Race Report by Helen Rowe
The inaugural London Landmarks Half Marathon was held on 25th March 2018. Seven runners from MFRC had signed up: Mo Smith, Kim Davies, Alison Foley, Sam Lowe, Andrew Rollins, Hayley Tracey and myself. Unfortunately Alison Foley was unable to run, due to injury, but she travelled down with Kim to support her.
I travelled with Andrew and Hayley on Saturday morning, and headed for the hotel when we arrived in London. Andrew and Hayley checked in, but they didn’t have a room for me, other than on the ground floor. I wanted to be on the same floor and Andrew and Hayley, and the Receptionist said if I waited until later, he would get me one. So I put my luggage in Andrew and Hayley’s room, and we spent Saturday afternoon sussing out where we needed to go in the morning, and then doing a little sightseeing. When we got back to the hotel, I checked in. First of all they gave me room 606, on the 6th floor. I asked to swap it to a first floor room, so they gave me 102. When I got to 102, I discovered I didn’t have a window, and it was right at the entrance to the corridor, and the corridor door kept opening and closing every few minutes. So I went back down to Reception, and they reallocated me – to room 511, on the 5th floor. In the evening we went to Pizza Express to carb load ready for the next day. We didn’t want to be out too late, as the clocks were changing, and we were going to lose an hour of sleep. We were worried about over sleeping in the morning.
The three of us had charity places – Andrew for Prostate Cancer, Hayley for Macmillan, and me for Sense. I had also been given the opportunity to run with a 1948 Olympic Torch, and I felt honoured (if not a little concerned about running with the weight) to have been asked. The idea was that it would be some additional publicity for the charity, and hopefully boost the fundraising.
The lounge area of the hotel was very busy from 7.00am onwards, with streams of people coming down to make their porridge. It seemed that the majority of the guests in the hotel were running the LLHM.
We checked out, and set off at about 8.15am, as Andrew was in the first wave. Hayley and I were in the last wave. We made our way to the bag drop, and we spotted Kim and Alison in the queue for the portaloos.
We made our way up to Trafalgar Square, where we wished Andrew good luck, and he made his way to the start. They were doing warm up exercises at Trafalgar Square, so Hayley and I joined in with that (not easy when you are holding an Olympic Torch). I spotted Alison Lowe in the crowd, and ran to catch her. She said she had come looking for us – but thought it would be impossible to find us with so many people milling around. Then I received a call from John Greatrex, the chap who had loaned me the torch. He was waiting near the start line to take some photos of me, so Hayley and I started to make our way past Canada House, toward the start. The first wave of runners left at 9.30am. Hayley and I carried on moving with the crowd, and before we knew it we were heading for the start line – ahead of our allotted wave time. All we could do was go for it!
Hayley and I stayed together for a while, and Mo Smith spotted me from the opposite side of the road, on one of the loops. Hayley and I soon got separated, and I wanted Hayley to give it her best shot – it was afterall her first Half Marathon, so I just fell back to a comfortable pace. The route involved a lot of looping, and we were soon on opposite sides of the road.
By mile 2 my arm was already aching with the weight of the torch, but I was determined to carry it. I had taken a small backpack to put it in if I found it was too much, but that was to be a last resort, as I wanted people to see the torch. As I ran, other runners around me were asking me about the torch, and some wanted to carry it, and/or have their photo taken with it, so there was a lot of slowing down and stopping. One runner told me she had run with the 2012 Olympic Torch, and she wanted to try out the 1948 one.
Some of the marshals too wanted to know more about the torch, and wanted to take photos. Spectators too were interested – and some called me over to talk to me about the torch. The father of one family in particular was interested, because he recognised the torch, because his grandfather ran with the torch in the 1948 Olympics, and they have his torch at home.
The route wound its way around London, doing lots of loops, but also taking in many of the Landmarks of the city. There were signs up telling you to look ahead for the Gherkin, or left for Pudding Lane, or left for the Oxo Tower.
Along the Embankment, lots of the Charities had set up their Cheering Squads. We went along the Embankment twice – between miles 3-4 and then again between miles 11-12. My Sense Team were set up along there, and they were looking out for me. There was a huge cheer went up as they spotted me on my way at mile 3-4, and I heard them shouting “Here she comes” when I approached them at mile 11-12.
All around the route there were activities going on for the spectators. Roman Centurions; bands; steel drums; choirs. It was a really emotional journey.
Between mile 10 and 11, I was called over by a marshal who was Spanish. He told me he had run with the Olympic Torch when the games were in Barcelona. Had I not been carrying the torch, the chances of him talking to me were slim. Carrying the torch was giving me the opportunity to exchange stories with all sorts of people.
Hayley and Andrew had been tracking me on the app, and were waiting for me on the last stretch between miles 12 and 13, to take photos. They had finished, and got their medals. The end was in sight (well almost). My TomTom said I had run 14 miles, and although my arms were aching, I wanted to hold the torch aloft as I crossed the finishing line. I made my way towards the finish, and I think the commentator was startled as I ran past with the Olympic Torch. He was about to ask me about it – but I thought “I am not stopping now!” I crossed the line, and collected my medal from a Pearly King.
Then I spotted a familiar face in the spectators. It was the gentleman whose grandfather had run with the 1948 Olympic Torch. He had come to the finish line, and he called me over. He wanted to show me a photo of himself, his wife and his daughter, with the torch. Then he asked if he could have a photo with me and the torch.
What an amazing day it had been. My time was slow, but given all the stops for photos, and to chat to people, I think that it was not too bad at all!
Here is the full breakdown of Massey Results:
Andrew Rollins 1:34:44
Sam Lowe 1:45:25
Kim Davies 1:59:42
Mo Smith 2:04:22
Hayley Tracey 2:37:02
Helen Rowe 3:20:09