London Marathon April 2023

Great runs & amazing experiences for 2 Harriers at the London Marathon

If you had said to me 5 years ago that I would run the London Marathon I would have laughed in your face. Although back then, I probably would have struggled to believe I would have been able to finish a parkrun. My journey from fat to fit has been completed over that period and the shedding of a Hoodie 5 sizes too big for me at the start line seemed quite symbolic.

I had managed to gain a space through my work, Barclays, who were allocated 15 spaces by their chosen charity, Maggie’s Centres. Amy was drawn out of the hat for the club space, James losing out but opting for the more prestigious Blackpool Marathon. The recent chat on the club’s WhatsApp group had been heavily focused on marathons with Masha, Cat, Natalie, James, and Lynsey all running the distance within the same week or two of London. Therefore, the buzz and excitement for the race was already at fever pitch before we reached the start line.

Both Amy and I were going off from the Red Start, Amy at Wave 2 and myself at Wave 3. I had a wander about to look for her before the start, in between hiding under the trees to shelter from the rain which had started about half an hour before the start. I couldn’t see her, but it was nice to bump into one of my wife’s friends from Stranraer which passed the nervous wait.

Then came the start, and then came the crowds, later came the pain (but I’ll get to that bit). I have never experienced anything like the support that came from the thousands that had lined the streets. I started well, running about 5m 10s per km, overtaking the 3hr 45m pacer early, feeling good, and shouting ‘Thank You!’ back at every shout of ‘Go on Del!’ from the crowds (the name printed on the T-Shirt working wonders).

Anyone who has run (or followed) the race knows the Cutty Sark comes at about 10km and the noise at this point was deafening. I was thoroughly enjoying the race and continued running at the same pace and approached halfway in fine fettle. Crossing Tower Bridge was the highlight of the whole race for me, the crowds on either side and the view as I ran towards the bridge was something I’ll never forget. I gave a big thumbs-up to the Maggie’s Centres cheer point at the end of the bridge. I reached the halfway point at 1hr 51m 07 seconds.

Turning East after Tower Bridge sees you passing the faster runners on the other side of the street as they approach the end. I had been told this was a bit demoralising, but it wasn’t affecting me at this point. I was looking forward to Mile 18 where I knew my manager and a few London based colleagues were waiting to cheer me on. I had started to drop the pace from around 25km onwards but seeing my colleagues gave me a great boost and I hit the 30km mark with a 5:06 km (and with Strava later telling me it was my second fastest 30km).

It was never all going to be plain sailing though, and I slowed considerably as my legs started to feel very heavy. For the next 6kms I averaged about 5m 55s per km. Remember the pain I mentioned earlier? This is when it came on really badly as heavy legs turned into completely cramped legs, with every step bringing a grimace to my face. Then it happened, I couldn’t run any more, I had to walk. I don’t know if it was pride or arrogance, but I had told myself I didn’t want to walk a single step, I wanted to run the whole way. Yet, here I was, walking with about 4 miles still to go. I tried to run again, got a few hundred metres, and then walked again. This pattern continued for what seemed like an eternity, the shouts of ‘Go Del!’ no longer receiving a thanks nor providing me with the motivation it had earlier, I was too far deep in my own misery. I was even struggling to breath, and almost hyperventilated on a couple of occasions. I had put so much into training, had completed longer ‘long’ runs than necessary, carb loaded the days before and even stayed off alcohol for 3 and a half months. I started to think I wasn’t going to finish and started to get upset about letting down my family, all those who had sponsored me, and worst of all, myself. At my lowest point, in tears in the Blackfriars underpass, I nearly fell as I kicked the kerb. I then looked to my right, and I was passed by a Pot Noodle, maybe I was delirious, who knows? It was here I phoned my wife, telling her I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish. Not one for sentiment, my wife doled out some tough love, “I know it’s tough, stop crying, start running!”

This must have worked, I started running again and I don’t think I stopped, I started slow but miraculously as I came along Embankment, I had picked up the pace to about 5m 30s. My legs were still not playing ball but the pep talk from my wife, the cheers from the crowd, and my old primary school motto (Persevere) seemed to get me through. As I saw the London Eye and Big Ben I knew I was close!

The cramp in my legs was still agony but I didn’t stop, I don’t think I would have been able to start again if I had! Coming down Birdcage walk, my eyes were narrow, and my vision was focused (apparently, I passed Buckingham Palace, I didn’t see it!). Going down The Mall I looked at my watch and realised I was still going to finish under 4 hours, which was always the main aim. I was ecstatic as I raised my arms as I reached the line and finished in 3hr 57m 47s.

Having collected my Medal, T-Shirt, and kit bag, aching and a bit confused I was helped to the Maggie’s Centre colleagues by some lovely marathon helpers. Indeed, it’s here I should mention how amazing all those working at the marathon were. An absolute army of marshals, water providers, gel providers, etc who made the day run very smoothly. They all did a fine job.

Amy had already completed a great run and finished in a fantastic time of 3h 29m 23s. She was calling me to see if we could meet and grab a pic but I was in a daze at this point, I didn’t even take a picture of myself at the finish line.

A massage in Tiger Tiger, followed by some food and my first drink in 113 days, all paid for by Maggie’s, seemed to work a treat and I was back to myself in no time. James summed it up perfectly when he said, I had just completed one of the World’s finest marathons, in under 4 hours, and raised a shedload of money for charity.

If you had asked me when I finished the marathon if I would do another, I think I might have told you I was never going to run a parkrun again never mind a marathon. That’s passed however and I will run another soon (and I would love to run in London again). Next time, I will remember the sodium tablets…

Amy Watson – 3hr 29m 23s

Derek Muirhead – 3hr 57m 47s

Share the Post:

Related News