April is (in)famous within running circles for the Spring marathons – including what for many is the race of their lives, the Virgin Money London Marathon.
I’ve been suffering with an irritating case of ITBS since March and have recently been diagnosed with anaemia. These combined mean my training has been sporadic at best, realising that a personal best would be out of the question led to me deferring my Brighton Marathon entry. I knew that taking part & just getting round would frustrate me & add to ongoing disappointment with my performances so made the tough decision & went down to support the many #UKRunChat community members that were there. I had a blast cheering on the runners & saw many Twitter friends & several old colleagues from my time working in Brighton. It was whilst here that I made the decision that I would give London a go, regardless of my knee pain & as planned I would do it as RunCat.
Race day has a way of sneaking up on you doesn’t it?
Before I knew it I was getting up 2 weeks later having done just 2 runs to catch the train to London, all went reasonably smoothly & I arrived at Greenwich Park at 8.30am. After saying a brief hello to @_Jen_Mo_ on the GFA baggage truck I headed straight into the Blue Start area to relieve myself in the handy urinals.
I’d hunkered down in the morning chill to await the start when I spotted @npbradders in his Lion Onesie & grabbed him for a chat, it wasn’t long before we were joined by Andy in his Dinosaur Onesie and an obligatory photo was taken. After a fairly obscure conversation about the pros & cons of costumed running & sharing best practices to improve our comfort we separated to head to our respective start zones. Oddly, whilst stood there completing a final check on my head, a former colleague & companion in the following weeks Pony Express Ultra, Tony, popped up next to me & said hello… 38,000 runners & you end up standing next to a friend!
The start was quite simply one of the best running experiences I’ve ever had – as one of the very few ballot entry runners in full fancy dress costume; I attracted a HUGE amount of attention. The wall of noise from the crowds in the stands & over the first section of the marathon was most often directed at me & shouts of “GoTiger, Well Done Jeff, Looking Good Cat rang out continuously, I felt like a Superstar, although Tony was not so happy being overshadowed by a grown man in a furry jumpsuit.
I spent the next few miles enjoying the crowds, high fiving many & generally going off a bit too quick & starting to boil in a fuzzy bag. When I realised I was overheating I backed off the pace & let Tony head on alone continuing at a slightly more sedate pace to stay cooler. 3 miles came & an aborted meeting with @irunjoe went so I carried on alone, in retrospect I am happy this happened as I was a good 30mins slower overall but I would have liked the company during my later dark times & to have crossed the line #handinhand with somebody I know & respect.
I continued to lap up the adulation, high five the crowds & stop for photos with kids & things went fairly well until 9 miles, when the familiar pressure from the aggravated ITB started to appear, expected but still frustrating. I carried on running as much as possible, but over the remaining miles the length of time I was able to run started to reduce whilst the distance I had to walk to ease the pain grew.
The next few miles up to halfway were probably my darkest of the race as it was still early enough into the event that I began doubting I could manage the pain until the end. Seeing a couple of #UKRunChat runners, & @diamondlitefoot marshalling on London Bridge kept me ticking over & looking forward to seeing My brother at Mile 14 I kept moving forward. Slowly.
I reached 14 in a haze of pain & slowed to a shuffle before Ian ran round the corner waving his sign at me, such a massive relief to see somebody there to support you & I gladly wobbled over to say hello, moan about the pain & get a photo taken before hobbling off down the road again… but I was at least in good spirits for a few miles again.
The support from the crowds definitely kept me moving onwards and stopping for odd photos with families was a happy highlight of the run. The next slog was tough & I entertained myself by chasing a rabbit – no, I wasn’t hallucinating, there was a man dressed as a rabbit that I stalked for a while… as a cat would.
Hitting mile 21 became my next focus as I knew both my charities cheering station & #UKRunChat would be around there, so I dug in & plodded along, interacting with supporters when I could & trying to enjoy the atmosphere as much as possible despite the now excruciating knee pain. I had dropped my usual mantra’s in favour of the line “never again” which I had going round & round in my mind for much of the final stages of the event. Reaching the MNDA cheering station was mind-blowing, the noise they made when they spotted the vest was amazing. I was overwhelmed with emotion so I didn’t hang around long & carried on riding the crest of the wave… unfortunately this didn’t last long before I came crashing back down, leaving me feeling sick, hot & bothered. Thankfully I hadn’t far to go before I saw Jen Mo & Nat Elsdon on the other side of the road giving me a much needed excuse to stop, breathe & take the head off briefly. After quick hugs & a brief chat I continued my trundle down the road, again with spirits lifted from having met supporters.
The final two miles were pretty much Hell on Earth mixed with a final highlight of the run, On the final stretch I was overtaken by a Rhino, who I’d been playing Cat and Mouse Rhino with for over 10 miles, as he charged by this final time I realised I had nothing left in the tank to up my pace & had to watch as he stampeded his way to the finish. Finally as I rounded the corner to The Mall I realised I was on the huge screens at the side of the course & the commentator was talking about me! He was calling me a fox, so I proceeded to converse with him via gesticulations to the camera’s until he got the animal right. This I found highly amusing despite my near exhaustion & dehydration & crossed the line seconds later.
It was tough, the injury took its toll making it a pain filled experience & (since diagnosed) anaemia won’t have helped. Even with the weather being close to perfect for running 26.2 miles I was still uncomfortably hot swathed in fur throughout & although for many it’s a pinnacle of their running lives The London Marathon doesn’t inspire me in the same way.
It was however a truly phenomenal experience & a massive amount of fun, the support is superb & for fancy dress runners it is staggering. Even though the mantra that got me through the day was “Never Again” I’ve already entered the ballot for 2016… and if successful will definitely do it as RunCat.