Sarah's London Marathon Write Up; 15 minute PB

On 24th April 2016 I took on my 5th Marathon - my 3rd London.

After having spent most of 2015 out through injury and missing London last year, I really wanted to

have a good run this year. Training in 2015 was about getting back as much fitness as possible. In

January 2016 I started VMLM training. A group of friends were doing their long training runs on

Sunday mornings and invited me along to join them. The pace was slower than I wanted, I wanted to

train at the pace I was to run London in but it was nice to be able to train with others and have the

company. After a few weeks I was preferring the slower longer runs and I was pushing myself on my

Thursday runs to keep up my speed and I was also doing interval sessions once a week.

I had a few events entered before VMLM, Bramley 20, Wokingham half and Reading Half. Bramley

20 was a training run; the aim was to run at about 8min miles with a friend. It was two 10 mile laps;

a course I have done once previously. I finished in 2.38 and it was the first time I realised that I was

on track to having a good race at London. A week later and it was Wokingham half Marathon, this

was completely different to Bramley there were seriously strong winds and I wasn’t sure what

approach to take, I decided to run and see how I felt. The first 5 miles were great then the race

turned into a headwind, at that point I decided to drop my pace back down to marathon pace and

not push myself through the tough winds out there, having 20 miles in my legs from the week before

I knew that pushing myself wouldn’t be the best idea. After Wokingham I brought in a bit more cross

training with Swimming and cycling, I had to start thinking about Staffordshire half ironman as well

as VMLM. Over the next two weeks’ things felt good so decided to enter Cranleigh 21 as the real test

run for London, I had a plan to try and run between 7.50-8.00min miles. It all went to plan and came

in with an average pace 7.48, I didn’t struggle with any part of the run and it gave me the final bit of

confidence that A, I was over my injury and B, I was well on track to hit VMLM in the best shape.

Reading half marathon was a couple of weeks later and I PB’d there, only by about 20 seconds but a

PB is a PB right? 3 weeks until VMLM and the start of my 10-week ironman training plan with Steve

Mott at Streamline Coaching. This is where real structure comes in, not just running x amount of

miles. I really have to start thinking about what I’m doing now. The new plan is great I really enjoy

the mix of sessions, the swimming and cycling are helping to give my legs a rest with tapering for

VMLM while keeping the intensity and frequency of training there.

Knowing how I got on at Cranleigh I start thinking seriously about how in going to play it at VMLM,

I’m on course to do a 3:30 race but I also know that in a marathon you inevitably run further than

the 26.2 -especially in London, you can’t stick to the blue line the whole way, In the previous two

London marathons I have run an extra half a mile or so which works out to be about 4 mins, I knew

that I would have to run quicker than the 3:30 pace, I would aim to run at 3:25 pace this would give

me a good chance to hit plan. I plan my nutrition for the race gels at 5, 10, 15, 19 & 23 miles, I’ll take

on a little bit of water at each station, I can’t run without hydration and if it’s hot I’ll need to be

chucking it over my head too, I’d rather take it at every opportunity rather than miss it and suffer. I’ll

also break the distance down into segments giving me points to focus on.

Sunday 24 th comes round and I’m feeling good, the legs feel great and there are no niggles but I have

two concerns, the first is the weather, if it’s too hot its game over for me I don’t do running in the

heat, the second is that VMLM is notorious for ‘the wheels falling off’, People put too much pressure

on themselves so I had been telling people that I was aiming for 3:45 to get my good for age place. If

I get that I’m happy but I know that the real aim is 3:30 for me. The weather is perfect for me, nice

and cool. We head to the start on a coach at stupid o’clock in the morning, I have breakfast on the

coach-porridge the good old staple carb loaded breakfast. At the start we have a wait for a couple of

hours before we have to put our kitbags on the lorries and head to the start, I have 4 wee’s (one

literally just before I head to the start), while standing in the crowd and waiting for the start I need

another wee.

