I have only ever been to the London Marathon once before. It was 2011 and I was one of the 30,000+ runners lining up on the start line to attempt the 26.2-mile course. My personal experience was one of pure joy (with the exception of mile 24-25 which still haunts me to this day). I knocked 30 mins off my PB and my London Marathon PB of 5:06:23 stood for 4 years until it was beaten.
This year, I was in London in an entirely different capacity; this year I was supporting my husband in his first London Marathon. Out of the two of us, I think I was the most excited about the prospect of the London Marathon. He was not concerned about the marathon at all (this was number 3, so he was well prepared); he was more concerned about all the people. He hates long races and only applied because I did. Either way, he got in and I was determined to be the best support system ever for the day.
The weekend started with a trip down to ExCel for the London Marathon Expo. I don’t understand why, out of all the Exhibition Centres in London, they insist on using ExCel; it’s a pain to get to and involves a long and tortuous journey for everyone who doesn’t fly in.
My dislike of the venue aside, the Expo itself is fabulous. Although we weren’t there that long (we still had our suitcases with us) I think we went around most of the stands. I had to be very strict on myself so that I didn’t spend too much money. In the end, my biggest “purchase” was signing up to sponsor another Guide Dog puppy.
We had to leave promptly as we still had our suitcases with us, but Mike and I both agreed, next time one of us gets into the Marathon we will come down on the Friday rather than the Saturday. That way we can happily explore the Expo without having to cart around all of our weekend gear!
For Mike, one of the outstanding points of the whole Marathon weekend was the organisation of the whole event. The London Marathon is run with military precision and the Expo is the first time that you will experience this.
After a very leisurely breakfast, we made our way down to the Lewisham Station to take the train to Blackheath (one stop away) and the Blue Start. By this point, I think my excitement levels were far higher than my husbands. We have very different pre-race strategies. I am a pre-race panicker and want to be on the start line nice and promptly. This is why on Great North Run day I often arrive at the start around 8:30 even though the race doesn’t start until 10:45. On the other hand, Mike would happily rock up with only half an hour to go
When I ran it in 2011, I remember the train not stopping at stations nearer the start because it was full. We passed platform after platform of runners, and this year, I was determined that we would not be one of those people. This is why Mike and I arrived at the start at 8:30am, one and a half hours before the official start time. Oops….
Blackheath itself is beautiful. We stayed in Lewisham, only one and a half miles away but definitely has a “city” feel. Yet Blackheath feels more like a sleepy country village than a suburb on the edge of one of the world’s busiest cities. As a spectator, I got to appreciate the tranquillity of the place, rather than having to worry about trying to find a toilet, dumping my bag etc….
After I left Mike I went to find a good place on the start line to cheer the runners on and caught the start of the Elite Women. WOW, they can run!
After cheering the start of the Elite Women and the IPC Marathon runners, the countdown was on for the Elite Men and the Mass start. I had my camera and my cheering voice ready. There were 13 Spa Striders in total racing at London not including Mike, so I was on the lookout for a green and red vest as well as Mike’s Cancer Research one.
I was, however, a little naive thinking that I would ever see anyone. The runners flooded the streets of Blackheath with the ferocity of a damn breaking. A never ending stream of luminous coloured vests crisscrossing across London on their way to the Mall. Half an hour later, as the last runner went by, I started the second phase of my spectating journey, trying to get across London to see Mike on the course.
This post was so long (almost 2000 words) so I split it into two posts. Read the second post here