London Marathon 2012 – Is This The End?

A bitter-sweet race

A bitter-sweet race

I’ve just this second gotten home after completing the Virgin London Marathon 2012 and I’ve decided to write this post while it’s all still fresh in my mind. Actually, I’m writing this as a reminder to myself of what I’ve just been through, so that I’m not tempted to enter again…

First of all, I came in at 3:43:43. That’s not too shabby I think. It’s a PB by 38 minutes, it puts me in the sub-4 hour club and it was within target B from my weird 3-tier target-time system (more on this here). However, I’m in a bad place right now. Here’s why.

The race started badly. I’d managed to blag my way into pen 3 so that I could run with the 8-min/mile pacers (a 3:30:00 target time), but the course was so congested during the first mile that I immediately lost them. In fact, by the end of mile one I was 45 seconds off the pace (after sheer numbers forced the runners to a walking pace). The London Marathon is always busy, but I was so frustrated with people who were clearly running too slowly to be in these early pens. Yes, I had just sneaked my way into the wrong start group, but in my mind I was justified to be there, unlike some people who’d started in pen 2 and were walking by the second mile.

By mile four I’d managed to get back on track. But to accomplish this, I’d done some serious weaving and curb jumping. Rule no.1 broken already then. The next 10 miles were fairly uneventful. Cutty Sark was awesome. Massive well done to the builders who’d made the place presentable for race day (as I’d been there a couple of weeks ago on a training run and it was a building site). I kept pace well and managed to squeeze in my one toilet break at my usual spot (mile 9).

Then, after Tower Bridge, I started to feel tired. This was a real surprise as I’d smashed my long training runs and had felt pretty good at 20 miles! So to feel as bad as I did at mile 13 was really demoralising. I kept pace, carried on through Narrow street and Island Gardens and just tried to suck it up. But I was really struggling and my nutrition strategy wasn’t cutting it. I’d take down a gel, feel better for five minutes, and then feel like death shortly afterwards.

By mile 18, I was still on pace but I was hit by a double-whammy. Firstly, a massive blister by the ball of my foot burst. Gross, yes and bloody painful to boot. Then I got cramp in both calves. So not only was I nearly passing out, but I was in total agony. Obviously, I dropped pace and I started to take stock of my situation. Why was I doing this? What possible reason could I have for putting myself through this torture? It took every ounce of my dwindling will power not to stop, and I’m so proud of myself for carrying on.

Running a marathon is tough. It’s very easy to sit and watch Eddie Izzard run a marathon a day and think, that doesn’t look so bad. I almost resent ultra runners you know. Their feats make running a marathon look like a piece of cake in comparison. But until you try it, you just can’t understand what it takes to push through a mental barrier, to draw on reserves of will power that you didn’t know you had to finish a race that, quite frankly, makes no sense and will leave my body ruined for the following week.

The route...

The route...

I clawed my way to the finish, a full 7 miles of pure pain and torment behind me and promptly collapsed. It took me 45 minutes to get from the finish line to the exit, after nearly blacking out, fighting the urge to be sick and having spasms in my legs. It was truly awful. I’ve never felt so bad and the hard-earned new PB was fuck all of a help. It was the first time, since starting the London Marathon four years ago, that the relief and satisfaction of finishing didn’t outweigh the pain. And as I sat there, my back against a tree, my face as white as a sheet, willing myself not to puke I vowed that I wouldn’t put myself through it again.

I realise that this is an incredibly negative post, and not one that’s going to encourage people to take part in an event of this type. Which is a real shame. Everybody should do a marathon (at least once), as a test of their reserve. This is more of a reminder to me. I love running. It’s a hobby that rewards me every time I do it and I relish in being healthier because of it. And, knowing me, I’ll probably feel completely different tomorrow (and enter the ballot again). But for the first time since starting marathon running, today I just didn’t enjoy it.

Sad face. I’d really appreciate some encouragement if any of you have been through this, and come through the other side to run a marathon again. I really enjoy other distances, like half-marathons, where you get a sense of distance without having to completely wreck your body. But right now, I don’t see that I’ve got another marathon in me.

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6 Responses to “London Marathon 2012 – Is This The End?”

  • Lynton:

    Mate don’t beat yourself up, we all have bad experiences now and again. It was tough going but the experience will stand us all I’m good stead. After a pretty disastrous run at Challenge Henley were I took over 6 hrs I still haven’t quite got back to my best. However I know that with hard work it will come back, I just have to be patient. Just remember its not about times it’s just about the challenge. If it was easy it wouldn’t be worth it, today was an awesome result and your body is paying a bit, however you will come back stronger and you now know you are definitely getting there. So enjoy the pain as daft as it sounds, chill out and when you reflect on today do it with pride :o)

  • Really sorry to hear you had a crap race today :( It does happen though, and you can definitely come through the other side to have great races.

    My second marathon (in 2010) was horrific…I got too hot, I walked, I was in tears with the pain, nearly pulled out, was convinced by a marshal to keep going after they spent 5 minutes massaging my ITB…and then by another one a mile later down the course.. I finished in 5:41.

    Last weekend I ran my 6th marathon at Brighton in 3:49 and am more in love with running than I have ever been.

    Give yourself some time to get over today but don’t turn your back on running…you need a bad race just to really appreciate the good ones ;)

  • Fricker:

    2 years ago I dragged myself over the line, I ran just over 3:30, I was in pain, disappointed and emotional. I made a similar pledge to stop the silly endurance sports bit here we are today, 2 triathlons, 2 marathons and the MDS to my name – it’s in our blood Jimbo! You will need that fix again soon, the pain when gone is replaced with wanting, a desire to improve, it might not feel like it now but you have just done something incredible and knocking that much time of your PB is amazing. Smile mate as you have just done it!

  • Neil Tillott:

    Barnstables, take stock of how far you’ve come over the last few months. Your progress has been phenomenal. Knocking that much off your PB means a lot and you should be proud. A few months away from marathons, maybe even a year, and get back on that horse again! You’ll be smashing 3:30 next time, I have no doubt.

  • […] me busy and helped me through the post-marathon blues. That, and the support I received after my incredibly depressing post on Sunday night. I have to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to message me and […]

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