Here’s the London Marathon History. All sub 3.
2010 – 2.47.04 – http://www.rightzone.co.uk/races/now-the-dust-has-settled/
2008 – 2.49.25 – http://www.rightzone.co.uk/2008/04/
2006 – 2.49 http://www.rightzone.co.uk/races/disappointed-but-glad-to-be-in-one-piece-london-marathon-2006/
2005 – 2.59.43 (didn’t do much training and died at 14 miles and somehow snook under 3)
2003 – came close with 2.47.13
2001 – 2.57 (newbie runner. they said it wasn’t possible to go sub 3 in the 1st)
Those of us who traveled down together for the start in my car (Grant Russell – 2.54 & Ryan Tomlinson 2.49) agreed it was a perfect day. Light wind and coolish sunny day. No weather excuses to be had and to be honest excuses of any kind we’re difficult to dream up.
I was on the Good for Age Red start and had keenly positioned myself at the front of pen one and we were walked up to the start line only to be warned not to cross the white line in front of the timing mats. Strange feeling standing there. Felt a bit like when you look over the edge of a big cliff. I knew one step would trigger my start time but yet I had 20,000 massed up behind. We got to the start line a little too early in my opinion so there was a lot of listening to the Geordie Radio wannabee. He wasn’t very good, never really got the balance right between humour, interest and self deprecation. So 20 mins of jiggling left and right and trying to do confined on the spot stretching and we were off.
Target pace for the race was 6.02s (Harry Green’s 1913 2.38 World Record). It was on the cards having run exactly this pace at the Finchley 20 a few weeks earlier and the half marathon time of 1.14.30 suggested it was possible. A VERY stretching target, but what’s the worst that could happen right?
Miles 1-6. Nowt to report. Felt ok, not great and went through 5k in 18.35, 6 miles in 36 mins dead and 10k in 37.24. All on track. No dramas. Although I wasn’t really feeling super strong. I did leave behind a mile in a mankini at mile 2 and was glad to see the back of him to be honest. At mile 5 I was aware of a bloke in full costume. I was slightly miffed he was able to make 6 min miles look so easy and the crowd loved him.
I was also aware of a club mate Paul Cheatham from the Stragglers who a quick chat with revealed he was targeting 2.44. I’d beaten him at Wokingham by 30s so was fairly sure I could stay ahead.
Miles 6-13. Still ticking off the 6 min miles and at one point I noted I was 2s under Harry Green’s record. But something wasn’t quite right and it was proving fairly strenuous holding 6s which at this stage in the race was bugging me. The main thing going through mile 12 was to ensure that the Pirate wasn’t anywhere near me as I ran past Tanya and the kids at Bermondsey. I realised that as we got close he was coming back to me. Then as I passed Tanya the ship stealing critter was flippin shoulder to shoulder with me which was a bit embarrassing, although the kids loved it I was told. We’re supposed to be proper runners after all so having people in fancy dress isn’t in the script.
I picked up 2 more gels as I neared Tower Bridge and did the small climb up and over Tower Bridge as the crowd went bananas. But I noticed I wasn’t feeling good at all and knew something wasn’t quite right.
Mles 13-20. Went through half way in just over 1.19 and bang on target. I was then aware that things had really thinned out but I was being over taken one by one. I was going backwards through the field. This wasn’t in the plan. This was worrying. In fact, this was so worrying I started to feel a little sorry for myself. Thoughts turned to maths as I worked out what was required to go sub 2.45 as the Harry Green thing was immediately ruled out. It was 6.30s and I’d still break 2.45 as I had a big cushion from the first half mara. This was a battle of survival and a battle to not have wasted 11 months of my life. I thought of the people who have been along for the journey. I thought of the desperate disappointment I’d feel if I didn’t pull this off. The number of people that knew that I’d run every day for 11 months with sub 2.45 as the goal. Potential failure. People came into my head, email scenarios played out. You blew it Rog. What was the point of all that running? I was almost crying on the inside as Paul Cheetham came past and gave me that knowing look of “keep going Rog”. I’d been there before with much less training in the legs and knew this could be game over. I’m also experienced enough to know that it’s possible to have bad patches in races and come out the other side. Not something I’ve ever been able to do in a marathon before but given all the miles I knew whatever was wrong wasn’t due to lack of training or even poor pacing.
Looking at my splits miles 13,14,15 weren’t as bad as they felt. I was still ticking along but it didn’t feel right. So I tried to do the right thing. I took on a bottle of water and cooled my head down with it (it was around 15 degrees now), ate a gel and generally tried to convince myself I could salvage something from the day. I was still making forward progress but still being overtaken. Then around Canary wharf I started to get a bit of a rhythm going again. I latched onto someone and made myself stick with them. Looking at the splits I see I had my worst miles around 19 and 20 which is weird as I hadn’t noticed a slowdown and blamed it on the tall buildings. I was reassured that I wasn’t feeling much worse than I had at 14/15 yet I was still ticking off those miles in low to mid 6s.
