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I have already given you my emotive, stride-by-stride race report of the London Marathon. You know where my head, heart and lungs were at during the marathon, but here are the bullets of my final thoughts. What would I have done differently, what did I learn, what did I enjoy?

THE GOOD

  • Prestige of running a World Majors course
  • Cache of running a desirable marathon
  • I set a PR
  • I ran a negative split

THE BAD

  • The course was way too crowded to be able to run my best race. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
  • The heat wore me down in the later miles
  • The tangents are a challenge; surrmountable on a sparsely populated course but non-negotiable on a crowded one

THE UGLY

  • The costumes & the cheering crowds, for me, were annoyances and distractions
  • Race tee-shirt and medal pretty lame; not enough sports drinks offered on the course; poor mobile tracking of runners for spectators.
  • I didn’t hit my A Goal (to average 8:34’s and to Boston Qualify by running under 3:45).
  • I ran nearly an extra four-tenths of a mile.

LESSONS

  • Stay Cool, Chica. The crowding definitely frustrated me, and I am pretty sure my frustration drained some of the energy I could have used for running in the later miles.
  • Mother [Nature] Knows Best. Weather will affect my performance. Manage it (hydration, proper dress, etc) as best I can and accept the effects.
  • Strong Like Bull. I’m as tough as I think I am, but tougher than I believe I am.  I’m excited to see what I can deliver next; I can be stronger (greater endurance) and faster–I know it.

RECOMENDATIONS

  • Be a tourist runner. Unless the race organizers switch to wave starts, there is no way this course crowding will improve. Expect to be hindered by your peers on the course, and don’t worry about it.
  • Carry the bottle of Lucozade with you even if you’re done with it for the moment; there won’t be another chance to get another for 5 more miles.
  • Study the course map and learn about the neighborhoods beforehand to appreciate where you’re running.

FINAL TALLY

  • LDN:  3 / NYC: 7
    (based on these haphazard criteria: website/emails; pre-race city support, ease of getting to the start; ease of passage along the course; fuel stations; characteristics of the general field of runners; finisher tee; post-race media coverage)

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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.

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Race report post to come tomorrow/Tuesday, but in the meantime, here are my official splits and stats:

START TIME 09:47:44 AM

5K 00:27:24
10K 00:54:59
15K 01:22:29
20K 01:49:43
HALF 01:55:33 (I wanted to be at the half by 1:54)
25K 02:16:36
30K 02:43:13
35K 03:10:05
40K 03:37:24

place (total) 7925 (out of nearly 35,000)
place (gender) 1319 (out of 12,101 women)
place (cat) 802 (out of 7,460 women ages 18-39)
place (nationality) 46 (out of 186 USA citizens)

FINISH time 03:48:56
(A 5:45 PR over the 2008 NYC Marathon)

Little G tells me that I ended up running an extra 0.37 miles, which took me 3:03 minutes to run.

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After two teeny runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, then two days off on Thursday and Friday, I was itching to stretch my legs this morning. Oh, the blessed normalcy of strapping on the heart rate monitor, lacing up the running shoes, tying back the pigtails. And oh, the blessed novelty of running on foreign shores, with my camera held lightly in my right hand. The plan was to return to the route I ran each morning when I was here last, about five years ago with my mom. So I walked the short distance from my hotel to the Hungerford Bridge, which would take me over the River Thames to the South Bank neighborhood and to the Thames Path. Upon alighting on the southern shore, I took off immediately (Little G, ever steadfast, displayed no confusion in finding a satellite even though I’d drug him thousands of miles and multiple time zones away from his usual network). 

I recognized every inch of the route, which is just so cool. Honestly, what’s cooler than coming to a world-class city as a visitor and knowing my way around even a corner of it? I am a runner, and apparently even my memory reflects that.  I was so happy, trotting past the Tate Modern, the Globe Theater, and finding the turnaround—the hotel from my last visit. I stopped and took a picture to send to Mom and gazed down at the rest of the route. It was so tantalizing, I longed to continue on but I knew that tomorrow would be my real running tour of the city 

I headed back towards the London Eye and marveled at how clear and friendly the signage was for a small detour in the Path. Not only was there a huge poster map with the detour clearly illustrated at the beginning and the end of the diversion, but all along the diversion there were lamppost banners with arrows directing you in the direction you should go. Surely they did this with such care because of all the tourists that traipse that strip during business hours, but New York fails in this regard – I am thinking of the horrible signs around Ground Zero and the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Just junky looking plywood walls with a few posters that give directions but no map for folks who might not know the area. 

