May is off to a running start…I started a brand-new job that I’m really excited about, and I’ve had a ton of running adventures in the past month. I have been extremely fortunate the past two years to have been able to run races all over the world and in various states: Tokyo, Vancouver, California, Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Hawaii and more. I am capping it off with London as my last big hurrah before buckling down and focusing on career and more local races.
So I went to sleep on the eve of the London Marathon (4/20) around 11:30pm. I stayed at the Palmer’s Lodge in Swiss Cottage (a great hostel, by the way), and it was great because I stayed there in 2008. It was cool to return to a place I stayed in my youth! (Yeah I’m still young…I know) I stayed in a 14-bed girls’ dorm and I felt bad to be coughing before I fell asleep, but no one was mean about it or anything. I slept for about 7 hours and when I woke up, I still only felt about 70% but tried to make the best of it. I was still really happy to be there and my goal was to just finish, be happy, and not go to the hospital!
I got some encouraging words from my fellow hostel-mates, who saw my runner’s bib and wished me luck. That’s why I don’t mind staying in hostels–I like the interactions and people are really nice. I saw a girl named Heather at the hostel in a volunteer jacket, and she said she would be working at the finish line! I promised to keep an eye out for her. The 10am start time meant that I was able to wake up at 7am and had until 8am to leave and take the Tube. All London Marathon participants got free Tube access from 7am-5pm on race day, just by showing their bibs! It was a nice little perk.
On the way, I met a brother-sister pair named Sara and James at the Swiss Cottage Tube station, and we chatted about the marathon and wished each other luck. I love the way the Brits pronounce “Marathon” as “Marathin.” If you ever watch the hilarious movie “Run Fatboy Run,” you will know what I am talking about. I also met a volunteer who was really excited to be handing out medals at the finish line.
So we got off at Greenwich station, and it was a 15-20 minute walk to the start area. I was in the Red “mass” start. The weather was perfectly beautiful–50s in the morning, but reaching about 70s and sunny the whole time. I actually overdressed, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
I sported my Marathon Beasts warm-up jacket (thanks Leong!), my Oakley sunglasses, Marathon Maniacs singlet, and a black ribbon and “We are All Boston Marathoners” back bib to remind me who I was running for. It was a day of solidarity, to show the world that marathoners are not afraid.
Amazingly enough, even with 35,000 runners milling about, my friend Trent (aka Marathon Man) from Australia managed to find me in the crowd, with no phone!! He didn’t even know I was running the race! That is race day magic, folks. That gave me a little boost of happiness and confidence to see a familiar face.
At 9:58am, the entire crowd of runners fell silent for 30 seconds to mark a moment of silence for the Boston Marathon bombing victims. It was very powerful, knowing that the whole world was watching. Then, the starting gun went off, and off we were sent into the streets of London. Spectators filled the streets and the energy was electric! I even got to see my friend/coworker Gail as we were running at the start!
There were a ton of costumed runners and little kids cheering and giving high fives. I saw Scooby Doo, a camel, a bumblebee, and a beer bottle, just to name a few. At the London Tower Bridge (mile 12), I got passed by the beer bottle…womp womp.
It must be so hot to run in costume…
I asked a kind spectator to take a photo for me…lest I forget the moment…
The London Bridge was towering and majestic, and I was incredibly lucky to be running through it. I even got to see my fast running buddies Stuart and Adam coming up on mile 23 once I reached the 13 mile mark. I screamed their names and they acknowledged me (they’re both sub-2:55 marathoners). Incredible.
They served Lucozade and water on course…Lucozade is like a version of Gatorade, but a bit more tart. I had to dilute it with water. It’s very hard to gain entry into the Virgin London Marathon, so about 90% of the field are charity runners. I was one of the few without a charity singlet. I later learned that they only accept about 5,500 international entrants. I got my entry from my former employer, so I was one of the lucky ones. If you ever get a chance to run, do it!! It is one of the World Marathon Majors, part of a “grand slam” of big-city marathons. The spectators are incredible…about 700,000 showed up to cheer that day but it felt like more. I wrote my name on my singlet and got many cheers of “Go Lisa!”
Here’s a view of Cutty Sark, a beautiful historical boat that we ran by. Absolutely stunning. There were a lot of spectators that were handing out gummy bears, orange slices, and bananas. I gratefully accepted, especially the gummy bears! I was so glad I wore a hat–it was really hot that day.
