Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich’

Flora London Marathon 2009: Race Day – part 1

Flexing the guns pre-raceI made it to race day without injury. The previous day, on a very, very easy jog around Blackheath, I’d lashed a couple of footballs back to some kids playing in the park and immediately thought, “Why the hell did I do that?”. I’d avoided injury so far, why risk it the day before the marathon? Perhaps I was being overly cautious, but short of lining the walls of my flat with cotton wool, I’d done everything in my power to make sure my body was at my peak of physical fitness. My vitamin C levels were through the roof, I’d had pasta 3 nights running and the only exercise I’d done the day before (besides the short jog first thing in the morning) was the washing up.

Come race morning I was fired up. I had two slices of toast with jam (I decided to skip the baked beans as the previous day I’d tested a tin of Tesco’s finest with flatulent results) and a banana, topped off with a carbo gel and a lucozade sport I’d bought at the Expo. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel nervous. I’d had a good night’s sleep and felt I’d done all I could to prepare. We got to the red section at 9:15am (fully lubed-up with Bodyglide and two small circles of Compeed over the nipples). The race started at 9:45am so I took some time to take a look around at my surroundings. Not surprisingly the queue for each WC was 30-people deep. The sun was out in force so most had a bottle of water and everyone was smiling.

The gate to get across the road to the red section was closing at 9:30am so I said my goodbyes and made my way across. I was immediately instructed by Ant (or Dec) that the baggage lorries would be closing imminently and it was last call to get your belongings in before the start. I wasn’t prepared at all and bundled all of my stuff into the bag and quickly dropped trou for some last minute Bodyglide action – much to the dismay of an elderly lady runner behind me. At least my arse couldn’t look any better after all the training! I then had to sprint to my allocated lorry before it closed (of course it was at the opposite end of the line) and then dive into the urinal queue before the start of the race (which was now about 60-people deep). Lesson learned – get there earlier next time.

Mam, me and Uncle Ed

I started in zone 6 (out of 9) which meant there were quite a few runners in front of me and by the time the start had commenced the sun was really shining and it had started to get quite hot. This was it. Four months of training had led up to this point and I was keen to get going. We crossed the line 10 minutes after the official race start and started plodding down Shooters Hill Road.

I immediately needed a wee. You have to get a decent amount of fluid down before the start of the race (especially as the sun was out) so this was expected. I’d been told that needing the loo at the start of the marathon was often just a sign of nerves and that I should hold out for a few miles (if only to avoid the large queues at the start). So I kept going and took the whole experience in. The road was so congested with runners that you just couldn’t go at any different pace than that of the crowd. Luckily, the pace was perfect; a gentle jog to ease us in to the first couple of miles. The weather had meant that the crowds were out in force and all of the windows of the houses that lined the road towards Charlton were full of spectators. An elderly gent running to the right of me had a sign that read ‘Hip Hip…’ on one side and ‘Hooray!’ on the other, which he would spin back to front towards the crowd. Brilliant.

The first 5 miles went by in a flash. The red group had now merged with the blue and green (without any booing) and we were making our way into Greenwich to the Cutty Sark. I’d now spotted the blue line on the road, which maps the shortest distance of the course and I was doing my best to stick to it. Impossible. The sheer volume of runners prevents you from doing anything other than what the mass says. Darting in and out of runners at different paces would only use up vital energy and I was keeping a pretty good pace. In fact my first three 5k times were very consistent and I was running at around the 9 or 10 minute mark and feeling great (if a little unsettled by the growing urge to urinate). The Japanese Taiko drums were incredible as we went under the bridge just before Greenwich. I found myself with goosebumps and could have used that feeling of adrenalin much later in the race.

The fansThe crowds really were amazing and the volume of people had now picked up to two or three deep along both sides of the road. Having my name on the front of my vest really helped as the encouragement is 10-times more effective if someone calls your name. As we turned the corner at the Cutty Sark everyone did their best to avoid Matt Baker. I’ve run around this area a lot and I was wondering how they would avoid the steep steps at the back of the ship next to the entrance to the Greenwich walkway. A ramp, genius. I passed the Justgiving team at this point (squashed up against the barrier) and gave them a wave but none of them saw me. Never mind, I was coming up to mile 7 and the first MS Society cheering point (where I knew Sally, friends and family would be). I saw them from a mile off. Sally was balanced precariously on a fence and my Mam and Uncle were both waving fiercely and cheering. Along with the support of the MS Society crowd, this was a fantastic lift.

After spotting a gap in a fence where a group of male runners were urinating, I stopped for a 30-second pit stop. I’d managed to hold out until mile 9 and probably could have gone on longer so it was definitely the nerves and anticipation of the race that had made me want to go so early on. I did feel for the female runners queuing up to use the portaloos though. If I’d have stayed still for any longer than the 30 seconds I did then I’d have probably seized up quite badly.

After the first really big milestone, Tower Bridge and the half way point, I’d managed a time of 2:11:26 (on course for sub 4 and a half hours) and I was feeling pretty good. I was now into my third carbo gel of the day and I’d kept very hydrated. It was hard not to stay hydrated as the volunteers handing out the 750,000 bottles of Vittel throughout the day were absolutely fantastic. Every time I wanted a drink I was handed one. The only gripe I had with the organisation throughout the whole day was at around mile 11 when the crowds were not controlled and had encroached heavily on the road, narrowing the course for the runners. This caused a massive bottle-neck and meant everyone had to slow down to almost a walk.

