Last minute London Marathon tips from a reluctant first-timer

Reporter Martin George finished the race in six hours. Reporter Martin George finished the race in six hours.

Friday, April 11, 2014
9:45 AM

I have always been a reluctant runner, but have also always wanted to say I have run the London Marathon, so I felt a mix of dread and destiny calling when an email in October 2012 told me I had a place in the following year’s event.

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It consigned me to six months of ever-lengthening runs through the winter rain and snow, but although my training didn’t always go to plan, my excitement was stronger than my apprehension when I finally took my place at the back of the field in Blackheath. It had been a strange few days following the Boston Marathon bombing.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the first 13 miles: high-fives from kids in Lewisham, Japanese drums near mile six, strangers reading my name off my T-shirt and shouting support. When I crossed Tower Bridge I couldn’t help grinning - it was a sight I remembered from childhood TV coverage. I even kept tweeting, and the replies gave me a huge boost.

For me, the second half was the true challenge. The crowds and other runners thinned out around Canary Wharf, the wind seemed colder, my knees hurt and I was entering unknown territory. The doubt set in.

Mile 23 was the turning point - I finally knew I would complete the course, and from no-where tears welled up in my eyes. Soon after a banner overhead read: “Run if you can. Walk if you must. But finish for Boston.” I did.

As a runner who failed to crack the six hour barrier, I don’t have any athletic tips to pass on. But do write your name on your T-shirt. Be aware your running app can mislead you about your pace. And do soak up the atmosphere, it’s great. Come Monday I will be entering the ballot for 2015, and I still don’t like running.

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