My First London Marathon

What an amazing day!

by Clive Walker in Life

Me [centre] and other runners in front of Buckingham Palace
Me [centre] and other runners in front of Buckingham Palace

I was (very) lucky to receive a ballot place for the 2024 London Marathon. A few weeks ago, on 21st April, I ran London for the first time. It was a fantastic day, the crowd support was incredible, and it's something I will never forget.

My finishing time was 4 hours 40 minutes and 2 seconds. That's a 6 minute PB over my Brighton Marathon time. I expected and hoped to finish a bit quicker based on my training runs but the last 6 miles (10 km), as everyone says, were as tough as I remembered. I had to walk more than I wanted. However, I ran it better than Brighton and minimised the walking sections as much as possible. Overall, I ran the race to plan. Start conservatively at 10 minutes per mile pace and get to 18-20 miles. Then, manage the final 6 miles as best I could. 

Overall, I ran the race to plan. Start conservatively...

From the start on Blackheath to the finish on The Mall near Buckingham Palace, we had ideal weather conditions. It was a dry and cool Spring day. Perfect! 

I won't describe the entire route but here are my highlights (and personal low points).

The first half of the race

The first section of the route seems to go by in a flash and I was able to spot some fellow Horsham Joggers and friends in the crowd. What a boost that was. We reached the first iconic point of the race, the Cutty Sark ship at Greenwich, and the noise from the crowd was incredible. I think because the route narrows, and the crowd is about six deep at that point, the noise was intense. What a feeling it was to run through there!

Next, at the 12 mile point of the race, it was Tower Bridge! Again, there were lot of people there and the noise was deafening. Having watched it on TV over many years, I couldn't quite believe that I was actually running over the Bridge.

Me [centre] with Tower Bridge in the background.
Me [centre] with Tower Bridge in the background.

Starting to feel it

After Tower Bridge, the next section was the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf. This is where I started to feel weaker. I was taking a gel every 30 minutes up to this point and drinking water at every water support stop but I felt a bit bleurgh at miles 15-16. I'm not completely sure why. But my heart rate felt higher and I was dehydrated I'm certain. I slowed down to take on more water at one of the water stations. Then I walked a bit. Ugh, I was hoping to avoid walking for a bit longer than that. Luckily, I started running again and saw some running club friends in the crowd which lifted me. From this point, I felt like I had to hold on to a water bottle so that I could sip more often.

The last 10 km

My legs (mainly) started to hurt at about 18 miles, although I reached that point very close to what I planned, but I was run/walking by then. I tried hard to avoid walking for more than a minute at a time but that was so tough to do. I saw some more friends in the crowd at 22 miles and high-fived them and I ran that section .... just so they wouldn't see me walking ... but this was a very hard point of the race for me. I tried to keep the walking breaks as short as I could. I was determined to run this section better than Brighton Marathon. And I did that. 

This was a very hard point of the race for me.

Me [right] with less than a mile to go
Me [right] with less than a mile to go

The last mile

The last mile was on me now and I was very pleased to only walk once during this period. Granted, I was only jogging slowly ... but jogging is running! I had anticipated that the final corner would reveal a long straight section (that's what it looks like on TV!) but it was shorter than I expected and I crossed the line with lots of others at about 3.30 pm (having started at 10.51 am).

Me with London Marathon finisher's medal
Me with London Marathon finisher's medal

A fantastic day

Yes, those last 6 miles were bloody tough and I missed my (optimistic?) estimated time. However, I was 6 minutes faster than my previous marathon so I'll take that! Overall, I ran the first 18 miles of the race to my plan and managed the final section better than before. I have learned a lot more about marathon running!

The crowds on the day were immense. There wasn't a single spot on the route without people shouting encouragement. And at some points, the noise was incredible. Thank you to everyone who was there on the day!

I will run another marathon I'm sure. I think I have used up all my luck with the London ballot but I have seen some other races that look great for next year :-)

Thank you

Massive thanks to everyone who contributed to my fundraising page.

Thanks to Horsham Joggers for the Sunday group runs.

Thank you James Tombs for my coaching plan and for answering all the questions that I had.

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