Miles 20-26.2 I’d latched onto Pablo. See the photo below. No idea which one was Pablo but for nearly 3 miles the crowd was going bonkers for Pablo calling out his name. It was written on his running vest and it was really doing my nut. The only problem was Pablo was tapping out a nice pace and I was holding him. There was a gentle westerly breeze so I knew getting a tow was the best thing I could do to maximise my chances. At mile 21 I was now entering the death zone. A place that claims the chances of many a PB. A place that has floored me in the past. Two great miles. A 6.14 and a 6.17 into the wind. We were passing people hand over fist now and I was now fairly convinced I was going to pull this off now.
In the end the elastic broke and Pablo got away. I was all alone and as we climbed up to Tower Hill, ok it’s a small rise, it was just me and the crowds. I must have looked a state though. I felt like I was running on empty and could blow up badly at any moment. It was really really hard to keep the pace going as I entered a whole world of fatigue in the tunnels. I missed my parents who recruited all the people around them, yet I didn’t hear any of it. I was totally focused on making forward progress. Two bad miles really but then as I exited the final tunnel I was aware that it was just me and a few hundred spectators haning off bridges and the overpass. I upped my arms to get them to cheer and got a massive roar. I was smashing it out now and glanced at my watch to see 5.45 mins per mile pace average for the current mile which was only fairly new at 0.25 miles but this was fun. Then I had the come down and regretted getting so carried away with the crowd. I was then looking out for Alfie who was on a boat. It was then I realised there were lots of boats. This wasn’t a bad thing. I was keen to look goodish as I passed him so kept the hammer down. It was something else to think about. I was also hoping to see my parents not knowing I’d already passed them. Bit by bit the 24th mile came and went and I started the 25th mile. The 24th had been a 6.14 which at this stage of the game was a massive boost and something I’m quite proud of now as I’m writing this. Mile 25 was also a goodie at 6.08. I was flying again and passing folk who we’re staggering around. I couldn’t really hear now. I was in a fuzzy world of pain just going through the “only 10 more mins” for a lifetime of satisfaction. I went through 25 miles and clocked that the time was 2.35. I had 10 mins to do 1.2 miles. I WAS GOING TO DO THIS. I rounded the Westminster corner, missed the wife and kids and headed down bird cage walk. As I was passing folk I was aware of Paul Cheetham in the distance. Ahah. I’ve got you. It felt like I was pushing out sub 6s now but actually I wasn’t moving that fast anymore but it was one of the highlights of the day to punch past Paul without even a glance. He was shagged and gave out a “Well done Roger”. I was looking for the 26 mile banner but the 385 yards banner was in it’s place. In front of the palace and onto the Mall with the clock on the distance with the time I’d dreamed of. I could see 2.42 something.
All the dreams of having a weep on the mall as I ran towards something that was less than 2.45 didn’t materialise. I was emotionally wiped out. I’d been through some very very dark places and felt nothing. Nothing but a little 2 finger peace sign as I crossed the line. 2hrs 43 mins 17s for a near 4 min PB and well under the magic 2.45 I’d tried for all these years.
I wandered calmly through the various chip cutting areas, bag collecting, medal collecting and then hooked up with Paul Cheetham who looked like he’d had a sherbert dip accident as his face was covered in white salty stuff. He couldn’t believe I’d come back to him and we shook hands. I made my way to the meet up area and did feel a little proud emotion as I greeted the family. We went and had a picnic on the grass in the park nearby. The grass near the finish has been a place of heartache for me in the past. A place to reflect on what went wrong and how I was useless at Marathon running and that I was going to give up marathon running and take up something I was good at. Then I spotted Mitch. He looked confused but that might have been my whistling. I helped him down off his long shanks and immediately queried his time. He insisted he’d not gone sub 3 and he’d missed it by 15 hundredths of a second. I felt for him but my overwhelming feeling was one of respect as he’d run so close to 3 hours. Deep down I’d not expected him to go under and especially with a run walk strategy. Fair play Mitch but I know you’re gonna get years of grief over this. I think you need to return.
I’m now retiring from full pace marathon running. I’ve qualified (twice now in fact) to run the championship blue start next year (or the year after). I may run one of them for fun (Sub 3 of course) but I won’t be putting together another 12 month campaign. I stand by the theory that marathons are harder than Ironman. I’ll be returning for lifetime athletic goal number 3, that’s to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. One day, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. That one remains on the shelf and I’ll contradict a comment I made earlier about missing out on things by small margins. In 2004 I missed out on qualifying for Kona by 16s.
As for the streak. It lives on. As I write this I’ve run Monday, Tuesday, Weds and Thurs now since the marathon and feel all the better for it. On the 31st May I’ll be meeting under the clock in Waterloo with as many people as possible. You’re all invited. It’s day 365 of the streak and we’ll do a light 30 mins and then have some beer to celebrate.
A huge thank you to all the people who I’ve run with over the last 11 months. Colin Todd, Liz Pinches, James and Grant Russell, Ryan Tomlinson, Danny Norman, Chris Walmsley, Mitch Phillips, Kevin Rooney, Chrissie Wellington, Jon Hotchkiss and I’m sure I’ve missed a few.
Roger and Out
Garmin file – http://connect.garmin.com/activity/301737283
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