David Appleby of Tyne Bridge Harriers takes us through his London Marathon story....
To cut a long story short, I rejoined Elswick and competed in a few road races and Harrier leagues but never went along to training sessions as they were based on the opposite side of Newcastle to me and the trip to Club nights was something of a trek. In January 2011 I became aware that a new Club, Tyne Bridge Harriers was being formed in the City. I got to know a few of the founder members at the Newcastle Parkrun and felt that their enthusiasm and positivity were just what I needed to get me back into gear and start taking my running more seriously again, particularly as I had entered the Edinburgh Marathon which was being held in May.
After I joined Tyne Bridge my training and running improved rapidly and once again I started to compete in more local races and I went into Edinburgh with two targets 1) To break 3 hrs 2) To achieve the London Good for Age qualifying time of sub 3.15. I managed a finish time of 3.02.43 despite suffering in the last 5 miles. I did at least achieve my second target of a guaranteed entry for the London Marathon in 2012.
Starting in January my training for London went pretty well, combining the usual long runs with as many races as possible. I managed to do all six Harrier league races and the Northern XC championships as key elements of my build up. My weekly mileage peaked at 70 and included my longest run of just under 25 miles, I managed this in 2.59.35 which converted to a 3.10 marathon so I was pretty confident going into the race.
I began my taper two weeks out; easing down the miles and intensity, I think, like a great many other marathon runners, I found this to be the most difficult part of the build up. I felt that I was lethargic and frustrated. Short runs were seemed a pointless irritation at this point, I persevered through the two weeks and set of for London with my wife on the Friday before the race. I had heard a few horror stories about huge queues and delays at the Expo, particularly on the Saturday. We decided to head straight to the Excel after arriving in London in order to avoid the masses on Saturday.
I woke up on the Saturday and I had decided to do an easy 20 mins jog with a few strides. I did this along Mile End Road and felt pretty good and the weather was perfect, little wind, quite cool and some cloud cover. The weather forecast for the Sunday was somewhat bleaker with rain forecast for the entire day and cool temperatures, probably ideal for runners but miserable for the spectators. The nerves had started to kick in but I actually felt good about the following day. We tried to minimise the amount of waking we did on the Saturday so went up to the Westfield Centre with the intention of going to the Cinema, I describe the Westfield as being like the Metro Centre on steroids, bigger, brasher and flasher. Unfortunately after a carb packed lunch of Chicken and Rice we managed to get our timings wrong and we would have had to wander for an hour before the film we were going to watch started. We cut our losses and called it a day to save my weary legs. Pasta and Chicken with salad for my evening meal ensured that I was well prepared and fed for the big day.
I woke at 6.00 after thinking that I wanted to get to Greenwich for at least 8.00, breakfast of porridge a slice of toast and a banana was enough, I was raring to go. Although on the Fast Good for Age start you are advised to get the overground to Blackheath. I decided to go for the DLR from Bow Church which was only a few hundred metres from where my son lives. This saved me a journey into Central London to catch the train from Charing Cross. The line from Bow Church went straight through to Greenwich, a no brainer really. The weather had been forecast to be grey wet and miserable, it was the opposite clear blue skies, brilliant sunshine but cool with a very slight breeze, it was fantastic. There were only a couple of people on the platform when I arrived but more started to file in, almost all of them with timing chips attached to their shoes. Travelling South down through Docklands more and more runners were getting on the train, in Canary Wharf it seemed like a whole German Running club got on, all wearing matching Yellow and Black tracksuits. I was starting to get the real feel for the London at this point.
Arriving at Greenwich almost the first person I saw was my TBH Club mate Mark Hall, with his family, Mark was going for sub 3hrs too, despite being injured for a couple of months. We both walked around Greenwich Park to the start pen, approaching the entrance we heard a call from behind us, it was another TBH club mate Rob Wishart along with Dave Daniels, they had made the journey on the Blyth Running Club bus. A couple of photos later, uploaded onto Twitter in seconds, we were into the Fast Good for Age area. This is actually pretty good; it is limited to a couple of thousand with plenty all important toilet provision. It is good to catch up with other North East runners including Elswick Harriers, Kev Stevenson and Graham Bell. Some stretching and pre race rituals complete, baggage loaded just after 9.00 it was a nervous wait for the start at 9.45, we were in the start pens and walked forward onto the road at about 9.20. We positioned ourselves a few rows from the start, safe in the knowledge that we would get a good uninterrupted start, but importantly not get too carried away in the day. The wait for the start all went very quickly and before we knew it the claxon was sounded, spot on 9.45. Dave had said he was going for 6.25 pace, I had set 6.45 as my target with an intention of picking up the pace in the second half, sad deluded fool that I am.
The first mile passed in a flash, 6.28, a bit quick, crowds already lining the roadside in huge numbers, I do vividly remember priests in various churches throughout Greenwich sprinkling Holy Water on runners as they passed. I was trying to hold back on my pace in these early stages, not wanting to get carried away. Second mile again a bit on the quick side 6.28 again but it all felt so easy, I was consciously holding back in every mile. Throughout these early miles the crowds were huge with fantastic support along the way. I passed 5k comfortably in 19.56 then 10k in 40.04 all of the miles feeling easy. On the approach to Cutty Sark the crowds grew and grew the noise was deafening, I turned to Mark Hall and could only swear, I had never experienced crowds or noise like it in any event I have ever done, and this was only at 10k, it was amazing. I had been running with Paul Doxford from South Shields and Mark Hall, sharing water bottles and all amazed at the atmosphere.