The unexpurgated report. This is the second half.
First Half. Final Analysis.
Mile splits are Garmin; kilometer splits are official timing mats.
From Miles 12.75 to 14, we could see the elite men running back at us along their Mile 21, which wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it would be, since I didn’t recognize any of them. I was moved by the number of charity runners on the course—the racers were wearing one of two options: a charity shirt or fancy dress (a costume). The amount of money raised for charities through these marathons is nothing short of heroic—over the next 5 years, the Virgin London Marathon thinks it will facilitate £25 million in donations for various causes! The charities are very vigilant about cheering exclusively for their supporters. I ran by the Parkinsons UK station, and gave them a wave hoping they’d recognize my TeamFox singlet, but they stood mutely. Luckily, at Mile 14 Anabel from the Michael J. Fox Foundation was there with her clappers and her big voice to give me a boost, which I sorely needed. (Apparently she cheered for me at Mile 25 too but I was so in the thick of it by that point I’m not surprised I didn’t hear her!) There were so many charity runners that whenever I saw an unaffiliated runner I was intrigued, because it meant they’d either gotten in through the lotto or had time-qualified. Another sort of runner that was a rare sight on the London course is the foreign runner. While in New York it seems every tenth runner is German, Italian or French, I didn’t see nearly the same proportion on the course in London. There were less than 190 finishers from the United States on Sunday, but in November 2,388 British nationals crossed the line outside Tavern on the Green (percentage wise LDN 0.5% / NYC 5.5%). It was a strange juxtaposition: even though I was running in a world-class event—one of the World Marathon Majors!—it felt like a local race. What’s not rare are the fancy dress runners. The Brits love it, this is where their silly side really comes out, but I have to say the costumed runners annoyed me. When they were next to me on the course, they drew all the energy. (At one point, some dude running in a foam Lucozade costume was getting more cheers than anyone. “Go Lucozade!” Really? REALLY? You’re cheering for a fucking brand, people! And yes, there’s no Santa Claus and Cousin Bobby Joe shot the Easter Bunny when he was hunting last weekend.) (another draw LDN: 3 / NYC: 3)
Miles 13, 14, 15 – 8:31, 8:31, 8:31
25k – 2:16:36 cum (25:53)
As the course led me through Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs, I sensed that the next seven miles would be a tricky mental balance for me. How to stay calm despite the crowds and the nearly two dozen turns? How to maintain my energy and drive despite my swelling fingers (a sign of dehydration) and aching quads? I decided to carry on doing my best to run the tangents while remaining as faithful as possible to my splits. It felt nearly impossible to go any faster, partly because my body was starting to feel the effects of the sun and the 60+ degree temperatures, and partly because I still could not manage my way through the pack. That sun was strong, and when I licked my lips they tasted of pure salt. Little G kept beeping our splits further and further in front of the big red arches that marked each mile; that could have been heartbreaking but I had no energy to get demoralized about it, the extra distance was just another challenge I had to run through. Somewhere around Mile 17 I did the quick math: each subsequent mile would need to be 15 seconds faster than the pace I’d been holding if I was to hit my A goal—to run under 3:45 and qualify for Boston. A ballsy goal, frankly, what having done only a few pace runs as speed training this season, but why run a race if you aren’t going to do it balls-to-the-wall? I doubted I could get my miles down to 8:15’s given the crowds and the quads, but I sure as shit was going to try my best.
Miles 16, 17, 18 – 8:58, 8:30, 8:24
30k – 2:43:13 cum (26:49)
From Miles 21 to 22, we could watch the slower runners on the other side of the road coming up through 13. I’d hoped this would be entertainment, but it ended up leaving me feeling like I hadn’t gotten anywhere at all. I was back at Mile 13! It was around this point I started praying for the next Lucozade station (my prayer sounded like this: Where the fuck is the next Lucozade station?), and telling myself pretty little lies (my lies went like this: Your legs are strong and light. You are light as air. Quads, what quads? No struggle at all for you, girl, you’re feeling great!) I took honest-to-goodness encouragement from the fact that my form wasn’t really suffering, that my lower back wasn’t in pain, my shoulders were down and my right arm wasn’t crossing my body to badly. My splits weren’t really working out for a BQ time, so now I was chewing away at my B Goal: sub 3:50, as sub as possible.
Miles 19, 20, 21 – 8:24, 8:07, 8:34
35k – 3:10:05 cum (26:52)
After this, I can drink red wine.
Dan, I love you so much. Parkinson’s sucks.
I won’t slow down, I won’t give in because when my niece is a young woman, I want to be able to tell her I didn’t quit. I want to be an example of female strength for her.
TK, you get this one chance in your life to run this course. One chance to leave your best stuff on the streets of London. Don’t let up for one second because if you do, that bitter taste will never go away.
Miles 22, 23, 24 – 8:38, 8:46, 8:27
40k – 3:37:24 cum (27:19)
All four of my Hammer gels were long gone; luckily, the last two had caffeine. The crowds along the final four miles were simply amazing. I learned from New York that I had to tune them out lest they distract and slow me, but I could still feel their excitement. I was hurting, and used everything at my disposal—every mental trick, every enticement—to keep myself on pace. For the second time that day, I was spurred on by curiosity: exactly how hard could I push myself? I gave it everything I had for Mile 26, I thought I might puke, or pee my pants. Neither happened, and I hit the lap button at 26.2, then went on to run an additional .37 miles to the finish line. I was dimly aware that I had passed Buckingham Palace, and that I was coming up The Mall. I was done with this race, I was tired of pulling up behind English men and women, I was tired of the sun stinging my face. I tried to raise my arms as I crossed the finish line but couldn’t get them up. My momentum kept me going even as I was across the mats, but the runner in front of me had stopped dead in her tracks, and I careened off her and into a third runner, who wobbled badly and went down. I quickly grabbed her left arm and someone else got her right and we gently lowered her to the ground. I was crouched and stooped and realized I couldn’t get up either. So I sat there, waiting until the medics could give me a hand up too.
Not quite the triumphant finish I’d envisioned, but at least I could stop running.
Miles 25, 26, and the last bit – 8:29, 8:17, 4:51
Official finishing time: 3:48:56, a PR by 5:45. That extra .37 of a mile took me 3:03 to run.
Once up, I shuffled my way forward through the finishers’ area. Medal. Goody bag (water, Lucozade, apple, Mars bar, crisps, jelly candy fish, and a one-size-fits-all red cotton finisher tee LDN: 3 / NYC: 4). Best apple I’ve ever eaten. Baggage claim. Mobile phone! Tweet tweeted my watch time—I still hit my B Goal and ran a new PR, so even though no BQ, I was pleased. Not ecstatic, just pleased. Back to my hotel room, feeling a bit lonely. I kind of wanted to hug someone. But the loneliness passed as soon as I pulled up friends on email, saw others had been following my splits on Twitter, and knew I could reach out to my family later over Skype. Also, the comforting thought of a celebratory high tea (replete with red wine) with TS at Palm Court assured me of quality company for a play by play of both my and the elite race.