I finished my run with a huge grin on my face. (3.27 miles ran in 30:45. Average pace 9:24; fastest mile 9:14; slowest mile 9:33.) I’d stopped plenty to take pictures along the way* but ran the last mile without interruption. Oh sure my left calf twinged and my right knee pinged and overall I thought how on earth am I going to run at race pace tomorrow? But we all know how it goes. Tonight, while I’m sleeping, the Race Fairy will come and sprinkle her dust over me, my sneakers, and my gear. I will awaken refreshed, hydrated and with a steely glint of kickass determination in my eye. Race Day Magic, Race Day Mojo—call it what you will, I’m gonna bring it.

*which I can’t post for you until I get home because I saved them on the camera’s internal drive instead of the removable SD card.

RACE DETAILS: The London Marathon starts at 9 AM for the elites, 9:45 AM for runners like me (that’s 4 AM and 4:45 AM EST). If you wish to try and track me, my bib # is 54114 and here is the link to sign up for alerts. If you wish to watch the marathon, it’s broadcast in the USA on Universal Sports or streaming anytime on UniversalSports.com (starting at 4 AM).

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In some ways, it still hasn’t sunk in that I am running the London Marathon tomorrow. A typical taper for me is filled with mercurial mood swings which include ferocious outbursts of temper and insecurity; honestly I don’t think I’ve been nearly as bad as I have for past races (Husband, you reserve the right to differ). I am grateful for that, as it has allowed me to enjoy these final days before the race–as of this writing, I will have been off work for an entire week! Since I’ve been here in London, I have been playing a little game: as I’m out & about, I try and pick out who’s running the marathon on Sunday. I’m probably mostly wrong but I know I’ve made a few correct guesses. For example, the two lean, weatherbeaten American men in rad, aerodynamic sport sunglasses in the middle of St. James Park, wearing running shoes and technical jackets? Marathoners! And how about the lanky Brit whose friend was mimicking him by saying, as she offered him some Whoppers, “If it’s not complex carbs, I don’t want it!” Oh yes, a marathoner.

Imagine the Finish Line looming up ahead.

Yesterday, I ended my afternoon wander by walking the short distance from my hotel to the finish line of the London Marathon, thinking it would be set up already (like it would be for New York). As it turns out, the finish line here is on a major thoroughfare, so they hadn’t erected the archway yet (in New York the finish line is in Central Park so they can get it up early). Nevertheless, I felt a surge of excitement as I recognized the sight lines I’ve seen before, while watching the London Marathon live on UniversalSports.com. I regarded the turn past Buckingham Palace, and the final chute to the finish line, and I blinked away tears as I told myself that these streets would be mine in less than 48 hours. While I was skulking about Buckingham Palace, I watched the guard stomp back and forth for a few laps. Poor thing, he was skinny as a rail (shocker, all that marching) and I can only imagine he’s bored to tears. Honestly, Buckingham Palace Guard must be one of the most boring jobs on the planet.

The final turn towards the finish. Buckingham Palace wld be on left.

When I looked up from my laptop, this was what I saw.

Today I am sitting in a lawn chair in St. James Park, composing this blog post on my laptop while enjoying the warm sun and refreshing breeze. There are heaps of Londoners out lounging with me, having little picnics of snacks from Tescos, napping cuddled with their beloved, or chatting in friendly circles.  I am contented, and I cannot remember the last time I felt content during a marathon taper. It’s remarkable, so I’m going to go with it. I’m not going to fret that I’ve no jitters, or that I’ve no anxiety. I know what I’ve come here to do. My training will either bear out or it won’t. Either way, I will have run the London Marathon, fulfilling a dream I’ve held for three years. It’s not often I get to fulfill a dream (I think the last dream I fulfilled was studying abroad in Italy when I was a junior in college!), since I tend to fantasize more than dream. Have no doubt, there’s no possible way I will have a bad race tomorrow.

