My seventh marathon of the year is done - now only three more to go! Today I ran the London Marathon and it was incredible.
The week started with the best news ever as I'm now an Uncle! My brother Joe's fiancée Kay gave birth to little Abel last Sunday and it is fair to say I am in love. He is without doubt the cutest thing I have ever seen. They are both going to make the best parents. I am definitely going to be the cool uncle!
On Monday I saw my physio Will as I was still unable to run and my calf was really painful and tight. It was without doubt the best £30 I have ever spent in my life!! Turns out I had some nerve problems behind my knee and after he worked it hard, miraculously I was as good as new on Tuesday!
I ran 10 miles around the River Deben, then ran 9 miles Wednesday morning in Rendlesham Forest, 5 miles Wednesday night, 6 miles Thursday morning & 7 miles Thursday night. I really couldn't believe how quickly things had turned around. Being back out on the trails made me see just how much I missed running in the beautiful Suffolk scenery.
I beat the worst of the rush by registering at the Expo on Friday afternoon and rested up Friday night at my girlfriend's house in Ealing. We went for a shakeout jog on Saturday morning in Hyde Park and it was glorious. I had the mother of all carb loads with lunch at Wagamama with friends and then pasta, bagels & popcorn in the evening and felt ready to go.
Right on to the marathon! The alarm went off at 5:25am and I had a toasted bagel with jam, two Eat Natural bars and a litre bottle of High5 Isotonic. I had to then catch the tube for an hour or so from Northfields to Tower Hill where I met my training buddies Matt, Will & Coxy. I bought myself two shiny new rolls of K-tape. However I then realised en route that I had no scissors - yes I had a shocker. It meant I spent the DLR journey to Greenwich taping up my feet with Rock Tape which Coxy kindly donated - it had a union jack pattern which felt like a good omen for a jog round the capital..
Matt, Will & I were starting from the Championship start which is for anyone who has qualified with a time of 2:45 for men & 3:15 for women. It is nothing special really - just a couple of marquees and free lucozade, water, tea etc but it does feel like you are there for business as everyone is pretty rapid! The warm-up area this year was pretty terrible, just a tiny patch of road littered with hundreds of runners.
But we warm-up next to the elites, so it was very cool running a few metres away from legends like Bekele (10k WR-holder), Kipsang (past winner), Kimmetto (WR-holder) and Kipchoge (winner in 2015 & again this year). In fact, I saw Dennis Kimmetto asking someone for instructions on how to use his watch!
It was a weird feeling for me as I was standing on the start line with absolutely no race plan! Last week I said I'd pace sub 4:00. Then obviously my injuries vanished. Midweek I was saying 3:30. By Saturday it was 3:15-3:00. Then pre-race it was sub 3:00. And after a mile it was sub 2:50. I know what your thinking - yep I'm a nightmare! You now see why I no longer have a coach..
I went off at 6:40 min/mile ish pace and my legs felt dreamy. The crowds were even bigger than I remember and I have to say I was so up for it. My legs were so full of running after weeks of cycling and resting. I got to the Cutty Sark and all the boys from Suffolk gave me a huge cheer, which was awesome!
Running over Tower Bridge between 12-13 miles is always incredible and I definitely got goosebumps. In my head at this point I was doing maths trying to work out what time I was going to run. I got to halfway in 1:25:32 and challenged myself to try and run sub 2:50, which meant running a 1:24 second half. I knew there was a headwind towards the end of the course but I definitely fancied my chances.
I upped the pace to around 6:18-6:22 ish and thought I'd see how long the legs would last. I've done such little running this year I knew I'd cramp up, but thought I'd give it a go. There was a bizarre new U-turn due to roadworks which sucked. But I got to mile 20 feeling like a Rolls Royce, got a big cheer from my Mum & Step-Dad and just ploughed on.
I felt a bit sick, and then was actually sick, which explains why I felt sick! Proper yellow. To save time though I just threw up in my mouth and spat it out so I didn't have to stop! But most of it blew on my hands and shorts because of the wind, which was hilarious! Running marathons is definitely not pretty. I think I had my gels too close together (miles 5, 10 & 15). But my friend and running coaching hero Tommy Craggs who I met at the Helsinki Half Marathon last year in Finland gave me an epic high five at mile 23 which was just what I needed.
Sorry to everyone who cheered me along the Embankment. Loads of people shouted "Go Tom!" but I was real hot and was just trying not to throw up or get injured :-) I got to mile 25 near Big Ben and worked out I had around 8 minutes & 30 seconds to get to the finish in 2:49, so it was pretty close, but I spotted my friends Ant & Natalie which roared me on and I was able to maintain pace so I could enjoy the view of Buckingham Palace and cruise to the finish line.
My official time was 2:49:46, meaning I ran a negative split by a minute or so. You can view my race stats here. My time may well be over 15 minutes slower than my PB, but I was (and still am) flipping delighted. Without giving you the sob story, I genuinely couldn't run on Monday so I never would've believed you if you'd told me I would run a pain-free 2:49 negative split six days later in the biggest race in the world.
It certainly ranks as one of my greatest and proudest achievements. I already have a qualifying time for 2017 so I will definitely be running again next year- London is undoubtedly the best marathon in the world. It was quite emotional meeting up with my family & girlfriend who lugged my huge North Face bag around all day! I met Will, Matt and Coxy in Horse Guard's Parade - Will & Matt ran 2:43 and 2:42 respectively and Coxy smashed his PB to run 2:57 whilst battling cramp and plantar fasciaitis so I was totally made up for the boys!
I celebrated by demolishing a large meat feast pizza, two portions of chips and two protein shakes. The waitress in Prezzo couldn't quite understand that, yes I did want two bowls of chips, and yes, they were both for me. I'm still eating now as I'm writing this - literally can't get enough grub in my gob! I have also realised that my face is sunburnt like a tomato and I have a horrific vest and arm warmer tan! I look ridiculous.
Congratulations to everyone else who ran. You can now call yourself marathon runners and nobody can ever take that away from you. Well, unless you cheated (like that scumbag last year) in which case we are no longer friends. Having now run my third marathon in the last four weeks, seventh of the year and thirteenth of my life, I've now got the longest break between races of my challenge so far - three weeks!
Next up is my hometown race at the Woodbridge 10k on May 15th, then marathon numbers 8 and 9 are the Richmond Park Marathon on Sunday 22nd May followed by the Edinburgh Marathon a week later on Sunday 29th May. The plan is to rest up, get some hard training in and use the two marathons as training runs ready for a crack at winning Man v Horse in June. I'm also looking at the Frankfurt Marathon in October so I can try and break my PB from Berlin last year!
Thanks again for all your support. Don't listen to what they're saying about you - you're alright really. I am now only £30 off doubling my original £1,000 target for Beat - you can sponsor me here at www.justgiving.com/TomRunsTen if you like? See you at the same time next week - I'm off to find some more food..
I am running ten marathons to raise money for Beat, the UK's leading eating disorder charity. You can follow me on Twitter here, on Instagram here, or on Facebook here. You can also sponsor me via my Justgiving page here. Thank you!