2022 London Marathon

Race Reports

By Grant Womack

I had just 6 weeks to prepare for the London marathon. I obtained a charity place at the last minute and had to quickly develop a training plan that would hopefully prepare me for a marathon (a distance I’d never run before!) without any injuries, which is something I’ve occasionally struggled with when ramping up mileage too quickly. However, in the lead-up to race day, I raced two half marathons, my training had gone to plan, and I had no significant injuries to speak of. A few blisters from the long runs had mostly healed and I felt confident I could run 26.2 miles. My target time was 3:30.

I took my family down for the weekend in London and we stayed Friday and Saturday nights in London, about an hour from the start line. Most of Saturday was spent collecting my number and race pack, as well as looking around the race show and restocking on gels for race day. (The London train strike that day wasn’t particularly helpful!) I got everything I needed, including a big dinner of pasta and pizza, plenty of hydration, and an ‘early’ night.

We got up (not so) bright and early on Sunday morning. Quick bowl of Weetabix and a banana, and we made our way across London. I walked to my starting area before handing in my bag and entering my start pen. It seemed almost anticlimactic starting such a race among 1000 other runners – a horn blows and everyone in your wave starts running. But the staggered start means the race timers along the course don’t reflect your actual time. Even so, I set off at around 9:45.

The first few miles were fairly steady, settling into a pace, ensuring I took on nutrition and water where I had planned, and finding a few other runners I could keep pace with (essentially meaning I was drafting them as much as possible!). The wonderful thing about running this distance is that you simply can’t do the whole thing at threshold – it’s just too long! This means you’re never particularly out of breath and you can chat with other runners nearby, or say ‘Thanks!’ to those cheering you on. Most people I spoke with were running the London marathon for the first time, and everyone was just as thrilled with the experience as I was.

The race itself was like nothing I’ve ever done before! I’ve done a few events where crowds will gather in part of the course to cheer you on, or create a finishing line tunnel. But this was on an entirely different level! Pubs had opened early, with live bands, and massive crowds (already rather merry) cheering the runners and dancing to the music. Choirs had come out to sing in the tunnels, where they sounded best. Drum troops were pounding out a running pace while dancing around their setup. Oompah bands, steel drums, dance troops, BBQs… just a few of the many things we saw on course – you never knew what you’d see next! People lined every street. The Cutty Sark was particularly popular, but even for the miles before that point, and for miles and miles after! It was such an enjoyable experience; I don’t know how anyone couldn’t help but smile the whole way around. And indeed, every picture I’ve seen of myself during the race, I had a massive silly grin on my face. My cheeks got tired before my legs did!

But that’s not to say my legs didn’t tire. I made it to around 18 miles at a consistent pace. I’d been fuelling well every 4 miles, kept hydrated, and kept my cadence steady throughout. But fatigue finally kicked in from around 18 miles and I slowed a bit. I didn’t really start to grit my teeth until around 22 miles. Until that point, I’d still been looking up at the crowds, chatting, and taking in the sights of London. From around 22 miles, I was focused on the ground ahead of me – there was no chance I was walking or stopping, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t misplace a step now that I was so tired.

The final 1.2 miles were definitely the hardest for me. It’s only about 10 minutes of running, but it seemed to take forever. I usually manage a sprint finish when I race – this was the exception. I held a steady pace the whole way home, just making sure I got there. And I did, in 3:25:20!

My family were cheering me on at the half-way mark, and then again at around 21 miles (pictures showed me smiling in both directions!). It was great to have their support, and they seemed to enjoy coming along for the London Marathon experience, but I know it was a lot of work for them and it made for a long day on the Sunday. With 40,000 other runners and 100,000+ spectators, it’s a tall order to find anyone you recognise, but I was encouraged to learn that the sky blue of Croft Ambrey was well represented in London. Well done to the other runners who ran TCS London Marathon 2022!

Would I do it again? Of course I would! I entered the ballot for 2023 within a couple of days.

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