Race Report by Helen Rowe
Saturday 23rd March
This year, the race was on Sunday 24th March, the day after my birthday. Andrew Rollins, Jenna Pogue and myself were due to be running, and Delroy Taylor was a pacer. Hayley Rollins and Stuart Liggins were coming down in support. The hotel was booked, and the train tickets purchased (I got a really good deal on these). We had opted to stay at a different hotel to the one we stayed at last year, because last year’s hotel (which was about a 10—15 minute walk from the race start), was so much more expensive this year (supply and demand).
We met at the station at 11.30am (I had done parkrun first, then gone home, showered and changed. I even volunteered to help with the set up [volunteer event number 25 – so another t-shirt in the bag for me]).
The train was the fast train to London, stopping only at Milton Keynes. We arrived at Euston, and then set off walking to our hotel – The Premier Inn Hub Goodge Street – which was about a 165 minute walk. We checked in, and then set off to walk to the start, to test the route, and see how long it would take us. It took us about 30 minutes (a good warm up).
There was a large demonstration taking place, marching through London – the People’s Vote March – and Trafalgar Square was buzzing. We decided to find somewhere to get some lunch, and we headed back towards the hotel, and found a little café where we tucked in. I had had a panini on the train, so I only wanted something small, so I opted for apple pie and cream. Stuart (who was running as Jenna because she was still not ready to run a half marathon after her foot injury) started on pasta, and Andrew was also carb-loading.
We then set off to try to find a bar I had been told about – Sketch. It was fairly close to Hamley’s, and also Cahoots, where we had tried to get in last year and again this year, but unsuccessfully. When we did find Sketch, there was a queue of people waiting to get in, so we ditched that idea!
We headed back to a pub that we visited last year – The Glassblower, where we had one drink (it was heaving in there and it was almost impossible to hold a conversation for the noise). Then we headed back to the hotel, for a rest.
I decided to use my time to get my kit laid out ready, and also to get my hydration pack ready. I had taken bottled water to put in it, with electrolyte tablets. Thankfully I carried out this operation in the bathroom, as while I was filling the pouch at the top, the water was running out of the tube at the bottom, all over the bathroom floor – I had forgotten to check that the valve was shut! Thankfully I had taken plenty of water.
Then I developed a ‘problem’, which I needed to remedy. I had got two Imodium tablets, but I was concerned that I needed more, but it was almost 6.00pm. I asked at reception where the nearest chemist was, and I legged it to Boots, only to find that they were closed, and there was a guy on the door letting people out, but not in. When he let someone out I pleaded with him to let me in, as I had an emergency, and I was running a race the next day, and he kindly let me in to purchase some Imodium Instants. I headed back to the hotel – feeling relieved, but wondering whether one box was going to be enough!
We all met up again at 7.30pm, and went to Zizzi’s for a carb loading meal. We were very restrained with our drinking, and mostly stuck with soft drinks. Two pizzas, one calzone, and two pasta dishes were ordered. Then we headed back to the hotel, stopping off at Tesco Express, where I purchased more Imodium Instants, just in case! When we got back to the hotel, Stuart informed us we had walked 5 miles that day.
Sunday 24th March
The alarm went off at 6.15am, but I was awake from 6.00am. I took another Imodium – just in case, and put the rest in with my kit for running. We had arranged to meet for breakfast. I got talking to some other runners who were down for the race, and a lady who had wanted to run the race, but she didn’t get a place in the ballot, so she was very jealous.
We re-grouped at 8.00am. I was there early, and it was a good job too, as my hydration pack started leaking. It was “dribbling” at the valve, and I was getting a little wet. I decided I would have to remove the bladder, and drink the water/electrolytes now, and then make do with water on the way round. That turned out to be a good decision I think, as I didn’t get cramp, which is a common problem I have on long runs.
We got to Trafalgar Square by 8.30am, and used the facilities, then put our bags in the bag drop. It was a lovely sunny morning, and whilst it was a little cool in the shade, it was quite warm in the sun. I had bought new leggings for this race – called “Run London”, and they had London landmarks printed on them. A good 20% of the rest of the female runners seemed to have bought them too!
