But before then was the rest of the race! I had left the house at 6am to catch a train to the start. I was a little apprehensive, this was the first time I’d run London and hadn’t done the whole morning journey to the start before. In the end it was very straightforward and we were in the Championship start area with more than an hour to spare. We mustered near the start line at 9:45am ready to go. We were walked to the line as the elites were announced. The remaining minutes of calm passed quickly as we wished each other well and we were off.
It took 16 seconds to cross the start line, we were, perhaps, buried a little too deep in the championship field. Instantly being forced to wiggle and gently push our way out onto the course. The first mile was 6:18, understandable given the crowding but I wanted to push on immediately. The second mile was 6:15, getting there. Then suddenly (and I had been warned) there was an enormous downhill section that seemed to go on and on resulting in a 5:46 mile and probably doing some damage to the legs in the process. This was followed up with trying to calm myself and slow to an appropriate pace.
I crossed 10k in 37:59 and had left Matt behind in the process. I thought that was it, with Matt having ran the Paris marathon just three weeks earlier I thought he was already packing in any attempt to run near 2:40. I pushed on hopping from group to group at an even pace. The second 10k was a blur and over in 38:25, running over Tower Bridge somewhat on my own, enjoying the spectacle and the crowd support. Halfway came soon after at 1:20:38. I had already accepted that the target of 2:40 was unlikely and that if I could hold even pace that would be a great result.
Not long after halfway my legs were hurting – quite early on and a little worrying. Just as I began to let the worries get to me, Matt pops up all cheerful, “fancy meeting you here”, and ditches me as he cruised on. My leg pain took a back seat now – I couldn’t let Matt get out of sight. I held my pace even through this bad patch to find light at the end of the tunnel. The leg pain began to ease and running felt more fluid, allowing me to gradually pull Matt back. The 3rd 10k was done in 38:18, faster than the second thanks to the gradual grind to close the gap to Matt as we ran around the Isle of Dogs.
We sort of ran together for the next 4 miles with little pushes, mostly from Matt, as I tried to tuck in behind away from the wind. There were big crowds now and Matt starts showboating, throwing his arms in the air encouraging the crowd to cheer. I get involved, it’s great fun and helped take my mind off the discomfort of keeping the pace up. The crowds cheering increased and it was hard not to get carried away with the pace.
It wasn’t long until Matt pushed on and left me. The gap only grew to about 10 seconds but it looked enormous. I kept on throwing my legs out, thinking of all the miles that went into training, all the hours spent each week running and tried to speed up. Still floating some seconds behind Matt I crossed the 40k timing mat, the 4th 10k clocking in at 38:52, slowest yet but the hardest of all. With so little distance left I surged and by Westminster Bridge the gap was down to a few metres, and then to nothing as the photo near Big Ben was taken.
With just Birdcage Walk to go the race was on. We must’ve exchanged lead 3 or 4 times down the last 800m before we turned the corner onto The Mall. Matt was ahead at the corner and that was that. I saw on the clock that we were both going to be 2:42:xx and cruised across the finish line in 2:42:08, 2 seconds behind.
I felt pretty sick as I stopped, legs suddenly ceasing to function well as they always do at the end of 26 miles of racing. We quickly bumped into Axel and Charlie and managed to get a collective photo taken before we wandered off to layer up and head to the pub to meet the rest of hugely successful C&C team.
So a 2 minute PB and a thoroughly well executed race (I feel!) in an incredible atmosphere – I’ll be back to run next year!