forgetting the most important part of the pre race routine….. the Kit Pic / Flat Lay pic.
Marathon day!!!!!!!!!! (Sunday April 22nd)
So here we go, the big day is finally here. That marathon I have always dreamed of running one day. Well, that one day is now. I woke at 6am, ate my breakfast in my hotel room. I always take my own breakfast with me to ensure I have exactly what I wanted, what I have had before every long run during training. As I was attempting a guinness world record for the Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Love Heart, I had to be at the Green Start by 8am for GWR registration, costume check and photoshoot. By 9am the temperature was already up to 19c and forecast to reach a possible high of around 23c which would make this the second hottest marathon I have ran, just behind the 25c in Paris last year. Although, I wasn’t wearing a foam love heart in Paris.
The registration and check-in at the Guinness World Record tent was a quick and simple, I didn’t arrive until 8:30am but I was sorted by 8:40am. I met up with another guy who was running and attempting the fastest marathon dressed as a love heart too, when we got chatting he was said he was running for the British Heart Foundation as well, however, his PB was a lot lower than the current World Record and far faster than my PB, so I knew it was highly unlikely that I would set a world record today. Especially as my PB was 7 minutes slower than the current record and given the heat too, it would be a tall order to knock at least 7 minutes off my PB.
My plan was to set out at a pace that would bring me home close to the current world record, 7:55 pace and see how it feels after each 10k, but with a backup plan of slowing my pace if I feel too hot and dehydrated out there. Whilst it would be amazing to set a new record or PB, I do not want to risk everything for it. I would rather finish and finish healthy than push too hard and not finish.
Mile 1 – 6: 7:44, 7:54, 7:42, 7:52, 7:55, 7:58
Off we go then, lets see how it feels running in this costume during a hot sunny day. All previous test runs have been cold and cloudy days and no further than 3 miles. The first mile went off ok, 11 seconds faster than planned but that was ok, I had been worried about the course being too crowded to run my own pace beforehand, but the first mile of just the Green wave was fine and then when we merged in with the Blue wave at mile 2, there was still plenty of room. Already, the crowds were huge, even at this early stage. I managed to hold my planned pace during mile 2 then ran quicker in mile 3 again, although the entire mile 3 was downhill so I kind of expected to run faster here and wasn’t concerned, I had kept it fairly steady. When we merged with the Red wave things got a little busier but there was still plenty of space to run your own race. Miles 4, 5 and 6 were bang on target.
We reached the Cuty Sark and things felt good, I was holding the pace fine, not tired or out of breath but it was hot, the costume was holding my body heat in and I was soaked with sweat. A nice thought there for you. So I decided I would continue with this pace for another 10k and see how it feels at Tower Bridge.
Mile 7 – 13: 7:52, 7:56, 8:04, 7:58, 7:55, 8:14, 8:14
After the high of running around the Cuty Sark and the huge crowds there, things thinned out a little but we still had such amazing support. It reminded me a little of how it felt in New York last year. The support does give such a huge boost to the runners and this time, with wearing the Love Heart and having my name printed across my chest, it felt like every other person was shouting encouragement at me.
Once again, miles 7 and 8 were on target. Mile 9 slipped off by 9 seconds for no really reason but I knew I had some time in hand from earlier on. Miles 10 and 11 back on target pace and feeling strong. I had no pains at all, even my knee was holding up well. For those who don’t know, I tripped up and knocked my knee during training 4 weeks prior to the London Marathon. When I ran the GREATER MANCHESTER MARATHON two weeks ago my knee had started to hurt by mile 16 so I slowed my pace to save it for today. This seems to have worked well, my knee felt good so far. At mile 11 I felt someone tap me on the back and say “Hows it going Mark”, I turned around and saw it was one of my Instagram friends Marcus @themarathonmarcus It was great to run and chat with Marcus for a few minutes, he was running much quicker than me and soon disappeared down the road to an awesome 3:33.42, coming 6 days after completing the Boston Marathon. Fantastic effort mate.
Mile 12, which wasn’t Tower Bridge like I thought, and mile 13 were both 20 seconds off target pace. I felt like I was starting to slow but still felt good. I thought I will give it another mile and see how things go, keep pushing on mile by mile.
Mile 14 – 21: 8:18, 8:33, 10:48, 11:50, 10:20, 9:31, 10:44, 10:15
Mile 14 went by fine, still slower than I had planned but I thought to myself, if I can hold this pace until the end I could walk away with a PB. Towards the end of mile 15 I started to feel a little light headed and I was really hot. Then during mile 16 when we went under a tunnel I decided that it was best to play it safe and not push it too much, finishing the marathon is always an achievement in itself and I did not want to keep pushing on now and do myself some harm so I stopped and walked a little while, poured a bottle of water over my head to cool myself whilst I was in the shade and ran on to mile 17. I repeated this walking just after the water stops to cool myself and run the remaining 0.8 of a mile, through miles 16 – 21.
Mile 22 – 26.6: 10:57, 11:19, 9:48, 9:24, 8:55, 8:10
Miles 22 and 23 were still walk, cool and run but when walking past the crowds, the support was unbelievable. So many shouting my name, shouting come on Mark you can do this, come on heart boy or I love you Mark etc. Even in the darkest moments of my marathon journey I was still laughing and smiling and that was all down to the crowds and support. If it was not for them, who know how many more people would have dropped out of the race. When I reached the mile 24 marker I saw that I was around 3:30 into the race, the world record had passed me and I still have 3 miles to run. This made me buck my ideas up. I thought if I keep on with the walk, cool, run routine I will end up running over 4 hours. So I ran the last 3 miles without stopping. It was slow at first, but gradually got quicker and quicker.
Photo credit to my friend Phil Glenister who snapped me running around Embankment.
I ran the last mile with Superman lol, we came home together which must have looked funny. A love heart and Superman powering up the finish straight.
And what a finish that is. When I turned the corner and saw Buckingham Palace. I immediately thought of my mum. Two and a half years ago I took my mum to London for the weekend to celebrate her 70th birthday and I took this photo of mum, stood pretty much where the marathon finish line was.
I managed to get my act together and put a sprint on down The Mall and finished in 3:58.13, my second slowest marathon but fastest in fancy dress.
Brief Round Up.
London was tough. It was always going to be with running in memory of my mum. The heat put pay to any hopes of running the World Record dressed as a love heart. In the end, that would have never happened anyway as the other guy who ran as a heart absolutely smashed the record with a 3:05 time, what an awesome effort that was in the heat and such an amazing way to raise awareness and money for the British Heart Foundation.
I felt disappointed with my time and performance at first but I am happy and proud with what I did now. To have been able to run London was amazing and doing it to raise money for the BHF and for mum made it all the more special. It was very difficult running in the costume, not made any easier by the heat but I did it, I ran my 7th marathon in 378 days.
In reality, this one was not about running a time or achieving any goals. Mum always looked bored when I would start talking about running sub 4 and then sub 3:45 and so on, she just didn’t care how long it took me. She enjoyed me coming back home and seeing the medal I had earned. So this one is for you mum.