I was at the championship start again (for ladies that means running a sub 3.15 marathon). The biggest benefit is that there is a lower runner to toilet ratio so much shorter queues! We had a list of rules to follow about what could be worn and logos. Last year I was really good and turned my calf guards inside out as the 'compressport' logo was too big. However, loads of people were wearing them the right way round so I didn't turn them inside out this time. Slight change was that we were all being inspected so I was asked to turn them inside out.
Another benefit of the champs start is that you can keep your warm clothes on until the last minute and hand your bag in as late as possible. Another change this year was we had to be out of our congregation area and bags on lorry by 9.50 (race starts 10.10) as the gates would be locked. Due to having to sort out my calf guards and this new rule I didn't have time to go to the toilet again. I saw lots of people still queuing for the toilet and was tempted to go back in once I had handed my bag over. Lucky I didn't as the gate was locked so they had to go to the blue start.
I deliberatly lined up at the back ( we were right behind the elite men and ahead of the blue start pen ie the faster men who had not got champs start or GFA). The blue start were stopped by men linking arms but as soon as those men unlinked arms (which was before the gun went off) those men were moving forward and pushing through - so rude. The gun went off and there was more pushing and shoving from behind before I had even been able to start moving!
Another benefit of champs start is not getting held up at the start by slower people starting up front; this time I was the slower person upfront as the faster men from blue come pushing through. When the 3 hour pacer passed with his followers there was more pushing and shoving; some people need to chill a bit, it's not as if we were that much slower.
After about half a mile we join the green start so more pushing and shoving as I have effectively had a head start on these runnners as I only took 15s to cross the line so faster runners from green are behind and trying to pass. After a few miles things have settled down a bit and I am running mostly with people at my pace which makes it easier. I am running at a pace which feels comfortable - ish; hitting sub 8mm and hoping it will last as that will equate to sub 3.30 - not a PB but about the best I can hope for given what I have been doing recently.
I see Phil at around 7 miles - I knew he was there because he sent me a text which came up on my new Garmin!!! I didn't take the drink he had for me as I had managed to get water OK from the water stations - sometimes they are really crowded or they come up suddenly when you are in the middle of the road and negotiating getting to the side can be tricky.
One thing I noticed this year more than the last couple of years (when I was around 15 mins faster) is that there were a lot of water bottles in the middle of the road; why can people throw them to the side. This meant after each water station it was a bit of an obstical course for half a mile; you had to be really careful not to trip. On the topic of water stations, I noticed this year a lot more people cutting me up when coming to a water station or grabbing water and stopping dead infront of me!! I always try to get out the way once I have my water and if I don't want water i run down the middle out the way.
The miles are ticking by quite nicely; as ever the crowds are amazing and I am enjoying it more than usual due to be less obsessed with the time! I was looking forward to tower bridge (12 miles) as that is always amazing and crowds 5 deep or more; it always feels effortless as the crowds carry you so it's like a free mile! However rather oddly that mile was the first one over 8mm; i put it down to there being an incline into the bridge or perhaps getting low on energy so I took my first gel - I was going to take it at around 10 miles but had bad stitch then forgot!
The next mile was back to sub 8mm so thoughts of sub 3.30 were still on although it would be tight. I checked my watch at halfway and thought it said 1.43.30 which meant I didn't have much scope for fading which had already started happening to a small extent. When I looked at the official splits halfway was actually 1.42.51 so not sure what was going out there.
I was now making a bit more effort as I wanted to see if I could get under 3.30 although I was still not pushing as hard as I could - it was too early for that. Saw Phil again at 16 miles where I took the drinkn as I wanted the high5 zero.
At around 17 miles my left hip flexor became really tight ( I have recently been having problem with the right hip and glute so maybe that side got neglected when I was strengthening and stretching the other side). I was in quite a lot of pain which probably slowed me a little. I had some paracetamol on me but knew with all the runners around me I would have to walk or stop to get it out my belt as otherwise I would be bumping into people. Whilst 3.30 was still on I didn't want to risk stopping so told myself once 3.30 was lost then I could have the paracetamol. If I had a bigger cushion I probably would have got it too but it was tight.
By around 20 miles the pain had eased to more of a background niggle. Hit 20 in 2.38.xx and thought 52 mins for 10km sounded OK although in reality I didn't actually work out what pace I needed and it was still a long way so anything could happen. Had my second gel in the hope it might give me a final boost! I had also been drinking some of the lucosaide sport for some additional calories but as it was the orange flavour only managed a few mouthfuls each time!
By now people around me were slowing a lot or even walking and I was getting annoyed being stopping dead infront or by getting blocked on the narrow bits. I was having to look ahead quite a lot and pick out my route around people; it must have been far worse for people going faster than me because although I was overtaking a lot of people I was still being overtaken by some (see bottom right of picture) I don't remember it being this bad the last couple of years but maybe because I was 15 mins ahead so it was a bit quieter. It made me think that planning to run a negative split at london is probably not the best idea as you will be going against the masses; running at the same pace as those around is much easier and conserves energy compared to constantly dodging!
At the 23 mile marker I got my maths a bit wrong as I looked at the time and worked out how long to do the last 5km and thought it was in the bag until I realised that 23 miles was 5km + 0.1 miles!! I had pretty much forgotton the hip flexor by now and was focusing on running hard to ensure I got sub 3.30 but I was not going into that top 5th gear unless I really needed to so waited decide to wait until 25 miles to do a final assssement.
3.17.xx which meant I could do 10mm to the end. This was a didn't seem right then I realised that was the 40km time. The 25 mile seemed to take quite a while to come but it still looked OK for 3.30. This didn't mean I stopped trying but rather i didn't need to push it up a gear. It always feels good to finish a marathon strong and to be passing lots of people. 800m to go seemed to take so long to come that I thought I had mised it! I checked my watch again just to make sure I was OK!! That last 200m is always amazing when you finish strong as the crowds are going wild. I have done london where i above been dying at the end and have hated it but that was not the case this year.
Was happy to finish in 3.28.29 which whilst far from my best is about the best I could have expected.
It was nice to get a choice of T shirt size this year. I got my bag from one of the early lorries then it seemed a long walk to get out of the runnners area. Again being that bit slower had its disadvantages as it seemed a lot busier and people were walking so so slow!!! Made my way to the Macmillan recovery centre - you can sponsor me here https://www.justgiving.com/helen-james23/ where I met up with Phil had a massage some food and was able to get changed. The advantage of doing lots of marathons is that the legs hurt less. On the walk back to the train station quite a few people commented on how I didn't look like I and run as I was walking normally!