Part 4: London Marathon – The Race
RACE REPORT: Virgin London Marathon 2013
Date: Sunday, 21 April 2013
Gun start: 10:00 AM
RUN FOR BOSTON
“This is it.” I thought. After months of training under the excruciating heat in Manila, here I was with a laundry bag on top of my running clothes to keep me warm from the chilly start. I couldn’t help but smile.
All the runners around me were chatting with nervous excitement. I couldn’t hear the announcer anymore. But, when the announcer asked all 36,000 runners to pause for a minute of silence to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, everyone fell silent. The bombings at the Boston Marathon, just a week before London Marathon, had made an impact on the world, but it had struck a nerve even more with us runners.
The marathon is a celebration of the human spirit. People from all over the world train their minds and bodies for months to run 42km on a single day to prove that they can defeat pain, suffering, and fear, that they can achieve their dreams, and that they can be better than themselves.
The people who ran Boston Marathon left their homes on that day hoping to run and celebrate life. Little did they know that some of them would lose their lives or limbs due to a senseless terrorist act.
In that silence, I, perhaps along with thousands of other runners that day, pledged to run for the victims. With black ribbons on our shirts, we ran for those who wouldn’t be able to run again.
Within a few seconds, the race had begun. I didn’t hear a gun start. There was no booming sound to signify the beginning of the race. There was a gradual movement of the traffic as runners made their way out of the assembly and into the roads.
That slow start was probably the slowest I would ever go during the race. The roads through the little town of Greenwich, with its quaint restaurants around us, were narrow and kept all of us runners in close contact. It seemed that all the runners around me had planned on going at a quick pace. I wished I could’ve gone at a more conservative pace, but honestly there seemed to be no choice!
I ran at a 5:45 to 5:50 pace along with the rest of the crowd and just felt relieved that, based on how my body and legs felt, I knew I could sustain the pace.
Hydration was provided in bottle form both for water (Nestle Pure Life) and sports drinks (Lucozade). This was both a pro and a con for me. It was good because you could take the bottle along with you during the run and dispose as you please. But, with every station, I found myself staring down at the ground ensuring I don’t slip on any of these bottles. It was quite a treacherous situation for this accident prone runner (Think Berlin Marathon and Disneyland Los Angeles flying off the road accidents in the past! LOL.)
The large difference with the runners in London Marathon was this: they rarely stopped to drink! I kid you not. At each station, they would grab the bottle and drink as they ran. All of them. My plan of taking walk breaks at each station went out the window by the first station. I just couldn’t find a place to slow down or stop on the road. In my mind, I found it hilarious but I also panicked. Could I possibly survive a 42km without taking any walk breaks at all?! I’ve never done that before.
– What the?! Don’t ask me what I was doing here. Suffice it to say I looked crazy-happy –
The number of spectators that came out on the streets to cheer for runners was a pleasant surprise for me. They lined the roads from start to finish! There was never a moment of dullness or silence. They cheered loudly and whole-heartedly yelling the names of runners who had labelled their shirts. I didn’t write my name on my shirt, but luckily—not once, but twice on different portions of the race—I had run along with runners named Jaimie, so I heard “Go Jaimie!” or “You can do it, Jaimie!” often enough to egg me on! LOL
One of my favorite portions of this race was crossing the Tower Bridge at around Km 19. There were a lot more spectators and cheerers in this area (not that the number of spectators who came out to cheer for us was lacking!) but this was definitely a high point of the race.
I hit my 21k split at 2:07. I was happy with my split. Not too fast, not too slow. Body check: how did I feel? No pain anywhere in the body. Even better, I felt strong and focused. Stronger than I had ever been in the past.
The run from 21k to 32k went by quickly. I didn’t even notice passing St. Paul’s Cathedral at Km 24! I do recall the fantastic cheering from the spectators and the beautiful sights and scenes around me.
By 32k, I was starting to slow. My legs were starting to tire and both my calves were threatening to cramp, but my mind kept me going. I repeated my mantra (stolen from Noy Jopson’s Facebook status): “Pain only hurts.” I said this to myself over and over again as I recalled the times I had been through worse in a race. It’s true you know. When you’re going through something difficult whether in a race or in life, you just remember a time in the past when you experienced worse and overcame it. And so, I remembered Ironman 70.3 Cebu, the heat, the pain, the exhaustion. With that, I knew I would get through this.
I put one step in front of the other. I didn’t stop. I ran. For the first time in all the eight marathons I’ve ran in the past, I ran all the way. It wasn’t something I had planned or even wanted desperately. After all, I fully believe in the value of taking walk breaks; walking isn’t a sign of weakness. But, during this race, I just felt the power in my body and mind to go, and go, and go. I believed in what my body and mind told me to do and I did it.
I ran past the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace. Before I knew it, I could see the finish line.
– The London Eye in the background –
– Houses of Parliament. Is this a marathon or a tour? Maybe both! –
– Big Ben meant the finish line was near –
– Now that’s a monster runner! –
– Buckingham Palace behind me (I think!) –
I crossed the finish line at 4:24. It was the exact same time as my best marathon time at Condura 2010.
– Posedown at the finish line, of course! –
After crossing the finish, I received my medal, had my Ipico chip removed, had my photo taken with the medal, and claimed my baggage all within 10 minutes. That’s how well organized this race was.
All around me, people were congratulating each other. I did learn to say “Well done!” to all the runners around me and not the usual “Congratulations” we all say in Manila LOL.
As I walked at The Mall and onto the Meet & Greet area by Admiralty Arch, I was overwhelmed with the atmosphere. Runners hugging loved ones. Everyone in a celebratory mood. And, oh, what a view!
– Wow! –
I headed over to the Letter Z where hubby and kids agreed to meet me. I sat alone drinking my Enervon HP and eating the free apple that came with our goodie bag for a good 30 minutes until they came. By this time, I had already changed into warmer clothes.
It was nice to see my family greet me at the finish and to have the kiddos see first hand the magic that occurs in a marathon. I asked my son if he wanted to run this marathon in the future and he replied: Yes.
With that, the perfect marathon day came to an end. This was undoubtedly the best marathon experience I’ve ever had. I have a rule that I should only run a marathon once, but, for London Marathon, let’s just say I can make an exception.
– with my kiddos! –
– Proudly showing off my 9th marathon medal. What’s next?! –
Previous: Part 3: London Marathon – The Race Start
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.