The second half of the course didn’t go so well. But that’s another story…

(see part 2)

Marathon Training Routes:

I went home this weekend. On Friday night after work I broke the land speed record in my girlfriend’s car while she slept the entire way to my home town of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Big birthday celebrations on Saturday night so I needed to get the long weekend training run out of the way on Saturday morning.

I set off for my 2 hour and 25 minute run at 9am and decided to leg it to the neighbouring village of Tetford and back. I knew it was roughly 6 and a half miles to get there so I’d do a loop around the village to up the mileage a bit. Here’s how it looks from above:

Horncastle to Tetford and back
I regularly use Google Maps to map my training routes after my runs and see my how far I went. I bought a fairly decent stop-watch at the beginning of my training but it’s no Garmin Forerunner. Along with a piece of software, these GPS watches can plot your route, work out split times, average speeds and give you a virtual runner to run against! Who needs friends? A few of my fellow marathon bloggers have been having fun with these watches.

As you can see from the aerial picture, Lincolnshire is a pretty agricultural county. If you’ve never been in a tractor, built a scarecrow or used the phrase “Now then” then you’re not ‘Shire’ material. The countryside and views along this run are incredible. I’ve gotten used to the constant hum of London so I wasn’t prepared for how quiet it would be. It’s quite eerie. I popped in the headphones after 10 minutes of running and plodded along for what I thought was going to be quite a chilled, peaceful run.

I would never have thought in a million years that I would struggle to find a decent running route in an area as arable as this. The problem with any run over 3 miles from Horncastle is the absence of a path. The roads were narrow, windy and lined with 6ft tall hedges that obstruct the view of anything lurking behind a corner. Like, for example, a 6ft, lanky jogger. The 4 or 5-mile stretch of road to the village was also pretty hilly. So my chilled, relaxing, picturesque jog across the countryside turned into a fartlek, hilly endurance race. Through the bendy sections of road I was sure I was going to end up as road-kill so I would charge through to the straight as quick as I could, and by the end of the run legs turned to jelly.

Canary Wharf from Greenwich Park

It can take a little while to find a decent training route. There are a few good like sites that you can use to compare your training runs with others, such as the FLM Training Route Planner, Gmaps Pedometer or the Nike Route Finder. The irony is that by the time you’ve found yourself a decent route you probably need to change it as you extend your distance or to prevent yourself becoming bored. Try to explore as much as you can and keep your route varied. Also, from time to time change the surface you’re running on and make sure you include a hill or two in there somewhere.

A couple of people have asked about my routes so if you’re interested (and live in southeast London) then I’ve added mine to the Gmaps Pedometer. It’s pretty random and darts from one place to the next but you get to see Greenwich Park, the 02 Dome and Canary Wharf (parts of which are on the marathon route itself!). Click here to view it (thanks to Phil for recommending Gmaps Pedometer – a very useful running tool). At the weekend Canary Wharf is like a ghost-town so there’s no need to worry about traffic or tourist-dodging.

Recovering From Injury:

Unfortunately I think I’ve purchased my trainers and special double-layered socks a week too late. As a result of continued running with bad blisters (and adjusting my stride pattern to compensate) I think I’ve picked up a mild knee injury. It doesn’t feel that bad at all when I’m running (in fact the there is strangely hardly any pain at all). I only seem to feel it when I’m walking down hill or down steps. It one of life’s little ironies that I live at the top of a hill.

Greenwich Park

Injuries are a marathon trainer’s worst nightmare. I’ve been sticking to the training schedule like glue (see the useful sites page) and don’t want to be playing catch up in a few weeks time after I’ve recovered. It’s been hard enough getting used to the schedule and it’s only the 2nd week.

Runner’s World have a great section on dealing with injury and from it I’ve taken two key points:

  1. No complaining.
    Stay positive. Injury at some point is pretty much inevitable to those who are undertaking a marathon. The average marathon runner will complete over 500 miles of training runs in that 3-4 month build up to that big Sunday (over 800 for an advanced runner). That’s an average of 1,000,000 individual steps to avoid slipping on some grass, dodging a puddle or hopping over an uncontrollable Jack Russel on a long leash. The law of averages has to catch up with you. Complaining about it is only going to piss off those around you. Keep your cool, get better and carry on.
  2. No slacking.
    Unless you’ve broken your back the chances are that you can still exercise and keep yourself active enough to stay in shape. If you have bad sores or blisters then use the stepping machine. If your upper body is injured then get on the bikes. Lift weights, walk, stretch or row, just maintain your basic level of fitness so that when you do recover you haven’t lost any ground. If your training plan says a 30 minute run then do something else for 30 minutes and don’t eat any differently to how you normally would.

I’m not sure if this knee ailment is going to cause a problem or not. I’ll keep a support on it but I think I’ve diagnosed it. I swear, all you need these days to be a doctor is a blackberry and google in your bookmarks. Google search ‘my knee hurts when running downhill’ and the second search result is this. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Easy. Use this link at work when your colleague asks you a silly question. It’ll go down a treat I promise.

How is it treated? Ice-pack, ibuprofen and a knee support.
I’m such a wuss…

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