Before you can queue up at the start line for a marathon you have to go through the ass ache of going to the Expo. I was a little worried that we'd cut it a bit fine to schlep out to the Excel but we got there with over an hour to spare.. I got my number then made the mistake of going into the Expo, after ten minutes my wife and I were clawing our own faces off to get out. I'd been supplied with the letters to iron my name onto my vest for the race, but the "E" got stuck on a tea towel, so I had to attach it via safety pins.
The journey to the start line was pretty pleasant although I do think there should be a stricter cut off point where supporters can walk with runners, but that's probably just me being grumpy. I remember thinking that there should have been more toilets in the walk up the runners compound, but it's entirely possible that they could never put enough toilets out for my liking. It was a glorious sunny day and I left it until 20 minutes before the start time to strip down to my shorts and vest and make way to my time pen. I found the 3:15 pace setter and observed the 30 seconds silence for the victims of the Boston bombing. Everyone was respectful except someone a few rows behind me who continued to play some 'banging' hardcore on their headphones. Then we were off! The start was the usual over excited count down, followed by the minute shuffle to the actual start line accompanied with the sound of racing watches being clicked on. The first few minutes of the Marathon gave me reasons for optimism, I ran alongside the 3:15 pace setter and thought "Yeah, I could do this for 26 miles." but then I had to take a piss and spent the next mile catching up with him.
The route was very tightly packed and there were a lot of people with sharp elbows at the 3:15 pace. At one point I had to do up my laces, but it felt like I was trying to do them up while wearing oven gloves. "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" I shouted atmy trainers, and after sort of doing them up I thought "That'll have to do." and carried on running. I didn't feel too bad and I was expecting to hit my stride at around mile 8 or 9 which is about the point during a Marathon which I start buzzing on the endorphins, but this didn't happen at any point during the race, instead one of the other runners said "Do you have to keep doing that? It's fucking disgusting." When I continued to cough, which is probably fair enough as I have minor irritations with what other runners do, but it didn't help my mental state. Also bizarrely the volume of the supporters didn't help, perhaps people wanted to turn out and show their support for Boston, but I remember thinking, "Oh God, could you keep it down a bit?" and it was with some relief that when I passed close to a Jamaican Steel Drum band that they were taking a rest. The pace was comfortable at times, but never easy and after the half-way point the 3:15 pace setter began to recede into the horizon.
I wasn't doing a bad pace and although my 3:15 finish time evaporated I thought that I had a chance to beat my personal best of 3:31, even up to mile 22 I thought I could still do it, but the last 4 miles just tugged me back and I just couldn't get any faster. It's really dispiriting when you're finishing a race and know you're going to get your best. I had forgot what a tough course London is, and I finally got in at a respectable 3:37 which is my best time for London and my second best in a Marathon overall.
Somewhere on the route the "E" had fallen off my vest which added to by bedraggled look. I did have a bit of a 'whitey' after I met myself, but faced with a big board of cheese and numerous bottles of red I began to revive. The next day I found myself hobbling up some steps in the South Bank behind an elderly couple, I was directly behind an old lady with a stick. I crossed to the other side of the steps so I didn't bump into her, but this only created the impression that I was trying to race her. The couple did look at me as though I was taking the piss, but I did get to the top before the old lady. In your face!