Flora London Marathon

Well, its over - all 26 miles and 385 yards that make up the London Marathon.

The temptation to reach into the big 'Cliche Bag' and pull out some juicy, old favourites is almost unbearable, but I'll resist for as long as I can. Instead I'll describe the moment which sums it up all up for me.

It came about half an hour into the race: There I was, just me, running along - the long hours of preparation behind me, all the nervous energy of registration released, along with the emotion of getting to the start line. I had my head down and I was running easily and I thought to myself: 'Here I am on a nice, easy Sunday training run, nothing special - no reason to get excited.'

But then I heard the gentle 'pat, pat, pat' of hundreds of running shoes on the road around me and I looked up to see tens of thousands of people all running in the same direction, all of us sharing in the experience of that beautiful Sunday morning; all shapes and sizes, all styles and abilities, all colours and creeds. Many running in memory of loved ones who had passed away, many on behalf of friends and family at home, some on behalf of strangers they would never know; all of us, together, heading down to Woolwich, to Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, the Isle of Dogs; and then the Embankment, Birdcage Walk and on to the Mall and finally, the finish!

All 36 396 of us ... together.

London Marathon


So what was it really like?

Updated 23/04/07 (the day after)

Why run FLM 2007:

The motivation to run the London Marathon came from wanting to give something back to all the people who helped to cure our baby daughter. As is described elsewhere on this site Roxy was born with L.A.D. - an immunity disorder which threatened to end her little life until she received a bone marrow transplant at Great Ormond Street late in 2006. There is a single person without whom none of Roxy's treatment would have been possible: our anonymous donor; to whom we will be eternally grateful.

However, we would not have been able find our donor without the help of the Anthony Nolan Trust, who do fantastic work in recruiting new donors, matching donors to patients and researching new techniques in bone marrow transplantation. Finding a donor and matching her to Roxy would also not have been enough: we owe a huge debt to the wonderful staff, doctors and nurses at Great Ormond Street Hospital. They have all been absolutely, and without exception, fantastic!

The only thing we could think of doing was to try in some small way to help raise awareness of the need for more bone marrow donors, and the best way to do this seemed to be for someone (me) to run the London Marathon. Well it worked tremendously well. To date (and the doors don't close until June, 2007, so there's still time to donate, see the link on the left) we have raised GBP2700 in the UK and in excess of ZAR9000 in South Africa. Thank you to one and all for your tremendous generosity, which has far exceeded our expectations.

Preparation for 2007 FLM:

After the decision was taken and I had received the green light from Sue, it was time to get my act together. I had been dabbling with some longish runs during November in a weak attempt to train for a unspecified half-marathon. I'd got up to 9 miles, but by Christmas all that good work had been squandered. So I did what any right minded person would do in this position, I bought a book. Sam Murphy's 'Marathon From Start to Finish' to be exact which gave a great overview of the marathon campaign, and more importantly a series of 16 week training schedules. I picked the one that most matched the amount of time I had available and dug in. In essence training for a marathon is all about controlled overloading, he says like an old pro. You steadily increase your distance and the volume of your training, whist trying to avoid overuse injuries. I didn't do every run on the schedule, but I did stick to the book when it came to the Sunday long runs. During the six weeks leading up to the start of my tapering period, which is when I started backing off 3 weeks before the big day, I was running at least a half marathon every Sunday, steadily rising from 13 to 20 miles! The 20 mile run hurt, so did a couple of the 18 milers, but after a day or two of rest I was good as new. I was also lucky that I was training in London and by race day I had run nearly every mile of the race course in training, which as a marathon novice really helped my confidence.

The Big Day:

Well, the big day finally arrived. I had been carbo-loading all week (jacket potatoes for lunch, extra brown rice at dinner ... and the odd 'brown trout' (aka beer) just for good measure. My Mom & Dad had come down the night before and dropped me off at Bank tube station at around 07:00 so that I could catch the DLR to Greenwich. The trip is a good 40 mins and there's another 20 min walk to Greenwich Park from the station. It was a beautiful morning and I made my way up the hill at Greenwich along with all the other early runners. I'd deliberately got there early to be a part of the Anthony Nolan Team photo which was scheduled for 08:00-08:30. While I was waiting I felt I should have a cup of tea, and a sachet of Lucozade Sport, then a little later a bottle of water. This precipitated my first trip to the toilet. Then another sachet, and a water. We then had the photo taken (watch this space) and there was still over an hour to the gun ... so I had another sachet and a water ... and another trip to the loo!