There are a few differences I’ve noticed between the way London approaches the marathon, and the way New York does.  I came over here expecting a city in the throes of marathon madness—you’ve all seen it in New York City. The subway stations taken over with massive poster campaigns, the competing American elites plastered all over with inspiring, tough love slogans. The lamp post banners, the Poland Spring Marathon Kick-off race, the appearances by elite athletes in running shops and after sponsored group runs around the city. Mary Wittenberg’s exhortations to the city of New York to come out and cheer. But I haven’t seen any of that here. Sure, runners flood the expo, and I’ve seen signs warning folks of road closures—always with the tag line “Sorry if this causes you an inconvenience.”

As my friend TS explained it to me, there isn’t the same level of awareness and interest here about professional runners as there is in New York City; there isn’t a Mary Wittenberg personality that pushes the message to the public. This was surprising to me as I assumed that Europeans were more knowledgeable about track & field/running in general; at least based on all the amazing track meets they host all spring & summer, and on the way their announcers are much better at calling races than ours are. TS also suggested that the London Marathon isn’t as historic as New York or Boston, so it’s more about not inconveniencing (there’s that word again) the city—thus the apologies about road closures, extortions not to wee in the yards along the course, and roads getting split (half for traffic, half for runners) rather than just simply closed all the way.

Other smaller differences: there seems to be far fewer international runners in the London Marathon. My sense so far (I’ll have a better idea tomorrow when I’m on the course, naturally) is that the London Marathon doesn’t court international (regular) runners the way New York City does. When I cheer in New York I feel like there are just as many Germans and French on the course as New Yorkers. This could be due to the fact that there are so many UK charities that have athletes running on their behalf that it follows that most of the runners would be British. Oh and also, a small difference but quite an annoying one: the London Marathon website SUCKS in comparison to ours. Basic information is either buried or simply not on the site. Months ago I wanted a downloadable course map—just a course map in a PDF I could print out. Guess what? It doesn’t exist! It still doesn’t! I had to print out the spectator guide to get the entire course map. Also, their email updates are sent too frequently and are full of redundant information, primarily ad messages from sponsors and links to online “tools” that are useless to me (no I don’t want to blog on your shitty platform thankyouverymuch). How about a page with the bios of the elite runners? How about a list of events happening surrounding the marathon? How about actual, decent athlete tracking through your marathon website, not through some hidden link on the Adidas site? How about you stop asking me if I want to buy a ticket to your stupid pasta party? Oops I may have ranted. Sorry about that.

Despite the incompetent marathon website, despite Betty, despite clouds of volcanic ash, I have made it here, to London, to run my dream race. From where I sit in St. James Park, I can see and hear the lorries (ooh nativespeak!) setting up the finish line and finishers’ area. There are already blocks of port-a-johns lined up along The Mall, too. London is doing its part to lay the final bricks along the road to my destiny. Okay maybe that’s a little dramatic but MARK MY WORDS! April 25, 2010 is going to be a day I’ll remember with pride and joy, forever.

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With much less hullabaloo than I was expecting (e.g., long lines at check-in, through security & at the gate, and possible flight delays), my 9pm flight made it out across the Atlantic in time to make out 9:45 am arrival at Heathrow airport. Even getting through passport control, baggage claim and customs was easy breeze–there were no lines, no crowds. The Underground glided me serenly to Embankment, where I had to walk a mere two blocks to my perfectly-situated hotel to discover that yes my room was ready! I had time to unpack, shower and tweet all before I had to head down to the lobby to meet my friend TS for lunch. I take all of this as an auspicious lead-in to the my strongest marathon to date. (Do I sound cocky? I am just thinking, my luck won’t run out till after race day).

If yesterday was TK versus the volcano (TK 1; volcano O), today was TK versus jet lag. So far, it’s a draw. I did catch myself nodding off at the laptop just a moment ago, but I have not succumbed to a nap, not even to lying prostrate on the comfy looking bed. Lunchtime was spent with TS, dining al fresco on the opposite side of the Thames in South Bank, at a casual place called Giraffe. It was a five-minute walk over a charming footbridge which afforded views of the London Eye (from one side) and St. Paul’s Cathedral (from the other). I am delighted to be so close to this neighborhood as it means I can run Saturday’s two miles along the route I loved so much when I was here several years ago, from Borough Market to the London Eye. TS and I caught up, sharing news of heartaches of both the romantic and running kind, and pumped each other up for Sunday’s race (she will be taking photographs and cheering from the halfway mark). Then, she walked me back across the bridge and sent me on my

Entrance to the London Marathon Expo

way to the marathon expo for packet pickup. (I bought an Oyster card, which is like a MetroCard, soI can travel easily through the Underground. I like the name of this pass; it implies that with this card, I can go anywhere–the city becomes my oyster. Quite poetic.)

