The London Marathon returned to the streets of the Capital on Sunday 3rd October, 889 days (or so) since it was last run due to the pandemic.
4 lucky harriers joined the start line with 50000 others on the 26.2 mile central London course, with 1000s of others running the event virtually. Due to the race starting in waves, based on expected finishing time, there was not much chance of catching up at the Greenwich start, where conditions were near perfect after a bout of very heavy rain the day/night before.
The elite athletes led the way followed by the mass race. I was in Blue Wave 3 and arrived at a chilly Blackheath (wrapped in bin bags) at a very early 8:15 for a 9:40 start. There was lots of milling around, with obviously nervous runners wanting to just get started, but there was decent entertainment laid on to occupy us all while waiting in the long toilet queues. At 9:22, Blue Wave 3 were called forward. I discarded my fetching bin bag and old Gap jumper, took one last sip of water and waited to get started. At 9:40 (on the dot) we were called forward to the start line and we were straight off into the cool sunshine, with the crowds already 3-4 deep and providing great encouragement and support. Tip, do not wear headphones at the London marathon, you really want to savour the atmosphere and support.
From the start in Blackheath, the route heads east through Charlton and Woolwich for three miles where the local support was excellent, with many opting to play music from their gardens, included amongst them was a karaoke! Mile 3 was where all the waves merged for the first time on the route, so things got a little busy here, but to major issues. We then turned west to pass through Greenwich and Deptford, looping around the Cutty Sark between six and seven miles, where the roars from the crowd were deafening. We then crossed the River Thames at Tower Bridge, where many of the charities have their cheerleaders, so the crowds are high here and the encouragement just brilliant. At this point I was feeling strong, with the race going to plan and only slightly below target pace. Just before halfway the route circles through Mudchute and Docklands at Canary Wharf at mile 20, where the race really starts, before coursing west again along The Highway at mile 22. This is where all of a sudden I experienced extreme cramp in the right leg then the left a few 100 yards later. Thankfully, after stopping for a bit to stretch out both hamstrings, I was able to carry on but at a much slower pace! There were lots of runners in the same predicament , with all determined to push on to the finish line. The route proceeded through Tower Hill and Victoria Embankment to Parliament Square. Again the crowds at Embankment were 10 deep and you really felt like you were in a real proper race, with the noise and encouragement much needed as the very hard last few miles kicked in. After Embankment, we then race through Birdcage Walk and the final corner in front of Buckingham Palace, for that sprint to the iconic finish!
After getting medals, water, some much needed sustenance and after a quick stretch, runners dispersed (no hanging around this year due to Covid restrictions) to the nearest pub, restaurant or tube station to reflect on a brilliant day!
Alan Murray finished in 3:42:54, a miracle after cramping at mile 22. Next across the line was Kevin Spowart, a very late entrant and running his first London, in a brilliant time of 3:43:10, super work Kevin. Next across the line was Gail Murdoch a veteran of these race due to her good for age times, also in a excellent time of 3:48:49, after she also experienced bad cramp from mile 24 onwards but soldiered on like the trooper she is. Finally Andy Spence, running the event in his now customary Buzz Lightyear outfit finished in 4:35:26, again raising funds for charity, well done Andy. All Harriers placed really well, both overall and in their age categories.
With the triumphant return of the mass race after a Covid hiatus, some runners had been waiting for their chance to run London for two and a half years, I am sure everyone loved every minute of what was an awesome event, really well organised with the changes due to Covid managed brilliantly.
Oh and the ballot for October 2022 is now open!