I took my tracksuit top off and packed it away in my bag, which I deposited onto the appropriate lorry (every runner has a bag and they all go onto a truck at the start, these then wend their way through London during the race; and the runners simply walk past them at the finish and pick up their bag - its extremely well organised). I started stretching and felt pretty good. I resisted the urge (very strong) to run up and down, and to have another sachet. At around 09:15 I made my way to starting group 8. I had been allocated group 8 out of 9, so quite near the back. As I stood there I started chatting to those around me (they had only done a maximum of 15 and 18 miles respectively in training - that really helped my confidence, the 20 miler didn't seem to have hurt so much now). Before we knew it we were off. There were a series of mass hand waving sessions and some group cheering, all good fun as you walk down towards the start line. At the Red start you line up in Greenwich Park and can't see the start until you come around the corner and then there it is looming large in front of you. We began running about 20 metres from the line, and I noticed it had taken only 11 minutes to cross the line, which was much shorter than I had expected. I found the pace of those around me was much slower than I had anticipated, but I knew this was probably a good thing so I resisted the urge (again very strong) to stride out and start overtaking people. It was just about here that I had the moment I describe above. It was really serene and I hope its one of the memories that I keep with me. After the quietish start the word that probably best describes the day is 'Cacophony'. I actually had a headache by the time I reached the finish. But it was brilliant, there were so many people all cheering us on!

Sue and I had agreeed to try and meet each other at a spot just after halfway, and as I came over Tower Bridge I edged over to the right-hand side of the road. Unfortunately Sue hadn't been able to get over the road and so we didn't see each other there. She was waiting for me on the other side of the road, at the 22 mile mark. The course doubles back on itself at this point so she was able get some pictures of the empty road before we came through, the leaders and finally the masses, including me! See below. I knew the Isle of Dogs was going to be the tough bit but it was here that I also began to rue all the water and sachets I had taken on board at the start. By the time we got onto Westferry Road I was bursting and had to stop to queue for the loo, yes you have to queue in the London Marathon. I won't go into the details of this experience, I just hope this is not one of the memories that stay with me - every conceivable type of human excretion greeted me as I closed the door, I took some small solace from the fact that I didn't have to sit down. I finally appreciate the 'seat thing' now and felt very sorry for the ladies. I emerged grim and a little less happy for the experience but noticeable more comfortable ... except for my right calf which had started to cramp up. Nothing major, but I could feel it. I struggled a bit here and had to walk a couple of times, I began counting down the miles 18, 19, 20 ... and then before I knew it I was on the Highway heading West and I heard Sue's voice frantically calling out my name. I pulled over and we had a hug, a bit of a photo session and some coke and then I was off again. Sue was so excited to have seen me, its not easy to spot someone with so many people around.

The last stretch seemed to go on forever and I admit I walked a couple more times - around the water stations. The noise on the embankment was terrific, whistles, horns, pots and pans and hearty voices. Massive. I gradually made my way down towards Big Ben and then before I knew it I was on Birdcage Walk. Suddenly there was a shout of 'Andrew! Andrew!' to my right, and I looked up to see my dad, which was a very welcome sight. 800 metres to go ... 600 ... 400 round the corner and there is was - the finish! I made sure there weren't any old folks in front of me, or any costume-wearers (gotta think about that finish line photo, don't you know!) and chose the left hand lane. It was over. 4:35. My joints hurt like hell, my feet stung, knees ached, hips strained, but I had done it! What a day! I met Sue and dad in Horse Guards Parade, and after a rest we slowly walked back to the hospital, which did me good. I didn't sit down and I think that helped as I haven't suffered too badly afterwards. I have some stiffness in my right calf and my thighs are sore, but nowhere near what I was expecting. We stopped off at a bar near the hospital and I had a beer and a plate of chips. I had a call from my mom, who said I should make my way back now as the nurses had been busy ... when we got to the ward there was a big banner on the window of Roxy's room saying 'Congratulations Andrew, from Fox Ward'. I was really touched. They had also put on a small spread of snacks, and a chocolate cake in the Parent's room and all the parents came out and congratulated me. Absolutely unbelievable. I was really moved! And close to exhaustion. We left for home and a nice long rest.


Here are a few pictures of the day, taken by Sue from her cheering position at mile 22.