London Marathon 2018 – Hot, Hot, Hot

So, London Marathon. You were hot and pretty bloody emotional. This post is going to be more on the race, I will do a seperate one on the expo, my weekend in London and all the surprises (friends turning up) along the way.

Sunday morning, 6am, I was wide awake. Decided just to get up, rather than have any more restless sleep. Had my go to breakfast of yogurt, oats, flax seed, chia seed and golden syrup. Note to self though, get more ice to keep the yogurt cool. Had a rehydration tablet and plenty of water. My Mum turned up as requested at 7am, to help apply P20 to my back. Boy oh boy, am I glad I did.

Plot spoiler: 2018 was the hottest London Marathon on record. 22 degrees. The average temperature of all my training runs was 2 degrees. So a 20 degree jump in temperature, which definitely takes a toll on your body.

I hadn’t been planning on getting a train out to Blackheath as early as I did, but hey these things happen. As my parents rightfully said, I couldn’t lose my temper at strangers. If I had spent any more time with them, I would have just taken my nerves out on them. The start area was huge in comparison to the races I have done. One advantage of getting there early (around 8:50), I got to use the loo, twice, with minimal queue! By 9:15 the queues were definitely a lot longer. I dropped my bag in the designated number truck, which literally had everything – flip-flops, change of clothes, rehydration tablets, face-wipes etc etc.

I love that the timetables told the runners which train to join!

I jumped into my coral area around 9:30 and just got speaking to folk around me. Matt, my coach had come over to the starting area to say Hi, so that definitely helped calm my nerves. I told him I had found the 3:30 pacers (my ultimate aim), and he reminded me to just race smart. I am so glad he did. I had trained really hard for 3:30, so decided to just stick with the pacers. I started next to them and their big flags made it easy to follow. However, the first 2 miles were spent dodging in and out of people. The way the various starts merge together, meant there was a lot of slower runners/walkers already walked at 0.5 mile without a clear side to be on. I did trip over a lot of people with someone even asking if I didn’t like my trainers. Ooops.

I had a plan, down to which water stops to stop at and when to take my gels. About 2 miles into the race, the heat really started to hit me. Credit where credits due. My Dad had tried to warn me the day before to maybe just calm my expectations of 3:30 and it was falling on deaf ears. I didn’t want to listen. As much because I didn’t want to admit defeat before the film had even started. So Dad, I am sorry. I should have adjusted my expectations. Maybe I should have before the race, either way I did during the race. I kept up with the 3:30 pacers for 4 miles. My target finish time was going to be 3:30. But I quickly started to realise how hot it was, how hot I was getting and how thirsty I was. My main issue was my feet being really hot, I had worn quite thick socks with lots of support, which in retrospect, was silly. Should have gone for the less comfy but lighter pair.

Watching the 3:30 pacers run off into the distance was tough. There was a lot of talking to myself. I had worked so hard, for it to be taken away. I then said ok, let’s try for 3:35. Then eventually let’s just finish and see what happens. I ended up getting water at every station, drinking half of the bottle and throwing the other half over my self to try and keep cool. By the time the next water stop was reached, I was already in need of more water. It’s crazy how unused to the heat I am, this coming from a girl who grew up in Dubai.

Shoutout though to all the volunteers on the day, it can’t have been easy standing in the heat, with lots of body heat coming off all the runners. I did love the fire engines set up outside the fire stations, with their hoses going to cool down the runners! They were definitely better than the actual showers. I did worry that I might have ruined my phone, with all the water but luckily it was ok.

I don’t remember much of the first half of the course, beyond Cutty Sark, I can’t say I recognised much of it; having not overly studied a map. So much of this race was just focused on getting to the next mile. Tower Bridge was everything and more though, the support there was amazing. Runners across the entirety of the bridge is definitely a side to be-hold. Turning away from the Bridge and towards the City was tough. You can see the faster runners, about 15km ahead of you. I saw the 35km mark and promised myself to just get to that point and then assess the situation. The support in Canary Wharf was also incredible, so so loud.

At points, I did find the sheer volume of noise overwhelming. I was hot and bothered and really struggling to focus. Seeing the number of runners, walking, or with paramedic help was also quite distressing. So many visibly in pain. All having trained so hard, but with factors out with our control. When I heard about the death of Matt Campbell, from Masterchef after the race, I was quite shaken. That could have happened to anyone, Matt’s running ability was first class. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

When I eventually got to the 35km mark, my body was not wanting to run the remaining 7km. I think I was just in an extended phase of hitting the wall. I thought I had lost a gel, turns out because I was running slower than expected, I was just not at the distance I expected to be at when taking the gels. My gels had been scheduled by time, not distance. When 2 hours 40 minutes rolled around, I did get a little emotional. On my dream day, I would have been at 20 miles. With another 6.22 miles to go to reach my target. It wasn’t to be.

At the 40km mark I realised, game on, sort of. If I dug deep, got my pace up, I could hopefully get under 3:45 and get a good for age entry for London Marathon next year. (Yes, during the race I was already plotting redemption). Bizarrely, I ended up passing one of the 3:30 pacers, who had taken off his flag, showing how much the heat had affected him.

With 500m to go, I passed one of my first ever running buddies, Rebecca. The photos definitely show how elated we were to see each other.

Turning onto the Mall itself was emotional. I knew my adjusted goal was in sight. As promised, I did throw my hands up in the air. Then over the line gave a massive fist pump. So my Strava time is 5 seconds slower than the actual time.

In the end, I ran a 3:43:56. A 5 minute and 2 second PB. I am genuinely happy that I managed to get a PB in those conditions. But more so, I am proud of myself for not letting my pride get in the way. It sucked not getting what I had trained for. But if I had ran any longer at 3:30 pace, I would have been in a medical tent, no question. This race for me was as much learning how to train well, rest well, but also learning and adapting to a race and controlling what you can’t control. I had a 3:30 pace band on, I don’t remember at what point I took it off, but it was pivotal. I was aiming to finish the race. My time makes me hungry for more, if I can run a PB in heat, what would happen on the perfect day…

The statistics on London Marathon website is staggering. I will totally take top 1200 women, top 6500(ish) overall and faster than 77% of men!