It took about half an hour to get to the Expo, so I continued to plow through a manuscript on my Sony Ereader. The desire to read has possessed me once again (thank god, because I am months behind in my work reading), and I plan to take full advantage of it this trip.  Finally we arrived, and as I walked into the convention center, I could feel my emotions welling up inside me. I am really here! I’m going to actually run the London Marathon! Don’t cry, don’t cry! It seemed unbelievable, yet also a tremendous relief, to be in that expo. Since it was the middle of the day on Thursday, the crowds were pretty light, and I marched right up to my window and got my bib, shoe ag, and official bag check bag. I was smiling at everyone like I’d just won the lottery, and took an awful lot of time selecting what official marathon-branded gear I would purchase. I ended up with a pair of very short shorts, and a red V-neck tech tee. I wanted the tank but it had these fancy criss-cross straps and a built-in shelf bra–sorry, but this woman wears her own sports bra to avoid making a scene, thank you very much.

I stopped by the Parkinson’s Foundation booth to say hi, since they have invited all the Team Fox runners to their Saturday evening pasta party. They have nearly 220 runners, who have raised over £200,000!! I was so gratified to hear that. I considered getting a massage at the special Asics booth, but I’d have had to lay on a massage table right out nin the open — no way was I about to let someone rub my glutes and hammies where everyone could see! Even though nothing else really caught my interest, I was reluctant to leave the expo; it was nice to be in the company of other runners, it was comforting to be among like-minded creatures. Eventually exhaustion started to settle heavily upon my and I decided it was best I leave before I started to get confused or anxious (these things happen if I get tired enough). On the way out, I grabbed a goody bag, which included a can of Fuller’s “London Pride–Outstanding Premium Ale.” Oh this is amazing, this is my kind of marathon! (If only it had been red wine, but I think I need to race in France for that.) Then, I ran into a woman who was wearing a 2007 Boston Marathon jacket, and I asked her if this was her first time running London (yes). Turns out, she is running the New York City Marathon in November, and has already run Chicago–her goal is to run the five World Marathon Majors, just like me. But guess how she got into the New York City Marathon? She time-qualified! I was impressed.

Now, after a relaxing hour in my room checking emails and blogging, I am about to head out to dinner with a dear old family friend. He calls me TAKo Belle, a nod to my initials and to my beauty wrapped up in a corny pun. He’s just that kind of guy. And then, I will tumble asleep, knowing that London awaits me in the morning.

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Magnolia 5

Now that Husband’s JV baseball season is in full swing (he coaches his high school’s team and their first game is Thursday), I am trying to get home by 6 PM each day to feed and walk Matilda. I always forget how relaxing it can be to arrive home at a decent hour, and enjoy the evening light we get in the summer. Tonight, after the dog was fed and walked and Husband had returned home, I set out for the run I missed this morning due to insomnia. The air was warm and moist, and the light was soft. I was going to keep it simple and just circle my neighborhood loop until I hit 5 miles, then walk home for salad and a shower. My feet were happy and my legs energetic. 5 miles took me 45:24. Average pace 9:04; fastest mile 8:24 (downhill); slowest mile 9:30 (uphill).

Here is the magnolia tree I wrote about on Easter. I video recorded it with my fancy new iPod nano since I didn’t have my Blackberry on me to snap a picture.

As part of my mental preparation for the London Marathon, I am compiling a playlist of songs that mention London or are about London. So far, I’ve pulled these together from my own music collection and from suggestions off Twitter. These are just in alpha order…

  • “American Boy” by Estelle
  • “God Save the Queen” by The Sex Pistols
  • “London’s Burning” by The Clash
  • “London’s Burning” covered by Silverchair
  • “London Calling” by The Clash
  • “London Still” by The Waifs
  • “Panic” by The Smiths
  • “Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones
  • “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinx

…and also suggested, but I couldn’t grab off  iTunes, were “London Girl” by the Pogues, “London Loves” and “Sunday Sunday” by Blur. What are your own favorite London songs? Maybe we can gather 26 songs.

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