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Part 3: London Marathon – Race Start!

Due to the large number of participants (36,000 running 42km, to be exact), the London Marathon had three different race starts: Blue or a “Fast Good for Age” competitor, Red, and Green. All starts were located within Greenwich Park and gun start was at 10:00 AM except for the Elites, Wheelchair category, and Paralympic participants who started earlier at 9:00 AM.

I was running alone and, like previous international races, most of my concerns over the race at this point revolved around one thing: getting to the race start in time. I was so worried about it (and it ended up to be such a fun, learning journey!) that I actually dedicated an entire post for it here in case you get the chance to run London Marathon in the future.

So, back to the story, for Green Start runners like me, I was told to exit Maze Hill Station.  This caused me a lot of stress because this station was not included in the Underground map of London!  Why oh why did it have to be so complicated for me?

The English concierge and the Indian bellboy at the hotel gave varying directions (waaah!) and, the morning before the race, I found even more advice on a thread in Runner’s World forum!  Just 30 minutes before I left, I decided to follow the tip on Runner’s World which advised me to exit Greenwich Station and walk a full 20 minutes to the Green Start to avoid the traffic at the tubes.

It was then that I worried even more:  20 minutes! Alone! In the cold! Before a 42km run! Ack! Ironic that after months of running hundreds of kilometers, I was freaking out over a 20 minute walk before the race.

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- My marathon gear all laid out the night before the race.  Thanks to Unilab Active Health for the shirt and arm warmers (which I wasn’t able to use because it wasn’t too cold), Timex for the cap and the Timex Run Trainer which was being charged at the time I took the photo, Toby’s/Runnr for my CWX compression tights which I absolutely adored, KSwiss for my 3rd pair of Kwicky Blade Lights, Stride and Stroke for my Spibelt and armband which I’ve used the past 3 marathons -

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- Sports drink at the race was not Gatorade so I bought Gatorade a few days before the race. Gatorade 01 for Pre Race fuel, Gatorade 02 for during the race, and Gatorade 03 for recovery. What can I say? I’m a loyal user! -

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- Took this shot at the Underground days before the race. Planned closures of Tubes on Marathon day.  It added to my stress. Waaah! Confusion! -

GETTING TO THE START

At 8:00 AM, I bid the hubby and kids goodbye and stepped out of our hotel in South Kensington to near perfect weather. Correction:  PERFECT weather!  The temperature was around 10 degrees, just enough for one jacket without any throwaways on me. As I walked alone through the streets of Kensington, I couldn’t help but smile. I almost had to hold myself back from the excitement of running the London Marathon in these awesome conditions. Aaah, the London Marathon! This was one of my biggest dreams. Here I was on my way to fulfilling it!

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- Shot outside my hotel. The amiable doorman who took it said that I had to come home for another pic with my marathon medal. I said: Of course! -

I befriended two Red Start runners from our hotel and walked along with them to the tube. We talked about New York City Marathon which one of the runners had run in 2010 just like I did and he said “Don’t worry about this race then. This is just as organized as NYCM.”  With that, I bid them goodbye and went my own way.

I presented my bib to the guard at the station and walked straight into the tube headed for Tower Hill. (On marathon morning, all runners just present their bib at the tube station and get free access to the tube until 5 PM on the same day.  Cool, noh?) There were not too many runners in the tube just yet, but I met Amy, another runner who just like me, was traveling alone from another city, and she too was worried if she was on the right train headed for the starting line.

At Tower Hill Station, we were appeased. Here, all around us, were marathon runners. As we boarded the tube, some of us to Cutty Sark or Greenwich Station depending on our colors, a voice over said “Welcome runners of the Virgin London Marathon.” Phew, I was safe. No way I’d lose my way now. I felt like half the battle was over.

We were packed like sardines in that tube, but it was thrilling. A whole train of runners with various backgrounds, different stories to tell, all looking forward to the same thing: 42km through the streets of London. Totally amazing.

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- All aboard for the 42k! -

I exited Greenwich Station and walked out into the cold along with all the other runners around me. The atmosphere was alive and energetic. Runners were laughing and chatting as we all made our way into Greenwich Park.

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- Short walk to the Park -

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- All these people are runners! Wow! -

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- Marshals and Security everywhere as promised by the organizers soon after the Boston Marathon bombings -

The gate to Greenwich Park was almost like entering Buckingham Palace. Wow. Thousands of runners were inside this area making their way to their race starts. It was exactly 9:00 AM, one hour to race start. I took my banana from my bag and ate it as I walked. All runners ascended towards the different race starts like ants marching up a hill. Everywhere you looked there were runners. It was surreal.

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- First thing I see upon entering the park. WOW. -

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- Climbing up the hill. Seriously, I got tired here and I worried that I was overexerting myself in my “warm up” LOL -

The red start was right ahead. After a 10 minute walk, the blue start was in front of me. It took me another 15 minutes to get to the Green Start. Total of 30 minutes walking alone in the cold.  I laughed at myself for worrying about this in the first place.  This was fun.  It was an adventure.  I would love to do something crazy, scary like this every year of my life.

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- Followed this pacer heading to the Green Start. I actually saw him all throughout the race -

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- Finally! I made it! -

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- Spotted Fred and Wilma at the marathon! Yabadabadoo!-

When I reached the Green assembly area, feeling like a pro (naks!), I opened my bag to begin my pre-race ritual. I drank my Gatorade Pre-Race Fuel which I purchased at the race expo. I pulled out my plastic bag of gel and water to be consumed 10 minutes before race start. I drank four capsules of Optygen from First Endurance for that extra boost of energy.  I removed my fleece jacket, dumped it back into the bag (to be worn after the race) and pulled out my laundry bag with pre-cut holes for my head and arms and wore this to keep me warm before the race start. I checked in my baggage and lined up for the toilets.

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- What’s a runner to do while lined up for the portalets? Selfie of course! Er, sorry for the “bagong gising” look -

By the time I was done with the toilet (which was the longest queue I’ve ever encountered!), I only had 10 minutes left for race start. I stood at the assembly along with all the other runners awaiting the race start. I turned on my Timex Run Trainer and connected to GPS.

What was going through my mind at this time? I thought about how the morning went. How everything went perfectly well from the weather to the journey I took towards the starting line. And, deep inside, I knew that the race was going to be awesome. I just knew it.

Previous: Part 3 – London Marathon – A Wedding, Shakespear, and a Run
Next: Part 4: London Marathon – The Race

Thank you so much to all the people who got me to London! Unilab Active Health for sponsoring the trip. Special thanks to my favorites Enervon Activ for keeping me energized during training and race day and Enervon HP for aiding in recovery. Thank you to Timex Philippines and Timex UK who snagged me a race slot.


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