I was feeling pretty good through the halfway point, and then I started feeling a bit lethargic and sluggish from the heat. The first 3 miles my throat felt like sandpaper, despite carrying a small Lucozade bottle and hydrating along the way. Although I wasn’t supposed to have a time goal (taking it easy because of being sick), I really wanted to finish under 5 hours. I ran a good first half and thought of all the people cheering me on and tracking me back at home. I thought of my brave friends who ran the Boston Marathon, and I thought of the Boston Marathon bombing victims who had so much taken away from them. That made me forget any discomfort I was feeling at the moment.
As much as I wanted to reach the finish line, it was such an exhilarating race I almost didn’t want it to be over. The scenery was gorgeous and millions of pounds were being raised for charity. One of my favorite places was the “downtown” area with a lot of big office buildings…sometime after mile 18. There were so many spectators and it reminded me of the Chicago Marathon.
When I saw Big Ben and the London Eye, I knew that we were close to the finish at Buckingham Palace. I was hurting, and I knew that I wanted to reach the finish line ASAP.
My friend and old college roommate Nicholette said she would be waiting for me near the finish line, so I was scanning the crowds for her face. I knew that it would be hard to spot her, and figured I would meet her in the family reunion area. I glanced at my watch and saw that I could finish under 4:55 if I really pushed it. This was a difficult marathon for me and I felt like a newbie all over again. I embraced that feeling though–marathons are never easy, and it’s how we deal with the tough ones that we realize what we are really made of.
I crossed the finish in 4:54:43, overwhelmed by emotion and feeling spent, but victorious.
Here were my final results:
Net time: 4:54:43
Overall place: 23345/34202
Age group: 3986, F18-39
At the finish line, I gratefully accepted my medal and started to wander about looking for my bag and trying to find a way to reach Nicholette.
Soon after, I spotted the new friend I made at the hostel this morning, Heather the volunteer!! She was at a table on the left and I happened to cross the finish line on my left. Race day magic again! She let me borrow her phone (my iPhone was useless in London) so I could make a quick phone call to Nicholette. Thanks, Heather! Later, I learned that she traveled all the way from Cambridge (a 1 hr regional train ride away) just to volunteer. People are amazing–thank you to all the volunteers.
(Me and Heather.)
Everyone got a finisher food bag with goodies in it, including a heat Mylar blanket and a one-size fits all (??) cotton red “finisher” t-shirt. It was ginormous on me…glad I bought some Adidas gear at the expo. I’ll use it as a nightgown…that is the only bad thing about this marathon–the shirt isn’t really wearable.
I found Nicholette at the finish line–it meant so much to me to have her there! I was still wobbly on my feet, but we tried to get out of the family reunion area ASAP, and I stopped in my tracks for ice cream! I got a delicious ice cream cone as my first post-race food. Mm-mmm good!
Before an early dinner (it was 3pm when I finished), Nicholette and I met up with Paola and I ate some mushroom soup at Pret a Manger. We also shopped around at Covent Garden, where I went to Tea Palace, the Apple Store, and even the Moomin (book character) store!
I was a bit disoriented and I hadn’t had lunch, so a 5:30pm dinner sounded a-ok to me. I also had an appointment for the one touristy thing I was going to do: ride the London Eye at 8:00pm.
Nicholette, Paola and I decided on Wahaca, a modern Mexican place.
I ordered a spicy chicken burrito, coffee, and of course, churros con chocolate with dessert. I devoured it all–so yummy!
Thanks Nicholette and Paola, for hanging out with me post-race! As the sun was setting, I made my way to the London Eye. The Thames River was gorgeous at dusk. Many passersby congratulated me on my run after seeing my medal.
I got there with enough time to spare before my 8:00pm “flight time” on the world’s largest observation wheel. Sure, it was expensive (about $24) but I couldn’t think of a better leisurely sedentary activity to cap off my trip. I went on it once in 2008 and loved it. This time, they included a 4-D movie experience with price of admission. Sweet!
And up we went!
There were about 10 other people in my observation capsule, and everyone helped each other take photos. A man proposed to his girlfriend in our capsule, and she said yes! It was so sweet, and it was even more magical as the sun set.
London, you have been good to me. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.