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London Calling - Dan Burgess shares his London Marathon Musings.

Londons Calling

The London Marathon,It's the race I've been trying to run for twenty odd years, the one every non runner always says - "ah your a runner are you? have you run the London Marathon then?" and when you reply with "no, but I have run ...." you can see them visibly becoming dis-interested and dismissing you as rubbish. Therefore, although I honestly am not a keen racer and definitely not a keen road racer, every year I've diligently entered the ballot in April in the hope of securing a place. A few months later when ballot results are announced and it's with a certain amount of trepidation when you check you're email to see if you have been successful ... or more likely NOT! Totton Running Club then brings a second chance to those unsuccessful to enter a club ballot for one of the guaranteed places given to the club. El President Rob Barlow has kindly pulled my name out of the hat twice in the last three years and this has resulted in me scoring a place to run London again. Just to be quite clear I promise there was no bribery involved and everyone else in the club ballot will be pleased to hear my name definitely won't be in the ballot next year!

Then this is the moment it all starts - training plans and running. I'm not a great fan of schedules and plans, I much prefer the more relaxed approach to see what fits within a general trend of running a total of more than marathon distance each week with a gradually increasing in distance long run, however I was keen to learn from last time and attempt to fix some of my training shortcomings - not enough speed work, not enough of my runs on the road. Training went well in the most part and according to my 'plan' but half term and then an unexpected ski holiday (can't complain about that, it's altitude training right?) scuppered the last few long runs.

Bam - It's here - Taper time! One week to go - arrgghhhh!! I'm not ready! I'm injured! I hate running! I need to do more training! I want it over with. I never want to run again! I can't wait! Shall I defer? Good gawd how am I going to sit still at my desk and not exercise for a WHOLE week? just one little run won't hurt will it?

Sunday 20th April: 5:30am. It's early, I don't do early, mornings don't exist before 7am and here's me up at 5:30 making coffee and toast in my totton shirt with my number pinned to it. Madness. I'd elected not to book a hotel in London this time as they are darned expensive on your own, instead I'd come up with the plan of driving to Richmond (Old Deer Car park) and getting the tube to the start (the trains from Southampton don't start early enough). Maranoia really had set in now, would the M3 be shut, would there be a parking space, would I find the tube station. So on the road at 6am and parked up in an empty car park (you'd of been proud of me Neil and Kirsty, I was definitely the first runner parked up!) and a short wander to the tube to catch the first one of the day. I was obviously early as the guy on the tube gates had no idea about free travel for runners, but he was soon educated and then a few more runners began appearing on the platform. I joined the masses of runners at Charring Cross trying to get to the start (another lesson learnt from last time - get on the overground to the start at the earliest station possible you can't believe the number of runners trying to get on the trains) and got the train to Maze Hill; nope I had not idea where that was either; and wandered up the hill to the green start. Last time I was in Blue start and it was a spacious fenced off field with half the nations supply of porta-loos, this time I was in Green and it was more of a paddock with a token number of toilets. The queues for the loos were amazing stretching all the way across the paddock and back again. For those that don't know (I didn't) there are actually 4 start lines for London Red,Blue,Yellow and Green which all join up in the first few miles, Each start also then has multiple waves of starts lasting over an hour to try and spread people out with a spread of paces within a wave but nominally the faster you predict the earlier wave you will start in.

Sunday 20th April: 10:00am. Race time, I'm in my start pen with hundreds of other runners, v.excited, then the gate was opened we walked towards the start and were immediately running, wahoooo! we were off, time to put my race plan into action! Yes, ye of little faith I had a plan! I had discovered at the show when picking up my race number that there were pacers in my wave running at 3:30,3:25 and 3:20. Perfect. All I had to do was run along with the 3:30 pacer and I'd get a time I'd be chuffed with and hopefully with a much more even pace than last time .... but hang on, where were they!?!? They'd been a bit in-front of me in the pen and now they weren't in sight - bum - time for a new plan.

