2016 London Marathon Race Report - By Robert McDonald

posted 27 Apr 2016, 11:06 by Enquiries campbeltownrunningclub

The day had finally arrived. It was an early rise for me, up at five o’clock, to catch the 0617 train from Brighton to London Victoria. The train was on time and I arrived at Victoria, just before 0730 and waited in a long line of runners to catch the train out to Blackheath, where the “Blue” starters were told to report. 

I got to the starting area in plenty of time, where I had arranged to meet Kerry O’May. She wasn’t far away and within ten minutes we were shaking hands and giving each other a hug and a pat on the back on at least getting this far. Kerry was totally buzzing and up for it, but I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive. It’s right at this time that you start to question if the training you have done is enough. I hadn’t run past twenty miles and today I was hoping to do that, with an added 10k on top of it! Not only that, I also planned to be running sub eight minute miles for as long as I could, where my long runs in training were sub nines. I put that to the back of my mind and decided to try to enjoy the build up. 

Within half an hour, Kerry and I were wishing each other all the best as we headed to our respective start points. I was surprised that I was relatively near the front—I must have lied about my estimated time on the application.

Bang on time and we were off. The first mile was slower than I wanted it to be, about 8 mins 30 seconds, but no bad thing, I could easily make it up. I rattled off the next few miles at sub eights to get back on track and around mile six approached the Cutty Sark. The roar of the crowd here was unbelievable and it is easy to get a bit carried away and to put the foot down even more. I resisted the temptation and kept on pace. I felt comfortable here and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the mile markers were being ticked off—7,8,9 and it was here that I got a shout from a female runner with a Scottish accent who’d seen “Campbeltown” on my vest. 

“How’re you feeling?”, she asked. 

 “Pretty good at the moment”, I replied, “You?”  

“I’m good. Have you done London before?” 

“No, first time”, I said 

“I’ve done a few. I’m hoping for a sub-3:45”, she said. Sub 3:45 would get her “good for age” exemption for the next few years. 

“We’re way ahead of that at the moment”, I said. I now wish I hadn’t. 

I slowed down a bit to take a gel and lost sight of the lady. I never saw her again. 

Still churning them out at sub eights, I was trying to stay ahead of the 3:30 pacers. At this point in the race, I was successful. I’d worked out that they must be two or three minutes behind me. 

In what seemed like no time at all, I was approaching Tower Bridge which, though it’s recognised as the half way point, isn’t quite—it’s a bit short of it. But what a roar again from the crowd. I’m being serious here, it would be easy to get a bit emotional at this point, hitting half way with thousands upon thousands of spectators roaring their lungs out. This really was a high point for me. I was still on track for sub 3:30, was still putting in the sub eights and, most importantly, I was still ahead of the 3:30 pacers. 

Coming off Tower Bridge and past half way, you see some of the elite athletes and the wheelchair athletes coming back in the opposite direction, on the other side of the dual carriageway. I shouted a few words of encouragement across to one of the wheelchair athletes who looked to be struggling a wee bit on a slight incline. I wondered how far this point was, where you can see the runners who are just over half way. I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before I was at that point, on the opposite carriageway. 

The 14 mile marker and then the 15 mile marker passed and I was still sub eight, but the effort to keep with the pace was markedly more. I passed mile 16 and my Garmin told me that I’d done an over eight minute mile, 8 mins 16 secs to be exact. It was right there, right at that time, that the first negative thought entered my head. I thought to myself “You’ve still got ten miles to go!” For the first time in that whole day, the feeling that was in my head was “doubt”. I tried as hard as I could to think positive but my legs started to feel weary and a feeling of impending failure just about overwhelmed me. Mile 17 in 8:44, mile 18 in 9:08. I was slowing down, and fast. 

I was passed by the 3:30 markers, next, along with the hordes of runners hanging onto them, and wished that I could summon the energy to stay with them; I couldn’t. 

By mile 20, I was really struggling and started to again doubt I would even finish! I had to find somewhere, something, anything that I could hang onto to get me across the finish at the Mall. I said to myself “Here’s the deal—if you don’t finish this, you can’t go back to Cambeltown”. It’s as simple as that. I dug down, found something to get a handle on, and shuffled on. I’d decided to set targets of half miles, I had twelve to tick off. That sort of helped me but the distance to the end seemed almost to be impossible. Where the mile markers passed by quickly during the first half of the race, now they seemed to take an eternity. Miles 22 and 23 were my slowest. At 23 I took on a full bottle of water, 24 was a wee bit faster, but 25 seemed to last for two miles not one. However, albeit slowly and absolutely exhausted, I got past the 25 mile marker and knew that I would do it. It was a strange feeling. It wasn’t elation, I think that it was more like relief.  

I shuffled on, down Birdcage Walk and passed the marker that said “800 metres to go”. I still couldn’t raise my pace—it was too far to the finish. I saw another marker that I was sure said “500 metres to go”. When I got to it, I had misread, it actually said “600 metres to go”. I was devastated! I was so tired that even an extra 100 metres seemed like another mile. Head down again and eventually reached the corner at Buckingham Palace, where there was another marker proclaiming “385 yards to go”. I could see the finish line, now, but it still felt a long way away. I dug as deep as I could and tried with everything I had to raise the slow pace and somehow found myself passing some runners on the run in. I eventually crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 47 mins and 36 seconds on the Garmin. I still haven’t looked for my official time, but I think it’s around twenty secs slower. 

I have to admit that I did shed a wee tear at the end.  

Less than ten minutes later I was giving a congratulatory hug to an extremely fresh looking Kerry. She looked like she could have done it all over again!! She had planned and executed her perfect race. She had a far more enjoyable experience than I had and I was absolutely delighted for her. She has come a long way in a year and did herself and Campbeltown Running Club proud! A quick phone call home and my wife informed me that she thinks Jennifer Reid ran a PB, around 3 hours 15mins. Another great run from Jennifer. 

They say that you find out everything that you need to know about yourself over those 26.2 miles. I found out things that I already knew.  

1.  I probably didn’t train as much as I should have. I didn’t follow a set training plan: I ran when I wanted, at the pace I wanted and at the distances I wanted. Did it work for me? The answer is probably “No”. 

2. I set off too quickly, but that’s nothing new for me. I always do it.  

3. No matter how hard it gets, I won’t quit. Having completed this, I can’t think of taking on anything that will take as much out of me, ever again. I am proud of myself that I came through it. 

Would I do it again? On Sunday night the answer was definitely “No”, but now, three days later, who knows? 

For anyone who is considering doing this, I would thoroughly recommend it. The London crowd are absolutely fantastic -they cheer from the start to the finish and at certain parts of the course the noise levels are ear bursting. One thing that I did not do, and that I now wish I had done, was to get my name printed on my vest. I could hear all different names being encouraged along the route and when I was dealing with my own personal demons, I sorely wished that I had my name on my vest so that I could hear some words of personal encouragement. I’m convinced it would have helped. 

Another word of advice that I would give is do not travel the day before the race.  I did and it was a very long day. Go down a couple of days before and chill out on the Saturday. 

VLM—Viva London Marathon!!!!