I very nearly didn't bother. Travel arrangements were a nightmare, I was tired due to a new job and marathon training, but when you've paid £46 to enter a race you may as well make the effort to run the thing!
It was chilly when I set out at 6.30am. The first chilly morning in a long time, but by the time I got to Hyde Park, having parked my car outside a hotel in Hammersmith and cheekily ducked in to use their loos, it was getting warm. I'd taken the tube up to Knightsbridge, and at one stop a group of 6 Italians got into my carriage. They had lined up at the start with me either last year or the year before. I was hoping/planning to meet up with a friend, with a view to running together, but while I managed to bump into Italian strangers I failed to track down my friend before the race. Facebook/Twitter/text and mobile 'phone messages were just not getting through as 16,000 runners and their supporters were all Tweeting and texting.
I queued to drop of my baggage, I queued for the loo - the nastiest, smelliest, gag inducing loo I have used in a very long time, and then made my way to the start. It felt like perfect running weather, a slight nip in the air and clear, blue skies. I had a plan in my head, this was a training run not a target race, and I planned to run 9min/mile pace and finish in 2hrs - 8 minutes slower than my PB time, and, I thought, a bit ambitious given how exhausted I felt as I stood at the start.
Once we crossed the start line I realised I had made the mistake of starting among faster runners. But I felt good, and the first few miles felt really easy and comfortable, so I just ran. At around 3 miles I gave myself a strict talking to and made myself slow down a bit, but if felt good to be running well. Running around London, not having to watch out for traffic is fantastic, especially on a bright Autumn morning. As we came around the bottom of Trafalgar Square before heading through Admiralty Arch to go up The Mall on our way back to Hyde Park the bells at St Martin's in the Field were ringing - truly magical.
The supporters were fantastic. I ran for UNICEF again this year, and they had teams of supporters at various points - normally just when I was flagging. They cheered so loudly and enthusiastically that they must have been exhausted by the end of the morning. As you run back into Hyde Park you hit a wall of noise, with supporters lining both sides of the route - if feels as though they should be cheering you over the finish line, but this is only the 6mile point! Once back in the park it is a case of looping around to make up the mileage! I know this park well having lived nearby for years, but if you stopped me at any point in the last 7 miles I'd have been hard pushed to tell you where we were.
The weather had got much warmer. So much so that it was a relief to find a bit of shade - although I did get hit on the head by a falling conker a one point. At around 10 miles I got bit disheartened. I realised that although I was going to come in well under 2 hours I was going to be way over my PB. I hadn't been planning on getting a PB, but that didn't seem to enter my head at that point. I wondered if I could up the pace enough to get close - but a brief attempt at sustaining a faster pace soon convinced me that this wasn't going to be possible. I missed the mile marker at 12 miles, my Garmin was measuring too long so I couldn't rely on that to calculate how far I had left to go and given that a marshall* had told us at 2 miles in that we were 'nearly there' I didn't really trust the marshall who was telling us that we had less than a mile to go! (*I didn't shove his megaphone up his arse for such a silly comment!) But soon we were making that sharp left hand turn to run back past the Albert Memorial to the finish. This bit always seems interminable. You go from running lots of 'twisty turny bits' to a long straight 1km run. In my mind the race should stop at Alexandra Gate, but it probably goes on for about 700-800m after that. I saw 3 people collapsed in the last 800m, including one in the last 20m. So gutting to have got so far and then not to finish. I guess the weather was just so much warmer than anyone had anticipated.
I didn't have much energy for a final sprint, mainly because I'd upped the pace for the last kilometre, but I did get over the line in, more or less, on piece. It was the longest distance I had run without any stopping for a very long time, so I was pleased with that. I clocked in at 1hr 54mins 32 secs, and I was 690th woman to finish (out of 7192 women), not sure where I was in my age category, but I did overtake some pretty young things.
After the race I managed to meet up with my friend. We'd first met a couple of years ago at the start of the Bupa 10,000m, and hadn't seen each other in person since then. It was great to chat and have lunch, and laugh at her exploded voltarol tube. We talked about our race, our children, our jobs, our running shoes - all that girly stuff, over a lovely lunch before she headed back up to the North East. Hopefully we'll meet up again soon at the York Marathon.
I want to run this race again. It is a hugely popular race for very good reason (best goodie bag, interesting medal, great race village and food festival in addition to a stunning route) and entry is by ballot. I've entered three times and not got a ballot place, so have had to run for charity. Maybe next year I will get lucky.