Sunday 20th April: 10:05am. I'm running down the road (yes it is slightly down at the start) at a comfortable 7:15 min/mile pace I'll catch the 3:30 pacer and then stick with them, simple.

Sunday 20th April: 10:20am. There they are, the 3:30 pacer - my, my, they are going quite slow and I feel good, tell you what Plan C I'll carry on and see if I catch the 3:25 and then stick with them, I can see them in the distance.

Sunday 20th April: 10:35am. There they are the 3:25 pacer - ooh look the 3:20 pacer is just ahead, I've easily caught the 3:25 I'm probably going too fast but I still feel good, tell you what Plan D I'll carry on and see if I catch the 3:20 and then stick with them, I can always drop back to 3:25 if the pace is too much. I took note of what the 3:25 pacer looked like to make sure I could pick out the one from my start wave if they caught me up again later. Note to self on no account overtake the 3:20 pacer that's just stupid.

Sunday 20th April: 11:00am. So I'm tucked in with a group running with the 3:20 pacer, all is good. Look the Cutty Sark, beautiful, that sounds like Rob Barlow shouting my name - yup 3 people wearing orange traffic cones hats and shouting "Go Dan" - brilliant! Thanks Rob,Alison and Anne-Marie.

Sunday 20th April: Tower Bridge. I've lost track of time, I've fallen a little off the back of the 3:20 pack but still going well. The crowd on Tower Bridge is just amazing.

Sunday 20th April: Entering Canary Wharf. I'm starting to feel it, I've slowed a bit more but that's ok. Just 12 miles to go, I can do this. Blimey listen to the crowd shout "Go Mo", wow there he is, almost shoulder to shoulder, just on the other side of the barrier at 22 miles, "Go on Mo!!"

Sunday 20th April: The remaining 12 miles. My legs have gone, it's weird they were fine a minute ago, I was running well, and now they are really really not. They just won't work, my pace is shockingly bad for me, I don't feel hungry, I'm not physically exhausted my legs have just had enough, I am not going to quit, I will make it, I will. It's quite demoralizing having people streaming past you but the need to finish is strong. The 3:25 pacer passes me - no chance of keeping up - hang on in there. The 3:30 pacer passes me - I want to tag on - I try to tag on - but no, I can't.... my hopes of a sub 3:30 are dashed....

Sunday 20th April: Embankment. The sights really are amazing, the Eye on my left, and look Big Ben up ahead, I've nearly made it! .... Is it actually getting any closer.... surely I must be nearly there by now? Round the corner towards Buckingham Palace, where's that finish, I'm sure it's somewhere near,... what? who's that? Blimey it's Terry gone past me, "Superb running Terry!"... another corner, still no finish .... another corner Aha a gantry, the finish? ... nope .... finally the finish! I've made it!

Sunday 20th April: The finish. So a very respectable 3hr49, I'm disappointed to have not come close to my last time but at the same time elated and buzzing to have made it and still in a good time. Medal round neck, bag of stuff collected and debating whether I can make it over the thigh high rail to collapse on the luscious grass to consume the lucozade and disappointing flap jack (mind you it was a lot better than last years poor example of sawdust masquerading as a flapjack).

After a bit of a rest up I then wandered v.slowly back to the course and met up with the 'traffic cones' for a spot of supporting. It really is a much more pleasant experience from the wrong side of the fence. It's so amazing to see so, so many people still out running and the most surprising thing is that as time went on the people running looked to be enjoying the experience even more and more, I'd go as far as to say much much more than the faster ones. It was great to see some of the Totton runners go past, Kim, Tanya, Tracey, Jo, sorry I missed you Sohini I had to go and eat!

Well done to all the Totton runners - we all made it! Thanks to all the supporters - including the ones I did not notice, sorry! To all the rest of you if you have never run a London Marathon I'd highly highly recommend it - it's pretty flat - its pretty amazing - you won't be last - you won't regret it - you might loose a toenail.


ps This year I was beaten by a pint of pedigree and an ice-cream cone, it's amazing how fast some of the fancy dressers run.

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