Virgin London Marathon
[Sun 17th Apr]
Greenwich Common at a quarter past eight on Sunday 17th April and the five Blyth survivors of their marathon training programmes met up in the ‘blue’ start area with various degrees of nervousness, trepidation and downright uncertainty as to whether their bodies (and minds) were going to cope with the next few hours. Between us we had experienced a broad spectrum of issues just getting to the start line – back (Chris), shin (Phillippa) and both knee and hamstring (Dave R) injuries and the absence of the usual family presence before (Dave B) or during (Davina) the marathon were all far from ideal, but we had made it this far and weren’t going to be stopped now (we hoped).
The weekend weather forecast had gradually been changing for yet warmer conditions and the increasingly cloudless skies across the London skyline told their own story – this was going to be a warm one. In fact, the number of people wandering around quite comfortably in only their vests and shorts at that time of the morning told its own story – it was already warm.
By the time that the mass race started (9:45) with its usual immaculate organisation and with huge crowds to support us (but also to remove any prospect of the breeze reaching the runners) it was seriously warm. Even a steady start got sweat pouring off us within the first mile and the only sensible option was to keep taking small amounts of water on board at every water station.
All of that training showed its benefits as all five of our runners started to real off a whole string of really consistent split times well into the second half of the race, helped by both the general volume of crowd support and particularly the support crew of Blyth members and supporters who made it to miles 9, 13 and 22 to give a vital boost to us all.
Both Phillippa and Dave R had missed out on a few weeks of vital training during February or March, so it was not too surprising that they suffered the consequences, with either their feet or legs showing the strain at about the 30k point, just as the route emerges from Canary Wharf. Both managed to keep going, albeit at a slower pace than previously.
By the last few miles, the heat had got to just about everybody and the Blyth runners were no exception (a North Eastern winter really is no preparation for a hot marathon). Descriptions of the last few miles varied from “very difficult” through “too tough” to “sheer agony” but everyone made it to the finish and then to their well-deserved ‘recovery sessions’ that afternoon and evening!
Chris Stone – running his first marathon – was first Blyth runner home, with a very impressive performance given both the conditions and the back problems that interrupted his training on more than one occasion.
Dave Roberts survived his latest attempt to injure himself - falling over spectacularly (again) twelve days beforehand - to run a solid race up to 21 miles and then just about hang on for the last few miles. To his great surprise, Dave’s badly bruised knee and leg didn’t really hurt that much during the run – or maybe it was just that everything else did?
Dave Bradley had yet another really consistent run, slowing only very slightly towards the finish and appearing to be in much better shape than the rest of us during those last few miles. Dave even managed to just beat his previous PB – a great result in those conditions.
Davina Lonsdale was convinced at mile 19 that she was going to do her first sub (or very close to it) 4 hour marathon. Unfortunately, she ‘blew up’ at mile 22 and the next 4 miles were a mixture of walking and very slow jogging. Although the heat had got to her, Davina had still produced a strong run, and was pleasantly surprised to see that she had managed a new PB - one minute faster than Loch Ness last year.
Phillippa Baxter was also having a really good run up until mile 19 when a blister started to hurt on her foot, necessitating brief medical treatment. She too had been on target for 4 hours. Phillippa is now looking forward to Edinburgh in a month’s time and hopes it won’t be quite so hot there!
Overall, there were 34710 finishers, from around 37000 who started and about 49000 who entered. Our runners finished as shown: -
Chris Stone 3:22:23 2987th
Dave Roberts 3:40:07 5354th
Dave Bradley 3:41:29 5557th
Davina Lonsdale 4:13:48 12271st
Phillippa Baxter 4:19:20 13596th