So in the second part of this blog post (for the first part click here) about the six Major World Marathons I look back at London, Boston and Tokyo.
Of all the marathons I've done Boston is the one that really sticks in my mind. The whole trip was amazing, but the actual course was as tough as fuck and nearly broke me. I ran Boston the year after the terrorist attack so the atmosphere was very charged and at times was a little overwhelming, but first London...
London April 2013
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 at my 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.
This was the third time I'd run the London Marathon and as the post showed I was a bit grumpy when it came to all the Hoopla. It's a race that every runner should do because of how much of an event it is, but just getting to the start line is a pain in the arse, although it's not the best course I've done it's certainly one of the most interesting. I'd certainly love to do it again at some point.
Boston April 2014
I had a pace in mind but the first three or so miles were down hill so I did go at a fair crack.I felt good, a few aches and pains, my lower back began to hurt at around mile five, but there wasn't anything major and I felt comfortable at the pace, so all was good.
I tried to take in as much as I could. It was certainly the most scenic Marathon I've ever done and the crowds were insane. One of the signs I saw said "GoNad!" which I presume...At around mile 16 there was a college where the girls were holding up signs saying "Kiss me! I'm..."so I obliged a few girls with sweaty Welsh love. I'd decided to wear a Welsh flag vest, which got a huge amount of recognition as well as "Go dragon guy!" I also had my name and "Happy Birthday Douggie!" in honour of my nephew's birthday which got a lot of shouts.
It was hot and getting hotter and my back was beginning to kill me. I thought I was ready for Heartbreak Hill at mile twenty one but it actually crept up on me at mile twenty. On most occasions it would be a gentle slope, but Jesus it seemed to just keep going up and up and killed my pace. It knocked the snot out of me and upon reflection I don't think I ate enough before hand - just a bagel and a banana, but my stomach hadn't been great before. I managed to lumber on for another three miles but did begin to walk at mile twenty three, I was in so much pain. for the next two miles it was a combination of walking and stumbling, but somehow I managed to did deep and run the last mile and a bit. The noise was amazing in the last stretch and holy shit I've never been so happy to cross a finish line. I got in at four hours and seven minutes which is of course slower than I wanted but it is the toughest course I've ever done and the hottest.
I had to walk back to the hotel which was almost as hard as the Marathon. I felt really bad and had to stop four or five times. I tried to get a taxi back but the bloody driver didn't know where the hotel was.
I felt very ill and thought it was going to be early doors for Darren, but after a punishing ice bath I managed to pull myself together to go out for drinks with the Mayburys and Sian.
Between Boston and Tokyo I did the Edinburgh marathon to keep my wheels spinning. It gave Sian and I two years to save up for Japan as it was a spicy enchilada. The jet lag hit us like a freight train and I didn't know if I'd recovered in time for the race...
Tokyo March 2016
I had the usual nervous before the start line, but not as bad as I had before Edinburgh when I thought I'd be running in a storm. I had been told that Tokyo would be freezing, so had brought a few layers to run in, but on the day it was surprisingly warm, and I thought "Yeah I can handle shivering a little at the start line." so I decided to run in my top from Boston marathon. I try not to put any baggage in as it's a pain in the ass to get at the end, and I thought it wouldn't be too bad getting the shuttle bus back to the hotel from the finish.
After nearly two years of planning and training I was on the start line talking to a man from Yorkshire and then in a burst of confetti we were off! Then I stopped, three minutes into the race I needed a slash, which is pretty typical. I was chasing a sub three hour time, and waiting to have a pee pretty much hobbled my first mile, but I picked it up after that.
The first few miles are for me always about gauging how I feel, and I felt pretty good and hit my pace for for mile 2 and 3 and thought that with a bit of luck I could keep it up for the course. However after that I started to hover around the 7 minute pace. I don't know why. It was a pretty ambitious pace. I found that I had to stop more often than I would have liked for water but that shouldn't have impacted too much on my time. I knew pretty early on that I wasn't going to get my hoped for sub three hours so I concentrated on getting the best time I could.
The course itself was flat but a little dull. It was 26 miles of unrelenting tar-mac which were harsh on my knees. Most marathon courses gives the occasional opportunity to run on green, but Tokyo doesn't afford that luxury. Also Tokyo having been largely rebuilt in the last fifty years doesn't have the landmarks of the other five Major marathons so it is a little samey, but it does mean as a runner you can concentrate on chewing out the miles. It's an Identi-kit city, it's mashed together bits of North American cities, especially Chicago and New York. It ain't a pretty city but does processes a certain brutal charm and it's crazee in a way I can't describe. It's full of energy and provides a complete overload of visual information. It's a city which you have to run to stand still.
I did have a bit of a wobble at mile 10, but I spent most of the course just putting one foot after the other. At mile 20 my hips and knees began to hurt so I slapped on the Deep Heat. I knew I was doing a good time and had an opportunity for a Personal Best and so dug deep for the last few miles. The course didn't have mile markers so I had to rely on my Garmin. My watch was showing that I had run 24 and half miles but ahead of me I saw a huge sign saying 24 and groaned. It turned out to be a 24 hour garage. I had a weird feeling of regret in the last few yards of the race as it marked the end of my Six Major Marathons, but with relief that it was over and elation when I crossed the finish line with a new PB of 3:18, 6 minutes off my Edinburgh time.
So there we have it, an amazing set of experiences which took me to some stunning parts of the world.I had thought that I'd feel a bit deflated after crossing the finish line at Tokyo. Instead I felt proud at having after completing something something so substantial.