I have my headphones with me to listen to music round the course, the first song I have on is the

London Marathon theme tune which gives me that excited proud feeling that I’m about to embark

on the 26.2 (plus a little extra) miles that is The London Marathon. I’m ready to get on with it, I want

to get going, I don’t hear the count down because the crowd is noisy, I know we are on the way

when start moving forward. I get to the start line and start the Garmin, it’s a slow start and at about

700m we actually come to a stop-come on people I need to get going I have a time I to chase. The

blue and green start merge and I see a club mate about 10metres in front of me, I catch him and

have a quick chat, then I see two more friends ahead, no I’m not going to catch them up, if I do I

could ruin my plan as I’ll try and stay with them so I let them go. My first mile is slow and I tell myself

I need to make it up but instead of trying to make it up in the next mile I’ll try and make it up

through the next 25 miles. I need a wee but there’s a queue for the toilets so I carry on, the next

mile I make up a few seconds and mile 3 is a quick one and I’m back to the 7.49 average pace I need,

I still need a wee but all the toilets are busy so again I carry on, I keep telling myself to stick to blue

line as much as I can, I’m feeling really good, 5miles in, pace is right still feeling good this is my first

gel point, 10k in the first milestone and I still need a wee…. Through Cutty Sark and the obligatory

wave at the camera there. Next point I’m looking towards is mile 10, gel on board and my pace has

got quicker only a second per mile but it’s still feeling good. Mile 12 is around the mark my family

will be there, trying to pick them out in the crowd was tough, constantly looking left and right trying

to spot them, then I see my Auntie on the right and my son right at the edge of the pavement, I stop

and give my son a quick kiss and then I’m gone, just up round the corner is the Iconic Tower Bridge, I

love coming round that corner to see the bridge, it reminds me of when I did the London Mini

marathon as a child as that’s where the Mini Marathon started, I can feel the smile on my face

beaming as it comes in to sight. Over the bridge and turn right and I’m almost at the half way point, I

haven’t gained as much distance as I thought at this point so I’m ahead of where I need to be. At

mile 15 another gel and still the pace is right, only 11 miles to go, at 16 miles I’m still on track and

only 10 miles now, not long until I’m into single figure count down. I’m feeling really strong but I stay

with my pace. I think by now I have taken another second off my average pace. By the time I get to

20 miles I’m feeling even stronger, I can see a club mate ahead of me and that gives me even more

confidence, I’m telling myself I am strong, I’m feeling good, I only have 10k to do now, by now I am

passing people all the time, I’m sticking to the blue line there are less people around me and at the

point where most people are ‘hitting the wall’ I am pushing on. At 21 miles I see my family again, a

boost to keep me going strong. Only 5 miles left, not only that I still haven’t gained much extra

distance so I am well within 3:30 now. I come round to the point where we see the people going in

the opposite direction at mile 14 and that’s another boost, mile 22 done, I’m now on the last leg,

one straight road down to Big Ben, this long straight from here just after mile 22 takes you through a

couple of underpasses with steep slopes up, this year they aren’t anywhere near as hard as before,

gel at mile 23 I’m still picking people off as I go. Mile 24-hang on a minute, erm, I am well inside 3:30

now in fact I’m on for 3:25 now. Ok no hanging around push as much as you can without killing

yourself before the finish. 25miles done just over a mile to go now, I can see Big Ben, I’m feeling a bit

emotional, I love the feeling of turning onto Birdcage Walk, I turn right and I up my pace, 800m to

go, don’t get carried away with yourself yet Sarah just ease it up a bit, 600m a little quicker, 400m a

little quicker again, round the corner in front on Buckingham palace then right again, the finish is

there I look at my watch, OH MY GOD I can sub 3:24 here, push push push. As I do I see a lady being

carried by a guy in front, I can’t let him do that by himself I have to help them, just as I think this two

guys a lot bigger than me come to the rescue and help her, thank god I’m not sure I would have had

the energy to help, I pass them just before the finish line, over the line I go and hit the Garmin.

3:23:53 by my watch. At the finish line there are a whole host of club mates there all waiting with

open arms, huge sweaty cuddles and I get my medal from a club mate too... such a great feeling

having them there.

Virgin Money London Marathon official time 3:23:52 Bosh, get in there, another PB in the bag by 15

minutes- I SMASHED IT!