(Read Part 1 here)
In 2011 when I ran the Marathon, my sister and my Dad came down to support me and managed to miss me all along the course. I eventually saw my Dad at Mile 21 only to miss them all again at the finish, so I knew that it was going to be tough to see Mike on-course, but I was determined to try.
This year, I thought, I had technology on my side! Prior to the Marathon, London Marathon released an app that would let spectators like me track their respective runners around the course. It started very well, and by the time the last runner crossed the line the little blue dot that represented my husband was already bobbing around the two-mile mark. The race was on! Unfortunately, I think the London Marathon organisers underestimated the popularity of their app, as Mike bobbed around the 2-mile mark for a number of hours after then. In fact, one of my other friends I was tracking never left the start line.
Nevertheless, I knew that time was not on my side. I had promised Mike I would try and get to the pre-agreed Strider Cheering Spot at Mile 12. I now had lost 30 mins and was still in the start area. Some quick maths said I had around an hour to get across London to Tower Bridge, which would be tough, but do-able.
Getting to Greenwich was easy, it was about a mile walk from the Blue Start through the very picturesque Greenwich park. As I picked my way through a sea of discarded running clothing, I was suddenly told to get off the road; the lorries were coming through.
This was the second good thing about being a spectator, I got a glimpse into the back-end organisation of a running event. As I jumped onto the pavement, I turned back to see a police motorcade worthy of any visiting dignitary. Behind the 3 rows of police outriders, complete with lights and sirens, and in front of the back marking police car with two more police motorcycles, was a convoy of lorries. I recognised them immediately, the runner’s luggage was getting a police escort all the way to the Mall. It made me feel strangely proud.
As I mulled over the project management that must go into pulling off the London Marathon, I suddenly became aware of the sound of a crowd. The crowd and the spectators at London are legendary. Ask any runner and they will talk about the wall of sound that follows you around the famous course. Until Sunday,I did not realise just how loud the crowd was; the sound I could hear from half way down Greenwich Park hill was the roar of the crowd at the Cutty Sark. That was the first of many “lump in throat” moments of the day.
I didn’t have time to dwell, by this point I was sure that Mike was at the Cutty Sark, so I was way behind and had some serious catching up to do if I wanted to see him at Mile 12.
Cue my second naive moment of the day. In hindsight, I think that Mike and I arrived at Tower Bridge around the same time, unfortunately, I had wildly underestimated the number of people that would be at Tower Bridge. When I arrived, the crowd was three people deep in the sparsest of places. I know there were runners there as I could see the top of their heads, but even standing on my tippy-toes I could not see their faces. It was hopeless, even if I was in time, there was no way that I would ever be able to see him come through.
I made an executive decision to give up and go straight to Mile 23, our second pre-approved meetup place. I hoped that I would be there soon enough to get a good vantage point.
By this stage, I’d had enough of the tube. Some rudimental maths in my head told me I had around an hour and 10 mins until he would be coming through Mile 23 so I had time to walk down. Getting between the two was actually really easy, and I soon found myself positioned on Upper Thames Street just opposite a jazz band dressed as chickens! In fact, I got there soon enough to see the back of the elite race come through.
A sneaky call to my parents confirmed that Mike had passed through the 30km marker, so I knew that he was close and I was determined to see him. So I found a spot and fixed my sights firmly on the growing dribble of runners starting to form. I saw a couple of Striders and a very fast banana before I saw Mike.
There is a quote from Katherine Switzer which says,
“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
After Sunday, I now understand this quote a little more. It is amazing how a sporting event can bring people together. It was very touching to be part of it. The runners I saw coming through before and shortly after Mike were awe inspiring. They were the best of the best, running faster at mile 23 than I will probably ever run while looking like they have barely broken a sweat. I suffered from some serious running envy and it has spurred me on to work on my speed and try and get faster.
I saw Mike come through shortly after the 3:15 pacers, and I spotted him before he saw me. In fact, I almost had to jump in front of him for him to see me. But he did see me and apparently it gave him a boost. I now just needed to try and beat him to the Mall.
As I got off the tube at Embankment station it was time for another sneaky call to my parents to find out where he was. The answer? He was cruising around the final corner, past the Victoria fountain and onto the Mall. The race was still on. I was in sight of the Mall by now and I knew that he would have some time to wait before he could filter out into Horseguards.
He finished in a PB time of 3:17 which is just phenomenal, I am one very proud wife.
Before we started, Mike reiterated that whatever happened, I had to be at the end. So I was on a mission to get to “S” before he did. Thankfully it took him longer to filter from the finish than I expected, so I made it with time to spare.
Standing in the finishers area, it gave me a chance to admire the sheer magnitude of the event once more. One million finishers in its 35-year history. Given the events enduring popularity with runners of all abilities I wonder how long it will take to surpass the 2 million mark. I imagine less than 35 years, but I look forward to finding out.