Wow. Has it already been three weeks since I ran the Virgin Money London Marathon? Three weeks since I traveled across the pond to my new favorite city? Three weeks since I ran around my favorite city? Yeah, I suppose it has been three weeks. Unfortunately for me, I came down with a cold that turned sinus infection just before I left for London. If you think that stopped me, you’re crazy. If you were following along on social media (Instagram primarily) you already know I went nuts sight seeing and getting lost in the city. Museums, restaurants, shopping, afternoon tea, broadway musicals. I won’t spend a lot of time on that, what I want to talk about is the race itself. I know many of you entered the ballot for the 2018 race (more than 300,000 of you entered actually) and I have to tell you…if you are fortunate enough to run this race, you will not be disappointed. So let’s break it down shall we?
After I checked into my hotel, the first stop I made was to the expo. I truly wanted to just get it out of the way so I could enjoy London for the amazing city it is. I opted to have my hotel car take me to ExCel London…which is literally on the other side of London…East London in Newham specifically. ExCel is a huge convention center so this truly was the ideal place for the expo…it just takes forever to get to.
I have to tell you, I was VERY excited to hit the expo and pick up my fourth Abbott World Marathon Majors bib. I made my way to the expo entrance and just took a moment to appreciate the moment. This was exciting. This was my dream race. I was here.
I found packet pick up to be relatively easy and straight forward. You hand over your registration confirmation, they hand you your bib, you walk over to the timing chip table and they assign your shoe tag to you on the spot. After that you are off. I didn’t even realize this, but I never got my race shirt. That’s because London gives you your finisher shirt at the finish line of the race. I have zero issue with this. I actually love this idea and think more races should do it. It just would of been nice to read that in the race literature…it wasn’t there and no one mentioned it either. Meh. No big deal in the grand scheme of things.
I will say this about the expo though. I wasn’t impressed. And I kind of figured this would be the case. With Boston literally 6 days before London, all of the race companies throw their resources at Boston. The best merchandise, the best booth set ups. Boston is our Super Bowl and they deserve the best. Problem is, the races downstream get impacted. So there wasn’t a ton of London Marathon themed merchandise…anywhere. Even the Adidas booth was pretty sparse in their selection. I just looked at it as saving me money to put toward beers later. I realize it is what it is, again not mad about it, not even really surprised. I guess I was just hoping my thoughts and fears about the expo would of been wrong. I made a point to get all of my stuff so I wouldn’t have to come back. It’s a far trek. But hey, it made for some great photo ops.
I wasn’t feeling well race week. Honestly, I just started feeling better two days ago. But I wasn’t going to let this cold/sinus infection/whatever ruin my run/walk/strut/duck walk through London. No way. This race was my dream and I was fortunate enough to be able to participate and raise funds through Cancer Research UK! Thank you again to everyone who donated. You know how pre-race morning goes, you lay out your gear and double check your stuff.
Race morning came and I had ordered room service for breakfast. French toast, bacon, water, orange juice. I got dressed and made my way to the Tube. The start villages are in Greenwich and there are several Tube interruptions on race morning. So thankfully the Tube is a very easy system to learn. I made it to Greenwich Park no problem.
I have to tell you, London has some BEAUTIFUL parks! I also found the start villages to be very familiar. This is very in line with how New York starts their races. Designated by color and zone. Having experienced the awesome that is the New York City Marathon, this seemed easy and comforting. I dropped my post race gear with the gear check, grabbed some tea (yes they serve tea at the start village and it’s delicious) and found a tree to sit under. The red start village is full of charity runners so the passion and energy is rising by the minute. I just want to listen to my music and try to keep my sinuses from exploding.
We moved to our corrals and began to move forward. The weather was in the high 50s and partly cloudy so we had amazing race conditions. I would of loved this if I was able to breathe. Thanks sinuses.
Before we knew it, the race had started. The morning was truly a blur. It didn’t seem like 2 hours of waiting. It felt like 20 minutes. We were off on our journey through London! Again, much like NYC, three different color starts, three slightly different routes that all equal 26.2 miles that converge together.
This was the largest London Marathon field in history with nearly 40,000 runners taking the streets of London by storm. And you could tell. It was CROWDED out there. I found it difficult to find my pace between weaving through runners and trying not to get run over at the same time. I don’t think I was able to feel comfortable until around mile 12 and I am not kidding. But the passion and energy of all of those people was something special. Something contagious. Not to mention the spectators that took over the sidewalks! I am SO glad I had my name on my shirt because I heard “Well Done Sharpie about 1,245 times and it truly was motivating.
One thing I wanted to point out specifically were the aid stations along the course. Buxton water and Lucozade electrolyte were the beverage sponsors for the race. For the record, Lucozade orange is pretty delicious!!! Normally we are used to paper or plastic cups at aid stations…oh baby not in London they give you the damn bottle!!!! The only thing I could think of was “God I hope they recycle because I can’t tell Carlee they don’t recycle these bottles.” They DO indeed recycle the bottles (I saw the recycle team picking them up), and the bottles are made from recycled materials. Yes I took the time to read. Climate change matters people! But…um..watch your step because you will slip on these things.
There is truly nothing like the city/metropolitan views of London. You get a lot of rich history in the old buildings with a splash of new modern architecture. You can clearly see where the country is going in terms of innovation while preserving the rich history. I appreciate that.
Without a doubt hands down my favorite part of the entire London Marathon course was Tower Bridge! I didn’t realize we had approached it so quickly, but I turned the corner and stopped in my tracks. It is SO magnificent. What a marvel! Beautiful!
After that, I started to slow down. My body was tired from fighting whatever it was fighting and I KNEW this wasn’t going to be the race I wanted it to be. And that was fine. I was able to dance, laugh, and high-5 so many people in the process. I got to SEE and experience the course. That was so important and I wouldn’t have altered that experience for the world.
The Last Mile
The last mile of the race is probably one of the most spectacular miles I have ever experienced. You run along the river until you run into Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. By the way, Big Ben is INCREDIBLE in person! Photos do not do it justice. Truly. After I passed Westminster Abbey I removed my sunglasses and muted my music. There was something about this mile that was almost spiritual for me. I felt so moved running past St. James Park (another beautiful park).
I made my way down to the mall and Buckingham Palace. Picture Buckingham Palace being the backdrop for your finish. That was my life. I dug deep for whatever energy I had and ran the last 395 yards and prayed I didn’t cramp. I lifted my head. I smiled. I lifted my arms. I had completed my dream marathon.
I crossed the finish line and grabbed my phone and took a selfie immediately to capture the moment of pure elation I was experiencing. I never wanted to forget this moment.
London was spectacular. It was such a treat and certainly ranks in my top three marathons of all time in terms of enjoyment, sights, and emotional impact. If you have the opportunity to experience this incredible race, DO IT! Don’t hesitate. It has been three weeks and I am still smiling. I am still over the moon. I loved it. If given the chance I would do it again in a heart beat. I am sitting here feeling like I should say more…but I think my smile says everything.