Andrew was in Wave 1 (Lightning), and Stuart was in Wave 2 (Cheetah). Andrew and Stuart headed off for the start line, and Hayley, Jenna and I headed over to see them off. I was in Wave 7 (Diamond) – which was the last wave. At the instructed time I lined up with my wave. I noticed that my watch still hadn’t located me on GPS, and I worried that it wouldn’t have found me before I had to cross the finish line – and no it didn’t! I was in Trafalgar Square before my watch found me, which meant I was going to be “behind” for the whole race! I remembered that when I ran this race last year, the distance between the mile markers was actually 1.1 mile according to my watch, so I kept a check this year too, and the same happened again. The route has a number of switchbacks, so there are times when you are running past runners going the other way. I tried to keep a look out for Andrew and Stuart, but I didn’t see them until the end. Jenna and Hayley popped up at about mile 4 – which was lovely. Although they told me afterwards that they were quite hoarse shouting my name – in an attempt to get me to see them. They were standing on the right hand side of the road – and the irony was that up until about 100 yards previously, I had been running on the right, but I changed to the left hand side just before hand.
As the name suggest, you run past a number of the London Landmarks on the way round. It is easy to miss some, if you aren’t reading all of the signs, but others are more noticeable, like St Paul’s Cathedral, and then the lovely sound of Bow Bells at St Mary-Le-Bow, at the halfway mark. There was one time when the runner next to me was taking a photo of a building up ahead with her phone, and I had to ask her what the building was – it was the Cheesegrater! The support on the route is great – both from charity support stations, and the general public. I high-fived lots of children, and a few adults. There were lots of jelly babies, Haribos, and other goodies on offer around the route, but I stuck with my Clif Bar Shot Bloks.
The 10 mile marker is at The Tower of London. I told myself I just had a parkrun to do, but my watch said I had done 11 miles, and that messed with my head. I knew that I would have to do 3.1 more miles, even though my watch said something different. I was starting to feel fatigued. The last section is along the Embankment (I think the London Marathon also goes along there), and it seems endless. I thought that Hayley and Jenna would be somewhere around 12 miles, and so I kept a look out for them. I heard them calling me, and I was delighted to see Andrew and Stuart with them too. Again I was on the wrong side of the road – but I dodged through the runners to high-five them. I was so pleased that it was nearly the end. I thought they would then make their way to the finish. There is one last switchback, and I decided on a walking break before the last push. Typical – I was caught walking, as they had crossed the road, to see me on the other side! I pushed on, with a run, and a walk, and a run. My calves were feeling very tight, but I had not had cramp – thank goodness. I then developed stitch in my right side. However, I was not going to be stopped from giving it my all for the finish. I could remember the road layout from last year. I knew that as we rounded the next corner the finish would be in sight, and I was determined I was going to be running round that corner and all the way to the finish line. I could hear Andrew, Hayley, Jenna and Stuart cheering me on. There was a compere standing on the finish line, and he high-fived me as I crossed the line.
It was then a short walk to collect my medal, handed out by a Chelsea Pensioner, who said “You look knackered luv” – and I thought ‘thanks a lot!’
Andrew, Hayley, Jenna and Stu all came up to meet with me, and we made our way to the bag drop to collect our belongings. We then made our way back towards the hotel, and stopped at TGI Fridays for lunch, before heading back for our bags, and on to Euston for the train journey home.
At Euston, Jenna went in search of doughnuts. She was on a mission. She left us on three separate occasions to go in search of her ‘holy grail’, and while she was gone on the third quest, a troupe of Cub Scouts came past us, all clutching a donut box each. We thought it was a good job Jenna had not been with us, as she would have been distraught. Then, out of the mist Jenna appeared, clutching a donut box. She then announced that they were giving them away. Andrew loves a freebie, so he was the first to go in search of his own holy grail, hotly pursued by Hayley and me. We carefully carried our donuts onto the train with our other luggage. But once on board, disaster struck, and Jenna’s donut fell out of the bottom of the box, and rolled under the seat. On hearing her tale of woe, Hayley nobly gave her donut up, and everyone lived happily ever after.
Postscript – my watch registered that half marathon as being over 14 miles. Although I was initially a little disappointed with my time, when I worked out what the time would have been for 13.1 miles I would have surpassed the target I had set myself. In any case, I took 10 minutes off my time last year, and 591 people finished after me. Andrew also got a course PB, and Stu did too, as he had never run it before. Result all round!!!